AdmitMBA360 Blog formerly Journey to my MBA

Journey to my MBA

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Darden visit and interview experience

It's pouring rain right now. (Click on the pic to see a bigger picture). Around 3:30pm, the skies opened and let us have it here in Charlottesville. The lightning made variable crackling and snap noises across the skies. It was quite surreal. The rain sort of symbolized how I was feeling since I woke up this morning. I was pretty woozy all day. Perhaps it was from jet-lag, or from the three hour drive last night, or from being up till midnight waiting for hotel managment to fix some bathroom fixtures (The hotel was completely booked so they couldn't move me.)

Anyway, for the 9:30am interview, I woke up at 7:30am and arrived there ready to go by 9:10am. When I walked into the admissions office, I was admittedly nervous. The receptionist gave me a class assignment visit confirmation and a lunch/tour confirmation. She provided me the case study file for the class so that I could read it before going to class. I did end up reading it and good thing too. Otherwise, I would have been totally lost. Darden is nearly 100% case study format. This demands that you prepare your case eval and have read the case before coming to class. The prof may call on you and embarrass you. So you have to be ready. One student mentioned that they go through 600 case studies a year. He also made the funniest comment about it. He said, "I know it sounds like a lot, but... uh... yeah... it is." He was trying to give a lighter side to the workload, but then realized mid-sentence that there really wasn't one. Pretty funny.

Waiting in the admissions reception area, I began to meet a dozen others who were also interviewing. They came from San Francisco, Virginia, Japan, New York, Houston, Chicago and Miami.

For the interview, the interviewer (associate admissions director) brought into his office. A majority of the Darden interviews are performed by admissions directors. Unlike Tuck.. where most of theirs are performed by 2nd years. Anyway, when we got into his office, I noticed two chairs facing each other in front of his office desk. Instead of him sitting behind the desk, he sat directly across from me in the other chair. He began the interview by telling me it was completely blind. "I don't know anything about you for this interview", he said. He hadn't seen my Resume, stats or anything else. So he said, "I just want to get to know you... who you are and what drives you."

The rest of what he said went something like this, "I'm not asking you to run through your Resume or chronologically tell me every detail of your life. Because this interview format is just about getting to know you, I do want to add that at some point, we need to make sure that we've been able to answer questions such as "why an mba", "why darden" and "what are your future plans". At Darden, we value just finding out what makes candidates tick. So just go ahead and start where you feel like. It's your floor. {he said it so gently and calmly, with a smile) But before, we get started, I just want to mention that we do have to be wise in our use of time in that we have 40 minutes. So that's really our only constraint on this time we have." At this point, he calmly gestured his open hand to me as if to say that I had the stage.

The interviewer was very friendly and kind. He clarified any questions about the points I was making and we genuinely dialogued about my life. I admittedly steered some key points and put some structure into what I was saying. On a bad note, somewhere around T-10 minutes left, I felt about as tired as could be. I felt like the energy had been sapped out of me. I tried my best to hide it, but I'm sure it showed a bit. I really should have done a later interview. The point that worried me was when he asked if we could go back to what I wanted to do in terms of career goals. We had gone over it, but not succinctly. So he started to summarize it, but I finished his thoughts in a way that he expected me to finish them for him. I'm not sure if he did that to be clear about what makes me unique or if because I didn't hit that part of the dialogue clearly enough earlier. Obviously, I blame myself first. Oh well.

Every interviewee that I talked to in the lobby all had the exact same experience in terms of the easygoing structure of it. One fellow commented to me as he came out that it was a really cool experience because he got to talk about himself 30 minutes. They all agreed that it was very relaxing. I thought Tuck's interviews were easy going. Darden takes the cake in this area.

The problem with Darden's interview setup is that their schedules seem much more suited to early morning and early afternoon interviews. You may not get to meet with an admissions staff in the late afternoon interview slots. Remember that when admissions decision are discussed, the admissions staff discuss and defend you. A 2nd year may not have the pull that an admissions staff does in those decision meetings about who gets in or not. (just my opinion. I don't know if this is fully true or not. But what I'm saying makes sense--- doesn't it?)

