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2011 Wharton MBA Admissions Q&A with Tiffany Gooden and Meghan Bass

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Linda Abraham: Hello. My name is Linda Abraham. I am the founder of Accepted.com and the moderator of today's chat. First I want to welcome all applicants to the Q&A today, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about U Penn Wharton's Business School. It is critical to your decision making process and your admission chances that you know as much as you can about the schools you are applying to. Being here today allows you to ask experts about this top business school. I also want to give a special welcome to Tiffany Gooden, Senior Associate Director of Admissions and Meghan Bass, Associate Director of Admissions at Wharton. Thanks to everyone for joining. I'm going to take advantage of my position as moderator and ask Meghan and Tiffany the first question. What's new at Wharton?

Meghan Bass: There are always new things going on at Wharton; it's a pretty dynamic place to be. For this incoming year, we brought in a very great, diverse incoming class. We have 40% women this year, 37% are international, and as of this year, a quarter of them have 0-3 years of work experience. So we have a pretty interesting incoming class, very diverse. And they really did hit the ground running this year; they took the Dean's call, to be socially minded and responsible individuals, pretty seriously. And before school even really kicked off, they started a campaign to raise thousands and thousands of dollars towards clean well water in Africa. So if they did that before school even started, we are pretty excited to see the impact they are going to continue to have over their time at Wharton. Our clubs and organizations also took the incoming school year and ran with it. We have several conferences happening over the next couple of months. The Wharton Women in Business will actually be having a conference tomorrow in Philadelphia. And later in the month we are going to have conferences that have to do with consulting, marketing, management-- all sorts of industry areas. And for those of our students wanting to travel, we are excited that there are several new global immersion programs and treks happening this year also. So there are a lot of exciting things happening at the Wharton campus.

Linda Abraham: I have another question. Tiffany, what is the impact on the admissions process of the admissions director having joint responsibilities for both the Career Management Center and for admissions?

Tiffany Gooden: That's a great question. For those of you who are not aware, J.J. Cutler, who was previously the Director of Admissions and Financial Aid, has taken on new responsibilities as the Deputy Vice Dean for MBA Admissions, Financial Aid, and Career Management. On our end in terms of recruiting, we have lots of connections with companies and we know more about what the output is; what people are interested in going into. J.J.'s new role allows us to create synergies across all of those areas. It really does go across the spectrum. And it also goes back to seeing what employers are looking for, and also knowing a little bit more about what they value. For us, it's a great way to tie the entire life cycle of a student here at Wharton together.

Linda Abraham: Does post-MBA employability play a greater role in admissions as a result?

Tiffany Gooden: No, not at all. The admissions process is staying exactly the same. We're not changing in any way our admissions criteria or what we are looking for. We still recognize that an MBA is going to learn a little more about different industries and perhaps change his/her mind. That is going to remain the same. So we still use the same eye when looking at the applications as we have in the past. There is no more emphasis placed on professional goals than there has been.

Linda Abraham: Diana asks, "What types of global immersion programs have started? Where and in what specialties?"

Meghan Bass: Just to clarify, a global immersion program is a unique opportunity here at Wharton which the school organizes for the students. It includes cultural aspects, academic aspects, and historical aspects. The students get to go and meet with political leaders and business leaders of a specific region, learn a little bit about the history and do some fun cultural activities as well. I know that they've gone to China and India in the past; hopefully they'll go to Africa soon, and do some exciting activities like that. And those are organized a little bit more on the student end. This year they are doing Peruvian trek which is pretty exciting, and I believe that it's already filled up. So yes, there are a lot of great opportunities to go abroad.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you. Luper asks, "How has recruitment for internships and full-time positions been this summer?"

