For most, a 730 GMAT would be a Godsend. At Wharton, it is simply the average. For the second year in a row, the incoming class boasted a 730, tying it with Chicago Booth (with at least one Wharton first year attaining a near perfect 790). The class’ median score, however, jumped 10 points to 740 – 10 points better than Harvard Business School. The 2019 Class is again comprised of 44% women, tying it with Tuck for the highest concentration of female students (though Wharton is home to roughly 250 more first-year women due to a far larger class size). The percentage of international students also held steady at 32%, while U.S. minority students rose a point to constitute 33% of the class.
In terms of academic backgrounds, Wharton is sometimes considered a “liberal arts” school, much like Stanford GSB and Dartmouth Tuck Despite its reputation as a hangout for financiers and operations professionals, the largest bloc of students generally hail from the humanities and social sciences. This year, that bloc constitutes 41% of the class, down five points over the Class of 2018. On the surface, that change may appear to be newsworthy. However, it is simply a return to normal as the class of 2017 featured a 42% share for liberal arts majors. That said, the percentage of STEM majors did climb from 28% to 32% among first years, with business majors adding a point to 27%. The 2019 Class also closely resembles its predecessor in terms of professional backgrounds. Consultants again hold the most seats, making up 26% of the class (up three points). Private equity and venture capital holds onto another 13%, followed by non-profits, government and the military (12%), technology and internet services (9%), investment banking (8%), and healthcare (6%).
Over the past year, Wharton has also rolled out several new initiatives. During the spring, the school announced the Moelis Advance Access Program, where Penn undergrads can apply for deferred admissions to the MBA program. The benefit, of course, is that it offers the school’s most talented, seniors the flexibility to develop professionally after graduation, says Maryellen Reilly, deputy vice dean of the Wharton School. At the same time, the school introduced a new letter of recommendation format. Grounded in research, the new tool – a pair of 300 word questions focused on examples of why students will be successful – is designed to produce more clear and thoughtful looks at candidates.
HIGHER GRADUATE PAY ROOTED IN EMPLOYER SATISFACTION
It has been a banner year for Wharton in the annual rankings. In September, Wharton ranked 1st in Forbes’ American ranking, which rewards increases in pay. This year’s ranking, which tracked median five-year pay, saw Wharton’s 2012 Class raise their pay by $97,100 over five years to average $225,000. Even more, it was a $143,000 annual boost over their pre-MBA pay.
High pay also fueled Wharton’s rise to the top spot in U.S News’ most recent rankings. In particular, Wharton topped all comers in starting pay at $155,058, a 5.7% improvement over the previous year that was complemented by a 95.5% placement rate within three months of graduation. Even more, Wharton has consistently ranked among employers’ favorite programs in U.S. News’ annual recruiter survey. Notably, employers trumpet the program’s “substance and style” that produces “well-rounded” employees says Michelle Hopping, Wharton’s director of MBA career management, in 2017 interview with P&Q. By that, she means a 1-2 punch of “analytical rigor” coupled with soft skills like the ability influence people outside their chain to get complex situations resolved.
By the same token, Hopping adds that the Wharton brand – and the excellence it embodies – provides further comfort to employers. “One of the themes we hear a lot is that getting into Wharton is the first screen for companies,” Hopping adds. “They trust the system of admissions and the core coursework and electives, knowing that having the Wharton degree sets you up for success right off the bat. Based on the track record and the alumni in the company, they already know that to be a true foundation for what they want in their company.”
THEY’RE GENUINELY THRILLED TO BE HERE
In fact, “the people” tended to be one of the biggest Wharton draws for the Class of 2019. Forget the East Coast stereotype of cold-shouldered, conceited cutthroats. Instead, students tend to be, on the whole, modest, socially engaged, and focused – always busy but never enough that they can’t stop and pitch in. That is what Karnawat experienced when he visited campus – and this impression has only been reinforced since he started the MBA program.
“From current students to alumni to school administration, everyone went out of their way to help me better understand the opportunities at Wharton, provided guidance on the application process and helped me get a true sense of Wharton culture,” he asserts. “I could easily discern the collective passion, respect and admiration everyone shared for the Wharton community. For me, learning from a diverse class of accomplished individuals was one of the key reasons to pursue an MBA. And there is no better place to be than with the collaborative Wharton community! Now, having interacted with my fellow classmates here in ‘The City of Brotherly Love,’ I know I have made the right decision!”
