Meet Wharton’s MBA Class Of 2021

Wharton’s 2019 jobs report shows continued strong job placement, with more than 98% of MBAs reporting job offers and more than 93% accepting them. Wharton photo


Looking for sheer brainpower? Meet Chiaka Aribeana. As an undergrad, she earned a degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology. She then joined the Stanford University School of Medicine, where she is a medical student. Now, she is earning an MBA at Wharton, with the hope of being both a practicing physician and high-level administrator. However, her biggest business lesson didn’t come from managing a Cardiology Free Clinic for uninsured patients in Palo Alto. Instead, it stemmed from falling ill and seeing the practice of medicine from a patient’s vantage point.

“I experienced how helpless and confused patients can feel, especially when they don’t completely understand their condition or what is being done to treat it,” Aribeana writes. “Even as a highly literate medical student, I found myself feeling disappointed at my lack of understanding regarding my treatment plan. Following this experience, I personally prioritized advocacy on behalf of my patients and I encouraged the medical teams I worked with to take steps to improve the inpatient experiences of their patients.”

The Class of 2021 doesn’t come from all of the traditional pathways you’d expect, either. Take Andrew Crane, a Brown grad who returned to his hometown of Dalton, Massachusetts to serve as a volunteer firefighter and owner and head brewer at the Shire Breu-Hous restaurant.

“[My defining moment was] the day that I quit my “day job” as an engineer to start the brew-pub. Brewing had been a hobby for me for years, but finally taking the plunge and fully committing myself to it taught me to be more confident in myself, and that sometimes you need to take risks to see rewards.”


Wharton Networking Expo

At the same time, the class shows greater interest in building lasting solutions than deepening their pockets. On secondment from the Boston Consulting Group, Sarah Biondich worked with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to develop an investment strategy for digital farm services. As a program lead at the Khan Academy, Sanya Ohri spearheaded a partnership with India’s largest public school system – 1.2 million students strong – to enhance educational offerings. In Ukraine, Stanislav Zolotukhin was a team leader in one of Europe’s largest efforts to modernize a nation’s broadband network.

That’s not to say they didn’t have a learning curve along the way. Before joining the military, Jennifer Grace Million had never flown in a plane. Four years later, she had jumped out of one – five times!  Stephanie McCaffrey now knows that potential connections can see you when you “stalk” them on Linkedin. Along with losing his bed to his dog after returning from deployment, William Anthony Quadrino faced another hurdle in his transition to business school.

“While preparing for interviews I was asked to give my ‘elevator pitch’… after requesting a description of what that term means exactly, I replied that I take the stairs!”


Take the stairs? Chances are, Quadrino is building stairs right now. He is refurbishing a 1925 row home while going to class. Indeed, you’ll find the Class of 2021 is keeping quite busy outside class. Stanislav Zolotukhin, for one, has found his Wharton peers to be both curious and purposeful.

“It looks like if someone faces a problem, he/she will not rest until there is a solution. I think that the constant search for new questions and answers is a quality that distinguishes Wharton students.”

“Learning-oriented” is the word used by Peixin Mo, a Deloitte consultant who was born in China and raised in Houston, Brunei, and Oman (which explains how she mastered belly dancing). “More so than at any other point in my life, I feel surrounded by people who actively want to learn and better themselves. This takes many shapes and forms – some are here to learn in a classroom setting, others are here to learn through networking – but everyone is focused on personal growth. It’s a powerful and inspiring environment to be in.”


There is a number that stands out in this year’s MBA class profile: 47%. That’s the percentage of women who comprise the Class of 2021. It is a 4% bump over the previous year. In real numbers, that means 31 more women populate the class. More than that, it represents a high watermark for the school, whose previous best was 44% in 2016 and 2017. The rise also tied Wharton with Stanford GSB in this area, along with propelling the school ahead of peer programs in the area, including Harvard Business School (43%), Chicago Booth (40%), and MIT Sloan (42%).

“The increase is due to a conscious effort to show more woman applicants that Wharton is a great place to learn and to lead,” says Blair Mannix, Wharton’s Director of MBA Admissions, in an interview with P&Q. “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.”

The Wharton School of Business in Philadelphia

Women weren’t the only population setting records. The percentage of minorities climbed to 36% – three points better than the 33% high set in 2018 and 2017. The program is undeniably more diverse, with minorities composing just 28% seven years ago. However, this progress was offset by a dip in international students. Just 30% of the class hails from outside the United States, a four-point drop that comes to 36 fewer international students. More striking: the number of countries represented in the Class of 2021 plummeted from 80 to 64 compared to the previous year. In addition, 5% of the class identify as LGBT.


