2010 Wharton MBA Admissions Q&A with J.J. Cutler and Ankur Kumar

2010 Wharton MBA Admissions Q&A with J.J. Cutler and Ankur Kumar

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Linda Abraham (Aug 26, 2009 12:00:55 PM)
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 chat today, and I want to congratulate you for taking the time to learn more about University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. It is critical to your decision 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 want to introduce our special guests from Wharton:

  • J.J. Cutler - Wharton Class of 97’ and currently Director of Wharton MBA Admissions and Financial Aid.
  • Ankur Kumar - Wharton class of 07’ and currently Senior Associate Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at the Wharton School.

Thanks for joining us today.

Linda Abraham (Aug 26, 2009 12:02:14 PM)
J.J., what’s new at Wharton from an admissions perspective?

Roshni (Aug 26, 2009 12:03:13 PM)
Ankur: How do you view early career applicants (2-3 years of experience)? Do they add much value to the classroom?

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:04:26 PM)
Linda, that's a pretty broad question. Every year we are looking to attract a broad, diverse group of applicants. In particular, from an application standpoint, we made some changes to our essay questions to try to better identify applicants who would be a good fit for Wharton.

John (Aug 26, 2009 12:04:36 PM)
J.J.: What are you looking for reapplicants to demonstrate in their application package?

Linda Abraham (Aug 26, 2009 12:09:29 PM)
JJ: To follow up on the last response, what makes an applicant a good fit with Wharton?

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:09:34 PM)
Roshni, regarding early careerists (less than 3 years work experience), we are starting to see more and more qualified applicants in this category and they add tremendous value inside of as well as outside of the classroom. We have no set requirements for how many years of experience we are looking for. It's an individual decision as to when is the "right" time to apply.

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:11:43 PM)
Hi John, regarding reapplicants, we are looking for them to help us understand how their candidacy has developed and grown over the time since they last applied. That is something one can demonstrate in all aspects of the application - from continued career progression, increased awareness and insights, new experiences, to retaking the GMAT.

aspirant (Aug 26, 2009 12:11:46 PM)
Ankur: My average grade is low (75 out of 100), just above average. But my GMAT is better (720). Can my GMAT compensate for the low GPA?

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:11:49 PM)
Linda, a good fit for Wharton would be as follows: We look for people who are intellectually curious, who ask "why" a lot, who want to make a positive change, who like to work with other people, who like tackling complex difficult problems, who see the current economic "crisis" as an opportunity, who wants to be "in the game" as opposed to "watching the game," who will make Wharton and their classmates better, and who ultimately will make the world better.

Jack (Aug 26, 2009 12:11:53 PM)
JJ: I know that you don't encourage recommendation letters from academic superiors. However, how about PhD and Postdoc advisers?

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:13:47 PM)
Jack, we want you to pick the right recommenders for your own personal situation and we are evaluating your choice as part of your judgment. We encourage you to pick people who know you well and can give us information about you that will help us make a decision. In general, we prefer a direct supervisor in whatever context makes sense for you.

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:13:50 PM)
Hi Aspirant. We look at each candidate's academic achievements holistically and triangulate across all the different data points (undergrad performance, GMAT scores). In terms of GPA, we are looking at more than just the final number and view it in the context of the educational institution you went to, courses you took, performance trajectory over time, and other factors such as work or extracurricular involvement.

MS (Aug 26, 2009 12:13:52 PM)
Hi JJ! Until last year, Howard E. Mitchell Fellowship was for students of Hispanic, African-American, and American Indian descent. Is there a policy change from this year to allow exceptional students from under-represented backgrounds, but from other countries (such as India) as well?

mba2010asp (Aug 26, 2009 12:13:53 PM)
Ankur: Since you've graduated from Wharton, what changes have you seen in how you could contribute well to the organization - pre & post MBA? What was it about the Wharton MBA that made that difference?

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:16:13 PM)
MS, all students can be considered for fellowships. We have a number of fellowships that have specific criteria attached to them as well as fellowships that are more general. All of the criteria for all fellowships are online.

Robin (Aug 26, 2009 12:16:21 PM)
JJ: For candidates looking for a career move, let's say from science/engineering to consulting, how does the nature of past work experience affect the job a candidate lands in the end?