After the interview, I read the case study and got to know more people who came for interviews. We were talking about the class experience in the lobby. I commented that the host would take us into class and have us introduce ourselves and then have us sing a short song. I said it with an absolutely straight face. A couple of the girls froze and so did a few guys. I let 30 seconds pass and said that I was only kidding and that we wouldn't have to sing. They let out a total sigh of relief. I'm pretty mean... huh!

10 minutes before class, I was taken by the student host to a Decision Analysis class. The class was truly enjoyable. On an interesting note, when student hosts take visitors to classes, it's one host to one guest. Many other schools have 1 host to 2 visitors. This goes to show the personal attention they are trying to put into the visit experience. The host told me as I got into class what to expect in terms of introductions and so forth. Then he said that to get a great response, that I should tell the class that I love David Hasselhoff and why. I froze because my earlier joke seemed to have backfired on me somehow. I thought really hard about whether he was joking or not. He said.. to just trust him. So I did.

My host introduced me and then I stood up. I said,"Hi, I'm David like xxx said. And before I tell you more about about myself, I just want to make it very clear that I love David Hasselhoff." The class absolutely broke into cheers and a huge drumming noise errupted from their desks and the floor from the foot pounding and hands pounding on the desks. I couldn't believe that it worked. Perhaps, I'll find out later that it was an absolutely horrid play on all visitors to get them to say it. I'll only know after I get my acceptance phone call right!

As class progressed, for the next 5 minutes, we would hear and feel the occasional floor and ceiling shaking from other classrooms stomping their feet and pounding their desk. What an energetic school I thought. I thought to myself,"I guess they suckered them into the David Hasselhoff love confession too." What a school. What a school.

The Prof was amazing. He was funny, sharp and lead the class discussion very well. I was able to get a great sense of how effective a case study can be when going over quantitative topics. Despite my lack of skills training that the other students had, I was able to follow the class 100%.

When class ended, quite a few students welcomed me and asked me about my experience. They had nothing but great comments about Darden. Even as I walked down the hall, students would come up to me and say hi and talk to me. It was a very welcoming place.

Here are a few impression take away that I got from the class.
1) You have to speak up and talk. I even think part of their grade may be part of participation. Harvard is the same way. Harvard and Darden are the only two schools that rely this heavily on case studies.

2) Preparation before class is key to having any kind of success in the school.

3) The most important point of all!!!! You have to be articulate and be able to convey/communicate your thoughts so that a class of 68 can understand what the heck you are saying. Therefore, your admission interview better be a case study of how you are able to convey your thoughts well. Or else, they'll lower their view of how strong a candidate you are for the school. This is a huge deal. It's actually part of the school bragging mantra to Corporations as well in their marketing material. "You'll find our graduates to be great communicators and to be highly articulate." This is important because the case study method has students teaching students. There were times in class when people would say, I didn't understand your question. That's never good. Even the Prof commented to one person that he didn't understand one students question. It's actually an important quality standard that all of the students appeared to peer-pressure one another into doing it well while in class.

4) If you're the kind of person that doesn't like to speak up, or need a lot of time to yourself... I and many other students at Darden have said the same thing to this. Don't apply. It's probably not for you.

The school tour was ok. Darden actually created a document that is a self tour of sorts. If you follow-it, it tells you where to go, when to go this way or that and then provides some background at each area that you stop at. Our Tour guide read off the sheet, but provided a lot of personal input on his own that made the tour interesting. It was pretty fast though.

My experience was great. Students are really hard working here. I met one student who went to a great school and had a very difficult engineering major. He told me that he never worked this hard. He clarified that it's not "studying" that he or any other student is referring to. It's about the amount of things to take care of, respond to and prepare for.

[updated sept 29,2006]

Lastly, it hit me last night, before I went to bed, why the interview style is the way it is. I've mentioned how important being articulate in class is right! When given no preliminary structure, how one conveys ones ideas and passions is best done when one removes all structure and then watches how you create one. This is best done in an interview with as little structure as possible. I know the laid back structure of the interview is probably because of the close community at Darden. But I also think that it serves an equally important role in assessing ones communication skills.

