Meet The Wharton MBA Class of 2017

University of Pennsylvania Wharton School

University of Pennsylvania Wharton School


A sprawling program is bound to attract students with a number of motivations. And Wharton is no different. “I was drawn to Wharton primarily for three reasons: the curriculum’s data-driven approach, extensive alumni network, and brand,” writes Kang, giving a nod to three of Wharton’s biggest selling points. “Especially coming from a “nontraditional” background, it was important for me to hone my analytical skills during my two years in business school.”

Alas, the “prestige” factor is among Wharton’s biggest weapons, with the Wharton name conjuring up images of exacting academic preparation and traditional business values. For students, a Wharton MBA also opens the door to over 94,000 alumni in nearly every nation – the kind of network that can tip you off to big breaks, fund your ventures, or remove obstacles with a phone call.  And Aayush Tapuriah, a Cornell-trained engineer, is banking on these connections to help him get his startup off the ground. “Wharton has a strong entrepreneurship program as well as one of the largest and strongest global alumni networks,” he writes. “I see myself as being a global businessman in the future and therefore this appealed to me. Also Wharton’s large class size was a plus for me as my goal is to become an entrepreneur straight after school. The probability of finding like minded people as co-founders increases with the larger class size as does access to a larger pool of ideas.”

Wharton's new San Francisco campus is in the historic Hills Brothers Coffee building on the Embarcadero

Wharton’s new San Francisco campus is in the historic Hills Brothers Coffee building on the Embarcadero

Hinckley, a traditional quant who is also weighing entrepreneurship, was drawn to niche options that other schools simply couldn’t provide. “Wharton is one of the only schools in the country with a dedicated Financial Technology Club (“Wharton Fintech Club”), and I thought it’d be an exciting place to explore [financial technology and virtual currency] and other areas. Wharton is also the only business school with a full-time MBA campus on both coasts. I’m hoping to pursue a semester at Wharton’s San Francisco campus during my second year to expand my professional network in the startup community. Finally, working at a startup this past summer, I saw how valuable data, statistics, and other analytical tools are becoming, even for startup employees in “non-technical” roles. Wharton is one of the only schools that offers classes – and even a customizable major – in data science.”

Urban MBA programs – particularly on the east coast – are often depicted as riven with rivalry. Teshome, however, experienced the exact opposite at Wharton. “I met phenomenal individuals during my visits to the school and the welcome weekend confirmed that this was the student body I wanted to surround myself with over the next two years,” he writes. And that extended to alumni, Tapuriah adds. “From the alumni I spoke to across all schools, the Penn alumni were the ones that seemed to have the best time through their MBA. Forging new and strong friendships and enjoying my time at school is very important to me and it seems like Penn is the best place to do that.”


Locust Walk on a beautiful fall day just outside the Wharton School of Business

Locust Walk on a beautiful fall day just outside the Wharton School of Business

The journey has only begun for Wharton’s Class of 2017. They survived grueling team presentations and alumni interviews on the front end. On the back end, they know what awaits them. The majority of the Class of 2014, for example, entered finance, consulting, and technology, earning an average starting salary of $142,574. Over the years, Wharton grads rank among the highest-paid MBAs overall — $2,989,000 over 20 years to be exact – according to a joint Poets&Quants-PayScale study conducted in 2014. Right now, money is one of the last things on their minds.

Kang, for example, plans to use her time to get comfortable with risk. “Business school is potentially the most “safe” environment to take risks, so I would like to look back in two years and genuinely believe that I took full advantage of being in such an environment. I hope to take many smart risks, fail numerous times, and gain more perspective as a result.” In a similar vein, Gonzalez hopes to take the next step with his startup by having his perspective challenged by his peers. “I would like to…meet individuals who will challenge me in new ways, and be exposed to experiences that will make me think differently and see the world from a different angle.”

Sandra Tyan, a Stanford grad, plans to launch a fashion technology firm. To build her firm, she knows that she needs to master more than data analytics tools at Wharton. That’s why she also plans to spend time working on soft skills like leadership and communication.”Business is as much about the numbers as it is the people,” she writes.

And Teshome expresses the aspiration that most hold when it comes to what they hope to achieve with business school. “Get my dream job, build a network that lasts a lifetime, and that I can leverage at any time. Last, but not least, I am planning on having the best two years of my life here.”

To read profiles of incoming Wharton students – along with their advice on tackling GMAT, applications, and interviews – click on the student links below.

Miguel Gonzalez / Madrid, Spain

Jose Guerola / Lima, Peru

Michael Hinckley / Carlsbad, CA

Ashley Kang / Seoul, South Korea

Josh Phifer / Torrington, WY

Chris Shelton / Salt Lake City, UT

Aayush Tapuriah / Mumbai, India

Kiki Teshome / Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Sandra Tyan / San Diego, CA

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.