The Darden School of Business of the University of Virginia

One of the well known business school – The Darden School of Business of the University of Virginia offers perhaps the most rigorous MBA program in the nation, as students are required to spend more than 12 hours of their day at the school’s campus. Much of the thoroughness of this program can be attributed to Darden’s case method of instruction, which calls on students to analyze, discuss, and normally immerse themselves in business cases on a daily basis. In return for their efforts and struggles, Darden students receive one of the most prominent MBA degrees around the Globe, and are showered with the innumerable job opportunities from numerous well-known Organizations from the business arena as they work towards graduation. Per se, Darden is able to assertively claim that its students “often recall their time in the program as the hardest two years they ever loved.”







Admissions and Tuition:

As should be expected given Darden’s stature, the school is relatively selective in its admissions process. For the entering class of 2007, nearly 2,500 applications were submitted for Darden’s full-time program, less than 30% of which were approved by the admissions committee. The evaluation of three broad areas: academics, professional experience, and personal qualities are taken into consideration while making decisions on applications, as stated by the Darden. With the purpose to compete within the applicant pool in the first of these areas, academics, applicants should put forth numbers that are near or above the averages of Darden’s recent entering classes, such as the entering class of 2007, which boasted an average undergraduate GPA of 3.33 and an average GMAT score of 688. Professional experience also plays a vital role for applicants who wish to be competitive in Darden’s admissions round, as every entering student in 2007 had some such experience, while the class as a whole had worked full-time for an average of more than four years. That said, Darden specifically mentions that it does not require any minimum amount of work experience, stating that “Successful candidates are able to demonstrate strength in our criteria regardless of the number of years of their work experience.”

Applicants with relatively low experience can increase the sheen of their application through strong letters of recommendation by employers, which could help to focus the admission committee’s attention on the quality, rather than the quantity, of the applicant’s experience. Last but not least, strong personal qualities and characteristics can increase an applicant’s chances of admission if efficiently articulated to the admissions committee, typically through personal essays, and in some cases, the interview.

For applicants who have accepted an offer of admission for Darden’s entering class of 2008, yearly tuition for the 2008-2009 academic year will be $40,500 if they are residents of Virginia, and $45,500 if they are residents of other states and countries. During every academic year students can also expect to pay about $17,000 for living expenses, according to the school. Moreover, according to Business Week, Darden students can expect a total program cost between $250,000 and $260,000, depending on residency, when foregone salary is taken into consideration.

Academics and Curriculum:

During their first year at Darden, students enroll in interconnected core courses that “expand the way they think about business”, while during their second year, they choose elective courses that are all about “preparing for what’s possible”.

The case method is profoundly emphasized in all courses, and Darden’s version of the popular business school teaching method has often been admired by recent graduates of the school. Darden’s case method of instruction involves a four-step learning process that enables students to truly submerge themselves in their course material. Students first independently analyze each case, and then discuss the case with their Learning Team, an assigned group of five or six students that come together to discuss and develop ideas before joining the larger classroom discussion. In the classroom, one of Darden’s many distinguished professors leads the class discussion, bringing together ideas and approaches from Learning Teams that allow students to take away a common understanding of the case. In the last step of this learning process, students reflect upon the case, especially focusing on the ways that their perspective on the case changed as they joined the discussion of their Learning Team and of their classroom. Owing to practice of the unique four-step approach to the Case Method, Darden ensures that its students take away an in-depth understanding of business matters, and that they are prepared to deal with real-world situations after graduation.

Quality of Life:

Due to rigorous nature of Darden’s MBA program, most of the school’s students will not be able to completely enjoy all that Charlottesville has to offer. Dominated by the University of Virginia and its students, Charlottesville- an independent city, is in every way a college town, and houses, it is home to numerous bars, restaurants, and shops to suit varying tastes. Students who love to enjoy life will also feel at home in Charlottesville, which is located at the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains surrounded by beautiful natural scenery and lakes that provides all sorts of outdoor activities. Obviously, Darden moreover contributes to the social lives of students by hosting various social events, including the daily First Coffee break which provides students with opportunities to come together with their classmates and professors in order to mix and chill out after a hectic week of classes and the weekly Thursday Night Drinking Club, whose name should disclose its purpose. Thanks to all of these opportunities for entertainment and socialization, it is almost convinced that Darden students will never be at a loss when looking for ways to spend their limited free time. Fortunately for these studious students, Charlottesville will allow them to live fairly comfortably in comparison to their counterparts in larger cities as the cost of living in the area is relatively low. Students can opt to live close to campus with roommates for as little as $400 per month, or can rent fairly luxurious apartments a bit further from campus for less than $1,000. Taking all this into consideration, it seems reasonable to say that Darden students will enjoy a high quality of life while pursuing their MBA, as long as they find enough free time to enjoy some of the many offerings of Charlottesville.

Employment Prospects:

As you sow so shall you reap, this adage applies to students of Darden as the School offers incredible employment opportunities as returns to the students after their two academic years of hard work in Charlottesville. Most of the Giants from the business arena, including JP Morgan Chase, Merrill Lynch, and Goldman Sachs, come to Darden campus each year to recruit the school’s students, and are often found near the top of the school’s top employers list. Students who were unsuccessful in securing employment through on-campus recruiting can rely on the school’s Career Development Center, which offers various services and tutorials to direct students through the job search, as well as the school’s alumni network, which is said to be “incredibly dedicated” to help the students of Darden find job opportunity. Thanks to the efforts of the Career Development Center and Darden’s alumni, an impressive 95% of the school’s graduates normally have secured employment within three months of graduation. There is no overwhelming favorite field for Darden graduates, as a considerable number of the school’s grads by and large begin their post-MBA careers in each of the consulting, finance, general management, and marketing fields. Graduates also scatter geographically after graduation, as the Northeast, Middle Atlantic, and South regions all receive a large number of Darden grads in a typical year. Irrespective of where they decide to go after graduation, Darden grads can count on handsome rewards, demonstrated by the fact that the school’s Class of 2007 received an average starting salary, including bonuses, of more than $120,000.

In Sum:

The Darden School of Business of the University of Virginia not only offers one of the most thorough MBA programs in the nation but also offers varied and gratifying job opportunities, from its prominent academic program. The fact that so many applicants petition for entry into this difficult program each year is an authentication to the school’s fabulous academic repute and solid status in the business arena.

Contact Information: 

Darden School of Business
PO Box 6650, Charlottesville,

VA 22906

Quick Reference:

2009 U.S. News Ranking: 14th (tied with Cornell and Duke)
Average GMAT score: 688
Average undergraduate GPA: 3.33
Application fee: $190
Application deadline: 11/01
Entering class size: 300
Yearly Tuition: resident: $40,500, non-resident: $45,500 (2008-2009)
Percent of graduates employed 3 months after graduation: 95%
Average starting salary and bonus: $121,279


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