Wharton’s Team-Based Discussion – What To Expect And How To Succeed

Tip For The Wharton Team-Based Discussion

This week, Wharton releases its invitations to the MBA interview. This means briefing yourself on what’s expected for your Team-Based Discussion – beyond the materials, you’ll receive from Wharton – and setting yourself up for success. As you’ll discover, this dynamic, relational experience is about much more than delivering a strong pitch – Wharton’s admission committee wants to observe how you approach a challenge, present yourself, cohesively work towards solutions in a small group context and think on your feet.

Having spent a decade at the helm of Wharton’s MBA admissions, as well as running my Fortuna Admissions clients through the paces to prepare each season, I’ve become practiced at guiding candidates to bring their best to the table. Based on the recent experiences of my clients and insights from my Fortuna colleagues, I’m sharing our team’s top tips for delivering your standout pitch, along with what success looks like.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE WHARTON TEAM BASED DISCUSSION

Wharton’s TBD has become an integral part of the MBA assessment since its roll out in 2012 and reflects the Learning Teams model at the heart of the Wharton experience, which lauds teamwork in the spirit “persuasive rather than positional leadership.” Approach this as an opportunity to showcase what you’d contribute as a future student at Wharton in terms of your professional presence and as part of an effective team.

The TBD typically includes four or five additional candidates. Your discussion will have a prompt and an end goal, and the group will work collectively to propose a tangible outcome. After brief introductions, the team has a little more than 30 minutes to generate a subject and presentation model that is ultimately shared with the admissions committee observer. After the TBD, there will be a one-on-one debrief with an admission representative, lasting about 10 minutes. Expect the time to move very quickly.

“Last year, the teams were asked to prepare a retreat for the 70-member cohort of first-year Wharton students,” notes Fortuna’s Brittany Maschal, a former member of admissions teams at Wharton, Princeton, and Johns Hopkins, in her video strategy session. “In previous years the prompt was typically around the creation of a GMC – or a ‘global modular course.’” You’ll obviously want to do your research, but with an awareness that there’s no right answer.

3 TOP TIPS FOR DELIVERING YOUR WHARTON TBD PITCH

You’ll want to present your own ideas with precision and care, as well as keen situational awareness. Expect to be assessed on how well you listen to others and facilitate the group’s dialogue. This experience is less about your own particular answer and presentation (although of course, you should thoughtfully prepare this in advance) and more about how well you collaborate with others toward a larger objective.

Here are the Fortuna team’s three top tips for creating your pitch:

Tip 1: Put your self-intro into a relevant context. When developing your one-minute pitch for the Wharton TBD, consider introducing yourself briefly and talking about why your idea is resonant with you. This way, you’re not only giving your team a sense of your background but also what it is that compels you to that particular area of interest. For example, “I grew up in Northern California I have always been interested in how the wine industry has grown at a fast pace when compared with Europe,” OR, “I have volunteered yearly in Haiti where I have become really interested in issues of access to capital for family businesses. I think that this is going to help us work together as a team and know one another because…”

Tip 2: Have a deeper level of info at the ready. Have your idea fleshed out with sufficient detail so that, if it is selected by your teammates, you’re poised to be the “go-to” person with an additional layer of information. If your idea is chosen, you can anticipate your teammates looking to you for an additional layer of guidance, so be prepared to offer the “next level” of detail in the discussion. You’ll want to watch your “ums,” “ahs” and incomplete ideas.

Tip 3: Notice content and process. This means giving considered attention not just to what you’re saying but how you’re saying it – Wharton really cares how you present yourself and engage with the team. Look for ways to “toss the ball” back to your teammates to exhibit your ability to draw out the best thinking in others and engage the entire group.

You can take notes while you are in the room, and we generally suggest at least jotting down everyone’s name and perhaps the basics of their plan. If you end up being the “note-taker” for your group throughout the sessions, don’t forget to verbally contribute just as much, if not more, than you are taking the time to note-take.

WHAT SUCCESS LOOKS LIKE

I get this anxious question a lot: How much does it matter if my idea is chosen? While running with your idea can have its advantages, it’s far more important to showcase your collaborative leadership: the ability to help facilitate a discussion among people who have never met toward a greater end goal and advance an idea in a compelling way within a limited timeframe.

Reflect on the following tactics as you prepare for the Wharton TBD and move through your own “pitch” experience:

  • After each team member has introduced themselves and offered a quick pitch, how might you help facilitate discussion to arrive at a consensus?
  • How can you support your teammates and collaborate – even if you have to abandon your own idea – versus solely promoting your own ideas?
  • What leadership behaviors will draw out your other team members? How are you able to enhance the discussion by encouraging others to voice their opinions?
  • How might you reflect on the discussion taking place while helping advance the deliverables to support the group’s final presentation to the adcom in the room?

Finally, remember that Wharton’s TBD, like all MBA interview experiences, is an opportunity to bring your unique candidacy to life from a place of authenticity. This means embracing your own style, whether you’re a quiet consensus-builder, extroverted idea person or on-the-spot synthesizer. Wharton isn’t looking to fills its cohort with one kind of personality type, so don’t try to be someone you’re not. Self and situational awareness can be expressed across the continuum of passionate thinkers and doers, so stay curious and enjoy yourself.

For more TBD interview prep support, check out Fortuna’s video strategy session on the Wharton TBD or contact me to schedule a prep session.


Fortuna-Admissions-LogoDr. Judith Silverman Hodara, EdD, is a Director at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Wharton acting head of Admissions. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.