GMAT Club

Darden Reviews

MBA Program rating [21]
(4.9)

January 17, 2016
73atBirdwood

Joined: Jan 17, 2016

Posts: 0

Kudos: 0

Best two years of life...so far!

REVIEWER IDENTITY VERIFIED [?]

This review is for UVA Darden

Program Full Time MBA

Class of 2014

Experience during the program

For context, my background is as follows:
White
Male
Service Academy undergrad
5+ years experience before matriculating
GPA / GMAT: in line with Darden averages

I applied to business schools that I thought were well suited at providing me opportunities across three dimensions:
1. Broad and robust education, since I lacked any meaningful private sector experience; moreover, my undergraduate studies were concentrated in humanities and engineering
2. Access to bulge bracket banks and top tier consulting firms because I wasn't sure what I wanted to do and wanted to sample the former with the option of pursuing the latter full-time
3. A smallish, yet strong sense of community both while in school and within the alumni network

On the basis of these criteria, I concentrated my applications on Darden, Tuck, and Johnson. I got into Darden and Johnson (w/ partial scholarship) and ultimately selected Darden because like most rational people, it's hard not to fall in love with Charlottesville! I am joking a little bit...but only a little. I also perceived Darden as offering a more robust core curriculum, better access to top consulting firms, and a little more brand equity.

First year Curriculum / Case Method:
In the end, Darden didn't disappoint, even if it wasn't always pure sunshine and roses. While the curriculum at Darden has been dialed back a little bit relative to the 1990's and early 2000's, it remains rigorous and that largely owes to the case method. If we are completely honest and in a safe space, it is true that each business school is covering most of the same stuff in the first year (with the exception of Sloan and Booth providing more latitude in the first year; and I know some schools let you validate out of certain courses and substitute another course ). The reason I say the case method is vital in maintaining the rigor of the curriculum is because it has the potential to expose you. In speaking with folks from other programs during my bulge bracket internship and since starting consulting full-time, it sounds like preparing for class was a nice-to-do, but not an imperative. At Darden, it is more of an imperative. There is a fear inside every sentient being that they'll be exposed in front of 63 classmates if they don't at least make a modest attempt at preparation. That fear -- or desire to learn for the more altruistic -- coupled with desire to contribute to your Learning Team each night drives a rather intense albeit civil and supportive classroom environment. This is especially the case in the fall of the First Year, when you are combining people from a variety of different professional, educational, and ethnic backgrounds. To be sure, there are people arriving with backgrounds at quality consulting firms or who spent time on the Street as analysts at banks...and these people have a less intense fall than others, but there are enough twists and turns in each case to keep their attention as well. If there is one thing that nobody is prepared for, it is the Global Economics for Managers course. Few people have exposure to the IS/LM economics model prior to starting at Darden and it has wracked the brains of many, even the sharpest. Having said all of this, everyone that wants to make it through the fall makes it through (I think one person out of 320 decided to leave). Given my background in the military and prior educational experience, everything I saw each day was new to me. Hindsight being 20/20, I would have benefited from taking a Finance or Accounting course prior to school if only to get comfortable with the language. It would have enabled me to focus more on the advanced concepts in the cases as opposed to getting bogged down in jargon.

In terms of more actionable advice while going through the application process, I think there are two things to keep in mind:
1. Visit the school if you're in the U.S. I also recommend attending an Admissions event, even if it means taking a few hours off from work to travel 150 miles to a city with an event. If you're outside the U.S., there isn't an expectation that you visit, but try to get to an event. At minimum, do an Admissions Webinar. These things matter once you get outside those top 5ish schools. Tuck, Darden, and Johnson give you brownie points for this stuff. It doesn't take a weak application and turn it into an admit, but these are tie-breakers that give you a little nudge when things are roughly equal. These schools want to know that you want to be there. HBS, GSB, and some others are the super models. Everyone wants them. Tuck, Darden, and Johnson are more of a high end Girl Next Door with discerning taste and a calibrated eye for who is truly interested in them as opposed to only considering them if thinks don't work out with the super models.
2. Focus on establishing fit in your app. It's cliche to say this, but cliches are cliches because they are true.

