When applying to the Wharton MBA program, it helps to be structured in your approach. Each applicant’s journey will be different, but the following key areas will help you learn how to get into the Wharton MBA program.
Setting & Campus Life
This school guide from MBA Prep School will provide you with a comprehensive foundation to plot your journey toward Walnut Walk in West Philadelphia!
Setting & Campus Life
The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is the nation’s oldest and considered one of the world’s most prestigious business schools. Wharton is located on Penn’s urban campus in the University City neighborhood of West Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Center City is a 20-to-30-minute walk from campus, and it is home to most of the school’s MBA students and boasts a vibrant restaurant, cultural, and entertainment scene.
Wharton students balance academic, career, and community pursuits over the course of their two-year MBA experience. Over the past decade, Wharton has fought hard to leave behind its reputation as a “finance school.” The program now touts strong data analytics and general management programs. It sends graduates on to successful careers in consulting, health care, and technology as well as finance.
Wharton MBA Program Ranking
- US News (2020): #1 (tie)
- Economist (2019): #5
- Financial Times (2020): #2
- Businessweek (2019-2020): #6
Wharton MBA Application Deadlines
While the admissions office states there is no preference given to students based on the round in which they apply, the vast majority of each year’s class comes from Rounds 1 and 2.
|R1||Sep 15, 2020||Oct 28, 2020||Dec 16, 2020|
|R2||Jan 5, 2021||Feb 11, 2021||Mar 26, 2021|
|R3||Mar 31, 2021||Apr 15, 2021||May 11, 2021|
Wharton MBA Class Profile
MBA Class Profile data for the Wharton MBA Class of 2022:
GPA Average: 3.6
GMAT Median: 730
GRE Median: Verbal: 161, Quant: 161
# of Applicants: 7,158
Class Size: 916
Acceptance Rate: 12.8%
International vs Domestic: 19% international
Demographics: 41% female
Diversity Information: 40% of US students are minorities
LGBTQ+ Students: 6%
Click to read the full Wharton MBA class Profile (opens in a new tab)
Wharton MBA Admissions Strategy
As a top school, Wharton sets a high bar for admissions meaning that you will need to present yourself in the best possible light and prove to the admissions committee that what makes you compelling as a candidate matches the strengths and qualities Wharton cares about most.
What fit qualities does the school look for in applicants?
“Proving you fit is about knowing what qualities the program values most and using that knowledge to shape and customize every element of your application – especially your essays.”
A cornerstone of the Wharton MBA is teams – from the unique Team-Based Discussion interview format to your first-year learning team and on to your hockey team, Field Application Project, and marketing simulation. Accordingly, the Admissions Committee will read your application closely for evidence of collaboration. “Interaction in small groups with a remarkable and diverse set of peers encourages trial and error, risk-taking, and collaborative idea generation, and will fundamentally change your perspective and deepen your learning.” – Wharton MBA admissions
Wharton prides itself on having a participatory culture, which is well enmeshed in the communities it seeks to serve. The dozens of career, affinity and activity-based clubs provide boundless opportunities for students to develop their leadership skills in practical settings. Your application should showcase times you went above and beyond to be in service of others. “By being a part of student life activities, I have gotten to know several people who have helped me to grow as a leader and learn new material that is different from my background.” – Wharton MBA candidate, 2020
The Wharton program emphasizes multi-disciplinary learning and will accordingly look to understand where you have brought together diverse domains of expertise. Beyond Wharton’s 13+ joint degree programs and flexible curriculum, it looks to raise leaders capable of integrating knowledge and not just going deep in one silo. Find opportunities in your application to emphasize how you have worked with experts outside your field to improve overall outcomes.
What distinguishes Wharton from other top business schools?
Wharton’s focus on collaboration, its global resources, and focus on such hard skills as finance and accounting have helped hone its distinctive reputation. At the same time, the school has invested heavily in its entrepreneurship, data analytics and helped it diversify its reputation in recent years.
