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UPenn’s Wharton School Sees Uptick in Round One Applicant Volume

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School saw an increase this year in the number of applications submitted by its Round One deadline last week, according to the deputy vice dean for admissions, financial aid and career management. “If you believe that application volume is an indicator of the relevance of an MBA program, then I am pleased to announce that our Round One numbers are up,” wrote Deputy Vice Dean Maryellen Lamb in a post to the Wharton MBA Admissions blog yesterday. She did not disclose how much Round One application volume increased.

Lamb’s comment referred to a Wall Street Journal article last week that questioned whether four years of declining application volume to the Philadelphia school might be an indicator that it had fallen from its long-held position as one of the most elite MBA programs in the world. Wharton’s Director of Admissions Ankur Kumar also announced last week that she was leaving her position to pursue other opportunities effective October 4th. Lamb, who was promoted earlier this year from her position as director of MBA Career Management to the role of deputy vice dean overseeing admissions, financial aid and career management, will lead the admissions department following Kumar’s departure.

Beyond announcing the uptick in Round One application volume, Lamb devoted her post yesterday to providing an explanation of Wharton’s Team-Based Discussion (TBD), a new interview method the school launched last year.

“Our goal was to give our potential students an opportunity to show us who they are – how they think, lead, communicate and interact,” she wrote. “At the same time, we wanted our applicants to experience who we are – a highly collaborative culture that cultivates persuasive rather than positional leadership.”

Acknowledging that many of last year’s prospective applicants approached the new interview format with trepidation, Lamb noted that the pilot went well and that many participants reported that they enjoyed it. She went on to outline the logistics of the newest component of Wharton’s application process for this year’s applicants.

Lamb explained in her post that the Team-Based Discussion will be by invitation only, like Wharton’s one-on-one interview, and will be required to complete the admissions process. Five to six applicants will take part in each TBD, with the composition of the groups determined by the timing of when individual applicants sign up. “There will be no ‘crafting’ done on our end,” Lamb noted.

Applicants who are invited to take part in the TBD will receive a prompt for the discussion prior to the interview. Lamb and her team recommend that applicants, with this prompt, devote about an hour of advance preparation for the exercise.

The admissions process will still include a short one-on-one “individual conversation with an Admissions team member,” Lamb wrote. These short individual interviews will follow an applicant’s TBD exercise.

As in last year’s pilot, Wharton will conduct the majority of the TBD interviews on campus, with second-year Admissions Fellows leading the exercises, although some TBDs in each application round will also be conducted by admissions officers in select cities around the world. “On- and off-campus Team-Based Discussions will be conducted in the same way and considered equally,” Lamb noted. “There is no ‘advantage’ in choosing either option,” she added.

Learn more about Wharton’s Team-Based Discussion interviews.