About professors, classes and curriculum

If you're spending time on GMATClub I'm going to go out on a limb and assume you're at least somewhat familiar with the business school landscape. In light of that, we'll accept as given that there are a number of pedantic debates about the "strength" of faculty across various schools. Strength can be defined any number of ways, but for my purposes as someone that was paying a lot of money, I defined faculty strength as a combination of teaching ability and accessibility. Measured according to this definition, Darden's faculty knock it out of the park. Some people would define strength based on number of research papers published in a year, which journals they are published in, or whether faculty are under consideration for leading prizes such as Nobels...or have won them. Rightly or wrongly, to me this always missed the point because if Professor Nobel Prize is terrible at teaching and / or seldom in class (and instead handing it off to an assistant), it did not matter to me that they were highly thought of by other academics. There are b-school students that would benefit from exposure to Fama, French, or Adam Grant at Wharton, but these people are few and far between...and these people could usually derive the same magnitude of benefit from another professor that is merely adept at teaching what these more prodigious minds have pioneered. Given this reality (or perhaps it's only my reality), I would say Darden's faculty are top notch on what matters: teaching and being available. To effectively teach in a case method environment is not always easy and these faculty are adept at using the composition of the room to make sure you get to the important discussion points. As a student, this can be painful at times because you want the down and dirty takeaways, but there can be benefit in collectively going the wrong direction for 45 minutes before the faculty force a pivot and guide you toward "what right looks like" over the last 45 minutes. And if you didn't comprehend it all during class -- and I often didn't -- they are available in the afternoons for further discussion or email follow-up. As somebody forking over $55K a year, I appreciated this level of customer service.

About job placement process

Recruiting: This is always an interesting one. I read a lot of different blogs / message boards when I was going through the application process and a lot of folks are fixated on the number of companies that come to a school. That's well and good I suppose...although at the end of the day -- and I say this with the benefit of hindsight -- the only thing that matters is whether the firms you have interest in recruit at the school AND whether those companies have a track record of hiring people with your background. I say this because as someone with a military background, there were companies I had an interest in, but that politely said "Thank you. We're looking for a specific kind of professional background that differs from yours." Nobody outright says that, but you can figure out by reading the job posts and speaking to alums and / or the cute HR girls that they send out. It is cliche, but finding an internship or full-time job is like dating. I can be interested in Kate Upton or Karlie Kloss all day long, but it doesn't really matter if they have a preference for Jack Dorsey, Russian Oligarchs, or Saudi Princes. I say this because I hear people concerned about whether PE/VC, asset management, or tech firms recruit at School X...and it's a moot point unless you have what they are looking for. Although I've taken the circuitous route, Darden provided what I wanted: the opportunity to interview for and intern with a bank, and the opportunity to re-recruit in the second year for consulting. I'd always wanted to "test drive" finance and I'm glad I did, because although I could have returned to that industry after the summer, it was not going to be good for me. Nonetheless, it set me up well for second year recruiting. In and of itself, this capability exists at each of the top 10-15 schools. I would say Darden differentiates itself in recruiting with both the responsiveness of alumni, extent to which classmates are willing to help, and quality of the Career center.

I'll treat alumni responsiveness as self-explanatory and focus more on the latter two pieces. With respect to classmates helping, it was not uncommon to have a classmate come out of an interview and tell you the questions an interviewer asked, or tell you what not to say because it hadn't worked for them! This happens a little bit at every school, but not a lot at every school (according to coworkers from other programs). It happens a lot at Darden. If you pair this with the relative size of the school and Career Development Center (CDC) Staff, you are pretty well set up to succeed in interviews if you're willing to put in the time. The CDC has staff that specialize in certain industries and they'll prep you pretty intensively if you want. The school has also made an effort to deconflict the academic schedule with the prime internship recruiting season (January of first year) and that's a break from decades ago when they didn't. Some first year recruitment doesn't work out great with the schedule, but you get through it...and second year you have a lot of control over and faculty are understanding if you have to miss a class, although it would be nice if the school recognized interview conflicts as "Excused Absences". It's kind of petty and my only substantive gripe about things at Darden.


