Wharton’s New Deferred MBA Admit Program

Ken Moelis and Julie Taffet Moelis. Courtesy photo

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania today (March 28) announced a new pathway to its MBA program, established by a $10 million gift from alums Ken Moelis and Julie Taffet Moelis.

Applicants may apply to the Moelis Advance Access Program in their last year of college — many years earlier than the typical MBA applicant. Once admitted, students will work for several years before returning for the full-time Wharton MBA — but in those years they will be part of a pre-MBA community, Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett says.

Several of Wharton’s rivals already have similar deferred admit programs for undergrads, including Harvard, Stanford, and Chicago Booth. Harvard’s 2+2 program annually attracts more than 1,100 applicants with the same 11% acceptance rate that exists for mainstream admits. Last year, HBS accepted 106 out of out of the 1,121 students who applied (see HBS 2+2: A No Risk Way To Get Into Harvard?)


Wharton is putting a slightly different spin on its program, however. In its 2+2 program, HBS tends to favor STEM undergraduates and graduates from far and wide. Wharton wants to target undergrads on its own campus, at least initially. The school said its new deferred-admission pathway will focus on Penn undergraduates with non-traditional academic backgrounds who can defer admission for between two and four years. Chicago Booth’s deferred admit program is also limited to seniors at the University of Chicago who, if accepted, can defer enrollment for three years.

Wharton is cutting the application fee to its MBA program for those who apply under the new program to $100 from $265 for its standard MBA applicant and splitting the required deposit in half to $1,000 due at enrollment and and $1,000 at matriculation. The first application deadline for the program is in March of 2018 with decisions released in May of that year and the expected start date of the first cohort set for August of 2020.

The school isn’t yet sure how many applicants it will get in the first year of the program, but intends to start small and expand from there. “Since this is our inaugural year we are unsure about the number of applicants to expect,” says Peter Winicov, a Wharton spokesperson. “But we will heavily recruit at top academic and leadership programs throughout Penn to make sure there is a robust pool. We can say are hoping for at least ten Moelis Fellows to enroll from the first cohort. We expect this number to grow considerably beyond the first year.”


Business schools typically launch such programs to get more undergrads interested in business because the better MBA programs require two to four years of full-time work experience before matriculation. The requirement can deter some of the best undergraduates from pursuing an MBA, including some women who prefer to get their education done at earlier ages. It also could sway students who might otherwise go into law or another field directly from undergrad.

The largest percentage of Wharton MBAs already hail from the humanities which in the Class of 2018 represented 46% of the students vs. 28% for STEM majors and 26% for business majors. At HBS, students with undergraduate backgrounds in the humanities and social sciences are less than half those at Wharton, roughly 21% of the latest incoming class, while 38% are STEM majors and 41% of the students majored in economics or business. Wharton may, however, be counting econ majors in the humanities bucket.

How and whether that mix would change under the Moelis program is not entirely clear. The program is intended to expand access to the MBA program, recently ranked No. 1 by U.S. News, for Penn undergraduates whose interests are not what is considered traditional for B-school hopefuls. Wharton singled out seniors in Penn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science, its School of Nursing, the College of Arts and Sciences and the Wharton undergraduate business program. The new program is in addition to an existing “sub matriculation” program for qualified Wharton juniors who can get a Wharton MBA in a three-year plus two-year accelerated program.


By offering guaranteed MBA admission before undergraduates begin their careers, the accepted students, called Moelis Fellows, will be free to pursue job opportunities in a range of fields. Specifically, students may extend beyond conventional business pursuits without worrying about their MBA eligibility.

“In my personal experience as a submatric student, and now as CEO of a firm that recruits top MBAs from across the country, it is clear that ambitious students with unique aspirations do not always benefit from the one-size-fits-all track for MBAs,” says Ken Moelis in a statement. “Julie and I are excited to unlock the potential of these students – to help them consider an expanded view of the fields that need their leadership and gain valuable, practical experience after completing their undergraduate degree and before starting their MBA.”

The Moelises are Wharton graduates and Wharton parents. Ken Moelis has served on the Wharton Board of Overseers for more than a decade, and is the founder, chairman, and CEO of Moelis & Company, a global independent investment bank.


Admitted Moelis Fellows will be considered for a $10,000 fellowship for each academic year of the MBA, on top of other financial aid awards. Harvard, in contrast, awards fellowships to 2+2 admits from its general MBA fellowship pool of $34 million a year. Wharton’s admitted students may benefit in the years before the MBA by networking with their future classmates, and participating in professional development, social events, and mentoring opportunities through Wharton’s network, another similarity with Harvard’s 2+2 program.

“Increasing access to a Penn education is a pillar of the Penn Compact 2020, and I am so grateful to Ken and Julie for creating innovative ways to expand educational opportunity through their amazing commitment,” says Penn President Amy Gutmann in a statement. “Ken and Julie are encouraging students to think early about their graduate degree, venture into diverse fields after graduation, and bring these robust, interdisciplinary experiences to their Wharton MBA journey.”

In the future, the program will grow to allow applications from other undergraduate institutions as well, she said.


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