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 either in the US or internationally.

Darden School of Business Ranking

UVA 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 its 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 UVA 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 its MBA Program and the application process.

Types of Darden MBA Programs

The two most prominent MBA programs at UVA Darden are:

Full-Time Darden MBA Curriculum

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 UVA Darden allows working executives to receive a Darden education without having to leave the workforce.

Applicants admitted to the Executive Darden MBA program generally have relatively more seniority in work experience as compared 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).

Darden MBA Deadlines for Application

Full-Time Darden MBA Program

EARLY ACTION ROUND 1 ROUND 2 ROUND 3
Deadline 8 September 2022 5 October 2022 5 January 2023 5 April 2023
Interviews Schedule Your Own By Invitation By Invitation By Invitation
Decisions 19 October 2022 7 December 2022 15 March 2023 3 May 2023
Disclaimer: The dates have been retrieved from the official B-school website. However, applicants are advised to check with the school before applying as the dates may be subject to change.

Step-by-step Darden Application Process for MBA Program

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 Darden 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 details. 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 an undergraduate or an 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, you should 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 Darden MBA 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 Darden MBA Application fee

Darden MBA 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 MBA is for the academic year of 2020-21. 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.

CLASS OF 2024: 2022-2023 Cost of VIRGINIA Residents Cost for NON-VIRGINIA Residents Cost for International Students
Tuition & Fees $72,200 $75,200 $75,400
Darden MBA Case Fees $1,100 $1,100 $1,100
Aetna Student Health Insurance (2021-2022 amount - data not available for 2022-23) $3,148 $3,148 $3,148
Living Expenses  $19,720 $19,720 $19,720
Computer $1,600 $1,600 $1,600
Transportation $1,000 $1,000 $4,000
Federal Loan Fees (optional - only for borrowers of Federal Loans) $2,268 $2,268 --
Total Cost of Attendance $101,036 $104,036 $104,968

Darden School of Business 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 School of Business scholarships does 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 2021, Darden reported a record high average base salary of $144,933 and an average signing bonus of $35,488. The top 5 recruiters for 2021 were McKinsey & Company, BCG, Microsoft, Amazon, and Bain & Company.

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 Median Base Salary
Consulting $165,000
Finance/Accounting $155,000
Healthcare/Real Estate $125,000
Technology/Retail/Media/Entertainment $130,000
Transportation/Logistics $139,950

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 can’t be an Olympic Athlete, or climb 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.

1. 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 who 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.

2. 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 MBA 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.

3. 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 their commitment to the school. 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.

FAQs related to UVA Darden School of Business MBA

1. How hard is it to get into Darden's MBA program?

Being one of the top B-schools in the world, yes, getting admission into UVA Darden is certainly no cakewalk. However, the school also boasts of a high international percentage of students (around 40%) which means Indian applicants do have a fair chance of cracking this B-school. A good GMAT score of 715+ and an average GPA of 3.52+ will surely increase your chances of admission. However, the admission committee is more interested in your profile, your aspirations and the clarity of your goals. Therefore, your contributions, MBA essays, and letters of recommendation play a vital role once you have acquired good scores.

2. What is a good GMAT score for Darden?

The average GMAT score for Darden hovers around 710+. However, this does not mean that you can't get admission if your GMAT is lower than this. Many applicants have got admission into the school with a sub 700 GMAT score as well. As long as your profile is good, you stand a good chance of cracking this school.

3. Is MBA from Darden worth it?

Darden MBA is consistently ranked as one of the top 15 B-schools in the US, making it one of the best schools for MBA. The school is especially known for its curriculum and professors. Like Harvard, Darden uses a case teaching method, helping students gain practical knowledge and experience.

4. What is the Darden MBA program acceptance rate?

While Darden doesn't reveal the total number of applicants in a year, the school's acceptance rate is believed to be around 26-32%. The acceptance rate is quite good, given a short cohort of just around 351 students in a class.

5. How can I be eligible for Darden School of Business scholarships?

One of the significant advantages of going for the Darden MBA is the ease of getting scholarships. In fact, in 2018, 100% of the full-time MBA students received scholarships under the Batten Foundation Darden Worldwide Scholarship program. Apart from this, there are other competitive, merit and need-based scholarships by the schools to help students access their programs and get fee-waiver.

Other Useful Links:

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Darden Alumni Interview: Naresh Kumra, Digital Entrepreneur, McKinsey NY, IIT, Darden MBA

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