I would therefore say that ones ability to communicate is AN EXTREMELY HUGE component of what Darden looks for in applicants. I would add that if you have a particularly strong accent, that you will probably have a hard time getting in. For example, in the class I attended there were 6 Indians. I heard each of them speak. Their english was particular clear and their accent was not thick enough to struggle through what they were saying. There were other foreigners too and I could clearly hear what they were saying.

Anyway, this was a light bulb moment for me last night. I just wanted to put this down before I lost the clarity of this realization.


Blogger ScareCrow said...

Great experience Dave! All the best :-)

2:44 AM  
Blogger Ryan said...


Excellent post!

Good luck with the admission's process. I'm a FY at Darden and I actually escorted a candidate yesterday. I do not believe you sat in on my section's class, but the experience is similar across all of the sections.

You hit on all the key points that make someone successful at Darden. It feels like yesterday that I was in your shoes wrestling with the same decisions. I looked at rankings and later started looking at the actual characteristics of the programs. What eventually attracted me to Darden was the actual education (learning style), career services, and overall community fit. You should see Charlottesville on a clear day - it is beautiful.

Darden doesn't compare to many other schools because of the case method. Darden is most comparable to HBS in this regard. I love it. We do quite a few HBS cases. The proposed strength of the program is that we get used to taking ambiguous "real world" cases and applying problem solving concepts to make managerial decisions.

I would address one point of your assessment, however. I don't think it is necessary that an MBA candidate be an excellent communicator in order to make it into Darden. I don't think someone should be overly concerned about admission if they are shy. However, it would need to be an aspect targeted for improvement. One could address this in essays or possibly the interview itself. With that said, you definitely have to be willing to talk in front of 65 people everyday. And, Yes, participation is about 30% of the grade.

I would encourage you to learn more about the Career Development Center and Alumni Career Services. As you look to invest in an education, you might consider the fact that Darden provides lifetime career services to its graduates.

Good luck!

5:04 PM  
Blogger Dave for MBA said...

Thanks much Ryan! Nice post yourself.

8:10 AM  
Blogger Linda Abraham said...

Excellent post. If you want to contribute also to the MBA Interview Feedback Database ( ), it would be appreciated. And if you don't, you have provided a wealth of information here. Also, please feel free to submit your pictures to the Beautiful B-School Photo Contest ( )

8:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hasselhoff... a legend beyond his years.

I'm glad you had a good Darden experience. The flavor is truly unique. As Ryan pointed out, Darden isn't necessarily for the completely outgoing extroverts who like to talk. For many this is a chance to work on their weaknesses but also shine in more intimate team settings. But as you said, it isn't for everyone.

Good luck!

5:46 AM  
Blogger Dave for MBA said...

Found the following post from a first Year Chinese Student currently attending Darden. - Dave

Hi, My name is SAM, a Chinese FY ( First Year ) here in Virginia.

Let me share with you my opinion on the case method here at Darden. ( your question 4 & 5 )
I dont want to waste your time reading this threas with the informaton you can get with GOOGLE and "official" Darden pamphlet..
So , here is the truth.

Darden is not for everybody.

Before you apply for B-School, you need to ask yourself a big question "What do I want out of it?"
If you want to get solid cross-principle general management professional training, move your English communication skills to a whole new level, and have close-knit friends and alumni you can count on, then Darden is the answer.

Note that I said "English" communication skills. if you want to land a job in North America, Darden will be one of your top choices. Today at the international orientation session, our career development director Mr. errerate just emphasised that the No.1 criteria Top recruiter ( Banking and Consulting firms such as Mckeinsy and Goldman Sach) are looking for when they came on campus is : communcation skills.
On the other hand, if you plan to go back China after your 2 years, Darden may not be your best choice, in my opinion - you dont really need the English communication skills, and Let's face it, Darden dont have particularly large alumni network in China, so it might not help your Business in China. After all, We are still a "small" school.