Tiffany Gooden: In terms of career services, I just want to add briefly that recently our Career Services Department had a bit of a make-over to re-strategize and make sure that they are attending to the needs of the students, and are helping them in the recruitment cycle. I think the summer went well; things are definitely improving since the economic crisis first occurred. Students are definitely getting successfully placed, and are looking for opportunities to take their network skills to the next level. I think across the board, business schools are really seeing a lot of students go abroad to work after their MBA. A lot of the Indian and Chinese students choose to return home because those economies are growing so quickly. So whereas in the US, you see a lot more of the mature industries, a lot of people are going abroad and are exploring some of these more enterprising and up and coming industries, and are doing quite well there. So I guess the short answer is yes; the summer has been great. And we have a lot of exciting things planned for this year to help students find their internship placements for next year, and job placements for our second year students.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you. Rana asks, "How does Wharton view applicants with work experience above ten years for a regular, full-time MBA program?"

Meghan Bass: For us, work experience is always quality over quantity. It's up to the individual when they are ready to go to business school. So even those with ten years experience verses those with two years experience, it's nothing we judge. We don't compare. It's the individual and what they are going to bring to the table. So somebody coming in with ten years of experience, as long as there is quality there and that person pushed themselves and has taken on challenges and really developed themselves to come to a point where they believe that they are ready to take on an MBA, and can be convincing of that in the application, it's weighed absolutely even to anybody else at any point in their career.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. Rog asks, "I would like to know more about the entrepreneurial concentration at Wharton, especially how Wharton encourages global entrepreneurship."

Tiffany Gooden: Most of the information about majors is on the website. The Wharton Entrepreneurial programs are at wep.wharton.upenn.edu. It's a combination of co-curricular activities for people who are interested in entrepreneurial endeavors. One of the interesting academic opportunities for people who want to learn a little bit more about international business would be the Global Consulting Practicum. That is an opportunity for students in an academic setting to consult international businesses that are thinking about building their brand in the United States. You'll learn a lot from that experience that would be applicable to you if you did decide that you wanted to start up globally. Additionally, I would say that the coursework that comes out of the Entrepreneurial Management major would be sufficient, and you would be able to apply it outside of the United States. So whether it's learning how to create an appropriate business plan and market yourself well, whether it's thinking about how to finance your entrepreneurial endeavor; these are all skills that are applicable to you, regardless of whether or not you are planning on starting up your business here in the US or outside of the US. So through a combination of the curricular activities, the coursework, and some of the co-curricular opportunities through the Wharton Entrepreneurial Programs, I think you will find that you gain a lot of the skills that you would need to make yourself a potentially successful entrepreneur regardless of where you decided to start your business.

Linda Abraham: Great, thank you. Patrick asks, "I received a poor grade in undergrad calculus. Would it be wise to retake calculus at a local community college before applying?"

Meghan Bass: Just a quick word on how we review academic experience when it comes to the application. We are looking for people who can think quantitatively, think analytically, and have strength in those areas because the MBA curriculum is heavy in those areas in certain places. That being said, not everyone who comes to the program has necessarily a quantitative background, or has majored in business during their undergrad, and that's absolutely okay. We have people coming from all backgrounds. When we look at the transcripts, we are trying to get a sense of patterns; there is no GPA we are looking at, we are not going to penalize over one bad grade that happened first term, freshman year necessarily. I would tell that individual who asked the question that he really has to look at the rest of his progression. How did he do on the GMAT? How did he do on future classes that were quantitative based? Did he do any kind of continued education that shows his quantitative skills are stronger? If that is not the case, maybe it would be a great idea to take a quantitative class for calculus skills, and be prepared for this type of curriculum. But again, I think it is a judgment call on how he progressed himself during the years from that bad grade till now.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Prikar asks, "What are the companies that come for recruitment in the education management sector, and in what positions are they recruited?"

Tiffany Gooden: I would encourage Prikar to take a look at the information that Career Management provides on our website. If you go to the main MBA page and you click on 'Careers', they have a career report that will list out general information about where our students have their internships and also where they end up being placed after two year appointments. But in addition, it will tell you more information about all of the companies that come onto campus to recruit. So that's a great place for you to go to find out more about whether or not a particular company is recruiting on campus. But please keep in mind that many of our entrepreneurial companies are smaller companies and they don't have as many positions available every year. They may not come onto campus to recruit, but they might use other avenues to make Wharton students aware of opportunities, such as placing information on our job board, or having a similar sort of webinar to educate people about their company. So coming onto campus isn't the only way that companies express their interest in Wharton students. However, you could get a good sense of what is happening on campus in terms of recruitment by going onto the career report.

