As you read through the application guidelines below, review our application steps for an overview of our application process. Within this section, you will also find specific guidance for Early Action candidates, reapplicants, international applicants and more.
The Darden MBA application begins with a request for demographic information, address, education, professional history and so on.
In order to meet regulatory, accreditation, and other reporting requirements, the Darden School asks applicants to report their race/ethnicity, as defined by U.S. Department of Education standards, as part of the application process. This individual applicant information on race/ethnicity is not available to anyone involved in the evaluation process while an applicant being considered for admission to the school.
The residency section of the application requests information related to verification of residency to establish in-state status for Virginia residents. Residency status is assigned by the Virginia Status Office at the University. Visit the Virginia Status Office at the University or call +1-434-982-3391 if you need more information.
We expect that the information provided in and for an application will be valid and will accurately represent your qualifications for admission to Darden. If articles contained within the application are ascertained to contain invalid information or misrepresent your qualifications, sanctions will be taken, up to and including the revocation of the MBA degree.
Step-By-Step Guide to the Application Process
Browse Our Resources
We take great pride in our applicant-focused approach to admissions, and have a wealth of asynchronous resources available to applicants at every stage of their business school journey.
- Experience Darden podcast, available on all major platforms
- Discover Darden admissions blog
- Global Voices international blog
- Darden MBA YouTube channel
- Admissions Tips YouTube playlist, hosted by Senior Assistant Dean of Admissions Dawna Clarke
- Vimeo webinar library
- Darden Report news and School updates
- Ideas to Action thought leadership articles
- Follow Darden on social media: Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter
1. Select Your Deadline
Which deadline is right for you? Apply as soon as you feel like you can put together a strong application. With each passing deadline, fewer seats in our class will be available, and we will have less scholarship money to award. Most applicants will apply in Early Action, Round 1 and Round 2. That said, we always meet great candidates in Round 3!
The Early Action round is unique among our deadlines in that we offer a limited number of open interview slots. For all other rounds, interviews are by invitation only. Early Action is recommended for candidates who know Darden is at the top of their list. We also offer a binding and non-binding option for Early Action candidates.
When you start your application, you will make two choices that are very important. From the first dropdown menu, you will select your application type: MBA (i.e., Full-Time MBA) or Executive (i.e., Executive MBA). Once you’ve made this choice, from the second dropdown menu, you will select your target deadline (2024 MBA Early Action, 2024 MBA Round 1, etc.). Please make sure you select the application type that corresponds to your program interest.
2. Review Our Application
Once you have identified your target deadline, we encourage you to review our application. During this first pass, don’t worry about completing anything--just gather information and think about a timeline that will help you plan and strategize working through the application.
Our Admissions process is holistic in nature. Consider how each constituent element of your application contributes to this overall narrative. Approach the application process as a storytelling exercise--this is an initial introduction to you, and we look forward to learning more about you. Prioritize examples that demonstrate the authentic person behind the application.
If you participate in an interview, this will be a further opportunity for you to reinforce and supplement this narrative. While not all Darden applicants will participate in an interview, we nevertheless encourage you to consider how these two phases of the application process align and complement each other.
3. Acquire Your Transcript
Unofficial transcripts are fine for the purposes of our application process, and we require transcripts for all degree-related coursework. An unofficial transcript is a transcript issued directly to you. It could be in the form of a PDF download or a document you scan and upload to your application. An official transcript is a transcript issued directly from the institution in question to our office. You will be asked to upload a transcript for each institution you enter in the Education History section of your application.
If you completed your education at a non-English-speaking institution, you will need to make arrangements to have your academic records translated and sent to our office with the official transcript. All translations must be complete and literal versions of the original records.
If you matriculate at Darden, we will require you to submit official transcripts from all degree-granting institutions prior to the start of school. But for now, unofficial copies are just fine.
4. Take Standardized Test or Submit Test Waiver
We accept a number of standardized tests – GMAT, GMAT Focus, GRE, Executive Assessment (EA), MCAT and LSAT. We encourage candidates to choose the test that best aligns with their strengths, application plans and career goals. Self-reported scores are acceptable for the purposes of our application process, but applicants should also arrange for GMAC, ETS or Pearson VUE to send their official score report directly to the Darden Admissions office. Standardized test scores are viewed equivalently by the admissions committee as part of the application process.
Candidates are required to report all valid test scores. Candidates are not required to report cancelled or expired test scores. However, you should include cancelled or expired test administrations in the overall test administration counts reported in the Standardized Test section of the application.
- GMAC: KC7-0X-86
- ETS: 4629
- TOEFL: 5820 Dept. 02
- IELTS: 5099
Standardized Test Waiver Application
For some candidates a test score may not be needed for our Admissions Committee to assess their preparedness for Darden. Waiver applications will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and our Admissions Committee will consider a number of factors when evaluating these applications. Particular regard will be given for indicators of academic and professional accomplishment Please refer to our Admissions FAQ page for further details on this request process, under the 'Standardized Tests' tab, for further details on this test waiver application process.