Overall BSchool experience (5.0)
Schools contribution (5.0)
Classmates rating (4.0)

Strengths of the program:

Curriculum, Classes, Professors
Alumni Network
Career opportunities provided by school
Location
Brand/Ranking
Culture & Student Support

Best fit at this program:

Consulting
Marketing
Investment Banking
Management

Can be improved:

Broader offering of second year Economics courses


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January 26, 2016
emwinn

This was extremely helpful to me as a prospective student to Darden. I especially appreciate three points that you touched on and would like to ask for some further advice/feedback.

1. On the area of establishing fit in the application... what is the best way to do this? How can prospective students get a better idea of what Darden is looking for when it comes to personality, work experience and potential? Where would you most likely get a sense for this during a visit - professors, students, the classroom?
2. Speaking of visiting campus, I think you make a very good point on the super model schools and where Darden and similar programs compare.
3. You mention that it might have helped to take some introductory courses in accounting and finance to feel more comfortable prior to starting classes. Knowing this now, how would you have gone about this? I've looked into this a lot and have found that there is very little guidance on prep of this nature at universities and colleges around me. Did you know anyone that did this and if so, what did they do?

Thank you for sharing your experience and being candid in doing so.

January 27, 2016
Dondarrion

Thanks for posting this assessment!

February 01, 2016
optimusTR

Thx a lot, it was very very helpful!

October 20, 2016
invino99

Joined: Oct 20, 2016

Posts: 1

Kudos: 0

Experience at Darden

REVIEWER IDENTITY VERIFIED [?]

This review is for UVA Darden

Program Full Time MBA

Class of 2018

Experience during the program

GMAT: 730
GPA: 3.2
Recruitment Interest: Consulting, Entrepreneurship
Background: Finance at a large US bank
Other Schools Accepted into: Johnson, Kenan-Flagler, McDonough

Once I visited Darden it quickly became my top choice during the admissions process. The culture is incredible. It is a smaller school which creates a very tight knit student body. Charlottesville is pretty great as well. A lot of trips to the breweries and vineyards (I highly recommend King's Family Vineyard). The weather is far nicer than the northeast (where I am from), which allows us to be outside a great deal.

My classmates are all extremely accomplished, but I never feel like I don't belong here. Rarely have I met someone who I dislike. Admissions does a great job screening applicants in order to accept only students who will be a good fit here. You learn to lean on your classmates a lot, whether it is going over cases before class or during recruiting events. Second years and faculty are always willing to lend a hand if you ask.

About professors, classes and curriculum

As you probably know, Darden is all about the case method. It's a rigorous curriculum compared to most other schools, but you certainly feel like you are learning a ton. On top of the "hard" skills you learn, the case method also teaches you a ton of "soft" skills such as thinking on your feet and teamwork with your learning team and section. I have talked to many students from other business schools and they all have a great deal of respect for the amount of work we put in to be here. I truly believe that we are much better prepared for internships and full time jobs than students at other business schools.

About job placement process

There are a ton of leadership opportunities that you can use to buff up your resume if it is lacking in any way before recruiting. I certainly have taken advantage of a few of them that have led to great discussions with recruiters. Darden students mainly recruit for ibanking and consulting. I have also been extremely impressed with how many general management and marketing firms recreuit heavily at Darden. Darden also provides major resources to students interested in entrepreneurship. The school consistently is ranked in the top 5 for entrepreneurship. Tech is probably the only are that is slightly lacking, though I have met tons of second years that are headed into tech full time. So clearly there is a path to any area you want. Overall, the CDC does an incredible job preparing you and helping you through the recruitment process. All first years are assigned second year coaches who have similar backgrounds to you and are magnificent resources during recruiting. I have been utterly impressed during my time here and am know Darden will get me to where I want to be in my career.


