Getting Into Wharton: Does College & Work Pedigree Trump Merit?

Mark Goldberg had every reason to believe he would be among the incoming MBA class this fall at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business.

Without taking a prep course or even buying a study book, he had pretty much aced the GMAT exam with a score of 770 out of 800–50 points higher than the 720 median for this year’s entering class.

Goldberg earned his bachelor’s degree from Johns Hopkins University with a triple major in economics, international relations and East Asian studies. He pulled down an impressive 3.6 grade point average–a tenth of a point above last year’s Wharton average.

And he racked up nearly three years of work experience in finance, the subject that has long brought Wharton world acclaim. Even better, he accumulated his financial acumen in the hottest economy in the world—China–at a boutique investment bank in Beijing. That experience, plus his professional proficiency in Mandarin, made Wharton and its international Lauder program an ideal match.


But then came the unexpected ding, or rejection, in March. “At first,” he says, “I was surprised and disappointed, then I was shocked. I thought I was a really good fit with the school and the program.”

Why would Wharton turn down such an obviously qualified candidate for admission?

Wharton, of course, is one of the world’s most selective business schools. It accepts fewer than 17% of the more than 6,800 people who apply to its full-time MBA program. An application could get tossed in the rejection pile due to poorly written essays, less-than-enthusiastic recommendation letters, or a weak admissions interview.

Wharton doesn’t publicly address why a specific individual is turned down, but a close examination of the undergraduate universities and companies of this year’s incoming class suggests that Goldberg may have simply lacked the pedigree of his elite counterparts to make the grade.

Schools never publicly release the school and work backgrounds for admitted students. But Poets&Quants obtained the information for Wharton’s Class of 2013 through social media website Facebook, where the incoming class maintains an active presence. We analyzed the data for more than 600 members of this year’s 845-strong incoming class, verifying the undergraduate backgrounds of 613 students and the employers of 544 students.


What the data shows is that admissions at Wharton is something of a name game, in which the doors to graduates of less prestigious companies and schools are either less open or completely closed. The upshot: many highly qualified applicants appear to be getting squeezed out because they went to a state school, worked for a no-name company, or lacked the connections to have someone important put a good word in for them.

Of course, it’s hard to tell from the data exactly why a particular candidate was accepted or rejected, but at the very least the numbers suggest that for those without some other big differentiating factor, the nod is going to go to the person with the stronger credentials. That leaves a lot of applicants, with outstanding achievements, standing on the outside looking in.

Admissions consultants say the results are not especially surprising. “School and job pedigree count more than schools would like to publicize because the mythology of admissions is that everyone starts equal, and schools are open to all comers,” says Sanford Kreisberg, an MBA admissions consultant. “But schools are not equally open to all comers, and job pedigree especially can be critical, even more so than schooling. You are not getting into Harvard Business School or Wharton from the local bakery or real estate office.”

  • Guil

    I don’t like this kids attitude or the attitude in the essay. This helpless and victim mentality is obnoxious. The guy pulled a 3.6 at Johns Hopkins and then went into high finance. Here’s the issue, because he is fluent I imagine he is of asian decent and he went into high finance he was grouped into two very large and competitive buckets. Most high finance kids are ivy league 3.9+ and majority of asian canidates pull a hell of a lot better GPAs than 3.6s.

  • already here

    I go to Wharton and there are LOTS of people from no name schools. I also happened to have graduated from JHU with a comparable GPA in science. I have a fairly random background and a lower GMAT score. My bet is that he did not write the best essays or he dropped the ball in the interview / recommendations. I applied to a handful of schools and had similar acceptances across the board. The admission process is unquestionably subjective (I was rejected by NYU, but got into CBS and Wharton) but I think that it is more accurate than most people think. GMATs and GPAs need to be supplemented with very very very strong essays, interviews and recommendations.

  • Andrew

    What were his results at other schools?

  • Kungray

    Even with a star, there is always a chance that he might not get admitted due to bad luck. School admission is part science and part art. Moreover, this article failed to say how bad or good is his essay.