Learning Team Model
Wharton emphasizes collaborative learning, which is reflected in the Learning Team Model, which was pioneered by Wharton and then adopted by other top schools. The Learning Team Model attempts to emulate the collaborative aspect of working in business by assigning incoming MBA students to diverse 5-to-6-person groups in Pre-Term. They then work together throughout Management 610, the first course in the MBA curriculum, where Learning Teams “play the role of a company’s senior management team, experiencing firsthand the skills of teamwork and leadership.” To help guide this process, Learning Teams interact with a second-year Leadership Fellow who mitigates group conflicts, provides feedback, and acts as a mentor for incoming MBA students. In explaining the benefits of the Learning Team Model, Wharton writes that “interaction in small groups with a remarkable and diverse set of peers encourages trial and error, risk-taking, and collaborative idea generation.”
Wharton’s global reach distinguishes it significantly from other top business schools. Prospective applicants looking for a “fully integrated global business program” can apply for the dual Wharton MBA and Penn Master’s in International Studies through the Lauder Institute (only Round 1 and Round 2 applicants are eligible). Wharton claims to provide an immersive experience across all six continents, including three new business schools established in Asia. The Penn Wharton China Center (PWCC), for example, provides students with stronger connections in China, unique research opportunities, and workshops. Wharton also offers a Global Immersion Program (GIP). Students explore various economic growth drivers and cultures in a particular region in the Wharton classroom then depart for a multi-week “study tour” in the region they studied. Wharton MBAs hoping to study abroad more extensively can spend a semester in one of 17 different partner schools in 15 different countries; INSEAD’s programs in Fontainebleau, France, and Singapore often draw large contingents of Wharton MBAs each year.
Further, Wharton has earned a reputation as the “Finance School” due to its curricular emphasis on rigorous quantitative analysis. Wharton is the home of the Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative (WCAI), a premier research center that promotes data-driven decision-making through behavioral research. Reflecting on the field’s growing importance, the school introduced a business analytics major in 2016.
What unique/special resources does the school offer?
Some distinctive features of the Wharton MBA education include opportunities to strengthen students’ leadership styles and domain-specific knowledge. Wharton offers unique development opportunities in the McNulty Leadership Program and resources in the Health Care Management Program and independent study courses.
Wharton Leadership Ventures
Wharton’s McNulty Leadership Program has a self-explanatory purpose, promoting the leadership development of the program’s students. Thus, the McNulty Leadership Program oversees the creation of the first-year Learning Teams, hosts conferences and speakers, and provides fellowships for Wharton MBAs. Further, students can participate in a Leadership Venture, described as “outdoor experiential-based treks that provide genuine environments of uncertainty and change” and “one-to-three day programs that highlight alternative leadership education methodologies or specific topics.”
Wharton Health Care Management Program
Wharton is the launching point of the careers of many prominent healthcare executives, ranging from CEO of global pharmaceutical giant Johnson & Johnson Alex Gorsky (MBA class of 1996) to former CEO of international non-profit Partners in Health Gary Gottlieb (MBA class of 1985). With Philadelphia located close to the headquarters of many insurance and pharmaceutical companies, as well as some of the country’s top hospitals and medical schools, Wharton’s Health Care Management Program (popularly known as “HCM)” is a natural place for those aspiring to work on the business side of the healthcare field. Being admitted into the program affords numerous benefits, including exclusive permission to major in health care management, access to courses reserved only for HCM students, and membership in an elite and tight-knit program. HCM students form a cohesive and diverse community composed of future business leaders, doctors, and non-profit founders.
Within the McNulty Leadership Program, students have access to the Executive Coaching and Feedback Program (ECFP). Inspired by the executive coaching programs developed at large corporations, the ECFP provides one-on-one advice for MBA students based on the feedback of former coworkers and their Wharton peers. The program aims to help students create substantial leadership growth through setting defined goals and identifying areas of improvement.
Wharton is home to over 20 research centers and initiatives, such as the Sol C. Snider Entrepreneurial Research Center, which focuses on global wealth creation and entrepreneurial research. Prospective applicants interested in finance can work with any of four different financial research centers covering everything from financial institutes to alternative investments. Wharton also boasts four different global initiatives and research centers, such as the Initiative for Global Environmental Leadership (IGEL) and the Wharton-INSEAD Center for Global Research and Education. Finally, MBAs interested in behavioral research can work with the Behavior Change for Good Initiative, a program that aims to improve consumers’ health, education, and financial savings decision-making.