Frank DeVecchis, director of MBA admissions at the Wharton School, described the students as “collaborative curious, and engaged” in a 2016 interview with P&Q. For DeVecchis, Wharton is a place where students are constantly exploring and striving often in collaboration with each other. That creates a special dynamic that it is impossible to find anywhere else he believes. “Wharton is a really easy place to get inspired,” DeVecchis observes. “The students here and the faculty and staff are all driven in such a way that it’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of the place and the energy that surrounds you.”
It was a vibe that Cohen immediately picked up on. “I selected Wharton because the students I met seemed genuinely thrilled to be there. I was impressed by the ubiquitous happiness and vibrancy.”
SAN FRANCISCO CAMPUS OFFERS ACCESS TO ENTREPRENEURIAL ECOSYSTEM
The curriculum was also popular among the Class of 2019. Robertson, who plans to pursue real estate during her two years, cites the school’s public policy initiative as an inspiration “to enter the space between public sector policies and private sector resources.” While Tempone applauds the program’s cross-functional structure and data-driven ethos, he is looking forward to the program’s intensive global awareness component. “Wharton has a large share of international students, but, more than that, thinking globally is definitely the atmosphere that permeates most of the classes…If you want your career to be international, this is the place to be.”
The same could be said for entrepreneurship. Here, students enjoy the best of both worlds. On the east coast, they can pursue traditional opportunities like Wall Street finance and consulting. At the same time, they can spend a semester at Wharton’s San Francisco campus, exploring the Bay Area startup scene while taking courses in tech- and innovation-related courses. What’s more, over half of Wharton students complete internships while they’re studying on the west coast.
“For them to be on the ground there provides valuable opportunities to engage with the ecosystem before they decide where they’re going to end up on a full-time basis when they leave school,” explains Ulrich.
HOPING TO FINALLY DECIPHER THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
And the San Francisco program isn’t just for aspiring entrepreneurs, he adds. He points to “joiners,” MBAs who can quickly add value to early stage firms by applying best practices and distinctive skills like modeling. “That professionalism is often very lacking in the earliest stage startups, Ulrich notes. “One of the really nice things about joining a company that has raised a Series A financing round is that those companies can pay you a salary. That dramatically mitigates the risk for a student who has a lot of loans or doesn’t have wealth from their family. It opens up entrepreneurship to a lot more students if they can draw a paycheck.”
Despite learning on the grand stage, the Class of 2019 defines success at Wharton in rather humble terms. Daniels jokes that he hopes to “finally understand all the acronyms in the Wall Street Journal…along with taking a deep dive into entrepreneurship. Mi has already drawn up a buck list, which includes being seen as both a “supportive and reliable teammate and leader.” Robertson longs to see herself progressing, while Karnawat envisions stepping out of his comfort zone.
For Majors, success encompasses the dreams common to most first years, who yearn from adventure, growth, and acceptance. “I think building incredible relationships with my classmates, learning innovative concepts, traveling to new countries and landing my dream internship are some key components of what a successful first year looks like for me,” he says.
To read profiles of incoming Wharton students — along with their advice on tackling the GMAT, applications, and interviews — click on the links below.
|Rachel Cohen||Abington, PA||University of Pennsylvania||Prudential Financial|
|Alex Daniels||Short Hills, NJ||Duke University|
|Faith Davis||Mitchellville, MD||Stanford University||DAF Technologies|
|Yusuf Kosoko||Lagos, Nigeria||Columbia University||Goldman Sachs|
|Eric Majors||Indianapolis, IN||Florida A&M University||Sean Combs Enterprises|
|Jennifer Mi||San Jose, CA||U.C.-Berkeley||Accenture|
|Nicole Robertson||Northfield, NJ||Georgetown University||U.S. Department of Justice|
|Suyog Karnawat||Maharashtra, India||Pune India, College of Engineering||Credit Suisse|
|Pablo Tempone||Buenos Aires, Argentina||Universidad Torcuato Di Tella||Itaú BBA|
|William Vuillet||Paris, France||U.S. Naval Academy||U.S. Navy|