Another new MBA class, another big welcome

Darden MBA students arrive for a new academic year

As 349 of the new MBA students showed up this week in an auditorium at the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, you could feel the excitement and the energy. At the very start of what will be a two-year learning journey, students gathered for a warm welcome from Dean Scott Beardsley and Chief Admissions Officer Dawna Clarke.

It’s a scene that will increasingly play out on one business school campus after another over the coming weeks. Schools will start a new school year with their fingers crossed, hoping that the lingering pandemic will allow them to continue with normal lesson times, global immersions and social events. Students too are hoping this will be the new normal, even at a time when new strains of COVID continue to linger.

Dean Beardsley wasted no time in addressing the issue. “I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about COVID,” he told the assembled students, “but I want to acknowledge the difficult times we’ve all been through and continue to navigate. As we begin the school year together, be kind to yourselves, be kind to each other, assume a positive intention and seek understanding even when discussing complicated matters. Please raise your hand if you need help. We are here for you and dedicated to your success and well-being – and we care deeply about not only your academic progress, but also your emotional and physical health.


Scott Beardsley, Dean of the Darden School of Business

He also tapped into the unspoken thoughts of Darden’s new students. “Watching the amazing people in this room, it’s natural to have insecurities that creep into our consciousness as we embark on a potentially daunting new journey,” he said. “Some might call this impostor syndrome. Let me remove all doubt and be clear: you all deserve to be here. You each bring something important and special to this community in your way. You have earned your place at Darden, and you should be very proud. It is incredibly competitive to enter Darden, and you have earned your place on merit. We also admitted you because we thought you had character and that you would be a wonderful member of this special community.

The big reveal of the day, of course, was Clarke’s posting of Darden’s new class profile. She told Darden’s incoming students that they applied during the most competitive sophomore admissions round in the school’s history, with just under 3,000 applying for those 349 in-class spots. Claims volume fell just 3.5% to 2,952 from 3,058 a year earlier, well below the 13.9% decline at Wharton. To review the class, the school’s admissions team reviewed each application at least four times via a pre-interview reading, two post-interview readings, and a final reading. The group also held over 1,200 recruiting events and over 1,700 admissions interviews.

The result: Darden set several new records with its class of 2024. This class had the highest average GMAT score of all time at 720 (up five points from last year’s 715); the highest percentage of international students at 43%, the highest percentage of first-generation college graduates at 16%, and the highest percentage of LGBTQ+ students at 8%. International students come from 48 countries, the highest level of international diversity in Darden’s history.

Top 10 countries represented in Darden’s Class of 2024

  • United States
  • India
  • Nigeria
  • spine
  • Brazil
  • Bangladesh
  • Mexico
  • Canada
  • Indonesia
  • Peru


Dawna Clarke, Executive Director of Admissions at Darden

The global nature of the class, however, is not fully captured by the percentage of international students. Clarke noted that 118 of the students studied abroad, and some 120 of the 349 students – more than a third of the class – speak three or more languages. “Collectively, you speak 81 languages, including American Sign Language,” Clarke added.

A record number of students, 18.9%, have already obtained a higher degree. And Darden also achieved the highest representation of veterans in its history, with 9% of the class having served in their country’s military. A new MBA student designed and executed the evacuation plan that led to the rescore of 7,000 Afghan refugees. “You served as surface warfare officers, company commanders, intelligence officers, special forces troop commanders,” Clarke said. “You have flown helicopters and served on destroyers and submarines. And you bring incredible leadership and team skills to Darden.

The class of 2024 worked at 290 employers in 32 sectors, including 20% ​​in financial services, 16% in consulting and 11% in technology. “Collectively and according to your resumes,” Clarke told the band, “you’ve run it, analyzed it, compiled it, managed it, improved it, migrated it, streamlined it, initiated it, and we know what you’re doing. do to Darden, you will crush him.


A factoid drew a lot of applause from the incoming students. “Twenty-four percent of you are married or in a partnership,” Clarke said, “which means 76 percent who are not.”

Many details of the new class demonstrate the remarkable diversity of young professionals earning an MBA today. “A lot of you are very musical and you should consider joining the Darden band,” joked Clarke. One of you was a background performer for Mariah Carey. You are accomplished college athletes. Many of you were captains of sports teams too numerous to list. We also have some extreme athletes. One of you has completed the Swiss Alps 100K. Someone else participated in a 40 km horse endurance race and we have a certified mountaineer. Your class loves to dance and you have done it as amateurs and professionals: ballet, hip-hop, bhangra, traditional Indonesian, classical Indian and we even have a world champion ballroom dancer. You have done theater and improvisation; one of you is a magician.

Dean Beardsley told new students he had four aspirations for them over the next two years. “I hope you will receive an excellent global education,” he said. “I hope you take the next step towards a career you love. I hope you build a great network. And I hope you have a great time.

“You will have incredible employment opportunities available to you as a member of this network, and I urge you to take them,” Beardsley added. “Did someone ask you what you wanted to do after Darden and make you feel like you had to know?” How do you know what you don’t know? Many of you may have a clear vision of where the MBA will take you, and many are still thinking about the way forward. Here’s my advice: open yourself up to the chance of the job search and treat the process as an opportunity to learn and create options. I had no idea what the council or McKinsey was when I started B-School, and I had no idea at B-School that I would become Dean of Darden.

“Know that there is nothing wrong with seeing plans change, trying something you’ve never tried, or having things turn out differently than you expected. It’s neither a race to be the fastest at getting a job, nor a competition to see who can earn the most. It’s about finding the place and the role where you can make a difference. Also remember that the work you have to come in the summer and then to Darden will only be two stages of your journey and not the final destination. After all, the retirement age is already 70 in most countries.


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