An Interview with Wharton’s Admissions Gatekeeper

Is every application read? Or if one comes in with a GMAT that is less than 600, is it immediately thrown away?

We read every single file. We don’t have cutoffs. Every file gets its due. It gets looked at and evaluated no matter what. If you look at our GMAT range on the website, you’ll see that there are people who have GMATs in the 500s. There is something pretty spectacular and special about those folks. If you stop reading because something seems it might not line up, you could miss a real gem.

Do you have a weighting system that gives a certain percentage of clout to a GMAT score, a GPA, the essays, recommendations, etc.?

No. If only it were so formulaic we would all sleep a lot more and vacation a lot more. It is a very holistic process. We ask for a lot of information on an applicant’s background and history, academics, professional experiences, and career trajectory. We ask for recommendations. We want to know how they spend their time outside of work. We ask about all those different pieces because it is an incredibly holistic process for us. We are trying to understand applicants on paper and then in the interview. There isn’t a weighting structure or a formula we use to get to the answer. It’s all incredibly important.

And if the first reader doesn’t think the applicant is Wharton material does it end there or go onto a second review?

Everything gets more than one read. We want multiple perspectives. That’s the value of having the committee. Every application will get read a minimum of two times.

And the second read is my an admissions officer as well?

That’s right. And I see everything before a decision is made and there may be more. So admittedly, often times there is discussion and dialogue around files because it is personal and we feel strongly about candidates and we want to advocate for them.

Well, then, do you have a scoring system?

We have evaluative comments on the different aspects of a candidate’s application. There is certainly a calibration scale we use. But again it’s not formulaic. We don’t plug it all into an equation for an answer.

When is there discussion around an application?

The debate and the dialogue happen throughout the process. There are some candidates that we all align around and there are some that we don’t. It’s very much an ongoing process.

After you interview someone and fthe eedback report comes back, what happens then?

It goes through additional admission officers. Every file will get touched by virtually everyone in the office. The goal is to get multiple perspectives.

And you really see every application, even the rejects?

It’s personal. I care. It’s my brand as well. You just want to make sure you give everyone a fair look so you don’t miss anything.

What’s the standard drill for notifying applicants about the decision?

We do our best to get to people as quickly as we can. Our goal is to get to them by phone or even email if we can. Our students help as well. If they’re accepted, we want to give that personal welcome.

Is there anything you don’t like about the process?

I wish applicants really believed how personal it is for us. It’s never easy when one receives bad news, but I truly hope they understand how much we really value the time and energy they put into it.

So why doesn’t Wharton offer feedback to applicants who get turned down?

When I first started we actually did. But the demand for feedback far outweighs the supply that we can provide. We could probably spend all day, every day, for a year giving feedback. That was a concern. Quite frankly, having done them, you would ask a candidate, “Well, what do you think?” And there is nothing that I ever said that they didn’t say themselves. So we all know when you walk away from something and reflect on it. Inherently, you know.

Now be honest. Is this really a hard job?

It is a tremendous honor and privilege. I feel incredibly lucky to do this. Wharton is a school I care deeply about. It has transformed my life not once, but twice and maybe even a third time now that I am working here. I’ve worked a lot of hard jobs. I’ve put in a lot of hours in the jobs I’ve done. But I must be honest. This has been the most rewarding and fulfilling of all of them. That’s why I do it.

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