How to crack University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business?

The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, situated in Charlottesville, boastsof a faculty that is constantly ranked #1 in the US and has been rated amongst the top 5 business schools for student experience.

The school also focuses on case studies as a teaching methodology and is quite popular for it. Darden also places emphasis on experiential learning, learning by doing, and allows students to either gain real-life experience with firms in the US or internationally.

Darden business school ranking

Darden has constantly been placed in the Top 40 schools in global MBA rankings and the Top 20 schools in the US.

The school enjoys it’s pick of the applicant pool and has an acceptance rate of just 26% and an average GMAT score of 718.

Through these few facts I tried to share, with you, the reasons why Darden is a brand name in MBA education, and why its admissions process is as selective as it is.

So, if you have come here to find out how to get into this elite business school, first find out a few basics of it’s MBA Program and the application process.

Types of MBA Programs at Darden

The two most prominent MBA programs at Darden are:

Full-Time MBA Program

The Full-Time MBA Program at Darden offers a 21-month long program with a core curriculum built from a series of experiential exercises. These courses are Leadership Communication, Global Economies and Markets, Financial Management and Policies, Accounting for Managers, Marketing, Operations Management, Leading Organizations, Decision Analysis, Business Ethics, and Strategic Thinking and Action.

Executive MBA Program

The Executive MBA Program at Darden allows working executives to receive a Darden education without having to leave the workforce.

Applicants admitted to the Executive MBA program generally have relatively more seniority in work experience to the students of the Full-Time MBA Program. The program consists of the case method, leadership residencies, weekend residencies, distance learning and global study (International residencies).

Application deadlines for Darden 2020

Full-Time MBA Program

Round Application Deadline Decision Date
Early Action 03 Sept 2019 09 Oct 2019
Round 1 04 Oct 2019 11 Dec 2019
Round 2 06 Jan 2020 18 Mar 2020
Round 3 06 Apr 2020 06 May 2020

Executive MBA Program

Application Deadline Interview Date Decision Date
10 Jan 2020 14–22 Jan 2020 31 Jan 2020
10 Feb 2020 12–20 Feb 2020 28 Feb 2020
10 Mar 2020 12–20 Mar 2020 27 Mar 2020
10 Apr 2020 14–22 Apr 2020 30 Apr 2020
10 May 2020 12–20 May 2020 29 May 2020
10 Jun 2020 12–18 Jun 2020 23 Jun 2020
25 Jun 2020 26 Jun-01 Jul 2020 08 Jul 2020

The application process for the Darden MBA Program 2020

Once you have selected the MBA application deadline you will be applying to Darden in, you can start with your MBA application. Since a typical MBA application requires at least a couple of months to prep, fill, and then re-check, make sure your preferred MBA application deadline isn’t too close.

It’s not impossible to create a great MBA profile within a few weeks, but an MBA application can be stressful and complicated even without the time crunch so try to have an ample amount of time.

Here is a step-by-step guide of the Darden MBA application process:

Step 1: Begin your Application

Start by making an account on Darden’s website. Fill in your personal detail. And then go through the whole application form without filling anything in.

Before starting your applications, make a list of the various documents you would need for this application and keep them ready.

Step 2: Attach a transcript

You must have completed an undergraduate, or equivalent degree, education to be eligible for admission to Darden’s MBA program.

An unofficial transcript can be provided for application purposes, but an official transcript needs to be produced in the event of an offer made by Darden.

Step 3: Report GMAT/GRE Score

GMAT/GRE scores, just like the transcript, can be self-reported or reported through the un-official score reports. The official score-reports are demanded once and admit is offered.

Step 4: Attach a Resume

A job resume is evaluated by someone who knows your job function and the industry very well, while an MBA resume is evaluated by an admissions committee member who might have no idea that a job function like yours even existed.

Thus, the resume you attach here must be created very differently. Use the STAR format for creating your resume and keep it no longer than one page.

Step 5: Finalize Recommenders

Recommenders are a crucial part of your application. They have very little to lose but a very big impact on your MBA application. Thus, choose your recommenders wisely. Make sure that the person you’re receiving a recommendation from is enthusiastic about helping you and can actually give valuable feedback about you in a professional capacity.

