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MBA Admissions Brief: UVA Darden School of Business

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For this MBA Admissions Brief, in which leading business schools provide guidance for your application and insight into their program, we hear from the Darden School of Business of the University of Virginia in Charlottesville.  In addition to being known for its tight-knit community, a hallmark of the Darden MBA experience is the instructors’ use of the case method, a technique that fosters discussion among stu­dents about real-world business problems. The school estimates that each student will examine more than 500 business cases over the course of the two-year MBA program.

Executive Director of Admissions, Dawna Clarke

Today we hear from Executive Director of Admissions Dawna Clarke, who joined Darden in October 2017. Clarke previously served as director of admissions at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College for 11 years. Prior to Tuck, Clarke served in various leadership roles at the Darden School, including five years as admissions director and as director of alumni relations.

Read on for her insights into the MBA admissions process and the Darden program.

What would you say to someone who’s applying next fall and just getting started in the MBA application process now?
As you are navigating your MBA search, it’s important to take time for reflection—spend some time thinking about who you are. What is your skillset? What are you passionate about? What sort of gaps are you hoping to fill in business school? As you think about these questions, use your answers to help determine what programs and communities are in alignment with your goals and interests. Take time to genuinely get to know members of each program’s respective communities—especially their students and alumni. Don’t shy away from thinking critically about who you are and where you hope to be in 5-10 years. And, of course, don’t forget to enjoy the journey!

What’s the one thing MBA candidates should know about selecting a recommender?
Recommendations are a way for us to learn more about you from a third party’s perspective. Recommendations are also a way for you to select people who will be your advocate through this process. To that end, we encourage you to choose recommenders who know you well. Generally speaking, a recommender’s title is far less important than the nature of his/her relationship with you. Ask individuals who know you well in a professional context — usually this would be a direct supervisor or manager.

What’s your program’s most exciting change, development or event coming up in the year ahead?
One development that a lot of students are excited about is our new Management Science Specialization. The specialization will build on the required Darden core curriculum, offering students the opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of quantitative and analytical skills and capabilities, further equipping them for a host of in-demand career options, from investment banker to consultant to technology product manager.

The specialization will be embedded within the current Darden MBA curriculum and formally designated alongside a graduate’s MBA degree, allowing Darden alumni to demonstrate expertise in quantitative analysis.

For students with international backgrounds interested in working in the United States after graduation, the new designation may also bolster chances of receiving an H-1B work visa. The new concentration is STEM designated, which has added relevance for international students who want authorization to work in the U.S., as it may allow them to qualify for a STEM OPT extension of an additional 24 months to obtain an employer sponsored visa.

Of the big trends in business education right now (tech, globalization, analytics), what are you doing or innovating in one (or all) of these spaces?
We certainly are seeing more technology-forward courses woven throughout the MBA curriculum, but one clear example is we recently launched a new Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) program in partnership with the McIntire School of Commerce at the University of Virginia. The first of its kind at UVA, the MSBA program was created in response to the growing demand for professionals with an understanding of how to analyze and interpret data to create value for organizations. The program is delivered via the combination of live, online class sessions and weekend, in-person residencies in the Washington, D.C., area. Taught by both Darden and McIntire faculty, the program’s innovative format allows professionals to simultaneously maintain employment and further their education while building lasting relationships with peers in their cohort.

What would you like to highlight about your post-MBA career placement success?
We’re excited to share that of all U.S. business schools, Darden’s graduating Class of 2018 was ranked No. 3 for highest compensation by U.S. News and World Report in its Best Business Schools 2020 ranking. The Class of 2018 received an average base salary of $127,767 and an average signing bonus of $35,430. Additionally, 94 percent of graduates received a job offer and 92 percent accepted jobs within three months of graduation—figures all representing rises from numbers reported by recent classes.

We also are thrilled to announce that our Career Development Center has developed a new pre-matriculation course called WhyFinding (CDWhy). The course is designed to help students find success in the internship and job search, and lifelong career journey. This self-directed, free and online course will kick-start students’ personalized preparation for the recruiting season. During CDWhy, students will watch instructional videos led by the Career Development Center’s (CDC) team of experts, learn valuable recruiting advice from Darden students and alumni, and engage with interactive activities and resources. By the end of this CDWhy program, students will have learned how to articulate their purpose, explore MBA career pathways and understand how to build a robust recruiting presence.

Lauren Wakal
Lauren Wakal has been covering the MBA admissions space for more than a decade, from in-depth business school profiles to weekly breaking news and more.