What a Winning Wharton Application Looks Like

The Wharton School entrance. Wharton photo

What a Winning Wharton Application Looks Like

The Wharton School consistently ranks as one of the top b-schools in the nation. But what exactly does it take to get into the prestigious b-school?

Wharton’s Director of Admissions, Blair Mannix, recently sat down with Accepted and broke down the various elements of the Wharton application and how applicants can present a winning application.


Resume and work history, Mannix says, illustrate the “length, depth, and breadth of your adult life.”

According to Mannix, Wharton recently began tracking the outcomes of its students with data scientists. The result? They’ve been able to evaluate variables like GPA through career trajectory, how applicants interact with the community, and how it all transfers to success at Wharton.

“Each piece of the application is predictive of success in the program, and that is important,” Mannix says. “It’s not random but very purposeful. Everything we ask for, we need.”


The first Wharton essay asks applicants what they want professionally from the Wharton MBA.

The point of this question, according to Mannix, is for applicants to have some self-reflection.

“We want students to explore the pivot moment (when they decided they wanted to do this) and unpack the talent and treasure they can bring to the MBA,” Mannix says. “Spend the time and really think about the top three things you will get out of the program.”

Essay two is the more personal and open-ended question. Mannix says the Wharton admissions team built the second essay prompt after students raised concerns that the MBA admissions process didn’t give enough opportunity to reflect their humanity.

“So we now ask them to describe an impactful experience not reflected elsewhere in the application,” Mannix says. “Anything that defines you.”


Wharton ultimately decided to change the format of its letters of recommendation requirement after it found that most recommendations followed a rubric—something she says ended up being unhelpful in getting an accurate portrayal of an applicant.

“As an evaluator, there is no motivation for me to fill out the right side of the rubric,” Mannix says. “Everyone would check top 1% or top 5%. If you see top 15% that looks like a blight. So we now ask recommenders to use adjectives to describe applicants, and these are words that are helpful to evaluate success.”


Wharton officially launched the Team-Based Discussion (TBD) element in 2012. Mannix says their decision to launch the TBD was two-fold.

“First, there is a lot of evidence that behavioral interviews are not predictive of success at all. Extroverts shine over introverts,” Mannix says. “We determined that method wasn’t going to work for us. Second, Wharton is a team-based learning environment, with students in about 17 teams in the two-year program.

Thus, she says, it became apparent that there may be students who are well-qualified but are unable to perform well in the TBD, or even vice versa.

“We want to stress that the interviews are just a piece of your application,” Mannix says. “Individual interviews can talk more about TBD info, and follow up on that. It depends on where the interview takes itself.”

Sources: Accepted, Wharton

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