Linda Abraham: We have a couple of questions from Lisa and Ricken who both ask about media and entertainment at Wharton. Lisa asked specifically about the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative, and Ricken asked more generally about opportunities and Wharton's involvement in media and entertainment.

Tiffany Gooden: A few years ago, Wharton created the Wharton Interactive Media Initiative. It is one of many research initiatives that we have on campus for students who are interested in merging business with some of the up and coming technology that is happening on campus. That is Whartoninteractive.com. So it's really a great research vehicle. And students who are interested in an intersection between online media and business would really benefit from this. In terms of on-campus student run activities, there is a Media Entertainment Club that a student could get involved with if they are interested in going into either interactive media or something that is more traditional. The Media and Entertainment Club has treks to different parts of the country for students to meet with senior leaders at various companies, ranging from cable companies to radio companies. What companies it would be just depends on the region that they are going to. So that's another opportunity for students who are interested in going into that industry to learn a little bit more about it through the club and through the club professional treks.

Linda Abraham: Thank you very much. We had a question earlier from an applicant who was concerned that he had too much experience; we now have a question from an applicant who is concerned that he has too little experience. I'd like to hear how many of the applicants are concerned that they have too little experience. Okay, we have 18% who feel they have too little experience. How many of you are concerned that you have too much experience? Okay, a similar number; about 15% are concerned about that. I'm going to ask another question which hasn't come up: How many of you are concerned that you come from an over-represented group in the applicant pool? Not that many, only 25%; we must have a pretty diverse crowd here today. Okay, the question that was asked was about three years of work experience or less. Is that an issue at Wharton?

Meghan Bass: As I said earlier, actually a quarter of our incoming class this year is early careerists. And an earlier careerist is defined as having 0-3 years of work experience. So that gives you some insight that this is something that we certainly don't hold against anybody or penalize them for. I think it's similar to how I answered the too much work experience question; it's a quality issue. Somebody who's been working for two years could have done fantastic things in those two years. They could have been promoted, they could have taken on initiatives and projects or challenges, and they could have taken on great things leading a team. Amazing things could happen in two years, and if you can make a good case for yourself then we have no reason not to take you because of the two year thing. I would rather have someone with a few years under their belt than somebody with more years who sat still and didn't really ever push themselves or take on new challenges or projects when they came about. So you know when you are ready for an MBA; you know when you reached that point where you need to learn more about business fundamentals or expand your network. So don't let a number judge you; you need to decide for yourself when it's time.

Linda Abraham: Monica asks, "What type of professional recommendation should I provide if I currently have my own small business?"

Meghan Bass: That's an interesting question. A lot of people coming from entrepreneurial backgrounds are worried about things like that because they don't necessarily have a supervisor; they are their own boss. In those situations, we understand that. We can see from your resume the structure of your organization. There are people that you work with though, that can write a very compelling recommendation on your behalf. Perhaps investors, perhaps people you work with-- customers, clients, or perhaps colleagues. It's a judgment call; you need to choose who is going to write a professional recommendation and who is going to give a compelling recommendation on your behalf. It should definitely be somebody professional. So just because you don't have a supervisor doesn't mean you should go ask your friend or grandmother or anything like that. But you still have people; you have people that are invested in your business who are working with you and advising you and can convince us that you are professionally mature and at a great point in your career to start.

Linda Abraham: Okay, great. Thank you. Another question about recommendations. Mundite asks, "If one of my recommenders is not an MBA, is that looked at unfavorably?"