Overall BSchool experience (5.0)
Schools contribution (5.0)
Classmates rating (5.0)

Strengths of the program:

Curriculum, Classes, Professors
Career opportunities provided by school
Culture & Student Support

Best fit at this program:

Consulting
Finance
Marketing
Investment Banking
Entrepreneurship
Management

Can be improved:

Tech Recruiting


Read More

January 30, 2018
sm0512

Joined: Sep 22, 2014

Posts: 8

Kudos: 6

Self-reported Score:
760 Q50 V42

The Premium MBA

REVIEWER IDENTITY VERIFIED by membership [?]

This review is for UVA Darden

Program Full Time MBA

Class of 2017

Experience during the program

The Darden MBA is a carefully thought-out and well-crafted MBA program that seeks to provide genuine professional and personal development opportunities to each student. The quality of the professors is top-notch, the classroom experience is top-notch, recruiting opportunities are comparable to other top schools. Plus Charlottesville is a dream city to live in. This was business school with a purpose.

Drawbacks include a non-ideal location (although most big companies make it to campus) and career services department that is in flux right now.

The focus on teamwork, integrity and leadership were all aspects of the program that will stay with me as an alumnus.


Overall BSchool experience (5.0)
Schools contribution (4.0)
Classmates rating (5.0)

Strengths of the program:

Curriculum, Classes, Professors
Culture & Student Support

Best fit at this program:

Consulting
Finance
Marketing
Investment Banking
Tech
Entrepreneurship
Management

Can be improved:

Career opportunities provided by school
Location
Brand/Ranking


Read More

June 04, 2017
emilywhite1987

Joined: May 13, 2014

Posts: 1

Kudos: 0

Recent alum review

REVIEWER IDENTITY VERIFIED by membership [?]

This review is for UVA Darden

Program Full Time MBA

Class of 2017

Experience during the program

Students, alums and network are great. Alums are very invested in the school and helping current students. Curriculum is 100% case method, which is a great way to learn. For those who aren't necessarily comfortable speaking up, it's a great way to push yourself out of your comfort zone. Location creates a great atmosphere. Recruiting is very structured for traditional paths such as banking and consulting. Career development could be more helpful for career changers who don't know what they want to do. If future students are not interested in either, it may require more effort to think about what you want to do prior to starting class and developing a plan for getting there.


Overall BSchool experience (5.0)
Schools contribution (4.0)
Classmates rating (5.0)

Strengths of the program:

Curriculum, Classes, Professors
Culture & Student Support

Best fit at this program:

Consulting
Investment Banking
Management

Can be improved:

Career opportunities provided by school


Read More

May 30, 2017
msully74

Joined: Jun 24, 2010

Posts: 2

Kudos: 0

Darden

REVIEWER IDENTITY VERIFIED by membership [?]

This review is for UVA Darden

Program Full Time MBA

Class of 2014

Experience during the program

Darden at UVA is a fantastic program with highly engaged student body focused on learning and experienced professors focused on your individual growth (not their own research and writing). The Darden case study approach is far superior to other teaching methods. The facilities are simply amazing. The alumni network is incredibly strong, with nearly all alumni willing to take your cold call. The program lends itself well to students interested in consulting, finance, and general management. I thoroughly enjoyed my experience at Darden and have no doubt that, if you are looking for an engaging and intensive curriculum, you will as well.


Overall BSchool experience (5.0)
Schools contribution (5.0)
Classmates rating (5.0)

Strengths of the program:

Curriculum, Classes, Professors
Alumni Network
Culture & Student Support

Best fit at this program:

Consulting
Finance
Management

Can be improved:

Student body, diversity


Read More

May 29, 2017
Toews2Kane

Joined: Jan 11, 2012

Posts: 11

Kudos: 7

Self-reported Score:
730

Proud Darden alum

REVIEWER IDENTITY VERIFIED by membership [?]

