I went from knowing all the schools I wanted to apply to not having a clue who numbers 4 and 5 will be. That may have changed last night. Darden held a non-traditional reception in San Francisco. I walked in, not knowing a lot about the school and perhaps I still don't know a lot, but I understand the culture. I call the reception non-traditional because the admissions director talked for maybe 5 minutes and the rest was left to mingling with various graduates of Darden. I spoke with members of '93, '07, and '86. I got some great advice about Darden and MBA programs in general.
What I noticed most about these graduated members of Darden is their charisma. They all know how to interact and more importantly, network. Isn't that what the real world is about anyhow? My mom comments that I network better than most people she knows. Perhaps that's true, but my excuse is that I simply like people and I like to bring a smile to their face. In the reception atmosphere, I got a good sense that everyone wanted to help each other. The turn out was good considering the presence on the West coast has recently increased. The alumni network remains small compared to other top programs, but it's very close knit. There was also a lack of arrogance that I liked. I think Darden just went from investigation to apply.