If admitted to Darden’s deferred enrollment program, the Future Year Scholars Program, incoming students will have the opportunity to complete between two and five years of professional experience before enrolling as part of a future Darden class.

The 2021-22 application deadlines for the Future Year Scholars Program are 12 April and 2 August. There is no fee to apply and applicants are encouraged to choose the deadline they feel allows them to present their most competitive application.

We’ve come to the topic many of you have likely been wondering about — test scores. Sure, we can talk all day about resumes, and recommendations and essays, but what about standardized test scores? How much do they factor into our admissions decisions? What about the Executive Assessment (EA)? So many questions! Let’s do this.

future year scholars standardized tests
Director of Admissions, Katherine Alford

Which test should you choose?

Let’s start with the easy stuff: We do not have a minimum or “qualifying” standardized test score. We also accept a number of standardized tests –GMAT, GRE, EA, MCAT and LSAT, and we do not have a test preference. Applicants should choose the test that best aligns with their strengths and their application plans. However, the various schools to which you are applying may answer these questions differently, so be sure to check with each school as you prepare your application materials.

What about the ACT/SAT?

Starting with the year 2021 all applicants for Darden’s Future Year Scholars Program may submit the SAT or ACT in lieu of the tests listed above. When deciding whether or not to apply with an existing SAT or ACT score, we encourage you to take a step back and think about their candidacy as our Admissions Committee will – holistically and objectively. Is your current score one that demonstrates your academic readiness for an MBA curriculum or would your application benefit from having a more recent academic-related data point?

How do test scores impact scholarship consideration or post-MBA career opportunities?

For candidates looking to differentiate themselves amongst a competitive pool for merit based scholarship, you may want to consider taking a graduate standardized test. Test scores can offer the Scholarship Committee another factor to weigh when making these awards, and, for candidates seeking to maximize their opportunity for a scholarship, having a GMAT or GRE score can provide an additional data point for the Scholarship Committee when conducting this evaluation.

Lastly, when deciding which test to submit, you will also want to consider whether your post-MBA career goals include working in an industry that requests a GMAT/GRE score as part of the recruiting process.

How does the admissions committee evaluate test scores as part of the review process?

Our average test score is just that: an average. And, as an average, you know that we have students in our current class who have scores below our average and some who have scores above our mean.

Darden’s review process is holistic in nature. We will read your entire application, and we know you are more than your test score(s), or your undergraduate GPA, or even the information on your resume. The standardized test score is just one way we can assess readiness for a rigorous MBA curriculum, and there are many other ways for you to demonstrate your preparation such as additional coursework, professional certifications (CFA, CPA) etc.

Another way to think about test scores is as follows: Test scores (and, by extension, GPAs) may get you in the mix of people we are considering for admission, but they alone will not get you in to Darden. If it was just about numbers, why would we bother interviewing anyone? So much of our admissions process is about assessing your potential contributions to Darden and vice versa, and what you are looking to gain from this experience. Darden is a case method school with a supportive and engaged community. Collaboration is essential to our learning experience, and you will be learning both with and from your classmates.

Put yourself in our shoes

Sure, we want to know you have the potential to handle the rigors of the Darden academic experience, but we also want to know what kind of classmate and teammate you will be. How do you think about leadership? Do you value different backgrounds and perspectives? What will your perspective be in and out of the classroom? Will you be willing to share your experience and expertise? Are you also open to learning from others? These are just some of the questions we ask as we review an application. And, as you will note, a standardized test score is ultimately of little utility when it comes to these kinds of considerations.

Make the most of this advice!

So, what can you do? First of all, give yourself every opportunity to do as well as you can on whatever standardized test you choose to take. These exams are NOT intelligence tests, and the time you spend studying can make a real difference in your performance. Focus on what you can control (i.e., your preparation), and give it your best shot.

But also take time to get to know us and give us an opportunity to get to know you as you research your MBA options. Schedule a Future Year Scholars conversation. Attend an admissions event. Network with current students and alumni. By taking advantage of these opportunities to make a personal connection, if you are invited for an interview, you will likely have stronger answers as to why an MBA and why Darden, as well as a better feel for the general culture of our school. After all, just as we are evaluating you, you are evaluating us, as you work to find a program that is the right fit for you.