Meghan Bass: Absolutely not. Recommenders come from all walks of life. Recommenders can be MBA grads, they can have other master's degrees, or they can have no degrees. That's nothing we look at. We look at people who have worked with you closely. We are not judging who you're recommender is. To expand on that, I get a lot of questions like: "If I can get my CEO to write me a recommendation, should I?" My answer is: Only if they know you and they can write a specific recommendation about you. Form letters do nothing for me. It needs to be a specific recommendation; it doesn't matter what that individual's background is necessarily.

Linda Abraham: Nupar asks, "What is the student culture like at Wharton? Are classroom activities more team-based or individually focused?" And somebody else asked, "Is the culture more competitive or cooperative?"

Meghan Bass: I've worked for a few business programs, and I don't want to mention any names, but here at Wharton I definitely see a lot of collaboration amongst the student body. There is a definite sense of working together, having joint goals, and learning from each other. It's actually a very wonderful thing to absorb. Everybody is coming from a different background, and they really use each other to network socially and professionally. I would say it is much more collaborative than it is competitive in any way. In terms of teams and how the classes are structured, when you come into Wharton you have a cohort. That cohort is about 80 students, and that is who you are going to take your first year classes with. That cohort is further divided into learning teams of about five or six students, and those teams are essential during you first year. You are going to do a lot of projects and presentations with them, and you are going to learn how to work together as a team in co-curricular activities and in experiential learning events. It's going to be a definite learning environment. And through that you'll learn how to work with people you've never worked with in the past; people from different cultural backgrounds and different industry backgrounds. And you are going to learn how important collaboration, networking, and teamwork really are here at the Wharton campus. Linda Abraham. Great, thank you. Maria asks, "If your career goals lie in the healthcare field, do you have to major in healthcare management? Is it possible to major in entrepreneurship or general management instead? What is recommended?"

Meghan Bass: Again, I think that is a personal judgment call. The healthcare program we have here at Wharton is an incredibly strong program. It has a lot of opportunity in it; the curriculum involved is very in-depth and deals with a lot of industry leaders. So it can be a wonderful thing. I think if your goal is going to be strictly healthcare, it is certainly worth considering that program. But if you have goals that are perhaps a little bit broader with general interest in healthcare, there is no reason you cannot major in another field and do electives in that area, or just gear your interests in that area with extracurricular activities, student organizations, and conferences that we have. So really, it depends on what your own personal goals are in that area.

Linda Abraham: Picasso would like to know if there are specific IT related programs if he has an IT background, and would like to grow further in his field. He wants to use the MBA to move up into management in IT.

Meghan Bass: We meet a lot of people who are coming from different backgrounds outside of just some of the more traditional finance, marketing backgrounds who want to move ahead. We have a lot of engineers and a lot of IT people who come in. And in those instances they come in with a lot of knowledge in their own fields, but what they lack is perhaps general organizational knowledge, general management skills, and leadership skills. And these are all basic business skills that you can pick up in any of the majors that we have. As you've seen, we have 18 different majors, 19 joint degree programs, and 200+ electives. We have joint degree programs with Harvard and John Hopkins. There are endless opportunities to craft a curriculum in a way that is going to help you no matter what your background or your goals are. And if none of that is appealing to you, you even have the opportunity to create your own major. So I'd say to that person who is interested in IT, definitely take a look at our curriculum and look at the electives. I'm sure you will find a way to leverage your experience towards the management role. And if you don't think they can, you will have the opportunity to create one.

Linda Abraham: This is a question from me that all the applicants should be interested in. When you are evaluating the applications, and the numbers are competitive and the applicants are applicants who qualify and are competitive applicants, what puts one applicant in the admit pile and the others in the rejected or wait list piles?

