3) Focus on your GMAT preparation:
As I indicated above, out of the top three MBA programs, Wharton is the most quantitative school—so they care, by far, the most about your GMAT performance. Even if you have a high GPA, it’s imperative that you put significant time into your GMAT preparation to ensure you score above the 80th percentile in the math section which is almost a requirement at Wharton (unlike HBS and Stanford where regularly we have seen students get in with GMATs well below 700). Students applying to HBS and Stanford often tend to far overemphasize the GMAT at the expense of their essays; students applying to Wharton must place equal weight on their exam and application preparation.
Although Wharton does accept both the GRE and GMAT, I strongly advise my clients to take the GMAT. The preparation time for the GRE is often much longer because of the structure of the verbal section, and since Wharton puts more of an emphasis on quantitative skills, a high score in the verbal section of the GRE will be less likely to impress them. Concentrate your studying instead for the math section of the GMAT which is slightly easier to master than the same section of the GRE.
4) Showcase your extracurricular activities and global perspective
Wharton looks for a diverse mix of applicants with unique interests and a demonstrated commitment to extracurricular involvement. In your essays and interview, discuss a service project you led or your deep involvement on your undergraduate campus or your volunteer work with a non-profit that is particularly meaningful to you. Emphasizing your role as a service-oriented leader and innovator is essential.
It is also absolutely critical to highlight your global perspective and international experiences if you hope to gain entry to Wharton as the school increasingly seeks students who are preparing themselves for the global marketplace. You will garner “extra points” if you can combine your global perspective and commitment to realizing positive social change by, for example, writing about a community service initiative you led in the developing world.
The key to positioning yourself for admissions success at Wharton does not lie in having a “cookie cutter” profile that mimics the stereotype of a Wharton MBA. Instead, you must set yourself apart from your peers and demonstrate your unique potential to contribute to the Wharton community. You must genuinely communicate who you are, and make sure your application will resonate with a wide variety of admissions readers; this demands significant reflection, thoughtful communication, effective personal branding, and, of course, a whole lot of hard work.
If you have your heart set on heading to Wharton next fall, we strongly encourage that you apply in Round 1. With the deadline only two months away, now is the time to get to work!
Shawn P. O’Connor is the Founder and CEO of Stratus Admissions Counseling, a New York-based MBA admissions counseling and test preparation firm serving a global clientele of applicants to the world’s premier business schools. Mr. O’Connor is a graduate of Harvard Business School, where he was a Baker Scholar.