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With $10 Million Alumni Gift, Wharton Enters Deferred-Admission MBA Game

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Undergraduates at the University of Pennsylvania will now have a unique opportunity to gain admission to the Wharton School MBA program as seniors in college thanks to a new program funded by a $10 million alumni gift, the Wharton School announced today. Named for Wharton alums and benefactors Ken Moelis and his wife, Julie Taffet Moelis, the new Moelis Advance Access Program is similar to the deferred-admission MBA program at Harvard Business School (HBS), which admits high-potential college students and reserves a place for them in a future MBA class pending successful completion of required work experience.

deferred-admission MBA
Ken and Julie Moelis

In addition to giving Penn undergrads a jump start on the highly competitive MBA admissions process, the program will also provide support in the form of financial aid and a strong pre-MBA community for participants. Ultimately, Wharton plans to expand the program to include promising college applicants from other leading undergraduate institutions around the country and the world.

“We strive to adapt and continue to draw the best and the brightest to Wharton, preparing them to become leaders and trendsetters in today’s rapidly changing environment,” Wharton Dean Geoffrey Garrett said in a statement announcing the new program. “Ken and Julie are helping us do just that—reimagining the Wharton Submatriculation Program so that it provides a new route to the Wharton MBA for outstanding undergraduates from all academic backgrounds, one that nurtures exploration, strategic risk-taking, and discovery, and enables our students to use their business education to change the world.”

The ”Submatriculation Program” Garrett references is an existing program in which students complete their Wharton BS/MBA in five years—and from which Ken Moelis is a graduate. “In my personal experience as a submatric student, and now as CEO of a firm that recruits top MBAs from across the country, it is clear that ambitious students with unique aspirations do not always benefit from the one-size-fits-all track for MBAs,” Mr. Moelis said in a statement.

Mr. Moelis earned his undergraduate degree in 1980 and his MBA in 1981 and later founded global investment bank Moelis & Company, where he serves as chairman and CEO. Mrs. Moelis is also a Wharton graduate, having earned her BA in 1981. “Julie and I are excited to unlock the potential of these students—to help them consider an expanded view of the fields that need their leadership and gain valuable, practical experience after completing their undergraduate degree and before starting their MBA.” The couple are also proud Wharton parents, the school reports.

Thanks to the Moelis’s generous gift, participants in the preexisting Submatriculation Program will now share the title of Moelis Fellows with participants in this newly created program. That said, the Moelis Advance Access Program is distinct from the Submatriculation Program in several ways.

How It Works
The new program is open to all Penn seniors beginning with the Class of 2018, including undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences, School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Nursing, the Wharton School and all coordinated dual-degree programs, with applications due starting in March 2018 as part of Round 3 of the MBA admissions cycle. Those who are admitted will then enter the workforce for two to four years before returning to Wharton for graduate school. In this way, the program shares several similarities with HBS’s 2+2 Program.

While obtaining work experience in any number of fields, Wharton Moelis Fellows will also benefit from being part of a community of other fellows—their future classmates—who will take part in professional development, mentoring opportunities and social events. And there is a financial component as well. Moelis Fellows will also be considered for a $10,000 fellowship each year during the two-year full-time MBA program in additional to other financial aid awards.

The application process for the Moelis Advance Access Program is very similar to the regular Wharton MBA application process with a few exceptions. The application fee is lower ($100 compared to $265), Moelis Fellows need to indicate full-time job offers as part of their resume, letters of recommendation can come from professors as well as employers or supervisors, and candidates will take part in an interview with the director of the Moelis program. The required deposit for enrollment will also be split, with half due at the time of enrollment and half due upon matriculation. Just as regular MBA applicants do, Moelis Advance Access applicants will need to submit official schools transcripts, GRE or GMAT scores, two essays and take part in the signature Wharton Team-Based Discussion (TBD) exercise.

deferred-admission MBA
Wharton, for its part, hopes the introduction of the new program will help Wharton attract and retain even more of the talent that exists already within the university community. “Increasing access to a Penn education is a pillar of the Penn Compact 2020, and I am so grateful to Ken and Julie for creating innovative ways to expand educational opportunity through their amazing commitment,” said Penn President Amy Gutmann in a statement. “Ken and Julie are encouraging students to think early about their graduate degree, venture into diverse fields after graduation, and bring these robust, interdisciplinary experiences to their Wharton MBA journey.”

Learn more about the new Ken Moelis and Julie Taffet Moelis Advance Access Program.