Is Wharton An Undervalued Stock?

Invited round one applicants to Wharton are facing a new and novel admissions test: a team-based discussion

Invited round one applicants to Wharton are facing a new and novel admissions test: a team-based discussion

What’s wrong with Wharton?

That was the highly provocative headline on a Wall Street Journal story published Friday (Sept. 27). The article suggested that the University of Pennsylvania’s business school has fallen behind rivals in recent years. The Journal cited a 12% drop in MBA applications over the past four years, a market shift away from Wharton’s strength in finance to technology and entrepreneurship, and a years-long decline in the rankings in concluding that “something at Wharton doesn’t add up.”

Several MBA admissions consultants reinforced the story line by telling the Journal that Wharton’s luster has recently faded. Eliot Ingram, a Wharton alum and CEO of Clear Admit, said that one of the firm’s clients turned down a $70,000 scholarship from Wharton this year to attend Harvard Business School because the applicant believed HBS had a stronger global brand. “We’re hearing (applicants say) Stanford, Harvard or nothing. It used to be Stanford, Harvard or Wharton,” the Journal quoted Jeremy Shinewald, founder of admissions consultant mbaMission.

Some Wharton insiders, understandably angry with the Journal’s conclusions, grumbled that the newspaper was looking for a deliberately provocative article on business schools in the wake of The New York Times’ story on gender inequality at Harvard Business Schools. Both media outlets furiously compete with each other in business coverage and clearly the NYT story fueled much discussion and debate.


Did the Journal over reach? After all, MBA graduates from Wharton this year had one of the best placement records in the school’s history. Some 97.8% of the class had job offers three months after graduation, up from 95.5% a year earlier, and median base salaries rose to $125,000, up $5,000 from 2012.

This year’s entering class at Wharton, moreover, is arguably its best ever–at least as judged by average GMAT scores. The 725 average GMAT score for the Class of 2015 is a record and seven points higher than the previous year. Wharton’s average GMAT score is now the second highest of any school in the world, behind only Stanford University’s 729 average from last year.

And unlike many other business schools, Wharton has led the way by enrolling record percentages of women, higher than either Harvard or Stanford. This year, 42% of the entering class is made up of women.


Instead of floundering, Wharton is seen by some key observers as a true innovator. “Having met with the Wharton admissions staff and heads of several initiatives a few months ago, I’m impressed by how they’re changing the game,” insists Dan Bauer, founder of The MBA Exchange, a leading MBA admissions consultancy. “Wharton is implementing a more flexible curriculum, improving the overall experience with a new student center, and leveraging their San Francisco campus. The Lauder MA/MBA Program, the Healthcare Management Program, and the Zell-Lurie Real Estate Center are second to none. The concentration in retailing is a well-kept secret. And Wharton’s offer of a free exec ed class every seven years for MBA grads is amazing.”

  • disqus crazy

    This some truth in this, although the fact is there is a suitable school for every highly qualified candidate.

    HBS graduates arguable do not need to go to HBS, because they don’t learn much from their education – all they need is that admission letter to HBS to signal their potentials in the business world.

    Wharton, Chicago, and Standford, on the other hand, do teach their MBAs something they wouldn’t have learned without going to the school.

  • disqus crazy

    Admission rate, aka “selectivity” is highly manipulable. All that a school needs to do is to attract more unqualified applicants. Shame on WSJ.

  • disqus crazy

    Admission rate, aka “selectivity” is highly manipulable. All that a school needs to do is to attract more unqualified applicants, as both Stanford and Harvard have done extensively in undergraduate admissions. This is a shame.

  • Chris

    One day someone will figure out how to weigh in emotional intelligence, collaboration skills, and leadership, not academic excellence, a standardized test, and a company brand (and not the role). In general, MBA students are well spoken, character individuals, but every so often I come across a quant individual who will never fully realize the potential of the education, network, and support structure that a top tier MBA attracts and maintains. These short-sighted rankings just fuel to these follow-the-crowd types. 🙁

  • FStratford

    Come on. Noobie mistake to send a ditzy admissions gal to NYC. That alone should get the hiring manager of that ditzy person fired

  • John Doe

    Wharton has the rep of being one of the best finance schools in the world. The financial services industry has taken a huge hit since 2008, and the seemingly continual stream headline news speaking of layoffs has made things worse. That’s it. IF/WHEN the financial services industry kicks into full swing again, so will Wharton, IMHO.

  • John Doe

    In this case, an engineer with an MBA, for sure. Absolutely they can do meaningful work; they can help forecast how a new feature is going to sell. I understand your possible point of view…as a former engineer myself I remember how I thought you did all of the work. And yes, I did execute all the work, but who set the course of the ship? Guess who has the time to do market research and make sure X and Z internal division is on board and will be able to execute in a particular time frame in order to beat your competitor to the market? In other words, if you had millions of dollars and an army of workers, how do you decide what to make and how to make it? This is where the suits come into play…just saying there’s more value then you may perceive..

  • oliver

    he is right. your judgment is baseless.

  • avivalasvegas

    I work in media. Let’s leave it at that. I’d invest your $200 into checking with the recruiting folks who hire cross industry. My statement above comes from cataloged observations, mine and theirs. If you find evidence to the contrary, I’d be happy to correct myself.

  • Hmm

    Tech is about actual skills and creativity. Can an MBA design and build some great piece of software that thousands or millions of people will use?
    what is the value add of an MBA in that environment? is an MBA going to do meaningful work on Google’s next search engine? I mean code, not “project manage”