    BTW, for the record, I grad. from Wharton MBA and went to Wisconsin for undergrad and never worked in those feeder companies.

  • jonny h

    I live in BJ and have met Mark a number of times.There is no conceivable way he came off as arrogant or unprepared in an interview. I think this is just a case of Wharton’s adcom dropping the ball. Mark is a lot more impressive than the other expats out here who have gotten recent admits, and a hell of a lot more impressive than the majority of Wharton kids who have come to China for their Global Experience trips. 7,000 applications are a lot to deal with, though.

  • Richard Wong

    The only two non-U.S. universities to make the top 25 feeder schools? The London School of Economics and the Indian Institute of Technology.

    You forgot
    24. Univ. of Western Ontario London, Canada 1.0% 8 6
    24. National Univ. of Singapore Singapore 1.0% 8 6


  • Garda Bani

    What B-school did the author apply to and ultimately attend? If you haven’t gone through the process yourself, I doubt you are really qualified to judge or even comment. The Wharton campus has people from all walks of life and parts of the world. If you attended the B-school there you’d know that you will find people, who grew up on food stamps as well as minorities, working class and middle class kids, upper class folks and of course a couple of people who shouldn’t be there, but slipped through the net. Your education and work experience are vital, but so are your intellect, emotional intelligence, capability, social skill, motivation, engagement, character, general personality traits… That’s why you are required to write the essays and go through an interview to give a complete picture of who you really are, before admissions make the final call. FYI they also have a very thorough background check.

  • randomthoughts

    I’m actually a bit MORE skeptical of Harvard (not sure about Stanford) . I know someone who is at a different graduate program there and he told me that supposedly around 250 of 900 or so are directly from MBB… Furthermore out of all the joint degree programs from this other school, all but one have some consulting experience (i think there was one army guy, too).

    Even if admits seem unique at first, scan their resumes/experiences – there is usually something in there that indicates strong pedigree.

  • Mike

    Oh, 73% of 845?? fuhgeddaboudit. Those numbers have all the power they need.

  • Mike

    “Kumar also takes issue with conclusions drawn from a sample that represents about 73% of the incoming students. ‘The data is inherently incomplete because a good portion of the class isn’t on the Facebook site,’ she says. “It may not be representative of the broader class.”

    Unless there is reason to believe that the non-facebook-using admits are somehow different than their FB-using counterparts (and there isn’t), a sample of 73% of a class of ~500 is very powerful. Kumar’s above quote is either not thought out or meant to distract. Probably a bit of both.

  • MBA 2012 Hopeful

    I think Wharton’s admission rate might be higher than 17% this year and here is why I think that may be the case. Wharton’s admission rate cannot be 11% because if you have 845 students out of 6442 applicants, the acceptance rate is already at least 13.1%. Factor in Wharton’s typical 70 to 75% yield rate from accepted students (because not everybody who gets into Wharton matriculates as a student), there is an acceptance rate of between 16.4% to 18.7% for Wharton’s class of 2013.

  • ML

    and btw, a small correction to the article: this year’s admission rate at Wharton was 11%…

  • Smart

    Funny, no one from University of Chicago here, these guys definitely don’t like UPenn

  • a few thoughts

    First, there is some bogus logic on the side of admissions when it comes to applicants from the top tier schools: They were good enough 12 years ago to get into an Ivy school, so we should let them in (regardless of what athletic, racial, musical, etc nature got them the acceptance). Think of a good high school football player who goes to play at he is a college athlete and a yale grad, when the primary reason he got in was because he was an athlete they wanted…. same goes for other characteristics that people can leverage throughout their lives ( under represented minority, first generation college, etc. etc.)

    Second, I think the top tier companies are feeders to top tier business schools partly because of the same logic as above (if they got a job at xyz, then we should let them in), but I also think kids get in because of the help they get from these top companies. These firms are used to sending kids to business school and have middle management from these schools to write a recommendation. A friend who worked at BCG had alumni from HBS and Stanford write his recs. They helped with his essays. They conducted mock interviews with him. He got in.