Yes, it is tough. Darden is still the most rigorous MBA program in TOP B schools in US.
Take it as a challenge, a challenge to improve yourself on time management, multiple-tasking and teamwork. Let me explain why it is a challenge for teamwork. Darden deliberately design the program so that the workload has to shared with the team. It is mission impossible to do it on your own. During today's panel dscussion with several SY ( second year ) students, one of the guys said that it took him too long to realize that he is not the smartest guy in the room. If he were given another chance to re-live the first year, he would involve more on the learn team and reply more on the learning team to get things done.

You need to be confident with your english, comfortable with elaborating your thoughts on a given topic in a structural and logical way in front of a group of elites from various part of the world.

So, are you "Darden material" ?

8:37 PM  
Anonymous Helen Kopp said...

I totally agree with you about the interview! I had mine yesterday at 2:00pm (after a full day of the class visit, lunch with faculty, and socializing with the students... and after 10 minutes of the interview, i was completely drained and felt I was losing focus. I knew about the Darden interview going in, but nothing prepared me for it! That said, I absolutely loved the decision analysis class. And every single student (and applicant, for that matter) I met was warm and friendly. Love this school...

4:08 AM  

Post a Comment

<< Home

Journey to my MBA Locations of visitors to this page
Stay up to date with this Blog
Monitor changes to links on the sidebars of this Web Site
Dave's E-Mail

Subscribe with Bloglines Subscribe with My Yahoo! Subscribe with Google Subscribe in NewsGator Online Subscribe in Rojo Subscribe with Pluck RSS reader Subscribe with Bloglines Add to AOL
Get Updates of this Blog via Email:

Powered by
Some Noteworthy Blog Postings
Cornell-Johnson Visit Experience-Dave
MIT-Sloan Visit Experience-Dave
Wharton Visit Experience-Dave
Darden Visit Experience-'04-Dave
Darden Visit/Interview Experience-'06-Dave
Darden Pictures-'06
HBS Visit Experience-'04-Dave
HAAS Visit/Info Session-'04-Dave
Columbia Visit/Info Session-'04-Axechick
Tuck Visit/Info Session-'05-Laser
Tuck Visit/Interview '06-Dave
Tuck Pictures1-'06
Tuck Pictures2-'06
Michigan Info Sess. Experience-Dave
Columba Info Sess. Experience-Dave
Tuck Info Sess. Experience-Dave
World MBA Tour Experience-Dave
Travel Guides-Dave
Columbia Open House I-Droodoggie
Columbia Open House II-Droodoggie
Application Essay Advice-Dave
Application Essay Advice II-Dave
MBA App advice-Consulting/Management-Dave
Good Essay question Prep-Uniqpath
The MBA Journey Begins-Dave
The MBA App Process-MarketWiz
Picking Target Schools-Sghama
Pre-App Tips-Bloghorn8
How to interact w/ B-School Staff-Dave
Managing Your Recommenders-ClearAdmit
Schools I Picked & Why-Anand
Import App Elements-Redwolf056
A Successful Essay(Chicago GSB)-PowerYogi
Why Chicago GSB-Paul Jan
Stanford GSB Dean on Essays
------------------ Application Process ------------------
Advice on Admissions Consultants-Dave
Why get an MBA now?-Dave
Why do I need an MBA?-Dave
Story of Tenacity-Dave
MBA App Advice-Dave
Maximize your MBA Info Sess. Exp.-Dave
Low GPA Stories-Dave
Introspect on being resolute-Dave
Why Attitude Matters-Dave
Wharton's Interview Policy-RedWolf
Dealing with a Low GPA
Tuck's App Review Process
UCLA's App Review Process
Wharton's App Review Process
Every Essay Tells a Story
Your Story is so Interesting
What is a great essay?
Am I too young to apply?
When is the best time to apply?
Applying and not sure where to start?
Is school XXX any good?
The B-School Admit Hate List
Hey Applicant, Lay off the Buggin
Should I interview on or off campus?(See comment)
MBA Tour/Info Session Tip
The Interview
------------------ GMAT ----------------------------------
Low GMAT Success Stories
GMAT Score Needed in Europe
GMAT Score Needed
GMAT Score Needed by Age
GMAT Score Needed by Country
GMAT Score Needed by Race
GMAT Score Needed by Major
Budgeting time for the GMAT
Breaking the 700 Barrier
The B-School Route to Career Change
Pre-MBA Resources
MBA Math Build math and spreadsheet skills
MBA Resources show all
--------- Video Interview's of B-School Deans -------
Video Interviews of B-School Deans
------------ B-School Visit Experiences ----------------
Admin Director Interviews
Visit Reviews
------------ MBA Forums ----------------------------------
Business Week Forum
Wharton Student Forum
Chicago GSB Forum
Yale Forum

