How to get into the Wharton School of Business MBA Program?

Putting a number to the applicants that wish for a Wharton MBA degree every year is quite difficult. While the applicant who actually applies to the school is quantitative, there are numerous other who get deterred by the competition and crush their own dreams before even applying.

But why? Why would an applicant not take the chance to possibly get into one of the best business schools in the world? Why is the Wharton MBA program so elite that some applicants decide they aren’t good enough before even getting their profiles evaluated by the school’s admission committee?

Because Indian students are led to believe that an A+ academic performance is the only thing good enough to get them into the top schools in any field. But in the case of the Wharton School’s MBA program, that statement might not be the whole truth (We’ll discuss this later in the blog).

The Wharton School is the business school under the University of Pennsylvania (popularly known as UPenn). As if the tag of being an Ivy League business school wasn’t elite enough, The Wharton School is also part of the M7 business schools.

The M7 business schools is a group of 7 of the most elite business schools in the world. While these schools don’t have an official collaborative program, they do collaborate on their knowledge. Titleholders from these schools, Dean, Vice Dean, etc., meet in order to share their experiences and knowledge very year. Thus, promising the best educational convention from the top business schools to the students at each of the 7 schools.

Wharton School of Business ranking

Source Ranking 2019
Financial Times #1
US News #1
Bloomberg Businessweek #6
Forbes #5
Economist #5
Business Insider #3

Returning to our original discussion of the dilemma of whether to apply to The Wharton School’s MBA program or not, let’s dig a little deeper into the program itself.

Type of Wharton MBA Programs

While most business schools have a few MBA programs, like full-time two-year MBA, Executive MBA, or Online MBA, Wharton has a plethora of MBA programs available for applicants. With programs ranging from Wharton degree programs and joint degree programs with other University of Pennsylvania institutes, Wharton has it all. Here are the options that Wharton gives to its applicants who wish to pursue an MBA.

MBA Program

The MBA Program at Wharton is a 20-month full-time program including a recommended 3-month summer-internship. The program is offered at Wharton’s Philadelphia campus, with the students being allowed to apply for a semester at the San Francisco campus.

MBA Program for Executives (EMBA)

The Executive MBA Program at Wharton, or the EMBA Program, is available to students at both, the Philadelphia and San Francisco campuses. This is a weekend MBA program provided by Wharton which promises the same degree as the full-time MBA program.

The biggest difference between the two is that the students of the EMBA program are allowed to work during the week, and attend classes on the weekend.

Other joint MBA degrees that Wharton provides are:

  1. Joseph H. Lauder Institute of Management and International Studies (MBA/MA)
  2. Francis J. & Wm. Polk Carey JD/MBA Program (JD/MBA)
  3. Wharton/School of Advanced International Studies (MBA/MA)
  4. Wharton/Engineering (MBA/SEAS)
  5. Wharton/Kennedy School of Government (MBA/MPA, MBA/MPA/ID, MBA/MPP)

Cost of a Warton MBA

The main MBA programs that we will be focusing on for the purpose of this blog are the MBA Program and the Executive MBA Program at Wharton since most others are joint degrees.

The price tag that a Wharton education comes with, as you may have guessed it, is high.

Program Tuition (including housing, meals, and books and supplies)
MBA Program $105,542 (1st year)
Executive MBA Program $105,450 (1st year)

While the EMBA program at Wharton costs the same for both the years, the MBA Program’s cost fluctuates. The number provided here is an estimate given by The Wharton School itself.

The fee of the MBA program includes the entire cost of housing, meals, and books and supplies for the entire year. The EMBA, on the other hand, covers the housing, meals, and a chunk of the books and supplies required for the program.

The respite that the school provides from the high fee, is the numerous fellowships and financial aid options. Top business schools like Wharton do not focus on their student population as a means of income. They rely highly on grants, donations, and gifts from their alumni network and other influential members of their community.

Thus, students are given the options of fellowships like:

  1. Joseph Wharton Fellowships
  2. Howard E. Mitchell Fellowships
  3. Forté Fellowships
  4. Romba Fellowships
  5. Social Impact Fellowships
  6. Corporate and Foundation Fellowships
  7. Wharton Fellowships for Current Students

To make the applicants’ lives easier, the business school considers all applicants for the various fellowships automatically. When you apply to Wharton, your application is, by default, reviewed for the fellowships, and the decision of the Wharton MBA Financial Aids office is considered binding, i.e. cannot be brought up for a second reviewing.

The school offers complete support to students who are making decisions regarding their tuition. The Wharton Financial Aids office also helps students in understanding the details of any loans that they take out, in addition to the scholarships.

For the EMBA program at Wharton, Sponsorship by the student’s current firm is also encouraged.

