Wharton Changes Up Its Team-Based Exercise

The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School - Ethan Baron photo

The University of Pennsylvania Wharton School – Ethan Baron photo

For its unique team-based discussion exercise this year, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business is asking invited applicants to think of themselves as current students coming up with a conference concept for a student club. Wharton disclosed the new change in emails sent to applicants who have been invited on campus for an interview.

In sending out invites and dings to its round one applicants today (Nov. 3), the school said that the team-based discussion with four to five participants will last roughly 35 minutes and be followed by a one-on-one interview lasting only ten minutes long with a Wharton admissions official. Final decisions on round one interviewed candidates will be made by Dec. 17th.

Typically, Wharton interviews about four out of every ten applicants. In 2014, the school accepted nearly 21%, or 1,263 of the 6,111 candidates who applied to its MBA program. Some 859 of those admits enrolled. Last year, Wharton saw a 7.8% increase in its application volume to 6,590, bringing its acceptance rate a bit lower for the 861 people it ultimately enrolled in the Class of 2017. If invited to an interview, an applicant has slightly under a 50% chance of being admitted into Wharton.


When Wharton first introduced its team-based discussion three years ago, applicants were shown a video of then Dean Thomas Robertson discussing the school’s three pillars—social impact, global presence, and innovation. They were then told about a fictitious donation of $1 million and asked how they would invest the money in support of one of the pillars.

More recently, the school asked applicants to “report to the dean and vice deans” on two, more abstract topics: 1) What is one key business skill that you think post-business school professionals must have in order to be successful, long-term, in their career?, and 2) What is the most important societal challenge that could be addressed more effectively by the business community today?

“This year’s prompt is quite pragmatic compared to others used since the first one was published in November 2012,” explains Dan Bauer, founder and CEO of The MBA Exchange, a leading admissions consulting firm “The team-based discussion continues to be major – and distinctive – component of the admissions process at Wharton.”

In a letter to applicants obtained by Poets&Quants, Wharton described the discussion as “an opportunity to interact with fellow applicants in a lively and thoughtful discussion. The discussion will have a prompt and a purpose and, as a team, you will be evaluated on the process that you take toward achieving a tangible outcome. Our hope is that through a team-based discussion, our applicants will not only be able to present how they approach and think about certain challenges and opportunities, but that you will also have a chance to experience, first hand, the team work and learning dynamic that is central to the Wharton MBA program.”


The school then advised applicants to come prepared to discus the following question: “The diversity of interests and backgrounds of the Wharton MBA community is reflected in the variety of programs that we support. The African American MBA Association, Private Equity and Venture Capital Club, Wharton Women in Business, Entrepreneurship Club, and the Veteran’s Club are five of the more than one hundred student-run clubs here at Wharton. Each year, many of these clubs run conferences, providing unique and exclusive opportunities for students to engage with business and thought leaders around the world.

“For the purpose of this discussion, picture yourself as a core member of a student-run club’s Conference Committee. Feel free to consider yourself part of an existing club or one that has not yet been created. In this role, you and your team must create and deliver a one-day, high-impact conference on the topic of your choice keeping in mind that the event’s aim is to provide a forum for students, faculty, alumni, thought leaders, and executives to explore and challenge ideas related to the topic at hand. Please take a moment to learn more about the current Wharton MBA student-led clubs and conferences.

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