Meghan Bass: That's a good question. The applicant pool we get here at Wharton is an incredibly talented pool; they are all high achievers, they are all high scores. They are a very impressive group, and frankly 80% of the applicants we do receive are 100% admissible to Wharton. So then the question comes: how do we choose one over the other? Really it comes down to the compelling story they are going to share. At Wharton we admit 800+ a year. Of that, each student really needs to be able to bring a unique voice and perspective. We need to have that feeling that this person is going to impact their incoming class; this is a valuable voice to be heard. And that really comes through in your essays. Your essays, your recommendation, the whole thing; it's really how you choose to present yourself. I will say that we have a ton of people who are high achievers in their careers; we have a ton of high scores on their test scores and academic profiles. Use your essay as a chance to stand apart and introduce yourself. Don't do anything crazy, but it's a good opportunity to show who you are, what kind of a voice you are going to bring to Wharton, and the impact you are going to have. I think that is really the defining thing that can set two people apart; how they choose to present themselves.

Linda Abraham: That's a great answer and it addresses the concerns of the 25% of our audience who raised their hand when I asked who was concerned that they are part of an over-represented group. It's more about where you are different from your group than your label.

Meghan Bass: Absolutely. Let's say we have two people that are coming from investment banking. If one of them is going to say, "I've come from investment banking, I've done all the same things that this other person has, but I have interest in social impact. And look at the other things I do in this area. This is something I feel so strongly about and I want to bring it to the Wharton campus; I want to show them my passion." That's going to make them a different person, right? That's going to give them other dimensions. So it's important to think about who you are as a whole person, not just who you are defined by your career.

Linda Abraham: Or ethnic label or nationality.

Meghan Bass: Absolutely.

Linda Abraham: This leads into a question that Stacy is posing. She asks, "What role does community service outside work contribution play in the admission?"

Meghan Bass: It definitely does play a role. Sometimes I see applications where people list a ton of different community service things that they've done. But then when I look a little bit closer, each one is maybe for a week, a month, or even a day. I don't think it's a good idea to collect things just for the sake of a business school application. I would rather see people perhaps invested in one or two things, whether it's tutoring inner-city school kids, or doing several 'Habitat for Humanity' initiatives because they love to build, and they love to contribute that way to society. I would rather see people passionate about certain areas, rather than trying to blanket everything. Volunteering at soup kitchens and then running to tutor and then running to clean up the neighborhood; that makes me wonder if you're just collecting for an application. So again, it's about you. Think what you are passionate about. We definitely want to see involved students. Social impact is a huge thing here at Wharton, so definitely think about where that is important to you and how you can present that properly.

Linda Abraham: Adrian writes, "I think I can bring interesting experiences, business ideas, and thoughts derived from steady growth during ten years of my career. I have no problem with complex business analysis. However, for some reason I struggle in getting a good GMAT score. Should I put in a lot of energy trying to improve the GMAT?"

Meghan Bass: That's a good question. I think a lot of people put a lot of weight and pressure onto the GMAT. I'm not going to sugarcoat it; the students here and the applicants here generally do have very high GMAT scores. However, you can see our range is 540 to 790, and that's an incredibly broad range. And the truth is that we've admitted students who've had scores within that entire range; we've admitted a 540 and we've admitted a 790+. It's really just one factor we are looking at; it's one way we can test your academic ability and your quantitative skills. If you can show us that you have those skills in other areas and you feel confident about that, I wouldn't waste too much energy into the GMAT if you feel that you are not improving. If you've taken it once and you really feel you can do better next time, then I'd say to go for it. If you're on your third or fourth chance and your score is relatively decent, I would put your energies in other areas.

Linda Abraham: Sam has read that Wharton is a military friendly school. He asks, "For an Indian officer or for somebody in the military outside of the United States, not necessarily India, does he fit into that same pool as that of a US army veteran, or does he fit into the over-represented pool of Indian applicants?" Let's focus this more. Is he considered a military applicant or not, if he is not in the US military?

Meghan Bass: Absolutely. When we run our military pool and we look at who is in the military, we are looking at military from around the world. Yes, there is a US portion that we are looking at, and that is simply because with the government here, US military students get certain financial aid benefits through working for the US military. But that is completely separate. We do include military people from all over the world so that will be looked at. But in terms of the question whether you would be considered an Indian student or a military student, you fall into both pools. We are not going to segregate you like that; we won't put you into one pool over the other. You are a unique individual coming in with your own experiences and both of those factors are part of who you are.