    …and dont even get me started on the admissions consultant role in getting people in…

  • Bob Plotkin

    also, i would say his story and his stats are pretty average for Wharton. i mean i wouldn’t be surprised if he got in, but not surprised if he got dinged as well. and please don’t group johns hopkins with penn state, come on that’s ridiculous. if the kid had a 3.8 from Brown, worked at MS in Beijing, then co-founded a boutique in China, yeah, i would be surprised if he didn’t get in. there are plenty of white ppl at H/S/W who spent time in China…except those people did it at blue chip places.

  • Bob Plotkin

    this article is absurd. do you really think people got into HYPS due to an old boys network, then got jobs at GS/MS/Mckinsey through the same hoops, and finally landed at HBS/S/W by navigating through some secret skull and bones society? that’s what your article basically implies. People get these jobs, get into these schools perhaps based on ability as well. I’m sure H/S/W could take more state school kids, but to imply that all these ivy-league and ivy-like graduates are unqualified is ludricious.

  • Sagar,

    We’re dealing here with incomplete information. Just having this info is a very big deal because it is not disclosed. The big question here is whether the admits merely reflect the composition of the applicant pool or not? I don’t believe so based on my reporting. But we’ll never know with total certainty.

  • Sagar

    Hi John,

    It’s a wonderful effort to look beyond the obvious-published-numbers, but I would be more interested in learning the skews in accepted vs. applied, rather than skews within only-admitted.

    I read your columns religiously for a year now, and I was expecting a lot more rigor in the approach. Although, I’ll still keep reading…

    Thanks for writing.


  • Carmen

    I wonder if this article doesn’t confuse correlation with causation. As a recent Wharton MBA with a public school undergraduate degree (Univ. California), I would agree that there were a lot of Ivy League graduates in my class, but if 1/3 of Wharton students were Ivy Leaguers, that means 2/3 were not, and I don’t think that is insignificant. To imply that they are there simply because of their undergrad alma maters is to forget why they were accepted into prestigious undergrad institutions in the first place — namely, impeccable academic records, demonstrated leadership in school and in their communities, including active civic and philanthropic involvement.

    Not to say that there aren’t significant factors impacting who is able to achieve at this caliber of success and who is not (there are of course significant factors); but the implication that it is somehow “suspicious” that Ivy League undergrads make such a big showing at Ivy League b-schools is off mark. Is it a self-reinforcing cycle that people who succeed young are put on the right track (e.g. working at world class Fortune 100 corporations, seeking out and getting mentorship and training to improve their chances of acceptance to a top tier b-school)? Yes. But isn’t that what all parents hope for in their children? That is what my parents wanted for me – to get into the best college I possibly could so that I would have the best chance of success in the future. And it worked — I was educated for my first 22 years in good CA public schools. Now that I am counted among those “elite” Ivy Leaguers, I resent the implication that we all got here because things were handed to us.

    And by the way, I wonder if Poets&Quants did a similar survey of any other school if the results would be any different . Don’t you think that there are probably more UCLA undergrads who become UCLA MBAs? Or UCLA Medical School grads? Don’t you think that U Michigan admits a larger portion of its own alumni than any other feeder school?? I’m almost not even sure why this is a headline. Let’s keep in mind that there is also a regional influence in all of this. All of the Ivy Leagues are clustered together in one region (by definition), so it makes sense that, given the opportunity, they would return to a school in the same area (and of the same caliber). I bet you could look at the university roster in any state and find that most students stay within a certain geographic range of where they received their bachelor degree.

  • So, hold on. This guy came from a pretty strong school, then went to do banking at an unknown firm, and a very good (but not exceptional, for Wharton standards) GMAT score. Why should he get in?

    Lots of people come from a finance background. All else being equal, shouldn’t any school be partial to people from universities and companies with a stronger brand?

    Unless the guy also started his own business leveraging a technology he invented or raised $30k for children in Africa, I just don’t see what makes him more special than all the other finance applicants. So, yeah, of course he got rejected.

