Wharton’s New Love For STEM Applicants

Wharton School operations and innovation management professor Christian Terwiesch teaching class – Ethan Baron photo

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has apparently found a new love: MBA applicants with STEM backgrounds. A record 32% of the school’s incoming MBA students this year will have undergraduate degrees in science, technology, engineering or math (STEM), up four full percentage points from last year when only 28% of the class came in with those backgrounds. The increase is even more pronounced compared to Wharton’s intake two years ago when just 25% of the students had STEM degrees.

In releasing its Class of 2019 profile, Wharton also disclosed that the average GMAT score for the class slid for the second year in a row to 730 from 731 last year and the record 732 score reported in 2015. Also for the second year in the last six years, Wharton enrolled at least one student with a GMAT below 600. In fact, it is the lowest reported GMAT for the school in recent years: a 530, 40 points below last year’s lowest score and 200 points below the Class of 2019 average. The student with the highest reported GMAT in the class scored a near-perfect 790 out of the top 800 score on the exam.

Wharton’s new GMAT average now puts it behind Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management which reached a record 732 this year and Stanford’s Graduate School of Business which is expected to announce a new record of its own at 740 this year. Many other peer schools have yet to publish their class profiles or GMAT averages for the incoming class.

MBA STUDENTS WITH HUMANITIES BACKGROUNDS FELL FIVE FULL PERCENTAGE POINTS

In a year in which applications increased by just 13 candidates to 6,692 from 6,679 a year earlier, Wharton enrolled a record class of 863 MBA students, up from 851 last year. The school also continued to decrease the number of students with financial backgrounds. Only 33% of Wharton’s Class of 2019 boasts financial work experience, down three full percentage points from the 36% of a year earlier. Consultants took up the slack, rising to represent 26% of the class, up from 23% last year.

But the bigger news in the class profile is Wharton’s newfound interest in STEM undergrads. The increase in those students comes at the expense of humanities majors. MBA students with humanities backgrounds fell five full percentage points this year to 41%, from 46% a year earlier. Business majors remained fairly steady, rising just a point to 27% of this year’s incoming class.

The STEM surge comes as Wharton has increased in Bay Area presence, offering students a full semester of classes at its San Francisco campus (see Wharton’s Novel Bay Area Option For MBAs). The school’s Semester In San Francisco program began as a pilot in 2012 and became a formal option in the MBA program only two years ago.

FEWER STUDENTS FROM I-BANKING AND INVESTMENT MANAGEMENT

Wharton was successful in maintaining its high enrollment of women who will make up 44% of the class, equal to last year’s number and among the highest at a prestige business school. Both Harvard Business School and Kellogg are at 42%, while Yale School of Management is at 43% this year. But most MBA programs are well below the 40% level. The only year when Wharton enrolled a higher percentage of women was 2011 at 44.7% of the incoming class. International and U.S. students of color went up a percentage point each this year to 33% of the class from 32%. Wharton said its international contingent hails from 65 countries, down from 71 last year.

The school also disclosed that the average GRE verbal score for this class is 163, while the average quant score is 162. The average writing score on the GRE for the class is 4.7.

Besides the decline in students from the financial sector and the increase in consultants, there were relatively few changes in the types of work experience the new class will bring to the school. The fall in finance mainly occurred in students with investment banking experience, dropping to just 8% from 11% a year earlier. But students from investment management backgrounds also declined to 3% from 5% last year. Those with backgrounds in private equity and venture capital, 14% of this year’s entering students, was slightly higher than the 13% last year. Ditto for other financial service backgrounds, also up a percentage point to 8% of the class.

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About the Author...

John A. Byrne

John A. Byrne is the founder and editor-in-chief of C-Change Media, publishers of Poets&Quants and four other higher education websites. He has authored or co-authored more than ten books, including two New York Times bestsellers. John is the former executive editor of Businessweek, editor-in-chief of Businessweek. com, editor-in-chief of Fast Company, and the creator of the first regularly published rankings of business schools. As the co-founder of CentreCourt MBA Festivals, he hopes to meet you at the next MBA event in-person or online.