----------- B-School Articles and News-----------------
How B-Schools get their name
BusinessWeek(B-School Headlines)
The Economist(News from Schools)
The Financial Times(Business Education)
Wall Street Journal(MBA Center)
----------- Gen MBA Info ---------------------------------
MBABuzz MBA Blogs, Forum, App Stat Plotter
MBA Info
MBA Studylink
MBA Jungle
MBA Game Plan
MBA Official Guide
MBA Depot
Top 10 MBA
Ivy League
MBA Podcaster
MBA Jargon
MBA School Directory
MBA 4 Success
Military MBA

------------ MBA Program Summary for Applicants---
ClearAdmit School Guides
WSJ School Snapshots
WSJ Who's Recruiting Where?
MBAPrepAdvantage School Profiles
------------ MBA Foreign Related -----------------------
Canadian MBA
Infozee "Foreign MBA"
------------ MBA Conf/Foundations --------------------
The MBA Tour
The MBA Diversity Alliance
Forte Foundation
Catalyst Women
Knowledge@Wharton Podcast
Association of MBAs
------------ Resume Help ---------------------------------
Darden Resume's
MBA Game Plan Resume Help

------------ Essay Help ------------------------------------
American Dream - (Dave's Pick) (Samples) (Getting Started)
MBA Essay Strategy(download)
MBA Game Plan Essay Help
Some Classic Advice from Wharton Boards
Clear Edit Automated writing editor
MBA Studio

------------- Interview Insight --------------------------
B-School Interview Braindump-Accepted
B-School Interview Braindump-Clearadmit
------------- Ethnocentric Assoc. ----------------------
LEAD Program for minorities
------------- Post-MBA ------------------------------------
MBA Concepts
------------- MBA Articles---------------------------------
If you want your application to B-School to stand out;first do your homework properly, and then apply early
Admissions Tip:HBS Essay #2
Writing good essays from an ADCOM perspective
Top 5 MBA programs Article
The Full-Time Advantage
Overcoming Procrastination
Why B-School is good for our Economy

MBA Ranks show all
Ranks by Industry Sector Show
Forbes ranking measures the graduates' return on investment
Economist ranking reports how students and alumni rated their MBA experience
BusinessWeek surveys students and corporate recruiters and measures intellectual capital
Wall Street Journal is a corporate recruiter based poll (21 criteria)
U.S. News & World Report evals student selectivity and placement data and gathers the perceptions of deans and program directors to develop the ranking
Financial Times poll measures career progression of alumni, program diversity and a school's track record in producing new ideas in management
BusinessWeek '06 Rank
BusinessWeek '06 Slideshow
Financial Times '08 (PDF) (Interactive)
US News&World Report 2009
Economist 2008 Rankings
------Wall Street Journal Rankings--------------------
WSJ 2006(US)
WSJ 2006(International)
WSJ 2006(Academic Discipline)
WSJ 2006(Women)
WSJ 2006(Ethics)
WSJ 2006(Minorities)
WSJ 2006(Industry)
Forbes Rankings 05' Results - 07' Results Rankings
Beyond Grey Pinstripes 2009
DTU Research per School
B-School Research Rankings
Financial Times E-MBA Rankings '06 PDF
BusinessWeek E-MBA Rankings '05
Money's top 100 MBA Employers '06
US News Category Ranks '06
Financial Times Category Ranks
Asia B-School Rank 2000
Australian 2005 Financial Review
German B-School Rank
Computerworld top techno MBA Survey
Consus Group B-School Rankings top 100 Entrepreneurial Colleges
Find MBA Rankings
International Education Commission's Top 10
Marr/Kirkwood Comparison Rankings
Official MBA Guide:MBA Program Ranking and Screening