  • Matt


    The issue here is not that top B-Schools are selective. The issue is that top B-Schools:

    1) Advertise their programs as obtainable for everyone and not just for those with a very narrow background and pedigree (which, for many reasons included those cited in this article, is not realistic);

    2) Say that they give equal review time to every applicant and his/her application. However, if these programs’ advertised 7,000+ annual applicants is an accurate number, an equal and fair review of each applicant is impossible. Let’s say 50% of the applications come from completely unqualified candidates and are “Hail Mary” type applications and therefore immediately tossed (as one former HBS admissions officer told me is generally the case). That means that a team of roughly 5 admissions officers still have to give an honest review of 3,500 or more applications. This is an impossible task. (Particularly absurd when admissions staff consists of a few second year MBA students peppered into the decision process and not seasoned, senior professionals who understand the type of candidate that will succeed in the “real world”);

    If the top b-school programs were honest about their application process, I don’t think there would be as much controversy in the process — or discussion in these message boards.

    In fact — and I understand people may find this a joke, but it’s not — why do top 5 b-schools even have open admissions processes aside from profits (7,500 applicants * $300 admissions fee = smart business and high margins)? If these programs were truly being honest, each dean of admissions would pick a handful of incoming students from the McKinseys, Goldmans, etc of the world, and then take a handful of international students to round out the process. Bam, the process is done and hundreds (or thousands) of qualified aspirants would not waste their time and energy in applying for what is a low percentage random selection at best, and unobtainable at worst.

  • Eddie P.

    I think sometimes articles like this should be taken with a grain of salt. Yes, it is probably true that the Ivy-Leagues are over-represented at the top business school, but what did you expect?

    If you have your heart set on a school, do your research – be honest in your essay – and don’t hesitate to apply with confidence. In the end, remember odds are still odds and are meant to be defied.

  • Andrew

    PQ hits a raw nerve with this well researched and informative story on pedigree and the myth of egalitarian admission of applicant pool. Of course, Wharton denies any favoritism towards cachet firms or Ivy schools. The response is defensive and Wharton questions the dataset instead looking closer at its policy. The offical message is anyone can get in, we take holistic view, just apply! In reality, the admission game is pretty pre-determined by ticking some boxes.

  • Missing the point

    There could certainly be any number of reasons why anybody wouldn’t get in. There is no perfect candidate. Even those admitted undoubtedly have flaws in their application/profile. What matters here is how the admissions committees choose to weigh those factors and there seems to be a pretty strong bias in favor of pedigree, even when you consider the strong positive correlation between brand name schools/jobs and intelligence, strong personality, etc..

    Goldberg could be arrogant and abrasive for all we know, but given the demeanor and backgrounds of top-tier MBA students coming from finance in general, he would have to be pretty obnoxious to fall outside the norm.

    At any rate, he’s among the 83% of the applicant pool that didn’t get in. Was he the most deserving of admission out of those who were dinged? Almost certainly not, and I’m sure everyone on the waitlist would support that, but he’s a decent placeholder/example. Unless Wharton’s Adcom releases his entire application file to the public (never), we can only speculate what the reasons are, which frankly isn’t very interesting and is beside the point of the article.

  • Eric

    No, I didn’t miss the overarching point of the article. My point was that saying “Goldberg didn’t get in because his undergrad was at Hopkins instead of Yale” might be a little bit simplistic because there are plenty of other possible explanations for why he didn’t get in.

  • Missing the point,


  • Missing the point


    I think you are taking the story at face value. The real story isn’t Goldberg’s not getting in – Goldberg is just a cipher. It’s the fact that John has shown that the self-proclaimed “egalitarian” world of b-school admissions is anything but.

    There is nothing the least bit inaccurate about Arthur’s posts regarding the reality of the pedigree/prestige assembly line, but the bigger point is that Wharton propagates a myth of anyone being able to get in when the data clearly shows strong favoritism for pedigree. If there wasn’t a pretense of egalitarianism, no one would care.

    Seems to me Goldberg’s biggest mistake was not hiring an admissions consultant. Some polish on his essays, interview prep, and “story” might have tipped the balance in his favor, especially since a huge number of applicants seem to be using these services (would love to see an article/survey about this). One would hope he has some interesting stories after spending 3 years in China, especially when compared to the 100 hour week kids slaving away for the big-name firms on Manhattan.

