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Wharton: New Essay, New MBA Admissions Director?

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Late last week, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School revealed its essay questions for the 2018-19 MBA admissions season, including a change to the second prompt. Instead of the prompt it has used for the past several years—in which candidates are asked to describe how they will contribute to the collaborative Wharton community—Essay 2 this year is more specific.

“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?”

Clear Admit will soon release its own comprehensive essay topic analysis, providing insider advice on how to tackle the new twist Wharton added.

Earlier this week, Judith Silverman Hodara, co-founder and director of admissions consulting firm Fortuna, offered her own take on the new Essay 2. She worked in admissions at Wharton for several years before launching Fortuna.

“The timing of Wharton’s essay release is terrific for anyone looking to get a head start now on their applications,” Hodara wrote. “It’s also a signal that Wharton Admissions Director Frank DeVecchis, who has been at his post for several years now, may no longer need a baseline question to gauge applications for the incoming class; no doubt additional essay changes will follow in the coming cycles!”

Um…not so fast.

MBA Admissions Director Frank DeVecchis Leaves Wharton for Merck

Wharton admissions director
Frank DeVecchis, former Wharton director of MBA admissions

Frank DeVecchis stepped in as director of MBA admissions at Wharton in March 2015. A Wharton “insider,” he came to admissions from the Wharton MBA Program Office, where he spent five years leading operations and daily management of the MBA program and advising hundreds of students.

But now, after just three years in the role, an email sent to DeVecchis’ Wharton address returned the following automatic reply: “Effective Friday, May 25, 2018, I am no longer with the Wharton School.” The message went on to suggest that future messages be sent to Blair Mannix, interim director of MBA admissions.

We did reach out to Mannix, as well as to Wharton Deputy Vice Dean, MBA Program Maryellen Reilly, who oversees MBA admissions, financial aid, and career services. We have not, as of this publication, received a response.

Sources close to the admissions office at Wharton told us that DeVecchis left to pursue another opportunity, which his LinkedIn profile today confirms. As of today, he lists his current role as director of university relations, diversity & inclusion at pharmaceutical giant Merck.

Both of DeVecchis’ predecessors were Wharton MBA alumnae. (DeVecchis also holds an advanced degree from Penn, but his is in higher education administration.) Ankur Kumar (MBA ‘07) served as director of MBA admissions and financial aid from 2011 to 2013, and J.J. Cutler (MBA ‘97), held the role in 2009 and 2010, before being promoted to Wharton deputy vice dean. He stayed in that role for a year before leaving for Aramark.

As soon as we learn more about how long Mannix is expected to serve in an interim role or who might take over permanently, we’ll have it for you here.