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DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith

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DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 31 Mar 2014, 13:40
I know it's early, but I'm narrowing down my schools for 2015 R1 applications (for class of 2017, full-time programs) and would love to hear from people who considered the same set of schools. I know Darden is the highest ranked, but are the other less so to the extent that it's worth moving if I'm accepted to Darden? I'm not expecting to leave the DC area immediately after finishing B-school, but I'm open to it.

These are the schools I considered before narrowing things down:

  • Maryland Smith
  • Georgetown McDonough
  • George Washington School of Business
  • George Mason School of Business
  • American Kogod
  • Virginia Darden (I just recently started to consider this in spite of its location outside the DC metro area)
  • John Hopkins

About my school search:

    Based on my search so far, I've narrowed things down to Smith, McDonough, and Darden.

    I've been to an info session at McDonough and a full-day event at Maryland Smith (including a class visit). I really liked Smith and how they focused on the curriculum and research, and though I didn't love my McDonough experience based on the info session (diversity seemed lacking), I have friends who have been there, and all spoke very highly of the quality of instruction.

    I was unimpressed with GW after sitting in on a class and feeling like the discussion was similar to but less engaging than a discussion I might have with friends or coworkers about current events. It felt more like a high school level discussion.

    I went to an info session at Mason, and the only reason alumni gave for choosing the school was cost. I'm not concerned about cost (reasoning below), so I dropped this from my list immediately after the info session.

    I went to an MBA Tour session for Kogod, and there was a shocking amount of emphasis on how your tuition includes a snack before each class, and very little emphasis on the curriculum. They mentioned the snack thing at least five times in less than an hour. I would hope that anyone applying to business school has learned to feed themselves. I chose not to pursue the school further.

    I decided against JHU because it's unaccredited, and I don't want to go to Baltimore unless it's for a more reputable school than I can find in the DC area.

    I have a visit scheduled at Darden next month and really like that it seems the most rigorous of any of these programs.

A little bit about me:

    I live in the DC area and would prefer to stay here. However, the more I learn about Darden (I have a school visit scheduled in a few weeks), the more I'm drawn to it and think it might be worth the trade-off of having to move away from my significant other (though it's close enough that we could see each other most weekends pretty easily).

    I have a 740 GMAT (97th percentile), 3.75 undergrad and grad GPA, and by that point will have about a decade of work experience in media and government (as an economist), including some overseas work. I write a lot for my job, so I feel like my essays will be decent. I'm hoping for a 100% corporate sponsorship (I won't attend if I don't get this), so cost isn't an issue. However, a scholarship would be a big plus in that it would make my company more likely to let me go and limit the number of years I would be required to return to my job. I'm a domestic minority, but not a historically underrepresented minority. I feel good about my chances of being accepted to at least one of the schools, but I'd be interested to hear what people think about my chances of getting a full scholarship at any of the schools. I haven't seen too many stats on what types of students tend to get those.
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Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2014, 12:56
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Hi merlion,

Welcome on board for the DC/MD/VA MBA program!

If you are able to manage your mid-distance relationship while in Darden, definitely go for it, though the first question is still what exactly do you want to get out of your MBA and what is your plan post-MBA?

Lucky you to have the corporate sponsorship, but if you want to still get some scholarships, I know from your current profile, and if you apply in all R1, you have a high chance to get full scholarship from Smith, up tp 80k (around 70%) for McD, and ... not sure about Darden as I excluded it from my initial list due to distance (I have a different story - family and kids).

Hope it helps a little.
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Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2014, 15:13
dcMBA2014 wrote:
Hi merlion,

Welcome on board for the DC/MD/VA MBA program!

If you are able to manage your mid-distance relationship while in Darden, definitely go for it, though the first question is still what exactly do you want to get out of your MBA and what is your plan post-MBA?



Thanks for the input; I really appreciate getting a second opinion! As far as my plans and goals, I am just hoping to get the best education possible with a focus toward finance courses and without taking on student loan debt. One thing I really liked in learning about Darden was their really strong emphasis in teacher training and the quality of instruction. Networking and recruiting opportunities are always a plus, but since I already have a job I intend to go back to, those aren't the top priorities for me. At the Georgetown info session I attended, all the focus was on jobs and earning potential (not coursework), but I'm not sure if that's an indication that they focus less on the curriculum or if that's just what they're emphasizing in that early session to convince potential students it's worthwhile to make such a huge financial commitment.
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Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2014, 15:28
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merlion wrote:
Thanks for the input; I really appreciate getting a second opinion! As far as my plans and goals, I am just hoping to get the best education possible with a focus toward finance courses and without taking on student loan debt. One thing I really liked in learning about Darden was their really strong emphasis in teacher training and the quality of instruction. Networking and recruiting opportunities are always a plus, but since I already have a job I intend to go back to, those aren't the top priorities for me. At the Georgetown info session I attended, all the focus was on jobs and earning potential (not coursework), but I'm not sure if that's an indication that they focus less on the curriculum or if that's just what they're emphasizing in that early session to convince potential students it's worthwhile to make such a huge financial commitment.