  • Eric

    I think Arthur nailed it in comment #2–on paper Mark looks like a strong applicant, but he could have come off as an arrogant jerk in his interview. Or he didn’t make a strong case for needing an MBA in his essays. Or he could have had lukewarm recommendations. Or maybe his ECAs in college were lacking, or he’s had minimal leadership opportunities or community involvement in the three years since he graduated. I wouldn’t want to attend a business school if it admitted students based on some algorithm that attempted to quantify GPA, GMAT, undergrad school, and work experience without any regard to the qualitative side of things.

    Or maybe the adcom simply made a mistake, and he’ll get into Wharton or another top program next year. One ding isn’t the end of the world.

  • Matt


    This is a fantastic article. Research like this on business school admissions is sorely needed. Thank you for helping to shine light on an absurdly opaque process.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    I want to repeat what I said before because it bears repeating. B-school is not a trade school in the quite obvious sense that outcomes are wholly unrelated to the content of study or the method of instruction. It is a mystical process (mystical in the sense that we leave it unexamined for fear of discovering the truth) whereby pedigree is conferred as a mere result of enduring two years of classroom instruction, boring case discussions, wearisome presentations, and goddamn group projects. This may be especially true at Wharton where grade non-disclosure is still in effect. This is NOT the meritocracy and it may not be an economically rational process of allocating employment opportunities. In fact, it is the pursuit of old-fashioned unmerited success — a throwback to an era when the old school tie and membership in the right clubs was quite sufficient (probably the world before the GI Bill). Post-MBA jobs are demanding but the rewards far exceed the effort compared with the hard work of other people who haven’t hitched a ride on the fancy pedigree train. There’s no free lunch: pedigree is the output of pedigree as an input.

  • Hi all. You know something just occurred to me. Today, on, we published a blog post about a new test for undergrads that demonstrates their business acumen. So if you attended a so-so undergraduate program, but you’re smart as a whip, you could take the test and use your score to get on the radar with recruiters who otherwise might not give you a second look. Not a bad idea. But I wonder if a test like this, if it takes off, might also be used by schools to identify brilliant but under-the-radar students that they would otherwise not consider for admission. That closed door that John wrote about? A test like this might pry it open a bit. Here’s the link to our blog post if anyone’s interested:

    Louis Lavelle
    Associate Editor
    Bloomberg Businessweek

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    Applicants who want to attend business schools that confer pedigree can’t complain if the schools use pedigree as a basis for admissions. Pedigree begets pedigree and that’s why people apply to these schools.

  • ekek

    I’d like to point out a comment by Business Week

    “To prove that Wharton discriminates against applicants from no-name schools and obscure companies, you need to show at least two things: that Wharton received applications from qualified applicants with those credentials and that fewer won admission than those from top-tier schools and companies. If Wharton received 100 qualified applicants from Harvard and accepted 50, but got two from Kingsborough Community College in New York and accepted one, was anyone wronged? I don’t think so.”

  • GTGrad

    Georgia Tech is a public state school.

  • Traxion

    I’d like to see a similar analysis for Harvard

  • MBA 2012 Hopeful

    I was wondering if this guy applied to just the MBA program or Lauder? I think Lauder would be more competitive than the regular MBA program even for his credentials since one is applying to two programs simultaneously. Another aspect of this social media study I wonder is whether it considered the opposite situation for these MBA students that did not post their work experience and undergrad school that they did not fit in with the projections? There is a as much likelihood that there are not 40+ Mckinsey business analysts as there is projected based on current numbers. One other point I think is worth making is that just because there are a ton of investment bankers and consultants going into business school doesn’t mean they stay investment bankers and consultants. Most investment bankers and consultants I ran into are burned out or want to do something else since they already have all the connections and branded resumes that the rest of everybody else wants. In a sense, you can look at business school being another “old boys network” but you can also look at it as opening the doors to the “promised land” of more choices, higher career income, job stability, nice retirement, or whatever else one’s heart secretly desires.

