An Interview with Wharton’s Admissions Gatekeeper

Those who interview have two options. They could come to campus and meet with one of our second-year students. If they aren’t able to come, we the admission officers travel around the globe to several hub cities in each region of the world and conduct interviews. Both of those are conducted in the same way. After the 30-minute interview, we take your interview and incorporate it into your application. There is a second iterative process where you get multiple perspectives and views from additional admission officers before we make the decision to finally admit somebody or not.

Who does the first read when they come in online?

In the past, students have done the initial first read. But going forward students are no longer going to do this. It will be done by an admissions staff member.

What’s the reason for the change?

It was really around hearing what applicants and students most valued about the chance to interact. From an applicant perspective, it was the chance to talk to people in the program and hear about their experiences and share their own. Students also valued the chance to hear about an applicant’s experiences and to help provide them with some guidance and perspective. In thinking about what these groups valued about the experience, spending our students valuable time reading applications didn’t feel like the right use of their time. We felt we were detracting from an opportunity for the students to really connect with applicants. So instead of having our students read, we are having them more engaged in the marketing effort. They will still interview as they always have done.

And you have enough people on staff to do the first read?

Yes, I sure do. We have six full-time admission officers on our team who focus on the full-time MBA program. We have some contract readers who help us as well and many of them are Wharton alums. They can range from half a dozen to a dozen people.

How are staffers assigned to specific applications? Do they specialize in a region of the world, specific industries or disciplines?

We don’t specialize or focus. What I value is a generalist mentality. Our population is global. They come from all different industries, many of which weren’t even around ten years ago. We all need to understand all of those things. We don’t have a sorting system that puts all the apps from one part of the world to one person.

Do you get involved right away in the first round?

I see every file. I see literally every file that comes through the door. I may not see it the first read, but I will see it before every major decision point is made. It’s a lot of work. That’s why I am paid the big bucks. The benefit of online reading is that you can read from any place in the world. It allows for a lot of flexibility.

I’d hate for you to read my application when you’re jet lagged from a trip to Saudi Arabia or some other place.

Well, we take it very seriously. I’ve been through it. We take it incredibly seriously. People put tremendous effort, time and energy and thought in preparing for this and we give it exactly that back. We want to give every application the time it deserves. We know this is an important moment in each person’s life.

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