Wharton Expands Deferred Admission Program Outside UPenn

Wharton is expanding its deferred MBA admission program to allow grads from other schools to apply. File photo

A big, new pathway has opened to the full-time MBA program at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Two years after launching a deferred admission program that gave soon-to-graduate Wharton undergraduates a way to save a place in the MBA before starting their careers — and as it grinds through an ongoing application slump that has affected most of its peer schools — Wharton is expanding to allow undergrads and graduate students from schools outside the University of Pennsylvania to get a leg up and bank their spot in one of the premier MBA programs in the world.

At the same time — in what is perhaps another sign of the times — Wharton is encouraging deferred admits to spend the interregnum between academic journeys to pursue careers not in finance, consulting, or tech, but in social impact, entrepreneurship, or the nonprofit sector.

“We are looking for the most talented students across the globe who are innovative, intellectually curious and ready to impact the world during their deferment period,” Wharton MBA Admissions Director Blair Mannix says in a news release following the announcement today (September 24) of the expanded Wharton MBA Advance Access Program. “Advance Access students are encouraged to take professional risks such as starting their own company, working for a nonprofit, or pursuing global externships while working in traditional business industries.

“This broad range of experiences will bring valuable perspectives to our future MBA classes and prepare our students to become global leaders in today’s ever-changing business environment.”


Ken Moelis and Julie Taffet Moelis. Courtesy photo

Wharton’s deferred admission program was launched in 2017. The Moelis Advance Access Program was funded by a $10 million gift from alums Ken Moelis and Julie Taffet Moelis, joining the newly launched 2+2 program at Harvard Business School and the Silver Scholars program at Yale School of Management as deferred admission options at the elite level. Last August, Columbia Business School announced the imminent launch of a similar program, and earlier this year, MIT’s Sloan School of Management joined the party.

Harvard’s 2+2 is generally viewed as a template for such programs, and the main thing to keep in mind is that it is just as difficult to get into as the school’s full-time MBA — possibly more so. Nearly 1,400 people applied for the HBS 2+2 Class of 2022, and 109 were accepted. That’s a selectivity rate of 8% — 4 percentage points lower than the acceptance rate for this fall’s Class of 2021 intake. Likewise, HBS 2+2 students had a median score of 740 on the Graduate Management Admission Test, better than the 730 median GMAT by the Class of 2020, and an average GPA of 3.76, only slightly below current MBA students’ 3.70.

Wharton’s Moelis program is much smaller, having admitted just nine students in its latest cohort. But it is similarly selective, with an average GMAT of 710 (compared to Wharton’s 732 in the incoming Class of 2021) and average GPA of 3.66 (compared to 3.60). Expect admits through the newly expanded program to her similarly accomplished.


Students applying to Wharton’s new program must submit academic transcripts, resume, GRE/GMAT scores, two letters of recommendation, two essays and a reduced application fee of $100. Team-based interviews are required and will be scheduled by invitation only following an initial evaluation of a complete application. The program does not replace but adds to the school’s existing Moelis program as well as a separate MBA sub-matriculation program for Wharton undergrads.

A key part of Wharton’s pitch for the expanded deferred admission program is how the school wants students to spend their two to four years after undergrad and before joining the MBA. They are encouraged to “follow their passions” and “seek quality, substantive work experience in a wide range of industries,” the school’s announcement states — to take “professional risks” that will later enrich their careers. They will also constantly be checking in: During their deferment period, admitted students will be invited to join online communities, receive communications from the school, and “network with their peers, students, faculty, and alumni at Wharton conferences and events.”

“Having the security of admission to the Wharton MBA program right out of my undergraduate studies, I am more comfortable and more willing to take professional risks — especially those having to do with social entrepreneurship,” Moelis Fellow Halle Aberhm says in the news release. “I was excited beyond belief to potentially gain access to an MBA program like Wharton’s two years prior to my start. Wharton is a program with endless opportunities that will enrich my career.”

Deadline to apply to the new Wharton MBA Advanced Access Program is April 1, 2020. Applicants will be notified of decisions by May 8, 2020.


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