This review is for UVA Darden

Program Full Time MBA

Class of 2016

Experience during the program

Darden was not only a great business school experience, it was two of the best years in my life. Darden was fantastic in three specific aspects: recruiting, the educational experience, and the culture / student body.

I recruited consulting, and looking back I didn't realize how strong Darden's consulting recruiting actually is. I was fortunate to go to a top-tier firm, but I think people incorrectly believe that is the exception and not the norm at Darden. I would say 45+ people in my class went to MBB, which is strong for a class of ~320 people.

I can't directly compare Darden's education experience to any other school, but I can say that I do believe the rumors to be correct that Darden's experience is more challenging than most if not all other schools. Looking back, I find this to be tremendous because it means that my actual time spent in the classroom was impactful, and I do fully believe that it has prepared me well for my career post-Darden.

Lastly, Darden's student body was just fantastic. I think that most business school student bodies are probably relatively similar; however, what differentiates Darden is that being located in Charlottesville, the students become incredibly close because they are truly each other's best friends. This was a fantastic experience.


Overall BSchool experience (5.0)
Schools contribution (5.0)
Classmates rating (5.0)

Strengths of the program:

Curriculum, Classes, Professors
Student body, diversity
Career opportunities provided by school

Best fit at this program:

Consulting
Marketing
Investment Banking
Management

Can be improved:

Admissions Team


Read More

May 29, 2017
seyitbek

Joined: Feb 04, 2012

Posts: 0

Kudos: 5

Self-reported Score:
710 Q48 V40

This review is for UVA Darden

Program Full Time MBA

Class of 2015

Experience during the program

I did not have high expectations from the school when I went for a school visit. Actually, I would have never visited the school if they did not require everyone applying from USA to come for an onsite interview.

The day started with an early interview. Prior to the interview I chatted with current students who made me at ease. But what really helped me what was the great breakfast that all candidates could mince on as they waited. I still remember the high quality, natural muffins and doughnuts.

The interview itself was super pleasant because it was more of a conversation then a grilling to find my weak spots. The clock quickly ticked by to 45 minutes. I really enjoyed my time. I still remember my interviewers name and am grateful to him for the pleasant experience he gave me. I just checked his LinkedIn profile. He is doing well at Microsoft.

My two years were - in 1 word- amazing! I loved my professors. They actually teach. Not just read off their notes and get out of the class. I could visit any of them after class. Everything we learned was case based. It was super interesting.

My classmates were cool guys too. Some complained that people divide up into racial groups. But I did not really notice it until someone pointed it out to me. But I think this happens because we just like to hang out with our own kind. If there was one thing that I could do if I could go back is hang out more with my classmates and sit less at home and watch Netflix. I miss my classmates right now. A lot of the connections and friendships from first year stay for second year.


Overall BSchool experience (5.0)
Schools contribution (5.0)
Classmates rating (5.0)

Strengths of the program:

Curriculum, Classes, Professors
Student body, diversity
Alumni Network
Career opportunities provided by school
Location
Brand/Ranking
Culture & Student Support
Facilities

Best fit at this program:

Entrepreneurship
Management

Can be improved:

Brand/Ranking


Read More

May 29, 2017
Rws2105

Joined: May 29, 2017

Posts: 1

Kudos: 0

Great People and Great Cases

REVIEWER IDENTITY VERIFIED [?]

This review is for UVA Darden

Program Full Time MBA

Class of 2017

Experience during the program

I was a career switcher and definitely thrived here, thanks to the case method and some amazing peers. The case method forces you to be on top of things and really learn the material. Despite all the hype about the work hard culture, Darden is NOT as impossibly hard as advertised -- just stay on top of your stuff and don't expect career services to hold your hand and you'll be fine (workload is heavy but not obscene). Your peers are very bright but down to earth. No egos here. The interview is more like a monologue; the admissions counselor will ask you only one or two questions and you'll do most of the talking.

About professors, classes and curriculum

I was a finance concentrator and was generally impressed with the finance faculty - they're definitely underrated. First year Core will prepare you well for the summer.


