Executive Director of Admissions Dawna Clarke recently joined the Experience Darden podcast to discuss the new Full-Time MBA application for the Class of 2024. As Clarke shares in the podcast, part of the reason Darden launched the application so early was to try to minimize stress for applicants and allow them time to get in touch with the process and prioritize what they are most excited to share with the Admissions Committee.

Short Answer Questions

The application includes new short answer questions on leadership and diversity, equity and inclusion that allow applicants to respond to one of two available prompts.

Clarke shared “Diversity, equity and inclusion are important values at Darden. Ultimately we are a school that emphasizes leadership and impact, so the questions are reflective of the values of our community. I also think the optionality gives applicants an opportunity to choose an answer that resonates the most with them. For example, one of the diversity and inclusion prompts asks applicants to ‘Share a time when you learned something related to diversity, equity or inclusion that was previously unknown to you. How did this experience impact your perspective?’ The response will be different for everyone, and some may prefer the second option, ‘Share a time when you advocated for a perspective, identity, or community different from your own. How did this experience impact your worldview?’ Having a variety of short answer questions allows us to get to know more about an applicant holistically. And hopefully it also allows the applicant to feel like they have a chance to share their whole selves and not just a response to one particular question.”

Short Answer Questions for the 2021-2022 Darden Full-Time MBA Application

Successful Students

“So many different people come to Darden and shine for so many reasons. There are some commonalities we look for in applicants — we want people who are interested in evolving into highly inclusive and impactful leaders, we want students who have strong leadership potential and who have strong interpersonal and communication skills. We are on track to bring in the most diverse class in Darden’s history. It’s diverse in terms of its racial backgrounds, international backgrounds, gender, industries, and the stories they represent.”


New for this year, only one recommendation is required. We will accept up to two recommendations if the candidate chooses to submit them, but only one is needed. Recommendations are typically one of the slower pieces of the application, so as applicants are getting organized, this is a component that you’ll want to allow extra time for.

Executive Director of Admissions Dawna Clarke

Clarke shared, “We have overwhelmingly heard from applicants that having two letters of recommendation is a pain point in the application process. We receive a lot of information about the applicants through other components of the application such as the interview and the short answer questions. We’re excited to make it a little bit easier for our applicants this year. When it’s possible, it is great to get a recommendation from a supervisor or manager. However, we certainly don’t want to put our applicants in a position where they are risking their job or a bonus or creating an awkward situation. My overall best piece of advice for recommendations is to pick someone who knows you well. Choose someone who know you and can highlight your strengths and give some anecdotes or share some stories about why you’re a talented leader, those examples that really resonate with us and helps lift the recommendation to another level.”

Standardized Test Waivers

After piloting a test waiver request process last cycle, we have continued with the waiver requests for the 2021-2022 application cycle as well.

Clarke said, “This is an element of the application that we’re very proud of. We know that not all stellar applicants are stellar test takers, and yet they may have really compelling alternative evidence that they would thrive at Darden. In the spirit of having more applicant optionality this year, we are offering options in terms of taking the test or not taking the test and we have options in terms of what test we’ll accept if you do choose to take a test – the GRE, GMAT, Executive Assessment, MCAT and LSAT.”

“Or, if you feel that you have compelling alternative evidence, you can complete the test waiver and see if you are approved and potentially have the opportunity to have the test waived. If it’s not waived, don’t fret! It’s not an indication that you’re not a strong candidate, it just means that we need more evidence to show that you will do well academically at Darden, and a test may be helpful to demonstrate that. I don’t recommend the test waiver for candidates who acknowledge that they haven’t had a lot of quantitative coursework or exposure in their job.”

View our Standardized Test FAQs for more information and to learn more about the test waiver request process. Candidates who request a test waiver will be considered across four primary indicators of academic and professional accomplishment, including but not limited to:

  • At least three years of professional work experience
  • A strong undergraduate and/or graduate record, including performance in analytical coursework or disciplines
  • Master’s or advanced degree in analytical discipline
  • CPA or CFA designation or other quantitative professional certification

Favorite Advice

“So many alumni reference their experience at Darden as two of the best years of their life. I really like to encourage people to get excited about the application process and to start to even documenting what you’re proud of – what are experiences or characteristics about you or examples of when you’ve made an impact that you are excited to share with us. Approaching the application with joy and excitement and a knowledge that you are about to embark on an exciting journey is one of the best pieces of advice that I can give.”

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