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The Darden Jefferson Fellowship Program

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At the University of Virginia Darden School of Business, outstanding MBA applicants can be considered for the Jefferson Fellowship, one of the most prestigious and generous fellowships offered at the school. It is awarded solely based on merit and provides benefits that include a living stipend, support funds, tuition remittance, and health insurance.

About the Darden Jefferson Fellowship

The fellowship, established in 2001, is available as part of the Jefferson Scholars Foundation, which supports graduate candidates at the University of Virginia. Awards are available to applicants to a number of competitive programs: Ph.D. applicants to the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the Graduate School of Engineering and Applied Science and MBA applicants to the Darden Graduate School of Business.

Candidates are chosen based solely on their achievements. Specifically, the Jefferson Scholars Foundation looks for MBA candidates who demonstrate a certain set of qualities:

  • Ethical leadership
  • Diplomatic decisiveness
  • A track record of putting ideas into action
  • Superb academic achievement

Who Receives the Darden Jefferson Fellowship?

To be considered for the MBA Jefferson Fellowship, you must have a GMAT score that falls in the top 1,000 scorers nationwide. Applicants who fit this profile will receive an invitation to apply for the Jefferson Fellowship in August, regardless of whether they expressed interest in Darden at the time they took the exam. Once invited to apply, candidates must submit their fellowship applications early—this year, the deadline to apply for fellowship consideration was September 5th—roughly one month before the Round 1 Darden MBA application deadline. Once candidates have submitted their applications, a committee of Darden alumni (including former Jefferson Fellowship winners), foundation employees, and other university stakeholders review the applications to determine the finalists.

For those students who are not invited to apply during the initial review process, there is a second chance to compete for the fellowship. According to Whitney Kestner, the Darden assistant dean of MBA admissions, the school also has the opportunity to nominate a few candidates. “Parallel to the Jefferson Scholar Foundation’s application and review process, Darden can nominate a limited number of Round 1 applicants for the selection competition,” Kestner explained. “Darden reviewed applicants who applied in its first round as well as the Consortium’s first round and nominated a limited number as candidates to the foundation.”

The fellowship application itself is fairly simple. Students must submit a one-page resume, transcript(s) of all college and/or university work, and a response to an essay prompt.

The good news is that the essay is identical to the prompt in Darden’s MBA application.

“Candidates who applied for the fellowship were also encouraged to apply to Darden by the Round 1 deadline,” said Kestner. “However, they are not required to submit a Darden application in order to be considered.”

That changes if an MBA candidate is selected as a finalist—as approximately 30 are. Finalists are invited to attend a two-day competition in Charlottesville. Once candidates have advanced to this stage in the process, they must submit an application to Darden’s MBA program by the beginning of November. The interview process is held in mid-November and includes a meeting with the Darden dean, as well as a business case study. The fellowship winners are chosen and announced within a few days of the on-campus visit.

Benefits of the Jefferson Fellowship

MBA applicants who are chosen as Jefferson Fellows receive the following:

  • Full tuition and fees remittance
  • Health insurance
  • A living stipend of approximately $20,000, renewable for two years
  • Research and travel funds up to $7,000. This money can be used to purchase a required laptop, fund a Global Business Experience, or defer travel costs to a conference or for a research project.

In addition to the monetary benefits, MBA Jefferson Fellows also have the opportunity to establish a one-on-one relationship with a professor at Darden. Each fellow will choose his or her advisor prior to the beginning of the first year of the MBA program and will work closely with the advisor on an independent research project.

Applying for the Jefferson Fellowship

The opportunity to apply for the Jefferson Fellowship during this admissions cycle has now passed. Candidates interested in beginning their studies in August 2019 can apply in late summer 2018.

The 2016 MBA Jefferson Fellows

Jefferson Fellows come from a wide range of backgrounds and boast varied accomplishments. In 2016, 21 incoming UVA graduate students were awarded the Jefferson Fellowship, of whom seven were MBA students; 13 were doctoral students in the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences, and one was a Ph.D. student at the School of Engineering & Applied Science.

Six were published authors or editors of an academic journal; eight graduated from their undergraduate programs cum laude, magna cum laude, or summa cum laude; two were members of Phi Beta Kappa; and almost all received at least one academic scholarship from their undergraduate university. To see a complete list of the 2016 Jefferson Fellows, click here.

Below, we’ve included a small sampling of the MBA candidates chosen as recipients.

Kyle Collins MBA ‘18

Collins is a graduate of Notre Dame with a BS in mechanical engineering. Prior to applying to UVA Darden, he spent four years at Deloitte, first as a business technology analyst and later as a consultant. In 2014, he was published in Deloitte’s annual Tech Trends report.

Lea (Cross) Nieuwoudt MBA ‘18

Nieuwoudt holds a BSE in chemical engineering from Case Western Reserve University, where she was also the president of the Delta Gamma Women’s Fraternity, a National Merit Scholar, and the recipient of the Case School of Engineering Outstanding Senior Award. After graduating in 2011, she worked at McKinsey & Company as a business analyst for two years before moving to the Johannesburg, South Africa, division of the company and becoming the chief of staff for the social sector practice. After a year in this role, she joined Nova Pioneer, where she worked as an operations manager and then as chief of staff to the CEO.

Kelly Vo
Kelly Vo is a writer who specializes in covering MBA programs, digital marketing, and topics related to personal development. She has been working in the MBA space for the past four years in research, interview, and writing roles.