Overall BSchool experience (4.0)
Schools contribution (3.0)
Classmates rating (5.0)

Strengths of the program:

Curriculum, Classes, Professors
Brand/Ranking
Specialization in a particular area (e.g. Finance, Consulting, Healthcare, etc)
General Management

Best fit at this program:

Consulting
Finance
Investment Banking
Tech

Can be improved:

Career opportunities provided by school
Facilities


Read More

May 29, 2017
kacolema

Joined: Feb 27, 2011

Posts: 1

Kudos: 0

Darden is phenomenal!

REVIEWER IDENTITY VERIFIED by membership [?]

This review is for UVA Darden

Program Full Time MBA

Class of 2017

Experience during the program

Darden provides a well-rounded business school experience where classmates care about each other's success, recruiters deeply respect the brand, professors are deeply committed to teaching and interacting outside of class on a social level, and cases keep you sharp by preparing you to learn the basics and to deal with ambiguity on the job. If you're seeking top MBA programs, Darden is definitely worth a visit.

The concerns I hear about Darden from prospective students are usually two-fold. I'll address them in turn below:

(Q1) How will I be able to learn finance and other technical skills through the case method?
(A1) Quant-heavy cases come with "technical notes" that teach you the requisite skills and knowledge you need to complete the main case. Additionally, Darden's cycle of learning (self prep, first-year assigned learning team/second-year optional study teams, and class time) gives you multiple opportunities to dive deeply into the topic.

(Q2) Is the school's location a drawback for recruiting?
(A2) No, we have top employers come to Grounds just as you'd expect from a top 10 MBA program. Additionally, many employers significantly diminish or eliminate MBA recruiting travel requirements and instead come to Grounds to meet with us. Lastly, many recruiters are Darden alumni who love Charlottesville, and it's a significant advantage to Darden MBAs who don't have to compete with traveling candidates from other top programs to stand out.

About professors, classes and curriculum

We regularly interact with our professors on and off Grounds. It's not uncommon to have dinners and other gatherings in their homes throughout the years. It's truly a community here.

About job placement process

We place well across industries and geographies. An expansive amount of opportunities are available on Grounds, but some off-Grounds recruiting is a must for some roles / industries. If you're in the typical IB / Consulting recruiting then you'll easily have access to all employers on Grounds through a highly regimented process as it likely is across all top MBA programs.


Overall BSchool experience (5.0)
Schools contribution (5.0)
Classmates rating (5.0)

Strengths of the program:

Curriculum, Classes, Professors
Alumni Network
Career opportunities provided by school

Best fit at this program:

Consulting
Finance
Marketing
Investment Banking
Tech
Entrepreneurship
Management

Can be improved:

Student body, diversity
Brand/Ranking


Read More

May 29, 2017
colin0205

Joined: May 09, 2013

Posts: 1

Kudos: 5

Self-reported Score:
750 Q48 V46

Great experience

REVIEWER IDENTITY VERIFIED by membership [?]

This review is for UVA Darden

Program Full Time MBA

Class of 2016

Experience during the program

I went to business school aiming to exit as an MBB consultant and Darden created a very structured path that fully supported achieving this goal. Career services, the second year class, and our alumni network made connecting with all consulting firms very easy. There was always a constant presence from all of the firms on Grounds. When it came time to interview, practicing case interviews with my classmates could not have been a better preparation experience.

Beyond academics and the professional job search, the culture and lifestyle at Darden and in Charlottesville is amazing. Grabbing a great bite to eat on the Downtown Mall, organizing an afternoon wine tour, partying late into the night on the Corner... there's always a great social experience to be had when you're part of Darden. I walked away from my two years at Darden with some of the best friends and best experiences of my life.


Overall BSchool experience (5.0)
Schools contribution (5.0)
Classmates rating (5.0)

Strengths of the program:

Curriculum, Classes, Professors
Career opportunities provided by school
Culture & Student Support

Best fit at this program:

Consulting
Investment Banking
Entrepreneurship

Can be improved:

Brand/Ranking


Read More