Wharton has just announced their round 1 interview decisions on Wednesday, and as former Director of MBA Admissions at Wharton, I can share my insight into what the school is looking for in the team-based discussions which will begin session next week. The team-based discussion is a format that the school introduced in 2012, with the aim of enabling candidates to demonstrate how they approach challenges and work cohesively towards a solution. All candidates at interview stage are invited to one of these sessions (if you can’t come to campus, you can attend a session in a hub city) as well as a brief face-to-face interview.
Here’s how it works: once invited for an interview, you will receive the outlines of the question for your team-based discussion and how you are expected to present your pitch. Typically students are allowed one minute to introduce themselves, then the dialogue lasts in total about 40-45 minutes, when the team of candidates comes up with a topic and presentation model that is ultimately shared with the adcom observer. The time goes very quickly; afterwards the participants have a one-on-one (10 minute) interview with the adcom.
Wharton really uses the team-based discussions (TBD) as part marketing and part interview, supporting their foundations of “team based education”. Accordingly, the group interview is less about your own particular answer and presentation (although of course you should thoughtfully prepare this in advance) and more about how well you interact with other candidates in your TBD session. This is your opportunity to provide a first-hand example of what you would bring to your future study group at Wharton.
The Wharton adcom are looking for you to present your own ideas cogently and with detail as appropriate, and great passion, but also very importantly, how well you listen to others and facilitate the group’s dialogue. As you prepare for the Wharton TBD, and work through your own “pitch”, think about the following questions:
- After all team members have introduced themselves and given their one minute pitch, are you able to help facilitate discussion to arrive at a consensus?
- Do you exhibit leadership behaviors that draw out your other team members? How are you able to support the discussion by encouraging others to voice their opinions?
- Are you able to reflect on the discussion that has taken place and help to further move the deliverables to support the group’s final presentation to the adcom in the room?
- Do you find that you are solely promoting your own ideas, or are you able to collaborate and support your teammates even if you have to abandon your own?
Ultimately, it’s not whose idea is chosen for the final presentation that matters most in the adcom’s assessment, but rather your ability to showcase collaborative leadership – reflecting the school’s focus on teamwork. You should be able to show that you are quick to adapt to others’ ideas if necessary, willing to set aside your own ideas to support other frameworks, and work towards a group process and product that is indicative of how you would function within the framework of the Wharton experience.
Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information and to sign up for TBD practice sessions.
by Judith Silverman Hodara
Judith is a director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former director of MBA admissions at Wharton. Fortuna is composed of former directors and associate directors of admissions from many of the world’s best business schools.