Archive for February, 2008

Invitation-Only Interviews

Several prospective students have asked me why Darden switched to an invitation-only interview policy.  Since I was also curious, I began asking faculty members and admissions staff what drove the decision. Given the complexity of the admissions process it was no surprise that a wide range of factors came into play.  Some of the considerations I have heard include:

Increasing number of applicants – Last year the number of applicants increased by 35% and the prior year saw an increase of 14%.  Meeting the increased demand for interviews without sacrificing quality in the interview process presented a challenge.  By switching to an invitation-only format the admissions office can limit the number of interviews and therefore ensure that the interview quality and consistency remains high.

Increasing cost and environmental impact of travel – Before Darden switched to invitation-only interviews every domestic applicant was required to visit Charlottesville for an interview.  With rising airline fares and a better understanding of how travel impacts global warming, it is in everyone’s interest to reduce the travel requirements of the application process.   The new policy has addressed these concerns as only individuals with the necessary credentials and essays are required to visit Charlottesville.

Alignment of the US and international application process – Since Darden already used an invitation-only policy for international applications, applying the same policy to domestic applications provides for a more consistent and uniform evaluation of all applicants.

While understanding the factors that went into this decision may be interesting, the impact of the policy on prospective students is a little less complicated.  With the new policy applicants only need to visit Charlottesville after the admissions office has determined their credentials and essays meet the requirements for admissions.  This policy offers a huge benefit for students who are unsure of their admissibility, as they can now apply without visiting the school and then travel to Charlottesville if the admissions officers determine their credentials and essays meet the requirements.  On the other hand, I personally found it helpful to visit Darden before writing my essays.

With regards to the acceptance ratio of candidates that are invited to interview, there doesn’t seem to be a hard number available at this point.  By using a little inference, it is logical that only applicants with the potential to be admitted would be invited to interview.  From another angle, inviting applicants to interview who lack the credentials and essays required for admission defeats the whole purpose of invitation-only interviews.  I checked with Darden’s admissions staff on this point last week and they confirmed that every applicant invited to interview has the potential to be accepted.