Darden is going to push you, and they’re not going to apologize for it. Students often describe the academic curriculum at Darden as “drinking from a firehose” and it’s case study method is designed to challenge students’ assumptions, thinking, and debate skills. But its students have the reputation as amongst the best prepared in the world to solve problems, think critically, and communicate convincingly.

How to Demonstrate Your 'Fit' for

University of Virginia (Darden Graduate School of Business)

Darden is one of two programs that heavily emphasis case study learning (the other being Harvard Business School).  As such, it seeks to attract students who can articulate how they’ve built knowledge and expertise in their pre-MBA career, so that they come to the classroom with perspective to offer.  They also seek students who can articulate their point of view articulately, so providing examples where you’ve advanced thinking, pushed people to look at problems in different ways, and defended your point of view will highly resonate with the admissions committee.  Your ability to contribute to case study discussions will likely be tested in your interview, where your interviewer will seek to assess your professionalism and the clarity of your responses and rationale.

While performance on the case study method depends on your individual contribution in the classroom, preparation is done in teams.  Upon the start of school, you’ll be placed in learning teams with other students, which you will meet with every night to prep for the following day’s cases.  Articulating your success working in teams is paramount to success in the application. 

Ethics is also a significant aspect of the Darden brand.  Students are required to take an ethics course and many of Darden’s case studies include ethical components.  It’s Olssen Center for Applied Ethics is used to support ongoing research on the area of ethics and business.  Being able to articulate how you’ve exhibited ethical judgement in your application can set you apart, and don’t be surprised by an ethics-related question in your interview. 

Hard work is also part of the Darden experience, as they place heavy emphasis on academics.  Many students describe the academic experience as “drinking from a firehose” so be prepared to work hard academically while at Darden and to articulate during the admissions process that you have passion for learning and investing significant time in your education while in business school.  Darden is known to have amongst the more difficult curriculums of top business schools.

Darden is known to champion school spirit and seeks candidates who will invest time and energy looking to make the program better and higher-value to students.  It’s known to have amongst the most supportive alumni of top programs and has one of the highest endowments.  True to form, students rave about the connections they’ve built with other students, faculty, and alumni.  In fact, every weekday the school hosts “First Coffee”, during which time the Darden community sits down and discusses important topics, news, and initiatives regarding the school.  If you plan to apply, be sure to articulate how you plan to contribute and provide reasons for why you’ll be excited to be a supportive, enthusiastic alumnus. And be sure to show a lot of enthusiasm for the program, by visiting the school before you apply and speaking to students.  If Darden is not convinced that you’ll be aggressive in elevating the on-campus experience, and supporting students as both a current student and alum, your chances of success are slim.

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