Remember: Standardized tests are just one piece of information in a much broader, holistic evaluation.
5. Sharpen Your Resume
For most Full-Time MBA applicants, a one-page resume is sufficient for those with under ten years of professional work experience. If you’ve reviewed our application (see Step 2), you know there is an Employment History section, and, in this section, you will provide basic details about your various roles and responsibilities.
We encourage you to keep this in mind when crafting your resume. Remember, we will be evaluating your application holistically, so try to think about your application with this lens as you assemble your materials.
Consider using your resume to highlight your leadership and impact. What have you accomplished in your roles? And whenever possible, try to quantify your results.
In addition, a resume is also an opportunity to display your personality and offer insights about your passions and interests. Hobbies, favorite activities, books you’ve read recently, podcasts you’re currently listening to, countries you’ve visited. It’s all fair game. Including a few of these personal details can help us get a more complete picture of you.
6. Identify Your Recommenders
We require one recommendation as part of our application process. Candidates may include a second recommendation with their materials, if desired. However, you will want to be sure this additional recommender is offering new insights regarding you and your candidacy.
Identifying Your Recommender
Who makes a good recommender? Consider choosing someone who knows you well and has supervised you in a professional setting and directly observed your work (typically within the last few years). Identify someone who will help us learn more about your accomplishments and leadership potential through specific examples and anecdotes. Strictly academic recommendations are typically less helpful in our evaluation.
When choosing your recommender (and setting expectations), be sure to keep in mind what they will be asked to do. Our recommendation process is completely electronic, and your recommenders will fill out two pieces of information — a ratings grid in which they will evaluate you across a set of competencies and a series of short answer questions. The short answer questions are:
- Please provide a brief description of your interaction with the applicant and, if applicable, the applicant’s role in your organization.
- How does the performance of the applicant compare to that of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles?
- Describe the most important piece of constructive feedback you have given the applicant. Please detail the circumstances and the applicant’s response.
Recommendations are typically the slowest part of the application process, so identify your recommenders well in advance of your target deadline. Make sure they understand why you’re pursuing an MBA and why you’re interested in Darden. We also suggest sharing a copy of your resume with them so they have some perspective on the full arc of your career. And last but not least: Stay in touch. We find that most recommenders are deadline-oriented, so make sure they know your application timing.
About the Recommendations Process
Once you enter your recommender’s information and contact details, they will receive an email with a link to our recommendation materials. Occasionally, this email gets caught in spam filter and does not reach the recommender. In this situation, simply contact our Admissions team (firstname.lastname@example.org) and we will re-send the recommendation link to your recommender.
Our recommendation process is completely electronic, and your recommendation will automatically associate with your application once the recommendation is submitted. In other words, once you have finished your portion of the application, you may go ahead and submit your materials. However, once you have submitted your application, you will be unable to edit your application or enter additional recommender information.
We find that most recommenders are deadline-oriented, so be sure to stay in touch to make sure they know your application timing. You will receive an email notification once your recommender submits their recommendation. You will also notice a green check mark next to their name and information on your Application Status page (a red “X” will display if the recommendation is still pending).
7. Respond to Our Essay Questions
For the 2023–24 application cycle, we will again feature short essay questions, which provides a broader platform for applicants to highlight their experiences through multi-dimensional narratives. These questions are a great opportunity for you to help the Darden Admissions Committee understand who you are and who you will be at Darden.
- Community of Belonging: What would you want your classmates to know about you that is not on your resume? (100 words)
- Inclusive Impact: Please describe a tangible example that illuminates your experience promoting an inclusive environment and what you would bring to creating a welcoming, global community at Darden. (300 words)
- Careers With Purpose: At this time how would you describe your short-term, post-MBA goal in terms of industry, function, geography, company size and/or mission and how does it align with the long-term vision you have for your career? (200 words)
Remember: We are not reading your responses with a prescribed or “right” answer in mind. We want to get to know you, not us. These questions are our opportunity to begin to get a sense of your voice, your perspective, your experiences and your writing ability. In fact, how you choose to answer a particular question is often as insightful as what you choose to write about. The best essay responses are those that are responsive to the question but also authentic and genuine. Whenever possible, show don’t tell.
One of our favorite application tips involves this feedback stage – when you share your responses with your friend, don’t tell them the prompts (at least initially). See if they can guess the questions based upon your responses. If they can, you are well on your way to finalizing your answers!
8. Complete the Application
Now that you have pulled together your supporting materials, you can focus on filling out your application. This includes everything from providing basic information about you (address, date of birth, contact details, etc.); to detailing your educational and employment history; to uploading your resume, transcripts and test scores; to adding your short answer responses and more.
Once you’ve entered all of this information, take a moment to think about your application holistically. Are there any gaps or ambiguities in the information provided? Consider using the Additional Comments section of your application to provide additional context, if necessary. The Additional Comments section is not an additional essay, just a place to connect the dots.
Our advice is to be brief, make your point and provide action items if appropriate. Anything you choose to share should be valuable to both you and potentially our Admissions Committee.