Step 6: Answer the Short-Answer questions

Darden prefers asking multiple short answer questions to the applicants to get a broader view of their perspective.

These multiple short answer questions help the admissions committee to get better understanding of the applicant. remember that these are very carefully curated questions and the best approach is to answer the question authentically rather than trying to achieve the ‘right answer’.

Step 7: Additional Comments

The Darden MBA application consists of an additional comments section. Remember, this is not an additional essay. In case you have any gaps in your profile that you wish to explain, use this section to do so.

Step 8: Go back to make changes

Since your MBA application for Darden is online, you will always have the chance to go back and make changes to it until you pay the application fee. So, don’t rush. Check your application a couple of times, on separate occasions, to make sure you’re presenting the most authentic and best version of yourself.

Change any answers or recommenders if you wish to right away. Because once you pay the application fee, there will be no going back.

Step 9: Pay the Application fee

Darden charges an application fee of $250 from its applicants. The school also waives this fee for Teach for America Corps members and alumni, Peace Corps Volunteers, Education Pioneers fellows, Forte MBALaunch members, US Military personnel, and citizens from countries on UN’s least developed countries list.

Whenever you’re confident with your application, pay the fee, or request a waiver and your application to Darden is officially submitted.

Cost of Attendance of the Darden MBA Program

The cost of attendance currently available for Darden is for the academic year of 2019-20. However, every year a 3-5% rise can be expected in the cost of attendance for a Darden MBA student.

While the costs below are consistent with what a first-year MBA student at Darden is expected to spend, second-year students can access the Darden MBA Portal to find out their approximate cost of attendance.

Expense Cost for Virginia Residents Cost for Non-Virginia Residents Cost for International Students
Tuition & Fees $67,500 $70,500 $70,700
UVA Health Insurance* $2,814 $2,814 $2,814
Living Expenses** $17,766 $17,766 $17,766
Darden MBA Case Fees $2,000 $2,000 $2,000
Computer $1,500 $1,500 $1,500
Transportation $1,000 $1,000 $4,000
Total Costs $92,580 $95,580 $98,780

Darden Scholarships

While the cost of attendance for Darden is high as compared to some Public institutions that also rank in the Top 15 business schools in the US, the business school goes all out to help its students.

The financial aid at Darden can range from none to the full cost of attendance of a student. Independent of your residency status, your Darden MBA could be completely free. One glitch in the financial aid system for Darden, however, is that second-year students need to reapply for scholarships in the spring of their second year.

Also, financial aid does not cover a student’s summers as they aren’t enrolled in any classes at the time being.

The merit-based scholarships at Darden do not require a separate application form. However, scholarships like the Jefferson Fellowships call for an application, independent from your MBA application.

Here are the scholarships offered at Darden.

  1. Batten Scholars
  2. Darden Worldwide Scholarship Program
  3. International Student Scholarships
  4. Jefferson Fellowships
  5. LGBTQ Community Scholarships
  6. Merit Scholarships
  7. Minority Students Scholarships
  8. Presidential Scholarships
  9. Second-Year Scholarships
  10. U.S. Regional Scholarships
  11. Women's Scholarships

Starting compensation after Darden’s MBA Program

If you’re graduating from Darden one thing is for sure, you will end up with a six-figure starting compensation. To take that offer or to start a venture of your own will, however, be your own choice.

In 2018, Darden reported a record hike of 6.6% in the average salary. However, the combined average base salary ($135,168) and the average sing-on bonus ($33,458) for the graduating MBA class of 2019 was $168,626, 3.3% more than the previous year. The top 5 Recruiter for 2019 were BCG, McKinsey & Company, Amazon, Bain & Company, and Accenture.

Although the detailed employment reports for 2019 are yet to be revealed, we have the employment reports of 2018 to get an idea of the various functions that a Darden MBA graduate gets hired for and the compensation they receive on average.

Function Average base salary Average sign-on bonus
Consulting $140,189 $31,940
Investment Banking $128,625 $49,875
Technology $122,615 $40,313
Other Financial Services $124,357 $28,478
Retail $123,929 $41,429
Manufacturing $113,099 $25,278
Real Estate $105,000 $15,000
Energy $116,800 $19,400
Venture Capital and Private Equity $113,700 $12,500
Hospitality and Tourism $116,833 $32,500
Consumer Packaged Goods $106,111 $30,556
Investment Management $129,444 $29,583
Pharmaceutical, Biotech and Health Care $119,688 $26,429
Transportation $114,750 $37,857

What is the Darden admissions committee looking for?