  • Kevin

    Mr. Goldberg should have considered INSEAD. He would be an ideal candidate for his international experience. Wharton, while a great school, remains quintessential AMERICAN.

  • Chris

    Having used Poets and Quants during the application process, the quality of this article is rather disappointing.

    First of all, I am a member of the class of ’13. Although I wasn’t a member of the class of 13 facebook group until I arrived on campus, that Poets and Quants would resort to what is essentially facebook stalking my classmates (rather than a survey) seems unethical and more than a little creepy. And the article also names several people and lists their employers (without their consent, I am guessing).

    Furthermore, a major concern to me is the way the article skews and spins the data. Having access to the same non-rigorous information as the writer of this article, I can see that more people with non-brand name careers or who started their own businesses simply did not list them on facebook or only display their information if you friend them. So you have a strong case of voluntary response bias where you can scroll down and see people with Ivy league schools and MckBain Group / Bulge Bracket firms next to their names and many with just their schools, and some with nothing. That shows up in the inaccuracy of the collected (and extrapolated) data – for example, since the Armed Forces are supposed be such a “breeding ground” for MBAs, let’s talk about the military: there’s a strong Navy presence here as well as the Army, but the Navy doesn’t show up at all in the list of feeder organizations because the blue guys don’t list their affiliation.

    And in the end the information provided by this highly faulty analysis still does not convincingly support the thesis of the article. Breaking down the numbers, if 27% came from the feeder organizations, that still leaves 73% who came from less prestigious firms or who spent their 20s writing novels about unicorns, blogging about food, hunting pirates, etc. And while I have no doubt that Caterpillar is a great engineering firm, I don’t think that it comes to mind when most people talk about feeder organizations.

  • Gosh

    I think he screwed interviews and essays. Maybe he was too confident he would get in and he didn’t take the application seriously because if you look at at Lauder’s biographies on the website, their pedigree is not better thnhis, sometimes less impressive actually…

  • Alex,

    All very good points. Initially, we failed to find the Harvard group because we searched on Harvard and Harvard Business School and not HBS.

  • Alex R

    One correction: As a 1st year MBA student at Harvard Business School, I can say that we do in fact have a very active Facebook group that is 756 members strong (contrary to the version of this article that is posted on Fortune’s website). I don’t find these results all that revelatory or surprising. Undergraduate ivy league programs are more competitive than their public school counterparts so you would expect that a disproportionate number of high caliber individuals would attend them. On the other hand, I also would not let the content of this article discourage anyone who would otherwise want to apply to a top school. I had zero connections and came from a very modest background and attended a state school (the University of Illinois). I worked in investment banking, but not for a bulge bracket firm. The GMAT score and GPA are small components of the process, in my opinion, that can get your application “in the door” for consideration but it is far from being sufficient to assure your admission. There could have been any number of deal killers or other problems in this gentlemen’s essays and recommendations (which are vitally important parts of the application) that could have caused his rejection. It doesn’t hurt to be a little humble as well. Thinking you are a shoe-in for a particular school could be your downfall if such feelings manifest themselves in your application in the form of arrogance or cockiness. You should never be “shocked” when you don’t get accepted at a top 5 business school or you are probably thinking too highly of yourself. You should be delighted and humbled when and if you do get in.

  • Ranjit

    Hi John,
    I had a question that I was hoping you/somebody may be able to answer. How do prestigious B-schools look at applicants, who have done their undergraduate degree from a good (but not well-known in the US) foreign school and then came to the US and did a graduate degree from an Ivy-League institution? In my case, I did my undergraduate degree in engineering from a college in Dubai and then came here and did my Masters from Cornell. And there’s a large number of people like me. How are we looked at by these schools?

    Great article btw. I think I speak for all the readers of your site, you beat our expectations each week 😉

  • Andrea

    Isn’t one’s undergrad institiution and work pedigree the best estimate of merit?
    If I had to pick whom to accept, I’d go with the Dartmouth/BCG guy over the Penn State/boutique any day unless the latter did something truly exceptional.

    (sorry if this is a double post)

  • Greg

    Is this specific to Wharton?