Linda Abraham: Deidra asks, "Do Wharton alumni remain actively engaged with the school? How do alumni remain connected post-graduation? What is the alumni giving rate?"

Meghan Bass: I don't know the exact giving rate in terms of giving back to Wharton; I'm sure that information can be somewhat gauged from the website, as much as would be advertised from the website in the first place. In terms of them giving back in other ways, we have 86,000 active alumni in our network right now. They are literally all over the world in every sector of industry, and they are incredibly involved in the Wharton community. They come back for networking events; they are back for conferences. When we travel, they take part in our admissions and presentations. In fact, I encourage you to look up admissions events we go through next summer because you'll meet a lot of the alumni that way. They are very active in speaking on panels, and they are very active in recruitment. They do a lot of our applicant interviews; they conduct them around the world. One thing that is really special about the time here at Wharton is that you grow this connection with Wharton and with the students around here that you want to stay connected throughout your lifetime, even after you've graduated. After you speak with them, you get a sense that they think the Wharton community is special. They feel special being a part of it, and they are always ready to give back with their time, their energy, even with picking up a student's phone call and answering some questions. So it's a pretty special thing we have going here with our alumni.

Linda Abraham: Howard asks, "When we hear 80% admissible, what would qualify someone as inadmissible?"

Meghan Bass: That's an interesting question. The reality is Wharton is an incredibly high caliber academic institution. The coursework is very challenging and we do expect people to come in with some knowledge of the working world, some kind of unique voice and goals, etc. Sometimes we'll read an application and feel that the person is not strong enough to handle this coursework, and that decision is as much for us as it is also for them. You don't want to come here and not succeed; we are not trying to set up people to fail. And another reason, even for people on the low end or on the high end of work experience, if that work experience wasn't thorough enough, if we don't feel that they've gauged enough and learned enough from it, we wonder why they think they are ready at this time for an MBA. An MBA doesn't replace work; it enhances your career. We are definitely looking for people who we feel are ready; academically ready, career wise ready, emotionally ready. There are a lot of factors that go into what would make somebody not ready for an MBA.

Linda Abraham: Or not ready for an MBA at Wharton.

Meghan Bass: At Wharton or in general. They can try their luck in other places, but sometimes people would really benefit from spending a few more years in the work world. It's up to them. It depends; every application is different and everyone is telling a different story and bringing in a different perspective.

Linda Abraham: We have a couple of questions from Roge and from Diana about the GRE. They both ask "What is the median score for the GRE? And how do you weigh the exam with respect to the entire application, especially for applicants with less experience? Is the applicant in any way disadvantaged by submitting a GRE as opposed to a GMAT?

Meghan Bass: Not at all. This is the first year that we are going to be accepting the GRE. So students can choose to take either the GMAT or the GRE. They don't need to take both and we don't value one over the other. In terms of a median, we do not have one at this time because this is our first year accepting the GRE. We are really going to take a look at these scores and weigh them against everything else in the application. We are not comparing them to the GMAT; they are absolutely different kinds of tests. So the short answer is that this is our first year accepting it. We certainly welcome anybody who wants to take it. But there is no median score I can share or that I can tell people to aim for; just do well. You see the standards with everything else.

Linda Abraham: I have to tell you, one of the questions I hate the most is: what GMAT or GRE score should I aim for? Aim for the top score! Aim for 800 on the GMAT and just go for it.

Meghan Bass: Absolutely. Just do your best. And there is nothing you should aim for and just give up there; keep going and keep on reaching.

Linda Abraham: And then deal with the results.

Meghan Bass: Absolutely.

Linda Abraham: Smirtee asks, "Hi, I'm an international applicant from India, interested in brand management strategy after MBA. I understand that it is tough for international students to get into brand management, but I am focused on this goal and don't want to change it. Does this have any bearing on my admission, and any advice for achieving this goal?"