Although getting into Darden is difficult, hundreds of students do it every year. What do they do differently? Since every applicant admitted to Darden couldn’t be an Olympic Athlete, or have climbed the highest peak in the world, they must follow some strategies that help them showcase their value for the Darden MBA program.

Below are some tips that you can follow to create an application that showcases the value that you can add to the Darden MBA Program.

Darden’s one-essay advantage

It is now becoming a trend for business schools to cut down on the number of essays and the word-limits for those essays. Darden was one of the pioneers of this trend and cut down their MBA application essays to just one essay with a 500-word limit a few years back.

This came about as the admissions committee felt that earlier when Darden had multiple essays, applicants would repurpose most essays and answer one of the questions from scratch.

While as an applicant, you might feel relieved to be answering only one essay question you shouldn’t really be. The essay question that Darden poses each year is a very tactical one. It is generally a question based on the applicant’s professional work experience but helps the admissions committee evaluate them on various levels.

As mentioned above, Darden uses the case study method in their classrooms. When the admissions committee asks an applicant a work-related question in the essay, they are trying to see how you would handle the interpersonal communication during a case study in the classroom.

Through one question, Darden evaluates your professional expertise, behavior in the workplace, and the value you would add to their program.

So, although Darden is asking you only one question, don’t rush through the answer and submit your application. Read the question 5 times if you have to or spend 5 days answering it if you need to, but make sure you use the 500 words wisely.

Show Integrity

Darden is a part of the University of Virginia. This means it also takes on the values that the University associates itself with. The Honor Code is known to be one of the oldest and most important pillars of the UVA. Thus, the Darden admissions committee will evaluate if you will be able to uplift the Honor Code or not.

The quality that an applicant can portray to show the admissions committee their commitment to UVA’s Honor Code is Integrity. But you won’t have too much space in your profile to do so. This is where your recommendations come in.

One of the most common questions that Darden poses to an applicant’s recommender is about the applicant’s integrity. Make sure your recommender is someone that would rate you high in this virtue, as Darden admissions committee members have revealed that they often reject applicants whose recommenders don’t.

Another way to showcase integrity is through community projects or involvement. Make sure you mention each community activity that you have ever been a part of. Also, utilize the short answer questions to showcase the virtue of integrity if possible.

The early action interviews

Darden’s early action interviews are a chance for the applicant to show their personality and the admissions committee to understand if the applicant would be a good fit to the school’s MBA Program, without waiting for an interview invite from the school.

At Darden, the classroom experience is very immersive. The method of ‘calling-on’ is an integral part of the program’s experience. Getting ‘called-on’ is the act of being randomly asked a question during class. Thus, you would need to be regular with your studies. You might think that’s nothing different from any other MBA Program.

The difference comes in when the admissions committee uses the early action interviews to evaluate their applicants on criteria as detailed as this one. Since Darden doesn’t have a separate essay for it, you can expect the “Why MBA?” and “Why Darden?” questions in these interviews as well.

Hence, just like a normal interview, make sure you prep for your Darden early action interview.

The waitlist

If Darden has waitlisted you, you don’t have time to panic. You can still change the school’s decision.

Unlike some schools, that only waitlist students to fill in any seats that might not be filled by the end of admissions, Darden waitlists students that are almost perfect for the school. be it your goals story, your application essays, your scores, or any other part of your MBA application, the admissions committee members won’t mind telling you about it.

A lot of applicants are contacted by admissions committee members themselves before being shortlisted. This contact is generally made to inform the applicant of what they could improve or add to their profile to make it fit for Darden.

An applicant that takes the advice and improves their application shows the school commitment. This is exactly what you need to do as it shows the school that you’re really interested in them.

If you do not receive any such input from the school, your next move should be to write a mail requesting the admissions committee to help you make your profile fit for Darden. They don’t put inadmissible applicants on the waitlist. Thus, taking these few extra steps might be the necessary push that the admissions committee members require to offer you an admit.