Nov 19, 2011

Inside Wharton's Admissions Office

This is the first in series of upcoming posts trying to decipher the processes that happens behind the close doors of admissions committee's office when you click that "submit" button. As told by the admissions directors themselves! *While adcom directors response and school information are collected from various internet sources such as clearadmit, Poets & Quants, etc and may be from previous years, the admission process does not change frequently and the information presented should very closely represent the actual process*

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What happens once applications are submitted?

Ankur Kumar, deputy director of MBA admissions at Wharton - To start with, I'd like to say that our evaluation process is very holistic. We ask a lot of information about candidates – we want to know about their academic achievements, the way they think about the world, how they present themselves, their professional development, etc

In terms of the life cycle of an application, it is a very iterative process. Our aim is to get multiple points of view on every applicant. We have six full time admission officers who focus on the full time MBA program. We also have some contract readers, ranging  from half a dozen to a dozen people, who help us as well in the admissions process and many of them are Wharton alums. We do not specialize or focus. What I value is a generalist mentality. Our population is global. They come from all different industries, many of which weren’t even around ten years ago. We all need to understand all of those things. We don’t have a sorting system that puts all the apps from one part of the world to one person.

We read every single file and we don’t have cutoffs. Every file gets its due, gets looked at and evaluated. If you look at our GMAT range on our school website, you will see that there are students who have GMAT in the 500s. There is something special and pretty spectacular about those folks. If you stop reading such applications just because something seems it might not line up, you could miss a real gem. I see every file. I see literally every file that comes through the door. I may not see it the first read, but I will see it before every major decision point is made. It’s a lot of work. That’s why I am paid the big bucks. The benefit of online reading is that you can read from any place in the world. It allows for a lot of flexibility.

From the first reader, applications comes to the admissions committee, at which point we review them and decide whether to grant interviews or not. We do not interview everyone, however, you have to be interviewed to be admitted.  If we decide not to interview some candidate then his or her process with us is done for the admission year.

Those who interview with us have two options - come to campus and meet with one of our second year students or if they aren’t able to do so, we, the admission officers travel around the globe to several hub cities in each region of the world and conduct interviews. Both of these interview kinds are conducted in the same way. After the 30 minute interview, we take the feedback and incorporate it into the applications.

After the interview process, another iterative process happens where multiple people give insights into whether to admit, deny or waitlist an  applicant based on application componets and interview report. We do our best to get to admitted applicants as quickly as we can and our goal is to get to them by phone or even email if we can. Our current students also help. If someone is accepted, we want to give that personal welcome.

During the admissions process, we ask a lot of information on an applicant’s background and history, academics, professional experiences, and career trajectory. We ask for recommendations. We want to know how they spend their time outside of work. We ask about all those different pieces because it is an incredibly holistic process for us. We are trying to understand applicants on paper and then in the interview. There isn’t a weighting structure or a formula we use to get to the answer. It’s all incredibly important. We have evaluative comments on the different aspects of a candidate’s application. There is certainly a calibration scale we use. But again it’s not formulaic. We don’t plug it all into an equation for an answer. 

BizSchoolPrep Comments:

  • Every application is read seriously. No cutoffs. Seriously, even if you have a 200 GMAT and 0.4 GPA!
  • Applications are read twice, at minimum. Hence, do not get worried thinking one person's perspective (who is in a bad mood) will break your application!
  • Your application will not be read by a student member, however, the readers include Wharton alums. They are usually extremely loyal to their school and hence, it is always to keep this fact in perspective while writing your essays. Weak essays, showing not much of homework on the school, may not really work.
  • The application reading process may be a little random so do not try too hard to find a coorelation between the submitted date to the interview invite date with that of your friend.
  • Do not submit an incomplete application. Period.
School Stats -

Wharton School

420 Jon M. Huntsman Hall
3730 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Admissions: 215-898-6183
Apply Online:

Tuition & Fees: $114,488

Median GMAT: 720
GMAT Range (middle 80%): 650-770
Average GPA: 3.50

Acceptance Rate: 19%
Full-Time MBA Enrollment: 1717
International: 37%
Female: 44%
African American: 7%
Asian American: 29%
Hispanic or Latino American: 5%
Mean Age: 28

Median Base Salary: $120,000
Median Signing Bonus: $20,000
Median Other Guaranteed Bonus: $30,000
Percentage of MBAs with Job Offers at Graduation: 88%
Percentage of MBAs with Job Offers Three Months Later: 95%

Where Wharton’s Class of 2011 Went to Work:
Financial Services — 39%
Consulting — 30%
Technology — 8%
Consumer Products — 7%
Health Care — 6%
Manufacturing — 2%
Non-Profits — 1%
Energy — 2%
Media/Entertainment — 3%
Real Estate — 3%
Source: Collected from internet/clearadmit/Poets&Quants

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