How do members of the MBA community describe the school’s culture?
Wharton MBA students tend to be enthusiastic about the school’s culture. Common themes in their descriptions include how classmates serve as sources of inspiration and an environment that encourages risk-taking to foster growth.
“In every opportunity, Wharton has extended to me, I’ve been able to grow, whether that’s in the classroom, or my internship, or my cluster. If you ask anybody I’ve spoken to, they’ll tell you I love Wharton. I’ve had some of the greatest experiences here while going through the toughest aspects of my life. I’m so grateful for the people who are part of my Wharton experience and continue to push me to be a better person.” (Source)
A time to experiment
“The best thing about Wharton, and business school in general, is that it’s the best opportunity to try something new. There’s nothing on the line, and if you fail, it’s okay. And through these events/clubs/peer-pressure situations, I’ve expanded my network of friends to new people every day. Which means more friendly faces in the sea of students at Huntsman. So step outside of your comfort zone (social circle) and put yourself out there!”
“At Wharton, I’ve been encouraged to take risks and to stretch myself. In an environment surrounded by intellectual powerhouses and rockstars, I am constantly pushed to try new things. If you asked me two years ago as I applied to Wharton if I would ever do stand-up comedy, I would have laughed. But today, I can say proudly that I took a risk, reached beyond my comfort zone, and became a more well-rounded person. And I made a few others laugh in the process.”
Who are some of the school’s most well-known or popular professors?
Jeremy Siegel, the Russell E. Palmer Professor of Finance and frequent CNBC commentator, has been an iconic member of the Wharton faculty since 1976. His bestselling books include “Stocks for the Long Run,” which was ranked by Business Week as one of the top ten investment books to date, and “The Future for Investors: Why the Tried and the True Triumph Over the Bold and the New,” which was ranked by Business Week as one of the best business books published in 2005. Apart from Siegel’s research on long-run asset returns and financial markets, Siegel currently teaches two classes at the graduate level: “Macroeconomics and the Global Economy” and the “Independent Study in Finance.” Siegel has received several awards over his many decades of teaching, such as the Lindback Award for outstanding university teaching in 2002 and the Chartered Financial Analysts Institute’s Nicholas Molodovsky Award for outstanding contributions to the profession in 2005. Although Siegel no longer regularly teaches sections for Wharton MBA students, he holds regular talks with A-list titans of finance that he can leverage his unique network to bring in.
Barbara Kahn is the Patty and Jay H. Baker Professor of Marketing and the Jay H. Baker Retailing Center Director. An expert on consumer goods, retail, and branding, she has published over 60 works, including books on grocery stores, Amazon, and visual merchandising. Her colleagues have recognized her as the president of the Association of Consumer Research, president of the Journal of Consumer Research Policy Board, and trustee of the Marketing Science Institute. She teaches introductory marketing to first-year MBAs and elective courses in consumer behavior, visual marketing, and marketing strategy.
Adam Grant is the Saul P. Steinberg Professor of Management and one of Wharton’s most renowned teachers. Grant is a multiple-time best-selling author of “Give and Take,” “Originals,” and “Plan B,” the last of which he co-authored with Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. His research and teaching focus on teams and leadership in the modern workplace. He teaches three sections of MGMT 610, the mandatory pre-term course on leadership and team-building, and occasional elective courses. If you’re not lucky enough to be placed into his section, you can still learn from him at the [email protected] series he hosts, where major names in business and culture discuss their latest works on campus, or you can subscribe to his popular podcast WorkLife.
Peter Fader is Frances and Pei-Yuan Chia Professor of Marketing and a pioneer in data-driven marketing. Fader teaches the highly popular Applied Probability Models in Marketing and Managing the Value of Customer Relationships courses that apply Customer Lifetime Value and Customer Equity to specific problems in product development and retention of companies’ most valuable consumers. Fader’s reputation on campus runs deep as one of the leading data-centric professors on campus. After developing Zodiac, his own predictive analytics firm, in 2015, he sold it to Nike in 2018. In 2017, Advertising Age recognized Fader as one of the “25 Marketing Technology Trailblazers” on its first-ever such list, the only academic to be included.