Students who have paid their way through Wharton by the help of scholarships and loans, pretty much every student, highly recommend leveraging the resources that the school’s Financial Aids Office provides.

Wharton Class Profile

To know what it takes to get into Wharton, or any other business school for that matter, the best tool that an applicant has is the class profile. Looking at what the average Wharton MBA student looks like on paper, could definitely give an applicant a good idea of what their profile should closely resemble.

Criteria MBA Program EMBA
Class Size 856 236
GMAT Score 732 (mean) 700 (median)
Average Age 28 36
Work Experience 5 years (mean) 12 years (average)
Average GPA 3.6 NA
Sponsorship from Employer NA 33%

However, don’t get me wrong. A class profile is only a good look at the averages. For a school like Wharton, playing on the averages can only get you so far. There is a lot of meets that your profile will be required to have other a competitive GMAT score or a few years of work experience.

Before we get into details about those, let’s look at a crucial reason why one should want to go to Wharton, the career boost.

Salaries post a Wharton MBA

Although an increase in your pay scale isn’t the only mark of a career boost, it is a solid representation for the same.

The biggest role that a school plays in your career isn’t the brand name, as most people would think. It is the job support that a school provides a fresh graduate. Wharton’s MBA Career Management team is known for its success in creating job and internship opportunities for students.

From fortune 500 companies to social and non-profit organizations, more than 650+ recruiters offer Wharton MBAs jobs every year.

The MBA Career Management Team at Wharton provides the students with guidance and support for both their summer internship and their first post-MBA job.

Students in the EMBA program at Wharton are, however, expected to find their own opportunities. They can still use the MBA Career Management Team’s guidance and resources, but, only eligible students are given the chance to participate in on-campus recruitment along with the Full-time MBA program class.

Take a look at the average starting salaries of Wharton graduates.

Program Starting Salary Median (p.a.)
MBA Program $125,000
EMBA $179,000

While a Wharton education comes with a hefty price tag, taking into consideration the fellowship options, the average starting salaries of Wharton graduates even out the playing field.

Wharton MBA application process

The application process at Wharton is similar to what you must have gone through or read for most other business schools. However, the process of applying to the full-time MBA program at Wharton and the EMBA program is vastly different from one another.

Deadlines

Unlike most schools, that offer a fall and a spring intake, Wharton offers three rounds of application for its full-time MBA program. The deadline for the first round is mostly in September, while round two and three have deadlines in January and April respectively.

For the EMBA program, only two rounds of applications are provided with deadlines in December for round 1 and February for round 2.

Application Process

Since the full-time MBA program and the EMBA program applications differ, let’s look at a table to better understand the application process.

The application consists of a recommendations form. The form asks two questions. The recommendations must be provided by two different recommenders that have directly supervised the applicant’s work. The form consists of two parts. The first part requires the recommenders to chose three out of the given 10 qualities, that best describe the candidate. The second part consists of two questions: Question 1: Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success in the Wharton MBA classroom. (300 words)
Step Full-time MBA Program EMBA
Online application This step is the starting of your online application. The school requires students to fill in details about their background like your personal details (name, address, etc.), educational background and professional experience. Similar to the full-time MBA, the EMBA application starts with filling out the personal details of the applicant. An applicant is notified of any changes to the application process without even completing the initial application.
Phone chat Phone chats aren’t available to the full-time MBA applicants. EMBA applicants are encouraged to schedule phone chats while filling out their application, to ask the admissions committee any pressing questions regarding the application process or the interview scheduling process.
Letters of recommendation Question 2: Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success throughout their career. (300 words) Applicants must submit two online recommendations.
Essays Applicants are required to answer two essay questions: Question 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words) Question 2: Describe an impactful experience or accomplishment that is not reflected elsewhere in your application. How will you use what you learned through that experience to contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words) The online application consists of three application questions that the applicant must answer.
GMAT/GRE The applicants must self-report a GMAT score that is no more than 5 years old on the application deadline date. The applicants must self-report a GMAT score that is no more than 5 years old on the application deadline date.
Official transcripts Applicants are required to provide their official transcripts only once they have been sent an offer of admission. Official transcripts must be mailed before submitting the application.
Sponsorship letter Not required. The applicant must submit a sponsorship letter by their current employer, acknowledging that they are in the know of the application and the possible two-year-long MBA program.
Application fee $265 $180
Interview The interview is strictly dependent on an invitation from the school. The interview is scheduled by the applicant themselves.

How to make a perfect Wharton MBA profile

There is no precise recipe for a successful Wharton MBA profile. Even though we have an average GMAT score and work experience for the incoming class of Wharton, the combination of the two cannot promise you a guaranteed admit at the school’s MBA program.

