If you’re applying to Wharton, you MUST watch this
Updated: Aug 30, 2022
This client's undergrad GPA was 3.3, she had a gap year on her resume, a modest 710 GMAT score, and she applied in Round 3.
Nevertheless, she got an admit to Wharton with one of the highest scholarship awards I’ve ever seen.
She reached out to me only a week before the Wharton R3 deadlines to adjust her applications. That’s normally way too late, but I saw her go-getter attitude straight away and I knew that she was serious about her application.
She was keen on applying to Wharton because of its elite “M7” status and because it checked off many of the criteria that mattered to her. A larger class size (Wharton has an MBA class of 900 per year) meant a more diverse cohort, more people to network with, and large-scale opportunities. She was familiar with some “hero” faculty like Adam Grant and Angela Duckworth due to their influence in academic circles. And then there was the location - not as overwhelming as NY or Chicago, but still accessible and familiar.
Wharton ticked all her boxes, but was she a good fit? With only 1 week to re-write her essays and review her application, we crammed months of work into seven days. We began identifying her key strengths and researching.
Research is time-intensive, and time was one thing we were short on. At first, she thought that she could fill in the gaps later - figure out which clubs to join, which activities to do, or which professors she wanted to better interact with once on the program.
But it’s crucial in an MBA application to show you’ve already done your homework. So, she scoured through free resources like YouTube, Reddit, and podcasts to find information on the MBA program. This helped her narrow down her interests and write a shortlist of clubs that she would be able to impact. She knew exactly what she would contribute to each club, so when the time came to write her essays, she didn’t just list the clubs; they naturally fit her narrative.
Research into professors she admired, like Adam Grant for example, helped her understand their contribution to the school over the years and to incorporate this strategically into her essays.
She also played to Wharton’s strengths - the vast student and alumni pool. She reached out to Wharton alumni in her friends’ networks, getting a third-person perspective on what she could expect. Several insightful conversations later, she had newfound confidence in her application.
She knew she couldn’t do anything about her GPA, and the gap year she took was for an important cause - family. She was also aware that her 710 GMAT was well below Wharton’s class average (733) but with R3 deadlines looming, it was now or never.
She knew that she had so much more to offer than the numbers on her scorecard. The essays gave her the opportunity to show it.
“I knew I could fix the narrative.” she tells us in her interview.
This client and I sat together to fundamentally restructure and reimagine her essays. Her optional essay especially stood out, clearly and concisely explaining her average GPA score. Many applicants are tempted to use up the full 500 words given, but her essay made a big impact using under 200 words. Her Wharton essays 1 and 2 were just as direct: here are the facts and why it happened. What they really focused on was “what I’m going to do with the opportunity when I get to Wharton”.
It’s easy to pick the best-sounding answer. But doing the grunt work of honing in on her motivations and goals helped her show true authenticity.
A unique feature of the Wharton MBA application is its unusual interview: the Team-Based Discussion (TBD). This is a 35-minute exercise alongside 4-5 other MBA applicants in a team setting. The TBD is followed by a 10-minute interview with a member of the AdCom.
In our practice simulations, the client and I went through several possible scenarios to simulate the different personas she would encounter in her Team Based Discussion. Here, we built on her speaking and collaboration skills. For my part, sometimes I played the guy who cut her off every other sentence; sometimes I played the quiet one. In every scenario, she ensured that she considered everyone’s perspectives. Rather than getting insecure about her speaking time, she focused on conveying quality ideas whenever she spoke.
Her calm, inclusive approach, well-researched essays, and knowledge about the MBA program worked.
She got a Wharton admit with total scholarships worth $160,000.
One year into the program, she has some valuable advice for other MBA applicants.
Do Your Research
“In Wharton, there's a pre-term period. A lot of it is really looking internally. So, they make you write your career plan and fill a career profile. It helped so much that I had genuinely done that in the essay process."
When she started school, she had a clear picture of what she wanted to do. Working with a GMAT tutor and Admissions Consultant (be it 1 week in advance!) helped demystify the application process and the program itself. If she hadn’t done this groundwork, she would have to create her first-year plan in the stress of a new environment.
Researching faculty and which classes to join, fireside chats, clubs, and informative sessions can help you meet new people and learn about available opportunities.
“The network is there for you to use, but it is your prerogative how you use it. They won’t be serving it to you on a platter. You need to be proactive and reach out.”
When looking for internships and full-time roles, Wharton’s solid network will help you access opportunities in the organizations you’re targeting. In whatever industry that may be, you’ll most likely be able to find at least one Wharton alumnus to speak to! But you need to be proactive during campus events and reach out to people for informational chats. That way you’ll secure competitive offers, even if you don’t have big names on your CV.
Don’t leave it to chance - take deliberate steps to make the most of your community. She is pursuing a semester in Wharton’s San Francisco campus to meet 70+ new people she doesn’t know. She’s excited about making a new network and going on coffee chats, even though it’s out of her comfort zone.
Don’t Succumb To MBA FOMO
“I was 6 weeks in and I was focused on checking the boxes. But employers don't care about that. Now it's about expanding your network…and being meaningful in picking the right opportunities”.
When she joined Wharton’s MBA program, she met many Consulting / Investment Banking candidates who were rushing around for interviews and internships right from the start of the program. It made her anxious at first, but then she realized that during an MBA the best opportunities didn’t come from ticking the most boxes( like in undergrad). She learned to be intentional about her engagements on campus - within and outside of the class. Instead of participating in a vast variety of activities, She focused on expanding her network and her leadership positions in three clubs. This eventually turned out to be one of her best decisions during the program.
If you’re an MBA applicant who wants to transform your application and use Wharton’s strengths to your advantage, let’s chat. Find our free 20-minute booking link here.