Mechanics of the admissions process:
The Wharton MBA application consists of seven parts and an application fee.
First, applicants will be asked to share their contact information, academic records, and professional experience in the background information section. Applicants will then be asked to respond to a 500-word essay and a 400-word essay. An additional 250-word essay is required for reapplicants and optional for first-time applicants who wish to explain extenuating circumstances. Transcripts of all courses taken at the baccalaureate level or further should be uploaded, with official transcripts due to the university upon admission.
Applicants should designate two recommenders who can speak “knowledgeably and specifically” about the applicant’s professional performance, preferably from former or current supervisors. Wharton also requires self-reported GMAT or GRE results that are no more than five years old (the incoming MBA students for Fall 2022 must have taken their exams between September 15, 2016, and March 17, 2022).
Wharton will request official scores upon admission. For international students whose native language is not English and have not earned a degree from a predominantly English-speaking institution, either a TOEFL or PTE score is required.
Finally, students will be asked to submit a one-page resume highlighting their “functional job skills, breadth and depth of experience, demonstrated leadership and management skills, and […] potential for growth.” After submitting their application, applicants will be asked to pay a non-refundable application fee, payable by credit card only.
Wharton MBA Application Checklist
The official application contains seven portions required for all candidates, with one additional item required for international students.
- Background information
- Application fee
- Two essays
- Two letters of recommendation
- GMAT or GRE score
- English language test score (if applicable)
Wharton Essay Analysis
2020-2021 Essay Prompts
- Essay 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
- Essay 2: Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)
- Additional Question (required for reapplicants): Please use this space to share with the Admissions Committee how you have reflected and grown since your previous application and discuss any relevant updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, and extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words)
- Optional Essay: *First-time applicants may also submit an optional essay to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)
2020-2021 Essay Tips
MBA Prep School has published detailed guidance and tips. Click to read our Wharton MBA Essay Tips.
Wharton MBA Recommendation Letter Questions
Wharton asks recommenders to respond to two questions in their recommendation letter.
- Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success in the Wharton MBA classroom. (Word count: 300)
- Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success throughout their career. (Word count: 300)
Wharton MBA Interview Tips
Given Wharton’s unique Team-Based Discussion interview format, we thought you might have some questions! Here are the most common ones we hear from applicants.
Are Wharton MBA interviews invitation only?
What interview style does Wharton MBA use?
Wharton uses a Team-Based Discussion (TBD) interview format. In this 35-minute session, groups of 5 or 6 applicants will work together to respond to a prompt and purpose, achieving a solid outcome by the end of the discussion. Wharton allocates time for a “brief individual conversation with a member of the admissions team following the TBD.” US-based applicants are invited to an in-person interview in Philadelphia, whereas international students may interview in several global cities. Naturally, in-person interviews were suspended due to the COVID pandemic and replaced with Zoom.
Who conducts the Wharton business school’s interviews?
A member of the Admissions team conducts the brief individual portion of the Wharton interview.
Sample Wharton MBA questions from 1-on-1 interview following TBD:
- How reflective was your behavior in the TBD of your behavior in the workplace?
- What is your impression of student culture here at Wharton?
- What have you done outside of your professional life that you have been involved with over several years that you are most proud of?
- Why is now the right time for Wharton?
- Why do you want to go to Wharton?
- What are your career goals?
- How do you see yourself contributing to the student culture here?
Wharton MBA Post-MBA Careers
Given its reputation as a “finance school,” Wharton still sends a large amount, over a third, of its graduates to the finance industry. But management consulting and tech companies are also popular destinations.
What fields or industries do most graduates go to work in post-MBA?
Financial Services (35.8%), Consulting (25.1%), Technology (14.9%)
Which companies hire the most Wharton MBA graduates?
McKinsey, BCG, Amazon, Bain, Goldman Sachs, Facebook, Microsoft, J.P. Morgan, Anheuser-Busch InBev
Thoughts on Wharton’s essay prompts from the school’s Head of Admissions (Blair Mannix):
Virtual events and webinars presented by Wharton community members
Interview Preparation Tips
MBA Admissions Blog