The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has kicked off its 2020-2021 admissions season with a set of MBA application deadlines that requires round one early birds to get their applications in by Sept. 15th, two days earlier than last year. The round two deadline is Jan. 5th, while the round three and final deadline for the Class of 2023 is March 31st.
The school also maintained its first 500-word essay prompt–“What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA?”– but updated his second essay 400-word question. “Our main goal is to get to know you the best that we can, and the change to our second prompt was largely motivated by that desire,” wrote Blair Mannix, director of admissions in a blog post. “We hope to give applicants room to reflect on their unique backgrounds and think about what their value-add will be to the Wharton community. Applicants should remember that the Admissions Committee is looking for candidates who will contribute to all aspects of Wharton life.”
R1 candidates will get either an interview invite or a rejection on Oct. 28, with final decisions due just before the Christmas holidays on Dec. 16th. Interview invites for R2 applicants will go out Feb. 11th with final decisions released on March 25. The R3 and final deadline applicants will get invites or rejections on April 15, with final decisions due on May 11. The application fee is $275.
Both required essays can be found on Wharton’s Application and Admission Requirement page.
AMONG MOST SELECTIVE BUSINESS SCHOOLS
Wharton is among the most selective business schools in the world, though apps have declined in the past two years. Applicants for the fall 2019 intake fell by 5.4% from 2018 and 11.8% from the school’s all-time high of 6,692 in 2017. In fact, the 2018-2019 admissions season 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. Make no mistake: It’s hard to get into the school’s elite MBA program and the admit rate betrays the super high stats required for admission. The average class GMAT score was 732, just two points below Stanford, while the average undergrad GPA was 3.61. The range of GMAT scores for enrolled students went from a low of 540 to 790, though a year earlier Wharton enrolled a student with a 500 GMAT score. Given the school’s reputation in finance, it may not be surprising that only 15% of the latest cohort took a GRE to get into Wharton. The average verbal and quant scores on the GRE were 162. Students averaged five years of work experience, though some got in with no full-time jobs on their resumes while the student with the most experience had racked up 16 years of work.
Wharton strongly advises candidates to apply in the first and second rounds and makes an app to its Lauder and JD/MBA programs mandatory in those rounds. “Space in the class becomes more limited for round 3 applicants, resulting in a more competitive round,” according to the school.
To be considered for a round, you must submit a completed application by 5 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) on the day of the deadline. If you submit your application after the deadline for Round 1 or 2, it will be rolled into the next round. If you submit your application after the deadline for Round 3, it will not be accepted. If you submit an application earlier in a round, you can confirm receipt via the online application system and will have more time to schedule an interview. Interviews are by invitation only. At any point, applicants can use the online application system to check the status of their applications.
ONE UNUSUAL TWIST TO WHARTON’S PROCESS: THE TEAM-BASED DISCUSSION
There’s one unusual wrinkle in Wharton’s application process that is less common at other schools. When applicants are invited to interview, they are asked to participate in a team-based discussion with four to five other candidates. Last year, for example, would-be students were asked to come up with a new orientation for incoming MBA students. The 35-minute exercise is meant to identify your communication style, level of engagement, leadership skills, and decision-making ability. The teams are randomly assigned based on your preferred time and location (on-campus or one of our off-campus locations around the world). Wharton also sets aside time for a “brief individual conversation” with a member of the admission staff.
One number stood out in Wharton’s last MBA class profile for the Class of 2021: 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 admissions chief Mannix 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.”
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.
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.
APPLICANT ADVICE FROM WHARTON MBA GRADUATES
“I think the piece of advice I would offer is to have the determination and be persistent. The first year I applied to Wharton, I was declined without an opportunity to interview. While it was discouraging for me, I decided to try again (at the encouragement of friends and mentors around me). The second time I applied, I was put on the waitlist. While on the waitlist, I continued to provide updates to the school about my personal and professional life and reiterated my desire to attend Wharton. I ultimately was admitted off the waitlist three weeks before school started. I am so grateful that I applied again and was patient through the trying waitlist process.” — Eric Hilton, Class of 2020
“Envision your experience and path at Wharton – which opportunities would you participate in? How will you give back to the community? What do you want to leave or take after Wharton? Clearly articulate the Wharton journey that you expect to take. This is a helpful exercise for you to go through as well. It will help you understand what you want out of an MBA program and how Wharton can get you there. The beauty of Wharton is that there is no one right path to reaching your goal.” — Anisha Mocheria, Class of 2020
“The one piece of advice I would give is to make sure you have a clear understanding of why you want to obtain an MBA. The MBA experience provides numerous opportunities for development both professionally and personally. Having a clear set of goals as to what you are looking to gain from the MBA experience will be beneficial in navigating Wharton’s large range of opportunities in and out of the classroom.” — Kenny Osakwe, Class of 2020
“The advice I always give to prospective applicants is: be yourself! Once you pour out your heart and soul into the essays, make sure your friends and relatives can recognize your unique voice. The common pitfall I see is applicants trying to project a certain image of themselves that they think will be prized by the admissions committee. In the competitive pool of the MBA applications, a natural way to stand out is by being genuine, which often means exposing your vulnerabilities and owning up to your shortcomings. The whole process is a marathon, not a sprint, so you can never stress enough the importance of preparation and pacing yourself and your recommenders. Starting the thought process early on why you are applying to school in the first place will shine through your application materials. Finally, try to visit the campus. If you can’t, at least virtually engage with students and clubs of your interest. You can gain a lot of great insight you just won’t be able to glean from examining the glossy brochure or website.” — Michal Benedykcinski, Class of 2019
“Do whatever you can to figure out what makes Wharton unique. If you can, visit campus and sit in on classes. If it’s not possible to come to Philadelphia, set up calls with current students and alumni. So much of Wharton is student-run, and students are best positioned to tell you about what your time would be like here. And when you apply, it helps to show that you’ve done your homework: demonstrate through your essays what it is about Wharton that makes it the best fit for you, as well as emphasizing what role you would play in the Wharton community. The Admissions Office is deliberate in building a class, so make it easy for them to see how you would contribute to other students’ MBA experience.” — Medora Brown, Class of 2019
“Wharton (and Penn at-large) prides itself on interdisciplinary learning from across departments and academic schools. I am the first Wharton MBA student (and hopefully not the last!) to pursue a joint Masters in Urban Spatial Analytics from Penn School of Design alongside my Wharton MBA, with the hopes of integrating location-based data analytics into my real estate career. Not only does Wharton offer six credits to all MBAs that can be used toward taking coursework from Penn’s other schools (e.g. Penn Medicine, Penn Law, Penn Engineering), but it encourages interdisciplinary endeavors. See if you can find an exciting interdisciplinary opportunity to pursue here! Many classmates pursuing dual-degree programs (such as those with the Computer Science or Education departments) did not decide to pursue a secondary degree until arriving at Wharton.” — Jibran Khan, Class of 2019
“Take the time to learn about yourself and tell a story that only you can tell. Having an authentic story will help you shine as a candidate and anchor you during your time as a student. I chose Wharton because it felt like a place that would help me grow the most. Wharton can feel like the opposite of warm and fuzzy and is full of intense, brilliant classmates. I have become a stronger and fuller person by learning to thrive at a place like Wharton while still being true to myself. My mom got her doctorate in physics at Penn, so choosing Wharton also felt like it honored her in a small way. I love passing the David Rittenhouse Lab on my daily walk to school, where she had spent four years as a student (and I don’t think it changed one bit since the 80s!).” — Haesun (Jess) Seok, Class of 2019