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Fridays from the Frontline: Why I Chose Wharton

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Decisions, decisions. Some lucky applicants have been wrestling with decisions over the past many weeks, with acceptances to multiple MBA programs giving them tough choices to make. Along the way, we’ve seen an uptick in submissions to MBA DecisionWire, giving us some insight into where candidates have decided to go based on where they were admitted.

One applicant, Preston Landers, had three top schools to select from when all was said and done. Landers wrote a post for Fridays from the Frontline earlier in the application process, and we circled back to see if he would contribute again about his decision-making process. He delivered.

Wharton won out for Landers—but against some steep odds and not necessarily for the reasons most think of when they think of the Philadelphia school famed for finance. To learn why, read on.

Why I Chose Wharton

by Preston Landers

Six months ago, I wouldn’t have chosen Wharton. I almost didn’t even apply. I’m interested in tech, not finance. I’m not particularly swayed by prestige. And I want classmates that are cool, not cold. Wharton just didn’t seem like a great fit.

Since my admittance to Wharton in December, however, my opinion of the school has changed. Welcome Weekend, young alumni events in my home city and countless meetups with fellow admits revealed the school’s true strengths and shattered my first impressions. In this update to my previous Clear Admit blog post, I’ll explain why I chose Wharton.

The Community

When I arrived at Wharton’s Huntsman Hall for Welcome Weekend, I was greeted with an eager handshake from Kembrel Jones, Wharton’s dean of student life. Nicknamed “the Dean of Happiness,” Kembrel has a southern accent and a permanent smile—and he seems almost impossibly excited about Wharton. At first I thought it was an act. Is this dude for real? But over the course of the weekend, I saw the same excitement from Wharton students. These people really love it here. And Kembrel really means it when he calls Wharton his home.

I attribute the community’s collective satisfaction to a few factors. The large class size increases the likelihood that each student will find companions with similar interests. Campus traditions such as Fight Night (an amateur boxing event between Wharton and Penn Law students), Wharton Pub (the weekly gathering in Center City for unlimited “motivational beverages”) and Iron Prof (a student-judged competition among Wharton professors) build a campus-wide comradery. Even the group interview format creates shared experiences that build deeper connections within the community. There’s a lot to love at Wharton, and students take full advantage.

I felt a similar appreciation for the Wharton community away from campus. At a Wharton alumni event in Boston, I was pleasantly surprised by the level of alumni engagement. Similarly, a group of Wharton admits in Boston have met up every three weeks or so since our admittance. Pot-luck dinners, game nights, a party to watch a Beyonce premiere—all events to curb our appetite before Pre-term at Wharton. We already feel like part of the community.

why I chose whartonThe Resources to Meet My Goals

I want to be a product manager for a consumer tech company, so Wharton wasn’t the obvious choice. How will Wharton, the finance powerhouse, help me meet my goals?

First, the curriculum. Today’s product managers must make evidence-based decisions. The same competencies that have made Wharton the premiere finance destination—namely the school’s rigor with regard to data and analytics—will prepare me to succeed as a product manager. As intuition-based product management falls out of favor, Wharton’s positioning in tech will continue to improve. Conversely, I can flex my creative skills at Wharton, too. Professors like Jonah Berger are leading the way toward a nuanced understanding of consumer behavior (and I’m a fan of his book, Contagious: Why Things Catch On). I will also take a couple classes at Penn’s School of Design.

Second, the San Francisco campus. Students can spend their third Wharton semester in San Francisco, where Wharton also offers an Executive MBA. Since I’ll likely intern in San Francisco next summer, I see the San Francisco campus as an opportunity to extend my stay on the West Coast, pursue a second internship in the fall and improve my network in tech. I’m a New Englander at heart, so I like the flexibility that the Semester in San Francisco program offers.

Third, the massive alumni network. Seriously, it’s huge. We’re not just talking MBAs; executive education and undergraduate alumni also contribute to the network. As a result, nearly every company on my wish list has a product manager who is a Wharton alum.

That Feeling I Just Can’t Explain!

My coworker told me not to overthink my MBA decision-making process, and I should have taken his advice. With three schools to choose from, I initially adopted a ‘pros and cons’ approach. The approach ultimately wasted a month of my time and an extra tuition deposit to Kellogg. All the top schools have so much to offer; it’s difficult to estimate the long-term value of one strength versus another.

In the end, I had to trust my gut. Walking down Penn’s Locust Walk, I could picture myself as a student. With each subsequent visit, the picture became clearer. I’m not exactly sure why. I simply felt more at home at Wharton.

At the conclusion of Welcome Weekend, Kembrel Jones gave the closing remarks. Kembrel admitted that Wharton isn’t for everyone, and he invited each of us to attend the school that makes us most comfortable. Then, while summarizing the Wharton culture one last time, Kembrel cried. He literally shed a tear. The Welcome Committee rallied behind him as if each member was moments away from a similar reaction. “Welcome to Wharton!” screamed the group to close out the session. I imagined myself shouting the same words next year.

I’m proud to say my MBA application process is finally over. I couldn’t be more satisfied with the outcome, and I’m tremendously excited for my two years at Wharton. Next stop: Pre-term.

Have you recently decided where you’ll be enrolling in the fall? Be sure to share on MBA DecisionWire!