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How to Get into the Wharton MBA Program

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The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania is consistently at the top of best business school rankings. Its prestigious MBA program is notoriously competitive, with acceptance rates between 18 and 21 percent. An MBA from Wharton represents leadership skills, the ability to collaborate, intellectual curiosity, and a global business mindset to potential employers and clients. If those are your assets and you want an MBA that promises an elite business career, you need to know how to get into the Wharton MBA program.

What is Wharton Looking for in an MBA Applicant?

Wharton is committed to enrolling a diverse class from various backgrounds and is one of the roughly 17 business schools that have achieved gender parity as of 2022. Just over a third of the Class of 2024 majored in the humanities, and another third have STEM degrees. With a rigorous academic curriculum, applicants must demonstrate they can compete. The average undergraduate GPA is 3.6, and students enter the MBA program with an average of five years professional experience. The average GRE scores for the Class of 2024 are 162 on the Verbal and 162 on the Quantitative, and the average GMAT score is 733. 

Beyond the numbers, Wharton applicants must have:

  • A global perspective and the desire to work in the international marketplace
  • Leadership potential
  • Effective communication
  • Critical thinking skills
  • Ability to collaborate

It’s important to note that Wharton’s location in Philadelphia at The University of Pennsylvania presents a unique opportunity for its students. “Philadelphia is a great place to study; it’s got all the benefits of a big city, but the MBA program is incredibly close-knit,” says Clear Admit Co-founder Graham Richmond. “The admissions team are often pleasantly surprised to see candidates who have done their homework and are genuinely excited to come to Philadelphia and UPenn.”

How to get into the Wharton MBA Program

In the 2021-2022 admissions season, 6,319 individuals applied to The Wharton School, with a final enrolled class of 877 in the fall of 2022. If you have what it takes professionally and academically, you want to ensure your application stands out. Here is what applicants need to keep in mind to increase their chances of successfully getting into the Wharton MBA program: 

1. Nail Down the Basics

As with any top MBA program, it’s crucial to thoroughly research Wharton’s curriculum, resources, and culture to understand what sets it apart. Familiarize yourself with Wharton’s courses, professors, clubs, and other opportunities, and demonstrate your genuine interest in the program in your application. Review and assess your qualifications, find weaknesses, and focus on improving those areas. You may need to retake exams if your scores aren’t in the school’s range and polish your resume or CV to highlight your professional accomplishments and leadership experience. 

2. Understand Wharton’s Admissions Approach

Wharton’s admissions team evaluates candidates to admit them, not reject them. “Wharton’s admissions readers are instructed by director Blair Mannix to ‘read to admit.’ They are looking for reasons to have you join them!” Explains Richmond. “Accentuate the positive and the elements of your profile that stand out.” Listen to Blair Mannix on the Clear Admit podcast to learn all about this philosophy

Your application should reflect the criteria that Wharton is looking for. Highlight unique experiences from your career, extracurricular activities, and background that help broaden the perspective in the classroom. 

3. Develop Rich and Informative Essays

Wharton’s first essay question is, “How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals?” Their second essay is, “How do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community?” This is your opportunity to show you’re a good fit for the MBA program. Be authentic, articulate your long-term and short-term career goals, and explain how Wharton can help you achieve them. Show you’ve done your homework and know about the program and its resources.

Your essays tell your story, describe your background, and how your experiences have shaped you. They should also show the admissions team your desire to contribute to the Wharton community and what you bring to the table. 

4. Choose the Right Recommenders 

Wharton does not historically use the GMAC Common Letter of Recommendation. Recommenders are asked to appraise the applicant’s personality by selecting from two lists of traits, up to four total, that “best represent the candidate.” Two free-form questions ask the recommender to illustrate why they believe the applicant will succeed in the Wharton MBA classroom and throughout their career. 

These are personal, subjective questions, so the recommenders you choose must know you well enough to speak to your talent, potential, and accomplishments. They should be able to recount specific anecdotes that reveal who you are as a person and the qualities of leadership, collaboration, and problem-solving the school looks for in candidates.  

5. Prepare for the Team-Based Discussion

Wharton’s unique interview process includes a team-based discussion (TBD). Candidates receive a prompt (this could be a business problem or current event) several weeks in advance and must prepare a one-minute presentation. On the interview day, you’re paired with up to five other candidates to make your presentations while the moderator observes. Your group will discuss the problem together before one member presents the agreed-upon solution. After the group discussion, you have a brief individual session with an admissions officer. 

Why this instead of an interview? Wharton’s TBD is designed to evaluate candidates without bias. Unlike traditional one-on-one interviews, there is no opportunity to bond with the interviewer over common experiences like your upbringing or hometown, enabling highly qualified candidates to shine. The TBD also assesses your ability to work effectively in a team and your communication and presentation skills. 

This is a timed exercise, so time management is crucial. You’ll want to practice with friends or colleagues to get comfortable with the format. Simulate the interview process and group setting, soliciting feedback from others to improve your performance.

“The TBD is probably the hardest interview experience you will face as an applicant, so be ready for it,” says Richmond. Clear Admit covered the TBD in a recent podcast, and you can listen to that episode here

The secret of how to get into the Wharton MBA program rests with your ability to exceed expectations of what admissions wants to see in a candidate. Get to know Wharton before Wharton gets to know you, understand what the program requires, and show that you are ready to deliver. 

Christina Griffith
Christina Griffith is a writer and editor based in Philadelphia. She specializes in covering education, science, and history, and has experience in research and interviews, magazine content, and web content writing.