Admissions at Wharton
What Wharton Is looking For
Wide range of candidates. Because of its sheer size, Wharton has room for applicants from very diverse backgrounds. Although the school is often seen as a “finance school” or “quant school,” its student body has become significantly more diverse in the past few years. As we highlight below, no particular professional background is valued more than another.
Avoid cookie-cutter applications. As with all the top-tier schools, there’s no magic formula for admission to Wharton; rather, they say that “a successful application combines substance, presentation, and good timing. It should tell your own story and make each element of your application as strong as possible.” What does this mean for you? Don’t write what you think they want to hear, because 99% of the time that isn’t actually what they want to hear. In this section, we’ll provide more tips on how you might approach the Wharton application.
Selection criteria. Applicants are evaluated based on their academic profile, professional experience, personal qualities, and overall presentation of their application. We discuss each area in detail below:
Academic profile. We’ve established by this point that Wharton is a quant/analytical school, so they’ll comb through your transcripts, GMAT scores, and work experience to make sure you can handle the rigorous coursework. Courses like calculus and statistics are especially valuable. If these skills won’t be readily apparent from your background, you should take steps to remedy that (extra quant coursework, GMAT tutoring, etc.) prior to applying.
Like many top business schools, Wharton will now accept the GRE in addition to the GMAT. In theory, the two tests should be equivalent in the admissions committee’s eyes; however, if your quant skills are lacking elsewhere, we recommend submitting a GMAT score so that you do not give the impression of “hiding” from quantitative rigor.
Professional experience. Wharton’s admissions website is pretty transparent when it comes to what it’s looking for in professional experience:
The Admissions Committee looks for individuals who exhibit professional maturity. In other words, we evaluate work experience not in terms of years, but the depth and breadth of an individual’s position, his or her contributions to the work environment, and level of responsibility and progression. Wharton looks for diversity in the professional backgrounds of its admitted students just as it does in all other parts of our applicants’ profiles. No one industry is favored over another, and experience in a Fortune 500 company does not have higher value than experience in a small business or public institution.
Personal qualities. Two of the key personal qualities that Wharton (and other business schools) will look for are personal introspection and clarity of thought. Your essays are a great place to show that you’ve spent time to analyze your own strengths and weaknesses, examined your opportunities, and carefully decided that business school is the best path to achieve your unique goals. In particular, the second essay gives you a chance to show the admissions committee what unique qualities or traits you could contribute to your Wharton class. However, don’t neglect the other elements of the application including the online form and your resume to showcase your ability to pay attention to details and highlight the most impactful elements of your profile using very limited space.
Overall presentation. Among the largest faux pas that applicants make are careless errors in their application, resume, or essays. The admissions readers will evaluate whether your application appears to be thrown together at the last minute, or carefully crafted. They pay attention to your tone and attitude not only in the team-based discussion, but also throughout your written submissions. Since current students will read your application, it is helpful to have experienced MBA students, alums, and/or consultants review your essays to ensure they demonstrate your genuine attributes that would be most appreciated by your Wharton classmates.