You are welcome. McD has very rigorous curriculum as well, actually they have more core couses than electives. It is definitely the best in DC area in terms of what you can learn. I think the reason they emphasize on job placements and salary was to attract the main stream MBA applicants and as well, like you said, convince people that the high tuition is worthwhile (20k -50k difference than other programs in DC do make a difference). But Darden has even higher placement rates and starting salary, so I guess it is just one of the elements business schools focus on, as most of the full time applicants do not have sponsorships (not as lucky as you), and they do take an MBA degree as a bridge to a high paid job later. Most sponsored MBAs are in professional part-time or Executive program.

Btw, with your 10-year experience, you definitely can also apply for EMBA and it might be more fitting to your needs for going back to the same company, have you had a look at that?

Otherwise if you really want to do a full-time 2 year MBA, still Darden will be the best among all your choices so far, but again, try to think through about how to manage the distance with your significant other, and where do you want to stay and build up your connections during and post MBA.
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Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2014, 16:50
dcMBA2014 wrote:
merlion wrote:

Btw, with your 10-year experience, you definitely can also apply for EMBA and it might be more fitting to your needs for going back to the same company, have you had a look at that?

Otherwise if you really want to do a full-time 2 year MBA, still Darden will be the best among all your choices so far, but again, try to think through about how to manage the distance with your significant other, and where do you want to stay and build up your connections during and post MBA.


I've considered the EMBA and part-time programs, but the main issue with that is that my office will pay whether it's a full-time program or a part-time program. However, if it's a part-time program, I have to keep working and still have the same commitment of years to return to the job, so I feel like I would get the most benefit by going full time and not killing myself with the schedule for those years. At this point I'm still planning to apply to all three schools, and I'm hoping I'll get some clarity after my visit to Darden in a few weeks and once I get decisions from the schools. For example, if Darden offers me nothing and Smith or McDonough offers 100%, I wouldn't pick Darden, even if it seems to be the better school.

Which school did you end up choosing, btw?
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Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 02 Apr 2014, 16:57
merlion wrote:


Which school did you end up choosing, btw?


Still deciding.... :) You can see my post here
mcdonough-5k-vs-smith-95k-vs-gwu-90k-vs-kogod-73k-169074.html#p1347115

I will/have to decide soon in the next 3-4 weeks, so you may see my decision then. :)
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Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 03 Apr 2014, 05:13
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Full-disclosure I looked at Darden and Gtown and applied to the latter as a potential back-up.

Honestly, with your scores Darden is absolutely in play and the only one you should seriously be considering long-term unless you plan to just stay in your current field (government jobs tend to not put a huge premium on pedigree at the post-graduate level and more simply care about checking the box). Georgetown is okay if you plan on staying in DC and in your current job, but is still fairly shakey. As for UMD-Smith, I don't know much about it so I will refrain from comment.

At the end of the day if you ever plan on leaving government or even moving to a less civil service oriented position, Darden is the only way to go IMO.

Addendum: Given your scores and GPA, have you considered applying outside of DC? I mean you'd have a fair shout at any top 15 school, and depending on execution, HSW...
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Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 03 Apr 2014, 06:36
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Flyte wrote:
Full-disclosure I looked at Darden and Gtown and applied to the latter as a potential back-up.

Honestly, with your scores Darden is absolutely in play and the only one you should seriously be considering long-term unless you plan to just stay in your current field (government jobs tend to not put a huge premium on pedigree at the post-graduate level and more simply care about checking the box). Georgetown is okay if you plan on staying in DC and in your current job, but is still fairly shakey. As for UMD-Smith, I don't know much about it so I will refrain from comment.

At the end of the day if you ever plan on leaving government or even moving to a less civil service oriented position, Darden is the only way to go IMO.

Addendum: Given your scores and GPA, have you considered applying outside of DC? I mean you'd have a fair shout at any top 15 school, and depending on execution, HSW...


