There is no question about it. No other school even came close.
The very best applicant-friendly school on the planet this past year was UVA Darden.
This post explains: A study in contrasts: Darden and Tuck
We know that other sites have already anointed Scott Beardlsey as the best bschool dean, so this may be a shrug-worthy post from the ‘Snark — but we’re actually recognizing the admissions team today, and not the dean. Leading admissions at UVA Darden is Dawna Clarke . She spent the earlier part of her career at the University of Virginia before moving to Tuck for a number of years, where she was a powerhouse and brought strong changes to the admissions there. She returned to Darden a few years ago and has continued to demonstrate her values and bring new thinking to the way things are done there.
In our current crisis of leadership in this country, these qualities are worth talking about more.
Being willing to change is a pretty important hallmark of maturity — and leadership.
Being willing to be THE FIRST to change can also be significant. It’s not like being first is always the right thing to prioritize. Often, in business and industry, companies that are fast followers end up better off, developing the products that become widely adopted. (You’ll learn about these strategies of innovation, product development, and approach to a market in bschool.)
In the face of an actual threat, fast action is necessary, and fast reaction and regrouping and rethinking, for more action too.
Thinking through unintended consequences — to the extent that it’s possible, given the limited information at the time — this too is critical.
UVA Darden’s MBA program pulled out all the stops in the face of coronavirus, thinking through possible impacts on its constituents, the applicant community. They got out in front of things and were willing to throw out the status quo in light of the new reality.
Not everyone did that. You’ve heard from us here about the ones we think could have done better.
For this demonstration of leadership in action at the organizational level, Darden gets EssaySnark’s Radcom of the Year Award for 2020.
Darden has long been considered a school that’s “easier” to get into. There are many reasons behind their comparatively lower numbers of applications, including the location — more rural isn’t always as attractive to applicants, especially international students. For this and other reasons, they’ve been more of a sleeper school.
However, that may be changing this year, as we’ve seen increasing interest, and certainly the school’s policies have proven to be applicant-friendly.
Does the leadership of the school you attend matter?
We’ve written on this extensively. Who cares who the dean is?
Does it even matter who is in charge — in the admissions office or higher?
On the one hand, no, not so much: Once you’re a student, you’re going through the program as it exists. Who is running the show is not terribly consequential to your day-to-day experience.
But on the other hand, yes: You want to go to a program that is innovative, that is putting its money where its mouth is, that is LIVING AND BREATHING the practices of leadership that they all say they are trying to teach their students.
Big behemoth institutions are slow to change, and whole industries even slower. We’ve been tracking this for some time. There is a new wave of leadership happening at business schools in the U.S. right now — and actually, Dean Beardsley at Virginia has been there long enough that he’s practically from the old guard.
You want to be at a school that is willing to examine the norms and do things differently.
Darden is certainly a school that has shown up for applicants, and our reports from The Grounds are that students there are engaged, excited, and by and large truly happy with the choice they made to attend this MBA program.
Hopefully there will not be further earth-shattering events in the near future that require admissions directors to rethink their policies — but we also hope that the admissions directors at schools like UVA Darden continue to rethink their policies and re-examine practices like the use of standardized testing in admissions, when there is evidence of how it reinforces privilege and creates barriers to those not part of the dominant culture. Where the schools lean into the need for change, and engage in the self-examination around privilege and power and access. EssaySnark will be watching from our sidelines view, and we will be sure to share with you such insights, observations, and signs of progress when we see schools like this bring forth the change.
Thank you to Darden, Dawna Clarke and her team, and Dean Beardsley for doing what you did for applicants this year.
We know they cannot accept everyone, but we do hope that all of you reading this who are trying at Darden are able to get in! It’s a school that’s trying to do it right.
You may also be interested in:
- 2019 Radcom of the Year Award
- 2018 Radcom of the Year Award
- 2017 Radcom of the Year Award
- 2016 Radcom of the Year Award