  • Andrea

    Isn’t one’s undergraduate institution and work pedigree the best estimate of merit?
    The GMAT certainly isn’t. Nor are recommendations. Essays matter, but they can be skewed by consultants.
    If I had to pick whom to accept, I’d go with the Dartmouth/BCG guy over the Penn State/boutique any day, unless the latter did something truly exceptional. I have no reason to believe the state schooler is smarter without proof.

  • Regina

    This basically confirms what I suspected. Should I even bother applying? The mba admission process is so skewed. Philip Delves Broughton was absolutely right. Business schools are not forthcoming. They really ought to be more honest. They say that “they want leaders” and act as leadership is only through business. They say they look at the whole person and the fact is that they do not. I have sat at social circles with graduates from kellogg and wharton who cannot form a sentence nor offer a comeback to any argument. The best they had is a sweatshirt with their university’s emblem. Thanks for the article, John. Please tell them to stop telling us that they are trying to build a “diverse” class!!!!!

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    I don’t know much about Stanford, but I’m actually quite confident that Harvard’s admissions policy both now and in past years is actually far more egalitarian than Wharton’s. Admittedly, there is a core of high pedigree types but also a huge cohort of people from public universities in flyover states.

  • John, this is an interesting article and a topic that is worth discussing. It’s incredible how social media has changed the game by creating more transparency to the process. What we still don’t know is the admit percentage for Ivy applicants versus non Ivy applicants. What this data reinforces also is that if your school isn’t on the “feeder list” it is important to get some experience from top brand firms…(but herein lies the problem since many of the top firms recruit from only a handful of schools at the college level, getting your foot in the door when you don’t start out with the education pedigree can be an uphill battle. The upside, though is that if you do get that, you can quickly crush your competition.

  • jtbb

    The statistical data points can be debated, but the most important disservice (in an otherwise timely and useful article) is the exclusive focus on Wharton. If anything, HBS and Stanford are probably living deeper in sin than Wharton is. For me, it makes me wince slightly, as I was torn between two choices as an undergraduate, and the choice I did not take is sending 11x more people to Wharton than the one I took. The larger point about institutionalized nepotism and the lack of social mobility is important, as it cuts to the very fabric of the American nation-state’s self perception. Dee, Derrick, Ankur and their deans can stuff their mouths with “delivering social value” and other such insincere nonsense as much as they want, but in perpetuating and exacerbating institutionalized nepotism in the form of cozy feeder relationships, they’re showing that talking is a lot easier than walking.

  • Pedantic

    Do the admit percentages from top employers and schools need to be normalized to account for the expected number of applicants from such programs? For example:

    Penn has 7.3% of the incoming class, but also ~10k undergrads.
    Harvard has 6.5% of the incoming class, but only ~7k undergrads.
    Princeton has 5.4% of the incoming class, but only ~5k undergrads.

    Assuming undergrads at these three schools are equally likely to apply to bschool, we can use the undergrad class size as a proxy for “expected number of applicants”. Dividing the incoming class percentages by the size of the schools we can calculate a “likelihood of being admitted” index:

    Penn: 0.73
    Harvard: 0.92
    Princeton: 1.08

    So actually, an applicant from Penn is substantially less likely to see a positive outcome compared to an applicant from Princeton.

  • Arthur Dullsworthy

    There is absolutely nothing wrong with Hopkins. Actually, it’s a far better place for intellectually serious kids than any of the Ivys. Also, Goldberg has beautiful numbers. My guess is he skunked himself in the interview. Goldberg proves that the interview matters. Still Wharton isn’t the universe. Why didn’t he apply to Harvard, Stanford, Chicago, Tuck, etc.?

  • AJ

    Given this info, is it more advantageous given good GPA, GMAT and ECs, to be have excellent accomplishments at a small firm or a highly regarded candidate from a bulge bracket bank in the middle or back office?

  • Sherry

    Well, I thought I’d be a dark horse, but it looks like I don’t have a snowball’s chance in hell. I went to Vanderbilt and ran my own business for seven years. I kind of thought that would count for something. I guess not. I suppose it’s better to learn about this now, rather than waste the application fee.