GMAT Resources show all
GMAC-Register for GMAT
---------- GMAT Articles ----------------------------------
GMAT 700+ Stories(download)
Why Prepare?
About the GMAT
How someone got a 760 score
How someone got a 790 score
Mark Rice GMAT Advice
Low GMAT Success Stories

---------- GMAT Forums ----------------------------------
Beat the GMAT
GMAT Club Forum and Files!
TestMagic Forum

---------- GMAT Companies ------------------------------
Bell Curves
GMAX Online(Online GMAT Course)
Manhattan GMAT
Perfect GMAT
Princeton Review
Test Prep New York
Test Prep Review(Online Course)
Veritas GMAT Prep
790GMAT GMAT Guru(SF based)

---------- GMAT Self Study Guides ----------------------
Corrections to Official Guide 11th
Advanced GMAT Math Study Guide
GMAT Study Strategy
Micro Edu GMAT Prep Material
Probability Review(download)
4GMAT - Math Books (India)

---------- GMAT Resource/Reference -----------------
GMAT Scratchpad
Dr Math
Dr Math-Pascal Triangle
GMAT Official Guide Question Info
Manhattan GMAT Study Guides (Dave's Pick) (Math Skills Review)
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary
Texas A&M-College Algebra
The Math Page (For Basic Math Skills)
101 Basic Radical & Exponent Review

---------- GMAT Tests ------------------------------------
PowerPrep GMAT CAT (Dave's Pick)
Ascent Education
800 Score (Dave's Pick)
English Test
GMAT Practice Tests
Gorilla Test Prep
Manhattan GMAT Tests (Dave's Pick)
R&B Consulting Prep Software
ScoreTop Online Verbal-Quant Tests
TestPrep New York
Upstart Raising GMAT Simulator

Financing your MBA show all
Financial Aid Podcast
Fundsnet-Search Engine
Graduate Fellowship Database info
Sallie Mae-MBA Loans
US Government's E-Scholar
MBA Admission Consultants show all Forum
Brody Admissions
Cambridge Essay Service
Clear Admit
Essay Solutions
Global Now
Maxx Associates
MBA Apply
The MBA Exchange
MBAGameplan Article
MBA Studio
Stacy Blackman
Veritas Consulting
-------- Brazilian Admin Consultants ------------------
MBA Empresarial
-------- Commentary on Admin Consultants ----------
Why use them?
Comments about some of them
Not all Consultants are good
MBA Life show all
Chicago GSB Online Newspaper
Chicago GSB Magazine
Columbia B-School Wkly Online NewsPaper
Columbia Spectator Daily NewsPaper
Cornell Univ. Daily Sun (Main Campus)
Cornell Daily News Service Highlights
Dartmouth Online Newspaper
Tuck Today Online Happenings
Duke News & Community
HAAS Weekly
Harvard B-School Online Newspaper
Harvard Gazette Online Newspaper
Harvard Online Magazine
Kellogg Online Newspaper
News at MIT
Michigan(Ross) Newspaper
Texas McCombs Weekly
Michigan Daily Online Newspaper
Stern Online Newspaper
Stanford Online Newspaper
Stanford B-School Reporter
UCLA Qrtrly Assets Mag
Univ. Virginia Daily Online News
Wharton Online Newspaper
Yale Daily Online Newspaper
Yale Herald Online Newspaper
Blog & Other Resources show all
IQ Test
Computer Interval Clock
T-Mobile Coverage Check
Picasa Send large files Send large files
Understanding Blog Template Code
SSI Developer - CSS Monitor
Fodey.comNewspaperclip generator
MBA Related Books
Search Now:

Site Meter