Poets & Quants Highlights Darden’s Class of 2022
Business education-focused publication Poets & Quants recently shared their annual “Meet the Class” profile, highlighting Darden’s Class of 2022. The robust article features student profiles, class stats and commentary from Dean Scott Beardsley and Executive Director of Admissions Dawna Clarke. What started out as a relatively normal application cycle in 2019 (remember in-person events?) quickly shifted into a warp-speed admissions cycle of innovation and new frontiers. Darden Admissions rolled out a test flexibility pilot, moved all recruiting events online and amped up pre-matriculation resources for admitted students.
Below, read excerpts from the Poets & Quants “Meet the Class” feature.
This year, Darden’s full-time MBA program received 3,016 applications. That’s a 38% jump over last year’s 2,183 applications. One big reason? The School extended its round 3 deadline. As a result, the program witnessed a 364% increase in applications in that period. Aside from extending the third round deadline to July 15th, the program revamped its admissions policy, accepting SAT and ACT scores in place of a GMAT or GRE. That also made a difference in Darden’s pace-setting year for applications.
“One person told me the biggest competitor to the MBA is no MBA and I think that is true,” Beardsley told the publication. “If you have to study for many months to take a standardized test, that becomes the main barrier for you and your family. I thought, maybe we are missing the point here. Maybe we are missing out on a whole category of people who are truly excellent, who were the stars of their undergraduate class, and clearly have leadership capability. Instead of asking how do we triple down on a narrow group of people who have a certain test score, we want to give people the chance to put their best foot forward.
Overall, the Class of 2022 boasts 341 students, not counting another 68 students who will be joining the cohort in January (and graduate with their fall brethren). As a result, the class profile is still in flux, though acceptance rate (which includes deferrals) held steady at 36% (with the current class size being five students larger than the previous year excluding deferrals).
The class also averaged a 703 GMAT, down 10 points from the previous year. At the same time, class members averaged a 319 on the GRE, which was taken by 29% of the class. The average GPA – 3.5 – also inched up from the previous class’ performance. Women comprise 39% of the class, down just a point. Considering the number of deferrals and COVID travel hurdles, the nine point drop in international students to 24% is hardly a surprise. Still, the class remains quite diverse, with students from 35 different countries (nearly the same total as the Class of 2021).
Academic Rigor, Teaching Excellence, Case Method Mastery… and Community
Poets and Quants boils Darden’s ‘identity’ into three main elements: academic rigor, teaching excellence and case method mastery — but concedes that students would likely add a fourth category — community.
Stanley Lu, a senior automation engineer at Emerson Electric, recalls how his classmates created Darden Doubles – one-on-one happy hours where students could connect over Zoom. This summer also featured regular Zoom Hangouts, says Isabel Fortuño Seitzer, where students would gather to share advice on everything from career development to apartment shopping.
“High touch, hone tone, high octane” — that’s how former dean Bob Bruner defined the Darden dynamic. It is a place that requires intensive reflection and analysis, not to mention the courage to listen, question, and defend. Not surprisingly, the program attracts a certain type of student: curious, disciplined, and open leaders who hold high expectations for themselves – and the faculty and classmates around them.
“Darden is famous for its rigorous academic program, but the nerdiest parts of me are secretly excited to have structured academics return to my life.” – Fortuño Seitzer, Class of 2022
At Darden, teaching is a full-contact sport where everyone is expected to prepare and contribute. The professor’s job is to feed the energy and maintain the momentum. In class, they are the ones gently probing and challenging. Sometimes, they are burrowing deep into a key point made by a student. Other times, they are reeling students back to the big picture. They question and frame, often easing conversations into rich and unexpected directions.
“(Over the summer) Directors from Darden’s Career Center recommended that I investigate Innovation and Design as a potential area of career interest. I started exploring the space and realized that Jeanne Lidka, a premiere academic in that field, teaches at Darden. I cold emailed her, and she was incredibly generous about hopping on the phone and sharing her time and expertise with me. Just another example of how the professors at Darden clearly care about their students and prioritize teaching!” – Paul Niedfeldt, Class of 2022
Despite Darden’s reputation for teaching excellence, the MBA program is designed for students to learn how to think for themselves – and teach themselves. And that starts with the case method, the cornerstone of the Darden MBA experience.
“The case method will place me in ambiguous situations where I’d have to learn how to navigate solving challenging cases. It’ll really allow me to think critically and strategically, hone in my analytical skills, be assertive in my decisions, and communicate well. I’ll learn how to ask the right questions, make data-driven decisions, understand different points of views as well as equip me with the confidence to speak up in a room full of C-suite level executives.” – Peace Titilawo, Class of 2022
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