Amanda Hedgecock (Class of 2022) enrolled at Darden in Fall 2021, joining her MBA classmates during a highly unique pandemic academic experience. Hedgecock’s journey to business school was quite different than many of the other students — she applied to Darden through the Future Year Scholars Program while still completing her undergraduate degree at Duke University. During her deferral period after graduation, Hedgecock spent several years at PayPal, where she was a Risk Analyst and had the opportunity to internationally launch new products and respond in real time to customer pain points.
Hedgecock is also a Stamps Fellow through the Strive Foundation’s partnership with Darden, which provides scholarships for students “with promise and vision who are eager to make their contribution to the world and have the work ethic to make their dreams a reality.”
Hedgecock also put her talents to use this spring when she helped review tax returns for low-income Charlottesville residents as part of a student-run tax program called Creating Assets, Savings & Hope (or CASH) through the University of Virginia’s Madison House, an independent volunteer center for UVA students and the local United Way. Read the full story on UVAToday.
“We receive tax documents from local Charlottesville community members making under $57,000 a year,” Hedgecock said. “Then we will prepare the tax forms for them, run them through their refund, make sure it’s checked several times to ensure accuracy and really explain why they are getting a refund or not.”
Undergraduate School: Duke University
Graduating Year: 2018
Q: Why did you apply to the Future Year Scholars Program?
A: I was drawn to the Future Years Scholars Program because I knew that securing a spot at a top business school would give me options. After I was accepted to Darden, I began my career feeling empowered and I was able to focus on absorbing as much knowledge as I could. The Future Year Scholars Program let me explore my interests and be intentional about what I wanted to achieve in the early years of my career. Applying also motivated me to get the GMAT out of the way while I was still in full-time academic mode, something I’m certainly happy about.
Q: What did you do between graduating from your undergraduate institution and joining Darden?
A: Prior to Darden, I was a Risk Analyst at PayPal where I gained phenomenal experience understanding customer pain points and learning about the product lifecycle. In my role, I launched new products in France and Germany, implemented a Covid payment relief program to meet evolving customer needs, and managed the transition during a $7 billion acquisition with Synchrony Financial. My PayPal experience was jampacked with diverse markets, products, and people, so I knew that after two years, I was prepared to provide valuable perspectives in the Darden classroom and succeed in the MBA job recruiting process.
Q: Favorite class/professor?
A: This question is too difficult! Throughout the first year core curriculum, my favorite class was Marketing with Professor Tami Kim. I loved learning how to marry data and storytelling to craft a strategy, and Tami challenged us every day.
Q: What advice do you have for someone thinking about applying to Darden’s Future Year Scholars Program?
A: 100% go for it! Applying to Darden has been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.
Q: What advice do you have for students admitted to Darden’s Future Year Scholars Program?
A: I would recommended utilizing the Darden alumni community way before you step foot on Grounds. I built a great mentor relationship with a Darden grad, and she was so helpful for me with things like setting new goals when I got promoted, deciding when to matriculate, and preparing for interviews.
Q: How did you decide when was the right time to start your MBA?
A: I gained a great foundation in the payments industry during my time at PayPal. However, after two years I was eager to take on a more strategic role and invest in developing my personal leadership style. I knew that getting an MBA would accelerate both those paths for me, and Darden has completely delivered. Now I’m thrilled to be joining the American Express corporate strategy team this summer for my MBA internship.
Q: Did anything happen during your deferral period that reaffirmed your decision to stay on course to matriculate at Darden?
A: I attended an admitted students weekend in 2019, one year into my deferral period, and so many things that weekend reaffirmed that Darden was the best place to get my MBA. The mock class I attended featured an engaging case study about the industry I worked in, I hiked Humpback Rocks (a Darden Outdoors Club favorite!), and everyone I talked to was warm and eager to welcome me into the close-knit Darden community.
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