The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is now interviewing applicants for the Class of 2023. As many of our readers know, Wharton’s interview process centers on a ‘team-based discussion’ (TBD), during which a small group of 5-6 prospective students are brought together to present their thoughts on an assignment they have been given prior to the interview. The team must work together to share ideas and form consensus around the best path forward.
This year’s prompt for the Team Based Discussion is as follows:
“Creating an engaged, supportive alumni network is crucial to an institution’s success. With over 99,000 Wharton graduates worldwide, alumni engagement is an important part of the lifelong Wharton journey. The Wharton Alumni Relations team creates opportunities and resources to enrich the lives of alumni and strengthen their relationship with their alma mater. The needs and expectations of alumni continue to evolve, especially with young MBA alumni. Wharton’s young alumni have unique needs and desires, such as staying connected to each other while they shift into their post-MBA lives, following Wharton updates among streams of other emails and media, considering opportunities to give back both in time and philanthropy, and developing an awareness of the numerous benefits available to them as new alumni.
For the purpose of this discussion, you and a few of your classmates have been invited by Wharton Alumni Relations to be part of a team tasked with creating a new young alumni engagement program. As a team, identify the resources and human capital you will need to create the program, devise a campaign strategy to advertise and promote the program to the global young alumni base, and choose at least two key performance indicators to measure the program’s success.”
As usual, the TBD requires applicants to do their homework and show up at their session with some tangible thoughts on how to proceed. One way to approach this year’s prompt would be to think of it in several steps:
Step 1: Background & Context
Learn all you can about current alumni programs at Wharton. It might also be helpful to conduct a competitive analysis, and to look at what Harvard, Stanford, and other leading programs are doing with their young alumni.
Step 2: Research
Consider how you might design a research project to better understand what current students might seek in a new young alumni program. Use the clues presented in the prompt (about what young alums look for) to guide this research.
Step 3: Design
Based on the information gathered in the first two steps, do some brainstorming to come up with possible features of the alumni program. Develop some ideas for advertising and promotion of the program and features.
Step 4: Capital & Personnel
Consider what you might need in terms of capital and personnel; what does the team that can bring the young alumni program to life need?
Step 5: Measure
How might you measure success? What are your KPIs? Number of alumni engaged? Number of engagements per alum? Changes in alumni giving?
Clear Admit’s Alex Brown had the following thoughts on this year’s prompt:
“This type of setup is quite typical for Wharton’s Team-based discussion. It forces the candidate to do a deep dive into an aspect of the Wharton experience, which presumably helps firm up their Wharton aspirations. It also can help Wharton explore new ideas for its alumni programs; it’s a great idea for the school to use this forum as an additional source of ideas.”
As one might expect, the TBDs are taking place 100% virtually this year, but now that the world is many months into a pandemic, an online team discussion shouldn’t be uncharted territory for most applicants.
Of course, beyond the specifics of this year’s TBD prompt, it is important to understand the basic mechanics of the TBD and to know how you might handle the different sorts of team members you may encounter (from the talkers to the timid). Be sure to listen to our podcast episode on the Team-Based Discussion where we break down the format and advise on how to perform well. Those preparing for the interview should also check out Clear Admit’s other resources, including tips from actual interviewees we’ve curated from our Interview Archive.