A place in Wharton’s incoming class is more competitive than ever. Last year, the application volume soared by 21% to a new record of 7,158 candidates vying for a seat, prompting Wharton to enroll its largest-ever entering class (916 versus 856 the prior year). But that’s no surprise. The evolutions the school has advanced in recent years signal a new era for Wharton, from the debut of its Tangen Hall entrepreneurial center to the succession of Dean Erika James, the first woman and first person of color to be appointed dean in the institution’s 139-year history. From my vantage as former Associate Director of Admissions at Wharton and a coach at Fortuna Admissions, it’s further evidence of the exciting ways the business school continues to evolve beyond its roots in finance to drive innovation.
In my recent video conversation with Poets&Quants Editor-in-Chief John A. Byrne, we zeroed in on the three essential things every aspiring Wharton candidate should know before applying – starting with what Wharton is looking for – along with how to position a successful application.
Read on for my top tips on applying to Wharton and view our 5-minute video strategy session for more insights.
WHAT WHARTON IS LOOKING FOR: 3 KEY TIPS FOR APPLYING TO WHARTON
1. Connect the personal to the professional.
The school is looking to get to know you professionally and personally, and the pairing of Wharton’s MBA essays underscores this. The wording of essay 2 (new last year), asks you to connect the dots for the admissions committee from where you’re coming from to where you’re heading. The invitation to draw upon “your background” means they’re seeking the stuff of your identity, and the characteristics that convey how you stand to contribute in a meaningful way to the Wharton community.
2. Convey a clarity of purpose.
The single most important thing you can do to set yourself up for success is to spend significant time on self-reflection. Wharton wants to know why an MBA and why Wharton, and your response should reflect a deep understanding of the program’s values and culture. Assure the admissions committee yours is a viable path – they want to know the why, not just the what. Taking the time to summon this clarity of purpose for yourself will allow you to shape a narrative that’s coherent, authentic, and compelling.
3. Prepare to shine in the Team-Based Discussion.
Wharton’s unique interview format, the Team Based Discussion, is emblematic of its collaborative values and the culture it’s looking to create. This dynamic, relational experience is about much more than delivering a strong pitch. As Fortuna’s Judith Silverman Hodara underscores in her article on how to prepare for the Wharton TBD, “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.” To do this, you need to understand your role as an individual on a team, and as a team member.
Finally, putting your best foot forward means doing your homework. This includes speaking with Wharton alumni and students to understand in a nuanced and informed way why you’re truly a fit for the program. Again, what is it about the school that really resonates with you, and conversely, how are you uniquely poised to contribute to the Wharton community? Making these connections will prepare you to tell your best story.
For a deeper dive on preparing your Wharton application – including recommender strategy, interviews, MBA culture, essays, and more – view our recent Wharton Admissions Masterclass, a 60-minute strategy session with my colleagues at Fortuna Admissions. It’s part of Fortuna’s 5-part series featuring admissions advice for every M7 MBA program (next up, CBS & MIT Sloan on June 1). Registration is free but spaces are limited.
Michel Belden is an expert coach at MBA admissions coaching firm Fortuna Admissions and former Wharton Associate Director of Admissions. For a candid assessment of your chances of admission success at a top MBA program, sign up for a free consultation.