Darden Military Association
"The decision to leave the military was a very personal one for me. Although I enjoyed the camaraderie associated with the units that I served in, it was clear that my priorities and goals in life had changed since enrolling at West Point 9 years prior.
Given that I didn’t have a private sector background, I wanted to attend a program that was going to provide me a broad education in the First Year with the opportunity to concentrate on a particular subject matter in the Second Year. Equally important to me were the method of instruction, size, and school location.
The case method is a rather unique learning tool that few schools even attempt, let alone excel at. At Darden, the opportunities to daily discuss and hear what 60 of your classmates think about a case does a lot to accelerate and amplify learning. Delicately blending 60 people from various backgrounds into a single learning section provides a wide range of dynamic perspectives and insights that would be hard to replicate in a traditional classroom setting.
School size was also critical to me. I often debated the merits of attending a larger school, but ultimately decided that the strength of my business school relationships would be far more important than merely having a large number of business school classmates. With a class size of roughly 320 at Darden, I find that many of my relationships are as strong if not stronger than some of the bonds that I forged in the military.
Lastly, school location was a factor in my decision-making process. Charlottesville and the surrounding Blue Ridge mountains have everything from wineries and hiking to entertainment venues and historical landmarks like Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello Estate. Charlottesville’s greatest attribute might be the historic downtown mall, where restaurants, art galleries and coffee houses make up an easy to navigate walking mall.
Ultimately, while departing the military entailed some level of risk and introduced uncertainty (and opportunity) into my professional life, I couldn’t be happier with what I’ve found at Darden over the last year. While the First Year has a reputation for being challenging, I would give a lot to go back to the beginning and do it all over again!"
Darden Military Association
"I transitioned into the private sector with limited prior business experience and/or knowledge of business “hard skills” like accounting and finance. This is a fact shared by a decent portion of my class (from non-profits, teachers, and other “non-traditional” backgrounds), but choosing Darden helped prepare me to the fullest extent to make a meaningful contribution to whatever organization I was joining. I wanted to choose a school that would give me marketable skills and experience that I could immediately put to good use. Darden presented me with that opportunity.
A concern of mine was to spend two years at business school and look back at it as a lost opportunity or that I wished I had better exposure, learning opportunities, or experiences. Leaving behind a stable paycheck, health and family benefits, and other benefits of the military can seem a daunting decision, but Darden and the Darden Community will help you to maximize these opportunities.
Surround yourself with smart and successful people who want to help you succeed as well. Without a doubt, Darden students will be incredibly successful, and they are sincerely interested in your success – we all benefit when we help each other achieve our goals. I am amazed at my classmates, and find them to be academic, thoughtful, engaging, and genuinely nice people who I am proud to know and work with. As a veteran, this was incredibly important in my selection and Darden presented a differentiated and unique opportunity.
One of the most valuable takeaways from my military time was the importance of camaraderie, the ability to place the needs of the team above self, and leaders who win by properly developing those around them. Darden holds these values in high esteem and has worked to build a student body that is proof to these values.
When it comes to finances, take some time to look at costs, benefits, and VA programs available. Even with substantial VA benefits, some programs can be expensive, and you’ll want to spend adequate time comparing options among schools. For those veterans that are GI-Bill eligible, Darden presents one of the highest value propositions among top MBA programs. The State of Virginia has authorized all veterans to receive in-state status, and the GI Bill will cover up to 100% of tuition, depending on eligibility levels."