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Real Humans of MBA Students: UVA Darden MBA Class of 2023

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Jade McLaughlin, UVA Darden MBA Class of 2023

Age: 26
Hometown: Plymouth, New Hampshire
Undergraduate Institution and Major: Major in Hispanic Studies, Minor in Biology, Dartmouth College
Pre-MBA Work Experience (years, industry): Four years as an Undergraduate Admissions Officer, Dartmouth College 

Why did you make the decision to attend business school? Why now?
My decision to attend graduate school for education came first, and business school came second. I explored Master of Higher Education graduate programs to continue a career in university administration by grounding my work in the theory of education policy and history. Along the way of my search process, I discovered UVA’s dual MBA/M.Ed. degree program, which would supplement a framework in education reform with analytical business skills. After applying through the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management, my decision to attend a dual degree program over a singular M.Ed. program was simple, due to the rigorous academic environment I would encounter at Darden.

Why did you choose UVA Darden? What factors figured most prominently into your decision of where to attend?
Darden was the best fit business school across three fit factors: place, program, and people. Coming from New Hampshire, I was excited to join the Darden Outing Club, spend weekends in Shenandoah National Park, and work to intentionally build a community in a more-rural business school. Academically, Darden is one of the few business schools in the country to offer a strong MBA/Master of Education dual degree program and a case classroom to help me develop my voice. Finally, the collaborative, friendly nature of Darden students spoke to my upbringing in a rural town and place-focused community during my undergraduate studies.

What do you think is your most valuable or differentiating contribution to the Class of 2023?
After four years in admissions, I naturally gravitate towards learning others’ stories and listening more than I speak (something the case classroom is testing now!). I’ve been able to create meaningful individual connections at Darden simply by asking the right questions.  

Tell us a fun fact that didn’t get included on your application:
I like to knit in my free time and have made myself six sweaters, and friends, countless others.

Post-MBA career interests:
Consulting, with a focus in social impact and education consulting

Advice for Current Prospective Applicants:
–What is one thing you would absolutely do again as part of your application process?
Reflect on your own story before you begin writing the pieces of your application. Darden offers many opportunities through short answer responses to connect different parts of your story and these narratives come together to form a multifaceted picture of you as an applicant.

–What is one thing you would change or do differently?
Ask your recommenders early, at least one month in advance, if not more. Especially if you’re applying through many application programs and rounds, your recommenders will be supporting you heavily this year. It is important to be professional and give them enough time to fully support you.

–What is one part you would have skipped if you could—and what helped you get through it?
Studying for the GRE was a long and demanding process. Having a structured review program helped me to stay on pace and to understand how I was progressing to my target scores.

What is your initial impression of the UVA Darden students/culture/community?
Darden students are smart, collaborative, and friendly. Although some students I have met are naturally outgoing, I believe that Darden students differentiate themselves in that they are excited (and perhaps a little nervous) about pushing their social and academic comfort zones in the case classroom. 

What is one thing you have learned about UVA Darden that has surprised you?
How much support there is! After one quarter, I have already connected with multiple mentors across various organizations, sought support with folks in the Office of Student Affairs, and receiving more formal support through UVA Counseling & Psychological Services. As a Darden student, I have access to the many resources of both the business school and the broader UVA community.

Has the COVID-19 pandemic affected your personal application or admissions process in any way? If so, how?
I interviewed over Zoom and did not know what to expect. More practically, I ensured that I had a quiet space in my apartment and business formal clothes for the interview. To prepare for the interview itself, I listened to the Experience Darden podcasts episodes that shared interview tips and practiced telling my story.

What is one thing you are most anxious about in your first year?
Darden is a fast-paced learning environment, which means my time is carefully scheduled every day. I hope to build more intentional space for self-care and connecting with friends and family.

What is one thing you are most excited about in your first year?
Darden subsists on a model of student self-governance, which opens infinite possibilities for the programming that your class could put on during the year. I will be serving as Diversity Representative for my section and look forward to coordinating sessions to bring our class closer together.

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.