Darden Review

The Darden School of Business is a top-tier MBA program at University of Virginia. Due to the strength of its academic community, UVA has significant entrepreneurial activity and is interested in fostering innovation within the MBA program.

A quick glance at Darden’s rankings will reveal just how scattered and silly the whole business school rankings game has become. The Economist puts UVA’s Darden School at number three in the world, behind only Chicago and Dartmouth Tuck. Rival British publication, The Financial Times, has Darden at a rank of 32nd in the world. Both results lack any credibility, largely due to the severely flawed methodologies followed by those two lists.

Darden’s Class of 2015 was among the most highly compensated MBAs in the world. The average starting salary and bonus was $136,474, up 14.4$ from $119,278 five years earlier. The 2015 pay numbers make Darden MBAs the 11th highest paid graduates out of U.S. business schools,  with Chicago Booth and Duke Fuqua just ahead of the school’s graduates and Northwestern Kellogg, NYU Stern just below the Darden numbers.

When it came to employment, Darden did even better. Some 94% of the Class of 2015 had jobs three months after graduation. That was seventh best among the top 25 U.S. MBA programs, with Wharton, Emory, and Dartmouth Tuck just slightly higher.

Darden Class Profile

DARDEN Placement Report


Darden has changed the one required essay question of prior years into a set of very short essays that cover a variety of topics. Darden is looking for leadership, international focus, and a sense of passion and purpose.

In all of these essays you will want to communicate who you are and what motivates you both in your career pursuits and your personal life. The restrictive word counts will make it challenging to elaborate in your responses, so be focused and precise in your communication.

When considering which personal qualities to highlight in this set of essays, consider that leadership is crucial to future Darden MBAs. Your ability to work well within a team of peers is also important to Darden, a school with a small, tight-knit community.

The case method is the primary teaching method at Darden, similar to Harvard Business School, and engaging with the case method requires the ability to communicate clearly and bring your perspective to the conversation.

Tell us what you would want your learning team to know about you – personal, professional or both. (100 words)

Darden is a community, and the learning team is the smallest unit of that community. You will be assigned a team of diverse classmates to meet before class and discuss your case assignments. The purpose of these discussions is to ensure that all of you are prepared to participate in the class discussion. Ideally the learning team is a supportive environment and allows everyone to learn and express their own point of view.

This essay allows you to introduce yourself to the Darden community while imagining that you are speaking only to a small group of your peers. What should your learning team know about your background? What diverse perspective will you bring to the learning environment? Perhaps you have a unique professional background that will be new to your teammates.

You may be from an underrepresented region of the world, or you have an interesting personal background. In just a few words, describe what you think will set you apart from your peers and be interesting for the team to know about you. To learn more about your potential classmates, talk to a student ambassador or review Darden’s MBA Student Stories.

Each year, Darden connects with over 80 countries. If you could choose any location in the world, where would you want to go with Darden? And why? (50 words)

To learn more about Darden’s international programs, visit the Darden website. You can connect with an international location by participating in short visits through a Global Immersion Course or Global Topic Course, spend a semester abroad with an Exchange Program, or work directly with an international business as part of the Global Client Courses.

While Darden describes the current programs and countries on the website, this question asks for your ideal location and why you are interested in it. Your interest in a particular region could be personal or professional and should have an academic basis. The focus of these international programs is to learn more about the world of business beyond the United States, with that context what would you like to know and where would you like to learn it?

Darden strives to identify and cultivate leaders who follow their purpose. At this stage, how would you describe your evolving leadership style and please provide an example. (200 words)

This set of essays provides a holistic view of your background, motivations and goals – and in some ways this question is a close companion to the career goals question at the end. When you examine your past leadership opportunities, what is the connecting thread? Are you a consensus builder or a director of projects? Do you keep the project running on time, or do you question the premise? What has been your style when dealing with difficult peers or bosses?

You should consider all of those questions and then choose a short example that illustrates your style and purpose. At this stage in your life your aspirations may not match reality yet, and you can discuss a bit of your desired evolution as a leader.

Please provide an example of a situation in which you have made a meaningful impact. (200 words)

This example could be professional or extracurricular, but ideally describes a significant accomplishment that made an impact. That impact could be big or small as long as it was meaningful to you and those around you. Ideally this example is illustrative of your larger interests and passions.

For example, if you are devoted to diversity, perhaps you started a mentoring program or funded internships for underrepresented employees. While the impact of that action may have been limited to your department or company, it shows your values and allows you to discuss how you would make a greater impact on the world when you have the ability and platform to do so.

What is your short-term, post-MBA career goal and why? (150 words)

This question focuses specifically on your short-term career goal, but since you are likely taking that next step in order to set the groundwork for your larger career goals it is entirely appropriate to describe your overall career aspirations. In the previous questions in this set of essays you have described your personality, motivations, impact and accomplishments, and your career goals should fit seamlessly into that story.

Do not be intimidated by career goals questions if you are still exploring what you want to do with your life. Darden offers intensive career counseling and you will have an opportunity to explore many career paths in school. The essay question seeks to understand why you are pursuing this path and what you hope to get out of it.

The goal is to understand how you think and plan, and what motivates your career decisions. If you are inspired by what you have experienced as a leader and as someone who has a positive impact on others, that inspiration should be part of your career aspirations as well. Darden will help you refine your goals and learn the skills you need.

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