If a Wharton admissions committee member took a pen and marked random country on a globe, they will still be able to find a 700 GMAT score holder or someone with a 6-year work experience, who would drop everything to enroll into the school’s MBA program. But they still end up admitting students with no work experience or a 500 GMAT score. Ever wonder why?

The admissions committee at Wharton is one that truly applies the ‘wholesome student’ concept to its application process. They aren’t aiming at the perfect academic candidate. They often pick profiles that have a well-rounded aspect.

Here are a few things that admissions committee members have told applicants time and again in regards to what a good Wharton MBA profile looks like.

  1. Clarity of goals

    Applicants are often told about how an interesting candidate can win over an admissions committee even with a couple drawbacks in their profile. While that is true, the drawbacks should be a significant part of your application.

    Your goals, whether long-term or short-term, are seen as true motivators for you to do well during and post MBA, thus adding to the goodwill of the school.

    Wharton admissions committee members have been known to reject applicants that had exceptional profiles but lacked clarity in regard to their post-MBA goals.

    Figuring out your post-MBA goals isn’t an easy task. Make sure you don’t select a goal just to rush through your application. Your goal should be driven by personal experiences. The admissions committee can easily determine which post-MBA goal was written to complete the application, and which one was born through deep introspection.

  2. Own your narrative

    Every blog about MBA admissions ever can tell you how important your narrative throughout your essays is. Storytelling is an important aspect of your MBA application.

    Look at it as your moment to introduce yourself. The admissions committee members have no clue about who you are. What you tell them about yourself is what will help them decide whether you’re fit for Wharton’s MBA program or not.

    They are looking for someone who can add value to their course, maybe bring in different experiences to broaden the exposure that the rest of the class gets.

    Don’t try to curate an essay for the school. Try to write an authentic account of what your life experiences have been and how they affect your decisions. When you read your essay, you should feel proud of the person you have become. If your story can’t even move you, it will hardly make an impact on an admissions committee member.

    Don’t compare notes

    One can get into the habit of frequenting forums and comparing their profiles with other applicants. Or even worse, getting their profile evaluated by people on these forums.

    Don’t do this!

    No one can tell you for sure what a Wharton profile looks like. All you need to do is try to make the best possible profile that you can make. Comparing your profile with others will only draw you to edit your profile to fit a certain mold. The one thing that admissions committee members seem to dislike most is a profile created just for the school.

    They do not want to see an essay that you think they want. They want to know the possible Wharton student.

    In the incoming class of the Wharton MBA program 2020, a student with a GMAT score of 500 was accepted. Had this student gone to an online forum for advice, no one would have suggested applying to Wharton.

    So rather than taking unprofessional help from online forums, focus on your own story, and how to best present it on paper.

  3. A high quant score

    While GMAT scores and GPAs won’t take you all the way to the finish line, they will help you quite a bit. An MBA is a Quant based course in many ways.

    So, while other aspects of your profile might be important, having a high GMAT or GPA, especially in the Quant section, could sway the decision in your favor.

  4. Fill in the blanks

    Every applicant starts with gaps in their profiles. So, have gaps in academics, others have them in extra-curricular.

    No matter which area you have a gap in, try to fill it before applying to Wharton. The competition at Wharton is much more than you would expect. The student pool you are competing with has an average of 700 GMAT score and has probably participated at national level sports events.

    Keeping that in mind, unless you have climbed Mt. Everest at 14 years old, or won an Olympic gold medal, you should work on filling in the blank spaces, if any, in your MBA profile for Wharton.

    For example, if you have a low GPA, try taking up courses, or certifications that can prove your quant prowess, in addition to scoring a high GMAT score.

  5. Know why Wharton is a good fit for you

    It’s not just about answering the essay question, ‘What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA?’. You must know exactly why Wharton is important to your career and personal growth.

    Your research shouldn’t be limited to your computer screens and the Google tab. Wharton has much more than just it’s brand name to offer. This is why I suggest pre-MBA networking.

    Reach out to Warton alumni or current students and network hard.

    Once you have the reason why Wharton is a good fit for you, you will automatically have the answer to how Wharton will help you achieve your career goals, and thus a stronger case to why you should be accepted to the school’s MBA Program.

  6. Excel at something outside of academics

    Take this point literally. Pick up any activity you like and become the best at it.

    A good MBA profile will always have a few skills, leadership, team-work, problem-solving, quick thinking, ethical responsibility, and passion. While you can demonstrate most of these skills through your work experience, passion can be a difficult trait to put down on paper.

    Apart from a good student, and employee, who are you? The answer to this question is also a good way to make your profile more wholistic.

    Are you a sportsman, a traveler, a social media influencer, a poet, or anything else that you wish to be when you have time away from work and other responsibilities?

    Having a passion outside of your career will portray you as a balanced candidate.