Tuck | Mr. First Gen Student
GMAT 740, GPA 3.0
Columbia | Mr. Global Healthcare
GMAT 740, GPA 4.0
Stanford GSB | Mr. Airline Developer
GMAT 710 (planning a retake), GPA 3.48
Harvard | Mr. First Gen Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 4.0 (First Class Honours)
Harvard | Mr. Big 4 Auditor
GMAT 740, GPA 3.55
Stanford GSB | Mr. JD Explorer
GRE 340, GPA 3.5
Georgetown McDonough | Mr. Automotive Project Manager
GMAT 680, GPA 3.5
NYU Stern | Mr. Honor Roll Student
GRE 320, GPA 3.1
Stanford GSB | Ms. Healthtech Venture
GMAT 720, GPA 3.5
Chicago Booth | Mr. Bank AVP
GRE 322, GPA 3.22
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Apparel Entrepreneur
GMAT 690, GPA 3.2
MIT Sloan | Mr. AI & Robotics
GMAT 750, GPA 3.7
Tuck | Mr. Liberal Arts Military
GMAT 680, GPA 2.9
Stanford GSB | Mr. Social Entrepreneur
GRE 328, GPA 3.0
Wharton | Mr. Industry Switch
GMAT 760, GPA 3.95
Stanford GSB | Mr. Irish Consultant
GMAT 710, GPA 3.7
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Marine Executive Officer
GRE 322, GPA 3.28
Harvard | Ms. Developing Markets
GMAT 780, GPA 3.63
Harvard | Mr. Policy Player
GMAT 750, GPA 3.4
Wharton | Mr. Future Non-Profit
GMAT 720, GPA 8/10
Duke Fuqua | Mr. Tough Guy
GMAT 680, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. CPPIB Strategy
GRE 329 (Q169 V160), GPA 3.6
Harvard | Mr. Defense Engineer
GMAT 730, GPA 3.6
Chicago Booth | Mr. Unilever To MBB
GRE 308, GPA 3.8
Kellogg | Mr. Double Whammy
GMAT 730, GPA 7.1/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Infantry Officer
GRE 320, GPA 3.7
McCombs School of Business | Mr. Ernst & Young
GMAT 600 (hopeful estimate), GPA 3.86

Record GMATs For Darden’s MBA Class

Incoming MBA students at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business this year

The white supremacist protest in Charlottesville last year severely impacted MBA applications to the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business but you wouldn’t know it by looking at the incoming Class of 2020.

Despite a 16.7% drop in application volume, Darden posted a record average GMAT score for its new crop of MBA students—718—five points higher than the previous record holders in the Class of 2019. The class also includes both a record number of company founders and a record 27 students pursuing dual degrees. The average undergraduate grade point average remained steady at 3.5.

That is quite an achievement for the school’s admissions team, headed by Dawna Clarke, the former admissions director at Dartmouth Tuck who arrived in mid-October, just weeks after the protest and round one deadline. The highly publicized protest in Charlottesville scared off many applicants, particularly from abroad, causing round one applications to fall by 27%.

‘WE TOOK A BIG HIT IN ROUND ONE’ IN THE AFTERMATH OF THE CHARLOTTESVILLE PROTEST

“We took a big hit in round one due to the events that transpired in Charlottesville last August,” notes Clarke. “We ended up being down 16.7%, and I was thrilled with the progress we made during the course of the admissions cycle.”

What’s more, the 335 incoming students are a highly diverse group, with 38% women, 29% international students hailing from 36 countries and 18% domestic minority students. The mix is not all that different than the previous year’s 336-strong class, with 39% women, 34% international from 36 nations, and 20% minority. The school also noted that 6% of the incoming class served in the military, including a Purple Heart, multiple Bronze Stars and recipient of the Global War on Terrorism medal, with 17 students still on active duty.

Most highly ranked business schools have been reporting lower numbers of internationals largely due to concerns over work visas and anti-immigration political rhetoric. Wharton recently reported that applications to its full-time MBA program fell by 6.7% (see At Wharton, Apps Dip But GMATs Climb).

The MBA admissions team at the University of Virginia’s Darden School after one of their day-long retreats to deal with the fallout from last August’s Charlottesville protest

HOW DARDEN OVERCAME THE APPLICATION DOWNTURN

Darden overcame the Charlottesville downturn by launching a series of initiatives, including more scholarship money, expanded open houses for prospective students, a competition among current students to use their personal network to recruit more applicants, greater use of webinars for candidates, and a dean who personally called admits to reel them in.

“I’ve worked for nine business school deans, and I’ve never seen any Dean make so many congratulatory calls to admitted students,” says Clarke of Dean Scott Beardsley.  “The admitted students loved it!”

No less crucial, however, Beardsley had led a 717% increase in philanthropy for scholarships at Darden in the past three years.  The Class of 2020 will be the first to take advantage of the Batten Foundation Darden Worldwide Scholarships, which will enable each student to have a global learning experience at no additional cost. That change is due to a generous $30 million gift Beardsley landed last year. “These scholarships are so valuable in us attracting and yielding talented students,” added Clarke.

‘TACKLING THIS CHALLENGE WAS EXTREMELY MOTIVATING FOR US’

For Clarke, executive director of admissions and financial aid, the first year was something of a whirlwind (see A Familiar Face Returns to Darden). Within 10 days of her Oct. 15th start date, she had one of four day-long planning retreats at her home intended to identify opportunities to tackle the headwinds caused by the August events. “For many of us,” Clarke says, “there was a strong social justice component in tackling this challenge that was extremely motivating for us.  We collectively came up with several new initiatives.”

Among them were expanded Darden Showcase Saturdays to allow prospective students to visit Darden on selected Saturdays/holidays with a day of programming that highlights Charlottesville, a case class with a faculty member and interaction with current students and members of the admissions committee.

Admissions also launched “How’s Your Three,” a campaign and competition that enabled current students to identify prospective students they knew through their own networks. The school launched “eight webinars in eight day” campaigns and sent electronic admissions newslettesr to some 278,000 prospective students monthly.

THE DEAN’S PERSONAL CALLING CAMPAIGN TO ADMITS

Admitted Students Weekends had an increased emphasis on showcasing Charlottesville and the overall university in addition to Darden.  “Our Dean and his wife hosted receptions in their Pavilion on the UVa lawn and we had events in the Rotunda,” says Clarke. “We communicated frequently with the Darden community about ways they could help us.”

Dean Beardsley, the former McKinsey & Co. senior partner who became dean in August of 2015, also personally did a calling program for admitted students.

“We wouldn’t have achieved these results if it weren’t for our Dean’s commitment to Darden becoming the most affordable top business school,” adds Clarke.  “He and our development team have achieved a 717% increase in philanthropy for scholarships at Darden. Scott comes from a family of educators and talks passionately about education being the great equalizer in our society and the transformational power of a Darden MBA. These resources enabled us to attract and yield an incredibly talented class.”

DON’T MISS: HOW DARDEN IS PUTTING CHARLOTTESVILLE’S PROTEST BEHIND IT or DARDEN: AFTER HATE CAME TO CHARLOTTESVILLE

About The Author

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.