I think this is a good idea, Wharton also isn't much further from DC than Darden. With your numbers most schools in DC are likely fairly safe and I would think you have a decent shot at a scholarship.
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Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 05 Apr 2014, 06:25
Flyte wrote:
Full-disclosure I looked at Darden and Gtown and applied to the latter as a potential back-up.

Honestly, with your scores Darden is absolutely in play and the only one you should seriously be considering long-term unless you plan to just stay in your current field (government jobs tend to not put a huge premium on pedigree at the post-graduate level and more simply care about checking the box). Georgetown is okay if you plan on staying in DC and in your current job, but is still fairly shakey. As for UMD-Smith, I don't know much about it so I will refrain from comment.

At the end of the day if you ever plan on leaving government or even moving to a less civil service oriented position, Darden is the only way to go IMO.

Addendum: Given your scores and GPA, have you considered applying outside of DC? I mean you'd have a fair shout at any top 15 school, and depending on execution, HSW...


Thanks, flyte and Webster. I appreciate the input. I have a lot of reasons for not wanting to apply to schools outside the DC/Virginia area.

Since I'm trying to do my MBA through a sponsorship (with the government), I have to take into account that they favor programs in the DC area, and with Smith and McDonough, I have a good shot at the sponsorship whether or not I get a scholarship. I figured Darden is close enough that if I get some kind of tuition assistance, my office might be willing to consider it, because it's feasible that I could come back and work during breaks, but I'm not willing to go much farther than that.

I know Wharton is only slightly farther, but I feel like that's such a top school that I probably wouldn't be able to get enough of a scholarship to motivate my office to let me go outside the DC area. Also, knowing that my office favors DC area schools, it would look kind of bad if I asked my supervisors to write me recommendations for schools to far outside the metro area, and on top of that, my boyfriend will continue working in the DC area while I'm in school, so I want to be within a reasonable distance.

But then again, the set of schools I'm considering has changed a lot from when I started my search, and R1 applications are still 6 months away, so it's highly possible that I'll change my mind again :)
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Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 14 Apr 2014, 21:27
merlion wrote:
Flyte wrote:
Full-disclosure I looked at Darden and Gtown and applied to the latter as a potential back-up.

Honestly, with your scores Darden is absolutely in play and the only one you should seriously be considering long-term unless you plan to just stay in your current field (government jobs tend to not put a huge premium on pedigree at the post-graduate level and more simply care about checking the box). Georgetown is okay if you plan on staying in DC and in your current job, but is still fairly shakey. As for UMD-Smith, I don't know much about it so I will refrain from comment.

At the end of the day if you ever plan on leaving government or even moving to a less civil service oriented position, Darden is the only way to go IMO.

Addendum: Given your scores and GPA, have you considered applying outside of DC? I mean you'd have a fair shout at any top 15 school, and depending on execution, HSW...


Thanks, flyte and Webster. I appreciate the input. I have a lot of reasons for not wanting to apply to schools outside the DC/Virginia area.

Since I'm trying to do my MBA through a sponsorship (with the government), I have to take into account that they favor programs in the DC area, and with Smith and McDonough, I have a good shot at the sponsorship whether or not I get a scholarship. I figured Darden is close enough that if I get some kind of tuition assistance, my office might be willing to consider it, because it's feasible that I could come back and work during breaks, but I'm not willing to go much farther than that.

I know Wharton is only slightly farther, but I feel like that's such a top school that I probably wouldn't be able to get enough of a scholarship to motivate my office to let me go outside the DC area. Also, knowing that my office favors DC area schools, it would look kind of bad if I asked my supervisors to write me recommendations for schools to far outside the metro area, and on top of that, my boyfriend will continue working in the DC area while I'm in school, so I want to be within a reasonable distance.

But then again, the set of schools I'm considering has changed a lot from when I started my search, and R1 applications are still 6 months away, so it's highly possible that I'll change my mind again :)


If you think you'll have time to work for the government part-time while attending a full time MBA, you are in for a rude awakening.
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Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith [#permalink] New post 15 Apr 2014, 02:35
noodlesnyc wrote:


If you think you'll have time to work for the government part-time while attending a full time MBA, you are in for a rude awakening.



Thanks for the response, noodlesnyc. I'm not sure where you got the idea that I was intending to work part-time while attending a full-time MBA, as I'm not planning to do that. I said explicitly that I would be expected to work during breaks only, meaning spring break, summer vacation, etc.
Re: DC and Virginia schools - Darden vs. McDonough vs. Smith   [#permalink] 15 Apr 2014, 02:35
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