Overall, the Class of 2021 features 856 students, down a half-dozen from the previous year. The school also received 340 fewer applications during the 2018-2019 cycle. Still, Wharton accepted just 14.5% of all applicants, ranking it just below Harvard Business School and Stanford in terms of exclusiveness.

Like the previous class, incoming MBAs averaged a daunting 732 on their GMATs, with 162 means in both the verbal and quant sections of the GRE. As undergrads, they summoned a collective GPA of 3.6, with the largest segment of the class majoring in Humanities (43%). That’s two points down from the previous year, with STEM (30%) and Business (27%) each gaining a point.

Career-wise, consulting occupies the largest number of seats – at least on the surface. 25% of the Class of 2021 has worked in Consulting, double the presence of runner-up Private Equity and Venture Capital (12%). Combine PE and VC with the other financial categories (Investment Banking, Investment Management, and Other Finance) and the total rises to 32%, however. Technology and Non-Profit/Government each take up a 9% share of the class, with only Healthcare being a category that amounts to 5% or more of the class seats.


Whatever industry this class started in, they are expected to be heavily in demand by graduation. In October, Wharton released its employment report for this year’s graduation class. Sure enough, the results continue to outpace expectations. The Class of 2019 averaged $150,000 in base pay alone, up $15,000 over the previous year. In total, a starting pay package for a Wharton MBA exceeds $175,000, with over 98% of the class receiving job offers within three months of graduation. According to Forbes research, graduates can expect to tack an additional $138,000 onto their compensation within five years of graduation too.

One reason behind these stellar outputs? Wharton operates one of the top career centers in the world according to 2018 student survey data from The Economist. The center has adopted Wharton’s love of data, collecting and sharing it with students and employers to help them keep pace with changing preferences. The center also runs point on Wharton’s Advising Support Network (ASN). As part of ASN, each student is assigned an academic advisor, student life associate director, career management advisor, and leadership officer advisor. In tandem, they work to ensure students receive timely support and maximize their Wharton experience – including career development – so no students fall through the cracks.

Wharton is the top school on both lists that rank contributions to academic research, though it shares the top spot in the FT ranking with Harvard. File photo

Perhaps the center’s best feature, however, is its custom nature – a must for a school known for successfully launching career switchers. Recognizing Wharton students pursue a wide array of industries and roles, the career center flexes to meet individual student needs. “We’re not a one-size-fits-all type of office,” says Michelle Hopping, Wharton’s director of career management, in a spring interview with P&Q. “For example, on the company relationship side, we can be pretty scrappy and nimble when we work with startups, VC funds, or companies that are unfamiliar with MBA recruiting. We can be creative brainstorm partners with them. On the flip side, we can put forth operational excellence towards companies that want seamless execution at scale.”


Along with being data-centric, Hopping adds, the career center never takes anything for granted. “Markets and expectations are constantly in flux, particularly when it comes to enticing high-end MBA talent. That’s one reason Wharton can never rest on its laurels. We are always changing, adding, reformatting, and improving based on student feedback. There is nothing created that just sits on a shelf. We are always adapting to what the market is telling us – and thinking, ‘How can we evaluate our services based on what our constituents are looking for?’”

Along with support, Wharton students are traditionally seeking a well-rounded education.  It would be hard to beat Wharton’s across-the-board excellence. In U.S. News’ 2018 specialization ranking, which stems from a survey of business school deans and MBA directors, Wharton ranked among the ten-best school in eight-out-of-ten disciplines. That includes 1st in Finance, 2nd in both Marketing and International Business, and no placement lower than 6th in Accounting, Management, Entrepreneurship, Operations, and Information Systems. That stems from expertise. According to analysis from both the Financial Times and the University of Texas-Dallas’ Jindal School, Wharton ranks as the top business school for research, based on publication in the top business journals. In other words, Wharton MBAs enjoy a certain home field advantage: they often learn about cutting edge business practices in the classroom first, adding a certain market intelligence to their degree’s prestige.

This fall, Wharton expanded its deferred admissions program to accept undergraduate and graduate students from outside the University of Pennsylvania. That’s just one of the new developments at the Wharton School that are on the horizon. This fall, P&Q reached out to Blair Mannix to learn not only what’s happening but also the most popular and underrated aspects of the school’s experience. Here is what applicants should expect…

* To read our new interview with Wharton Admissions Director Blair Mannix, go to page 3. 

* To read 12 in-depth profiles of Wharton first-years, go to page 3. 

Page 2 of 15