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Big International Student Rebound For Darden In MBA Class Of 2023

Darden Dean Scott Beardsley chats with First Year students during opening week events at the Darden School. UVA photo

The wrecking ball that Covid-19 took to international student enrollment in business schools in the United States is now firmly a thing of the past. The latest evidence comes from the University of Virginia, where the Darden School of Business reports that 40% of its MBA Class of 2023 hails from outside the U.S.

That’s a major reversal from last year, when coronavirus decimated the school’s international enrollment, dropping it to the lowest in many years at just 24%.

“We’re so incredibly excited to have you here, and especially thrilled to be able to welcome all of you together in person,” Dean Scott Beardsley told attendees at an on-campus welcome event for the Full-Time MBA Class of 2023 last week, adding that Darden and UVA leaders would strive to maintain a safe environment for all in the new academic year. “The enthusiasm that you’ll see today and in the coming days across Grounds as faculty, staff and peers welcome you — that’s real.”

40% WOMEN IN CLASS OF 2023 TIES 2019-2020 RECORD

Forty countries are represented in Darden’s MBA Class of 2023, which numbers 351 total students, up from 341 last fall. That’s up from 35 countries last year. Part of the reason for the big jump in foreign enrollment — which more than reverses the 9-point drop Darden experienced in 2020 from the previous year, instantly placing the school among the leaders in international MBA enrollment in the U.S. South — is that admits who deferred last year have finally enrolled. (The class includes 16 Future Year Scholars, the highest-ever number for Darden’s deferred-enrollment admissions program, which began in 2016.)

Another reason: Darden continues to be among the elite schools with the most flexible test requirements, including a unique policy that allows substitution of SAT or ACT scores in place of Graduate Management Admission Test or Graduate Record Exam scores. The school has not yet made application numbers available for the last admission cycle, but in the previous cycle, adjusted on the fly amid the chaos of coronavirus, the school saw a 364% increase in applicationsmore than 37% over the previous year and the end of a worrisome decline.

That policy surely contributes to another point of pride for Darden in this year’s intake: 40% women enrolled in the full-time MBA, which ties the school record set in 2019 and matched last year.

“One person told me the biggest competitor to the MBA is no MBA and I think that is true,” Beardsley told Poets&Quants in 2020. “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.”


More details are forthcoming but Darden has announced that its MBA Class of 2023 includes 52 Consortium members and is 21% U.S. minority students and 13% underrepresented minorities. Among U.S. citizens, the class is 19% underrepresented minorities. Fifteen percent of the class is first-generation college students, and 59 total students come to the class with advanced degrees. In academic metrics, the school has only revealed that the class boasts a 3.52 average undergraduate GPA, on par with recent years.

“This is a really special class, and I think you’re going to be delighted with the company that you’re going to have over the next two years,” Tom Steenburgh, senior associate dean for Darden’s full-time MBA program, told assembled MBA students at the opening week event.

“It’s going to be a great week, it’s going to be a great year, and it’s going to be a great two years,” added Beardsley.