Winning Admission to Wharton: Four Steps

Shawn O'Connor is the chief executive of Stratus Admissions Counseling.

As one of the top three business schools in the country, Wharton has a highly selective MBA admissions process. While Wharton expanded its class size from 817 to 845 students last year, the school still accepted only 16.8% of applicants. And, Wharton is looking for a distinct profile from other top schools; so a personal story that would help you gain admission to Harvard or Stanford will not necessarily get you into Wharton. Instead, you must tailor your application in a way that clearly demonstrates to the admissions committee that you are a perfect fit for Wharton, and that Wharton is a perfect fit for you.

Drawing on decades of collective admissions experience, my colleagues (who include a recently-departed Wharton admissions reader and numerous Wharton admissions experts) and I have chosen the following four tips which will help maximize your chances of gaining admission to Wharton.

1) Leverage your unique work experience

If you are in finance:

Do not shy away from elaborating on your experience, leadership, and accomplishments in banking or private equity. While your finance background may not help you stand out at Harvard or Stanford (and can, in some cases, be considered at drawback at those schools), it will appeal to Wharton. Wharton’s greater emphasis on data-driven analysis make it an ideal fit for those coming from the world of venture capital, hedge funds, and investment banks.

If you are not in finance:

Do not assume that Wharton is only looking for financial geniuses. Do not try to be someone you are not in your application. Wharton is a much more diverse school than many applicants initially expect. Indeed, it may surprise you to learn that Wharton’s marketing program is regarded as one of the top in the country. The school also has a renowned healthcare program. Wharton actively seeks out leaders in these fields so if you have a background outside of finance be sure to connect it to Wharton’s specific programs through your essays.

Finally, Wharton is also more demographically diverse than many other top business schools. In fact, 45% of its incoming class is comprised of females (the highest ratio of any top business school). So, be sure to convey your unique personal background through your application and interview.

2) Show your love for Philadelphia

All business school admissions officers want to hear why you want to attend their particular school, but Wharton also wants to see that you are excited to study in Philadelphia. So, make sure your application emphasizes your passion not just for Wharton, but also for the West Philadelphia community. I’m a Philly native myself, and I love this diverse and vibrant part of the city along the banks of Schuylkill River. Consider emphasizing how you would give back in West Philly through, for example, the tutoring programs that Penn runs in local schools. Communicating your desire to interact with and improve the Philadelphia community will really resonate with the Penn admissions committee.