The dreaded team-based discussion. At Wharton, interviews are conducted by invitation only and are a required component of the application. Wharton will again use the innovative, if somewhat controversial and not universally loved, team-based discussion model first launched in the 2012–13 application year. Instead of an in-depth, one-on-one interview with an admissions officer, student, or alumni interviewer, groups of five to six candidates will engage in a discussion together. On-campus discussions will typically be conducted by Admissions Fellows, a group of second-year MBA students. Discussions in hub cities will typically be moderated by members of the admissions committee.
Who is invited? Roughly speaking, approximately 40% of all Wharton applicants will be invited for a team-based discussion and about half of those will be offered admission. The team-based discussion will be required for admission in almost all cases. Dual-degree or specialty applicants (Lauder, Health Care Management, etc.) are required to complete a separate interview.
Where should I interview? The majority of discussions will be held on campus, but admissions officers will travel to select cities globally as well. Wharton goes out of its way to remind applicants that there is no advantage to attending a discussion on campus or off campus, but it encourages applicants to visit campus so they can attend classes, have lunch with current students, take a campus tour, and attend an information session. We at Veritas Prep also encourage candidates to visit the campus if they have the means to do so.
How does it work? The purpose of the team-based discussion is to replicate the experience of working on teams of peers, similar to those you will be working with as a student. The discussion will have a prompt, such as a real-world business scenario, and a purpose. Members of the team will work together toward a tangible outcome. The admissions committee is looking for how you “think, lead, communicate and interact.”
Discussion topics tended to center around Wharton’s three pillars of Innovation, Social Impact, and Global Education. You’ll receive them ahead of time, but they recommend not over-preparing. You want to be ready, but not overly rehearsed. Last year, the prompt remained consistent in each round but evolved somewhat between rounds. After the team-based discussion, applicants have a brief, 10- to 15-minute discussion with a student or admissions officer. This meeting serves both as a de-brief (popular questions run along the lines of “What did you think of the exercise?” and “How would you assess your performance?”) and an opportunity to ask questions about the school.
Play nice. Applicants may be tempted to view the team-based discussion as a competition with the other members of the group. If you have a fairly aggressive personality or tend to be long-winded, we caution you not to dominate the discussion. This is an evaluation not only of your critical-thinking skills, but also of your collaboration and teamwork abilities. One way to show leadership but not dominate a discussion is to ask insightful questions that the group may want to consider and to help draw the group to consensus.
That said, Wharton is looking for future leaders, so if you tend to be shy or hesitant to speak up, you may want to make an extra effort to contribute to the discussion when you have a relevant thought or idea, or to draw out others. Don’t be afraid to break out of your shell! Remember: This is a bit of an awkward situation for everyone involved, so the other members of your group are going to be just as nervous as you are. Although many applicants dread this interview beforehand, afterward they report that they actually enjoyed it!