A Closer Look at Wharton's First-Year Core Classes

Wharton MBA Guide
Continuing our series of admissions insights clipped from Veritas Prep’s Annual Reports, our in-depth insider’s guides to 15 of the world’s top business schools, this week we take a closer look at Wharton’s first-year core MBA curriculum. (Our Annual reports are absolutely free with registration, but we thought we’d share some snippets here to help get you started in your Wharton research.)

Like most top business schools, The Wharton School aims to lay a strong foundation in general management that will prepare students to face a range of business issues throughout their careers. First-year students are required to attend a one-month “Pre-Term” session prior to the official start of the school year. Pre-Term, which begins in late-July or early-August each year, features several introductory and review courses in financial accounting, microeconomics, statistics, and financial analysis. There is also an optional math review course offered to those students whose math skills are rusty or who never took a college level calculus or statistics course.


The idea of Pre-Term is to level the playing field and ensure that there is a common knowledge base on which to build over the course of the program. In addition to the academic elements of Pre-Term, there is also a two-day, off-campus retreat designed to introduce students to members of their learning team and to begin the practice of leading in a peer environment.

Beyond Pre-Term, The first year is defined by the core curriculum, which all students are required to take. Wharton operates on a quarter system, with most courses lasting only a quarter and some the full semester (combination of quarter one and quarter two, or Q1 and Q2). The core-curriculum is divided into three areas: Leadership Essentials, Analytical Foundations, and Core Business Fundamentals.

Earning a Wharton MBA requires a minimum of 19 credit units (referred to as “cu’s” around Wharton) of graduate-level courses. There is flexibility within that requirement to take up to 4 cu outside of the Wharton program and students may also waive out of most (although not all) of the core courses on the basis of prior coursework or experience in a given subject. Students can waive course in one of two ways: by waiver application and through the waiver exam process. All waived credits, however, must be replaced by electives to meet the minimum 19cu requirement. Roughly 65 percent of first-year students waive out of at least one core course, which allows them to take advantage of one of over 200 electives offered.

In addition to the core courses, first year students can also pursue the optional Global Immersion elective, which is a four-week immersion experience in one of several different regions of the world immediately following the spring semester of the first year. Once all core course requirements have been satisfied, students can begin to explore the roughly 200 elective offerings across 19 different majors. This typically begins in the second year, but should a student waive out of courses in the first year, those credit units can be satisfied with electives.

Today’s blog post was clipped from our Wharton Annual Report, one of 15 guides to the world’s top business schools, available for purchase on our site. If you’re ready to start building your own application for Wharton or other top MBA programs, call us at 1-800-925-7737 and speak with an MBA admissions expert today!

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