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Even As Apps Plunge, Wharton Hits New Milestones

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania reports that its Class of 2021 will be comprised of 47% women, a school record. Wharton photo

Applications are down at most business schools, including the elite ones. But that hasn’t kept The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania from recording some key milestones in its MBA Class of 2021 profile — and exceeding others.

The Wharton School released its new profile today (August 19), showing that even as the school saw a big drop in the number of applications it maintained its record-high average score on the Graduate Management Admission Test and achieved its most-ever women and most-ever students of color. The new profile shows that the Class of 2021 is 47% women, up 4 percentage points over last year and 3 percentage points higher than the school record posted in 2016 and 2017, as well as 36% students of color, defined as students with African-American, Asian-American, Hispanic-American, Native-American/Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian descent, and multiethnic backgrounds. The previous Wharton record for minority inclusion was 33%, recorded in each of the last two years. Meanwhile, in a new metric, Wharton says 5% of its incoming class identifies as LGBT.

The school notched another 732 GMAT average, tying the mark first set in 2015 and matched last year, which was also good enough to land in a four-way tie for best average score in 2018.

APPS MAY BE DOWN, BUT WHARTON IS STEAMING AHEAD 

Applications are down across the board at the top B-schools in the United States, a phenomenon well into its third year that has been traced, in part, to international students increasingly seeking their MBAs elsewhere. (See this story, which we will be updating soon.) The elite schools have not been immune; at Wharton, applicants for the fall 2019 intake numbered 5,905, down 5.4% from 2018 and 11.8% from the school’s all-time high of 6,692 in 2017. It was the first time in at least eight years that apps dipped below 6,000 at Wharton, and it corresponded with the lowest international student intake — 30% — in at least that span. The school says 64 countries are represented in its new class, down from 80 countries a year ago.

Even so, Wharton posted respectable to outstanding numbers in other key benchmarks. The number of incoming students with STEM backgrounds — backgrounds in science, technology, engineering, or math — rose again, to 30%, two years after reaching an all-time high of 32%. (See page 2 for details.) Wharton’s incoming MBA students maintained the school’s 2018 average GPA of 3.6, as well as the 2018 average Graduate Record Exam scores of 162 on the verbal and 162 on the quant, matching last year’s totals with just a 1-point slip in verbal. However, in the written portion of the test, new Whartonites averaged a score of 4.8, surpassing last year’s 4.7.

Meanwhile, someone with a 540 GMAT got into Wharton this fall, but that is a “high” low score compared to last year, when one incredible (and still unidentified) candidate gained admission even after posting a 500 — the lowest score for a successful candidate in memory.

SHOWING WOMEN ‘THAT WHARTON IS A GREAT PLACE TO LEARN AND LEAD’

The school at the top of Poets&Quants‘ 2018 ranking watched last year — along with the rest of the B-school world — as USC Marshall became the first top B-school to eclipse 50% women in its full-time MBA program, achieving the hallowed but elusive gender parity that most schools, officially or unofficially, believe should be a goal of graduate business education programs. Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management was close behind at 46% last year, after Wharton and Dartmouth College’s Tuck School of Business notched 44% women in their MBA classes in 2017.

Now Wharton is inching toward gender parity, too, which Blair Mannix says is a reflection of the school’s priorities.

“The increase is due to a conscious effort to show more woman applicants that Wharton is a great place to learn and to lead,” Mannix, the school’s new director of MBA admissions, tells Poets&Quants. “We partner with organizations like the Forte Foundation, among others, and sponsor on-campus visit days for women to show not only how the MBA can help students reach their potential, but also showcase our inclusive and welcoming community.”