Meghan Bass: Sure. I think we are lucky here at Wharton. We are a very large school, and with that size comes a lot of resources and a lot of very talented professors and administrators who can really help students achieve their goals, whether it be a career switch or enhancing their already careers. In terms of brand management, we have several students who are already in that field. We have a Retail Club that is great; we have lot of initiatives toward that area. And I would encourage that student to explore the website and also explore the Career Services site to see how that department is focused on helping career switchers, and helping people with very specific goals work on their job strategy. We have a lot of organizations and clubs, we have a lot or co-curricular activities, and extra-curricular clubs and organizations that can really support students and help them towards their goals. And in terms of the question, the student himself seems to be very focused and very driven. So it's as far as you want to take it. Take the resources that we have to offer and leverage it and hopefully you'll get to where you want to go.

Linda Abraham: Do you have any indication of application volume this year, as opposed to last year?

Meghan Bass: So far we've just completed round one, and our numbers have stayed steady from last year. Round two, we are expecting an increase in volume just based on the applications we have in progress. So it remains to be seen. I expect we'll go up, just from the forecast for next round which is an exciting thing.

Linda Abraham: Ilana asks, "I submitted my application round one. If I get an interview, do you have any advice for the interview?"

Meghan Bass: I think it's always important to practice your interview ahead of time. The basics go with any kind of interview you would be attending for your career. Dress professionally, don't bring beverages, and don't chew gum. We don't necessarily need a copy of your resume, because most likely the interviewer will be blind, meaning that they have not seen your application previously. The interview will be based more on behavioral skills and your answers to those types of questions, more so than your specific background. So really think objectively and largely about how you approach certain situations; how you communicate as an individual, your experience working with teams, leading, and what you really want to get out of the MBA. And come prepared with really intelligent questions; meaning not, "What are my chances of getting in?" But more so, "What can Wharton offer? What can I offer to Wharton?"

Linda Abraham: Ricken has a follow-up on the topic and he asks, "Are interviews with alumni or admissions staff?"

Meghan Bass: Both. We have several options for interviews if you are invited to interview. You can either come to campus and interview with one of us, or with one of our admissions fellows, which is a second year student. You can locate an alumnus, and we have alum all over the world, and arrange to have an interview with them. Or admissions officers travel to hub cities around the world which include Mumbai, New Delhi, London, Paris, Shanghai, and Beijing, and the students can meet us and have an interview. All interviews are weighed exactly the same. So you don't have more value interviewing with me verses an admissions fellow. So really do what is convenient for you, should you be invited to interview.

Linda Abraham: Chris asks, "While the website indicates there are no rolling admissions, it is encouraged to submit your application early in the round to which you are applying. That being said, is it advantageous for round two applicants to submit in October or November?"

Meghan Bass: I would say to submit when you feel 100% confident about the application you are sending. Once it's sent in, you can't take it back. So if you feel confident right now that you wouldn't change anything else, press 'send'. If you need to wait longer, that is fine as well. Just hit the deadline; don't go beyond the deadline. If you feel the need to wait, that's completely fine. We don't read it in a particular order. I think that our encouraging you to submit early is just in case there are glitches on our end. Just in case something happens, we can resolve it before the deadline hits when the volume, as you can imagine, is quite intense. I wouldn't want to wait till the last minute; you wouldn't want to crash the server, or do anything scary at midnight on January 4th. But again, do it when you are ready to press 'send'. If that's now or in a month from now, that's fine.

Linda Abraham: Sam asks, "My question relates to the rounds. Do you have an equal quota for round one and round two? Since you admit about 900 students and you are expecting more students in round two, would you have more vacancies for round two?"

Meghan Bass: It's just not that prescriptive, I'm sorry to say. We are used to this; we are used to round one being a smaller pool than round two. We don't admit on quotas like that; it's simply not that prescriptive. Without telling too much about our process internally, I will say that if you have a very strong, compelling, qualifying application, don't worry if you are round two verses round one. Yes, round two is bigger, but that is nothing that we are not used to already. That's been historically the way it's gone for years now.

