Berkeley Haas | Mr. Sports Fanatic
GMAT 710, GPA 2.5
Stanford GSB | Mr. MBA Class of 2023
GMAT 725, GPA 3.5
Darden | Ms. Hapkido Product Engineer
GMAT 680, GPA 81.6%
Kellogg | Ms. Deloitte Healthcare Consulting Guru
GMAT 720, GPA 3.57
Wharton | Mr. Chemical Engineering Dad
GMAT 710, GPA 3.50
Rice Jones | Mr. Simple Manufacturer
GRE 320, GPA 3.95
Kellogg | Mr. Media Planner
GMAT 730, GPA 3.78
MIT Sloan | Mr. Techie To PM Role
GMAT 760, GPA 5.8/10
Chicago Booth | Mr. EduTech
GRE 337, GPA 3.9
Wharton | Mr. Corporate Monster
GMAT 750, GPA 9.12/10.0
Chicago Booth | Mr. B2B E-commerce In Nigeria
GMAT 750, GPA 7.4/10
Stanford GSB | Mr. Big Data Sales Engineer
GMAT 740, GPA 3.45
NYU Stern | Mr. Travel Tech
GMAT 650+ (Estimated) , GPA 3.4
Harvard | Ms. Tech For Good
GMAT 700, GPA 3.4
Columbia | Ms. Consultant To Impact Investor
GRE 330, GPA 3.45
Kellogg | Ms. Bengali Banker
GMAT 710, GPA 3.45
UCLA Anderson | Ms. Tech-y Athlete
GRE , GPA 3.63
Columbia | Ms. Responsible Economic Development
GRE 330, GPA 3.35
MIT Sloan | Mr. Indian Family Business
GRE 330, GPA 7.1/10
London Business School | Mr. Indian Electric Tech
GMAT 620, GPA 3.5
Cornell Johnson | Mr. Indonesian Salesperson
GMAT 660, GPA 3.49
Harvard | Mr. Strategy For Social Good
GRE 325, GPA 3.5
Harvard | Mr. Pharma Engineer
GRE 315, GPA 6.3
Harvard | Ms. Media Entertainment
GMAT 740, GPA 3.3
Harvard | Mr. Aerospace Engineer
GMAT 760, GPA 3.92
Wharton | Ms. Financial Real Estate
GMAT 720, GPA 4.0
MIT Sloan | Mr. Indian Healthcare Analytics
GMAT 720, GPA 7.8

An Interview with Wharton’s Admissions Gatekeeper

Even though the email popped into her inbox at work more than six years ago, Ankur Kumar remembers the exact date she got the message with the heading: “Your Status Has Been Updated.”

It was March 24th, 2005. Like any applicant, she anxiously clicked on the email from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School and found out that the school had accepted her for admission to its highly prestigious MBA program. She stayed as composed as she could at her office desk, then quietly rushed into the women’s room where she did a little victory dance.

“It’s a moment you never forget, a life-changing moment,” she gushes. “I remember having to literally compose myself before I checked because if it was not going to be good news, I didn’t want to have an emotional moment in front of the entire office. It was a wonderful moment and it still makes me smile.”

Now, on the other side of that process as deputy director of admissions, she can do a victory dance of another sort—for admitting an unprecedented number of women in Wharton’s incoming MBA class this fall.

For years, the percentage of women enrolled in top-ranked business schools stubbornly remained in the 33% to 36% range. Kumar had helped Wharton assume a lead over all top schools two years ago by putting together an incoming class that was composed of 40% women. But this year, she outdid all expectations in pushing the number of first-year women to 45% of the class. What’s more, she managed the increase in a year when applications were down by 5.7% and enrollment rose by 3.4% to 845 students.

Kumar says she was in her office, finalizing the composition of the Class of 2013, when she realized Wharton had hit the new record. “We were literally running the numbers, and we all did a double take when we saw it,” she says. “We couldn’t believe our eyes. It was a fantastic moment for us. It definitely was a wonderful surprise.”

Only months earlier, Elissa Sangster, the head of the Forte Foundation, conceded that she had given up hope that in her lifetime female enrollment would ever equal the numbers at law and medical schools. With a full five-percentage point improvement at Wharton in a single year, however, UPenn’s business school is now just slightly below its law school, where 47.6% of the students are female, and its med school, where 49.3% are women.

How did Wharton do it? Kumar says the school has been laying the groundwork for this accomplishment for the past three to four years. Working closely with the student club, Women at Wharton in Business, the admissions office has done everything from pairing prospective students with current Wharton women in an “e-mail buddy program” to chartering a bus to bring undergraduates from Bryn Mawr to the school to meet with MBA students and Bryn Mawr alumnae in business. The club also organized coffee chats for women in 21 U.S. cities and 6 countries, hosted four Women Visit Days on-campus in the fall, replete with mock application interviews, class visits, and leadership seminars.

Kumar said Wharton pulled off the feat with no sacrifice in the quality of the class, a function of both increasing applications from women as well as the school’s ability to convert a higher percentage of accepted females into admits. In a wide-ranging interview with Poets&Quants, she also partly attributes the second consecutive fall in applications to new competition from B-schools in Europe and Asia, explains why Wharton will no longer use second-year students as first readers on MBA applications, and claims that the leak of the school’s essay questions last year had no impact on the admissions process.

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