UVA Darden Launches New Scholarship Offerings, Including Need-Based Scholarship Program

23 September 2020

By Julie Daum

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business announced today innovations to its MBA scholarship offerings in support of the School’s aspiration to be among the world’s most accessible top business schools.

The innovations include:

  • The introduction of the Darden Distinguished Scholars Program for full-time MBA students, which includes a growing portfolio of merit scholarships and scholarship competitions offered by the Darden School, the Darden School Foundation and external organizations in support of Darden.
  • A new competitive scholarship program called The Oculus Fellowships that will invite selected admitted full-time MBA students to apply and compete for this prestigious award, which includes full tuition and fees and other benefits.
  • A new need-based merit scholarship program called AccessDarden, which will provide students admitted on their merit — in both the full-time MBA and Executive MBA programs — the opportunity to apply for a need-based scholarship of up to $20,000 per year of study.

“At Darden, we aspire to attract the most talented students from all parts of the globe and walks of life to create an inclusive and diverse community,” said Darden Dean Scott Beardsley. “All students admitted to the Darden School through our highly competitive application process bring exceptional talent. The aim of these innovations is to simplify and raise awareness of the support Darden offers and to advance our commitment to ensuring that students have multiple opportunities available to them to help meet the cost of a graduate business education at Darden.”

Darden Distinguished Scholars Program

The new Darden Distinguished Scholars Program includes two components: competitive scholarships and Darden merit scholarships. Increasing scholarship funding is a priority of Darden’s Powered by Purpose capital campaign, and the number and range of scholarships offered have risen significantly over the past five years under Beardsley’s leadership.

Competitive scholarships involve seven prestigious scholarship competitions — some in partnership with external organizations such as the Strive Foundation, sponsor of the Stamps Scholars, and the Jefferson Scholars Foundation — to recognize high-achieving students who demonstrate a comprehensive set of admirable characteristics, including outstanding academic achievement, professional accomplishments and leadership. Consideration for these scholarships, which provide full tuition and fees, are available through a supplemental application process. The scholarships recognize leadership talent and high promise in various areas, such as entrepreneurship, innovation, technology, media and a commitment to inclusiveness and racial equity. Less than 10 percent of the student body receives these scholarships; acceptance of them requires a binding commitment to enroll at the Darden School.

The Oculus Fellowships are a new competitive scholarship for the 2020–21 academic year awarded by the Darden School to recognize outstanding academic ability and leadership potential. Named for the Oculus — the circular opening at the apex of the Dome Room in UVA’s Rotunda — the fellowships represent the illumination that outstanding students and their ideas bring to the University. Awardees receive full tuition and fees to Darden’s full-time MBA program. The word “oculus” is Latin for “eye,” and the high-achieving Oculus Fellows selected through a rigorous competitive process will bring vision as responsible leaders to the future of business and society.

Darden merit scholarships are the second component of the Darden Distinguished Scholars Program.  The Darden School and Darden School Foundation have an extensive portfolio of highly selective awards. The Darden Office of Admissions nominates individuals to the School and Foundation scholarship committees upon review of applicants’ credentials. The scholarships range from partial tuition stipends to full tuition and fees and are intended to recognize top talent and help the School build a talented and diverse class.

AccessDarden: A New, Need-Based Merit Scholarship Program

All students admitted to Darden are meritorious and Darden’s admissions process is “need blind.” A new merit scholarship program based on financial need called AccessDarden is a significant step toward making Darden’s world-renowned education affordable to all students. The program, which aligns with the University of Virginia’s AccessUVA program for undergraduates, offers financial grants to students based on financial need, considering factors such as income, savings and assets, among others. Both full-time MBA and Executive MBA students are eligible for consideration after they have been admitted based on their merit.

Amounts awarded for these need-based grants will be up to $20,000 and are based on students’ eligibility. Details on applying for a need-based grant will be made available to students after admission to the School.

Need-based aid is a priority of the Powered by Purpose capital campaign, and this new offering builds on an existing portfolio of merit-based scholarships that have a need-based component. Over time, it is expected that the grant amounts will increase with philanthropy.

Beyond savings, Darden students may finance their education through partial or full-tuition scholarships, need-based scholarships, the GI Bill, a corporate sponsorship, federal or private education loans, or a combination. Darden guarantees full financial aid in the form of loans to cover total cost of attendance to any admitted student from anywhere in the world, but the School understands that outstanding undergraduate student debt combined with graduate loans can be a barrier to some. Additional support increases the ROI of the Darden education and career flexibility as each student pursues his or her full potential.

“I am passionate about attracting the most deserving students, reducing the financial barriers to access the incredible education we have to offer and creating possibilities,” said Beardsley.

Stepping Stones Toward Greater Affordability and Accessibility

One additional resource is the Batten Foundation Worldwide Scholarship program, established in 2018, which makes it possible for every Darden full-time MBA student to take one of almost 20 Darden Worldwide Courses offered by the School and to receive a scholarship covering most — if not all — of the course fee. Every full-time MBA student at Darden receives the opportunity to benefit from this scholarship.

In addition, the total cost to attend Darden — at just over $100,000 per year — is the most affordable of the schools ranked in the Bloomberg Businessweek Top 10, due in part to the reasonable cost of living in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the School’s comparatively lower tuition.

Darden continues to fundraise for scholarship and need-based aid through the Powered by Purpose campaign. To date, the campaign has raised over $100M toward scholarships, including a transformational new program established by David (MBA ’64) and Jane Walentas, which is held by the Jefferson Scholars Foundation and, when fully endowed, will benefit first-generation students at Darden.

“We are also incredibly grateful to the University of Virginia for its generous support via the Bicentennial Scholars Fund — those matching dollars have dramatically buoyed donor support,” said Beardsley. “By building a need-based merit scholarship program and expanding our portfolio of competitive and merit scholarships, we are working to ensure that talented students from around the world can afford to come to Darden to pursue their dreams. Education should be a dream machine through which talented students can come from anywhere — and go anywhere.”

The Darden School is now accepting applications for the Class of 2023 for the full-time and Executive MBA.

About the University of Virginia Darden School of Business

The University of Virginia Darden School of Business prepares responsible global leaders through unparalleled transformational learning experiences. Darden’s graduate degree programs (MBA, MSBA and Ph.D.) and Executive Education & Lifelong Learning programs offered by the Darden School Foundation set the stage for a lifetime of career advancement and impact. Darden’s top-ranked faculty, renowned for teaching excellence, inspires and shapes modern business leadership worldwide through research, thought leadership and business publishing. Darden has Grounds in Charlottesville, Virginia, and the Washington, D.C., area and a global community that includes 18,000 alumni in 90 countries. Darden was established in 1955 at the University of Virginia, a top public university founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819 in Charlottesville, Virginia.


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Darden School of Business
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