For the first time ever, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School is reporting an average GMAT score for its incoming class of MBAs that beats the Harvard Business School. In a Class of 2016 profile published today (Sept. 18), Wharton said its mean GMAT–often considered something of a proxy for the quality of a class–rose to a new record 728, up from 725 last year, which represented a more sizable hike from a score of 718 in the previous four years.
The new record is just two points higher than Harvard’s reported 726 average so the difference isn’t all that much. But it does send a signal that Wharton is aggressively playing the GMAT game in admissions, having increased its average score by a full ten points in the past two years. In all likelihood, Wharton will still be behind Stanford Graduate School of Business which reported a 732 average last year and has yet to release its new class profile. Historically, Stanford has the highest average GMAT scores among the U.S. business schools.
Admission consultants say that Wharton as a rule is less willing to take chances with candidates that score less well on the GMAT exam. This year’s numbers make those claims credible. The first-year student with the lowest GMAT at Wharton is 620, while the highest reported GMAT in the class is 780. Harvard Business School earlier disclosed that it had enrolled a student with a 510 GMAT this year.
Wharton was able to boost its GMAT average while slightly increasing the size of its enrolled class by 22 MBA students to 859 this year, from 837 in 2013. It also was able to achieve those higher scores with only a very small increase in total applications. Some 6,111 people applied for admission to the Class of 2016, just 73 more applicants than the 6,036 last year. Nonetheless, Wharton was able to reverse a two-year downward trend from 2010-2011 when some 6,442 candidates applied to its full-time MBA program.
Wharton did not release its acceptance rate which tends to hover around 21%, compared to Harvard Business School’s 12% selectivity.
THE NEW CLASS: LESS INTERNATIONAL, FEWER WOMEN AND FEWER WITH FINANCE BACKGROUNDS
Wharton’s newest class is less international, has fewer women, and fewer students with finance backgrounds. The school, had set a record in 2011 among the world’s elite business schools for having the highest percentage of females in an entering MBA class: 44.7% were women. This year, however, the percentage fell to 40%, from 42% a year ago.
The school also enrolled fewer international students, 31% this year versus 35% in the previous year. The decrease came even though the countries represented in the Class of 2016 increased to 71 from 69 a year earlier. U.S. students of color remained exactly the same: 30%.
The only other notable difference in Wharton’s new MBA class was a three-percentage-point drop in students with financial backgrounds. The school said that 36% of its new students had worked in finance, compared to 39% last year. The single biggest drop occurred in investment banking, the work background of only 9% of the new class, down from 12% last year. MBA students with work experience in private equity and venture capital remained the same at 12% for the past two years, but those who had racked up experience in investment management increased by two full percentage points to 6% from 4% a year earlier.
(See following page for a full comparison between Wharton’s Class of 2016 & the Class of 2015)