Linda Abraham: Rana asks, "Are round one and round two generally more/less competitive than round three?"

Meghan Bass: I would encourage you not to apply in round three. Round three is not a viable round for anybody interested in the Lauder program which is the MBA joint degree with the MS in International Study. It's also not a viable round for any international student. So if you are international or interested in Lauder, you should only be looking at rounds one and two. Additionally, we encourage all other students to apply for rounds one and two. Round three is really a smaller round. It's after a lot of decisions have already been made; it's after the class has pretty much been shaped up. That's not to say not to apply then if you really need to and this is the best round for you to apply. But we strongly encourage that you look at rounds one and two verses round three.

Linda Abraham: Monica asks, "How far from campus do most students live?"

Meghan Bass: It depends. We are located in west Philadelphia. A lot of the current students live around this area; there are several apartment buildings and town homes around this area. There are also a lot of buildings in center city which is a short 15 minute walk away from campus and a lot of students live there as well.

Linda Abraham: Shank asks, "How about scholarships? Is there an advantage for round one or round two?" Are there no co-signer loans available for international applicants?"

Meghan Bass: We do have a loan product for international students, which does not require a co-signer. In terms of scholarships or fellowships, we do have several. You do not have an advantage round one verses round two; everyone is looked at equally. They are merit based and we decide at the time of admissions, so there is no separate application that goes along with that. That is an internal decision that happens along with our admissions decision.

Linda Abraham: Shank asks, "Are school visits a very important part of an application?"

Meghan Bass: I think it's important for you. We don't sit here and judge if you've come to campus or not. But for you, in your homework in choosing a school whether it be Wharton or elsewhere, I think it's very important that you visit the school and get a sense of the campus and the students you see. A lot of the questions I'm being asked right now, you'll probably get a sense by simply walking around and getting a feel for things. We invite you to come to Wharton; you are more than welcome. Again, I am not going to have a checklist and check off your name if you show up, and hold it against your application or anything of that nature if you don't, but it will give you the opportunity to see us speak in person. It will give you the opportunity to sit in on a class, mingle with current students, have a lunch with them, take a campus tour, and really get a sense of what it's like here.

Linda Abraham: Any last minute tips or advice for the applicants to Wharton this year?

Meghan Bass: Sure. I would just say again, your application is an in-depth application. It's a lengthy thing; we are looking for high school information, parent information, awards, essays, it's a very lengthy project to finish an application for us.

Linda Abraham: About how much time will you spend reviewing an application?

Meghan Bass: Applications are reviewed several times by several readers. So on average, each application will be read 3-4 times. I think every applicant should be aware of that. There is no part of the application that is brushed over or glanced over. It's read carefully by several members of the committee. So really students need to take their time when choosing how to present themselves. There are no right and wrong answers; there are no specific agendas that we are looking to get out of the essays, and there is no hidden language we are looking to get out of the recommendation. Everybody is different; everybody is presenting a different case. Really feel confident in who you are, take your time, talk to your recommenders, put together a compelling case, and you are going to get into a great business school whether Wharton or elsewhere. As long as you put together an honest and accurate application to who you are, you'll do great.

Linda Abraham: Thank you again all for participating today. Special thanks to Tiffany and Meghan for joining us today. If you have additional questions for Tiffany or Meghan, please email them to mba.operations@wharton.upenn.edu. We look forward to seeing you at future Q&As, and here is a list of the upcoming scheduled events:

Cornell Q&A with Randall Sawyer
Thursday, October 21, 2010

Yale Q&A with Bruce DelMonico
Wednesday, October 27

And Michigan Ross, CMU Tepper and Columbia are scheduled in November.

If you would like to automatically receive notices about these MBA admissions Q&A and other MBA admissions events, please subscribe to our MBA event list. Please check the website for additional details.

Good luck with your applications!

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