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MBA Admissions Interview Primer: Group Interviews

In this, our third installment of our interview series, we’ll take a closer look at an interview permutation—the team-based discussion. You can view the first two parts of this interview series here: open versus invitation-only interviews and blind interviews versus non-blind interviews.

What Is the Team-Based Discussion at Wharton?

Several years ago, the admissions office at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School partnered with the Wharton Innovation group to launch a new evaluation method, the team-based discussion (TBD). As its name suggests, as part of the TBD, applicants are placed into a group with five to six other applicants for an interactive discussion about real-life business scenarios, designed to reveal to the Admissions Committee how each applicant approaches and analyzes specific situations.

“Our hope is that this will give applicants a glimpse into Wharton’s group learning dynamic, which is central to our program,” Karl T. Ulrich, then vice dean of innovation at Wharton, said about the TBD when it launched as part of the 2012-13 application season. “We believe that this type of assessment also serves as a tool to take prospective students ‘off the page’ and allows us to see firsthand the ways in which they can contribute to our community of diverse learners and leaders,” he continued.

The way teams of applicants are assembled is simply a function of who signs up when. Each participant will receive a prompt for the TBD in advance, and Wharton recommends spending about an hour in advance preparing for the discussion.

The majority of TBD interviews will be held on Wharton’s Philadelphia campus and conducted by Admissions Fellows, a select group of second-year MBA students. But TBDs will also be held in various cities around the world as part of each round. These sessions will be conducted by admissions officers. “On- and off-campus Team-Based Discussions will be conducted in the same way and considered equally,” Wharton’s website states. “There is no ‘advantage’ in choosing either option.”

Here’s the prompt applicants received in the 2022-23 application season:

“Wharton’s commitment to global engagement prepares MBA students for any challenge in the international business environment. As of the 2022 school year, all global travel at Wharton is back to normal operations. Wharton MBAs will once again have the opportunity to participate in a Global Immersion Program (GIP), a credit-bearing elective course, which is designed to provide a high-level survey of the economic, cultural, and geo-political drivers behind regions integral to the global economy.

GIP courses consist of three components: on-campus study sessions, international travel, and a final deliverable. By attending faculty lectures and traveling abroad to meet with local business leaders, government officials, and Wharton alumni, students have the opportunity to learn from a tremendous group of professionals while also immersing themselves in another culture and building strong relationships with their GIP cohort.
For the purpose of this discussion, you’ve been invited to be part of a team of students tasked with designing a new GIP. As a team, determine the following course requirements while clearly articulating your course’s desired outcomes:

  • a region of study for your GIP
  • a recommendation for company and/or government meetings
  • a recommendation for a cultural event or immersion to participate in while traveling
  • a recommendation for the final deliverable/assignment that students will complete after the GIP”

So, what’s the best way to approach the TBD, you ask? We consulted our resident expert, Alex Brown, who worked in admissions at Wharton for several years. Here’s his take:

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