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:18:47 PM)
Robin, obviously our Career Management team can give you more specific information, but in general, I'd say that past work experience is one factor that goes into the decision for a prospective employer. Most employers know that many MBA students are in School to switch careers, so as long as your story makes sense, you demonstrate interest and passion in the path you are choosing, and get involved with the new industry/company while in School, you should be able to set yourself up well when making a career switch.

vikRed (Aug 26, 2009 12:18:50 PM)
Ankur: Hi, I have a question about the reapplication process. I had applied in R2 last year. Do you advice reapplicants to wait at least a year before they submit another application? Or is it fine if I submit a R1 application this year?

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:20:39 PM)
Hi Mba2010asp. The Wharton MBA is an opportunity to develop both professional and personally. I was able to develop and test new skills - both from a professional and personal standpoint. For example, I was able to build my strategic thinking and problem solving skills to help me transition from a career in Finance to Strategy. I also got to meet and learn classmates coming from a diverse set of backgrounds - including industry experience, geographic location and way of thinking - that also helped shape my way of thinking. Overall, Wharton provided me with the confidence to go out and tackle any business problem - by leveraging what I had learned in the classroom, in my extracurricular activities or from my classmates.

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:21:46 PM)
APA, I agree that we are known for our expertise in the Real Estate industry, which has obviously gone through a tremendous amount of change in the last few years and will continue to evolve rapidly in the next 3-4. We are looking for applicants who have a passion for and a commitment to the industry. I don't have a crystal ball regarding placement, but I think the Wharton experience will provide you with a huge advantage in terms of access to faculty, industry leaders, and alumni.

MNA (Aug 26, 2009 12:21:51 PM)
JJ: Should applicants to the Lauder program draw upon examples from work experiences only, when writing their essays?

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:22:17 PM)
Hi VikRed. I always say that applicants in general, and reapplicants as well, should apply when they feel like they can put their best candidacy forward. It's a personal decision and if you feel that you'd like to apply in R1 then you should.

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:23:36 PM)
1982 - our campus visit program will still be ramping up and so, while certain aspects are not available, you can attend an Info Session in the Admissions Office at 3pm (held daily) and tour our building and campus on your own.

Roshni (Aug 26, 2009 12:23:59 PM)
Ankur: The workplace today is increasingly global. It happens that a supervisor may reside in some other continent and the only contact is through internet/phone calls/video conferences. Can we take a recommendation from such a person?

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:24:01 PM)
MNA, I am not sure I completely understand your question, but I think the answer is 'No." Make sure you read the essay questions carefully and answer the question(s) being asked. There is no secret code! Draw upon examples that make the most sense for your personal situation, whether from work or other aspects of your life.

vikRed (Aug 26, 2009 12:24:06 PM)
J.J., is the reapplication considered an extension of the previous years application? Or should it be complete in itself? For example, I think that the story in one of my essays last year was compelling. Should I be restating it in my current reapplication?

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:25:39 PM)
VikRed: A reapplication should be complete in and of itself. You need to make a judgment call for yourself about how to handle the essays and whether you want to keep an essay from last year.

John (Aug 26, 2009 12:25:47 PM)
J.J.- Do you expect the upcoming applicant pool to be the same size as last year's applicant pool?

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:25:59 PM)
Roshni: If your supervisor doesn't have access to the internet to submit their recommendation online, they can submit a paper copy to our office.

MS (Aug 26, 2009 12:26:06 PM)
Ankur: This year Wharton will be accepting only 2 recommendations. Will a 3rd optional recommendation, submitted in paper, be acceptable or not?

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:28:51 PM)
MS: We are strongly encouraging candidates to only submit 2 recommendations this year and therefore our online application only allows for 2 to be added. If you feel strongly that a third recommendation would add an additional perspective not reflected in the other two, then you may submit a third. However, again, I would strongly encourage using your judgment in doing so.

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:28:54 PM)
John, that seems to be one of the BIG questions this year! If I had to predict, I would say that the pool will continue to grow moderately. Now that the macro-economic news is brightening in Japan, Europe, Latin America, and the U.S., I think we will see strong numbers from those regions in addition to the strong numbers we continue to see in economies that were less hard-hit like India and China. The decision to apply to Wharton is not one that people take lightly, so people don't tend to apply on a whim regardless. And the ROI continues to be strong, especially for the high-quality top-tier schools.

MNA (Aug 26, 2009 12:28:55 PM)
JJ and Ankur: In your opinion, what sets Wharton apart?

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:34:33 PM)
MNA: We think that there are three aspects of our program that helps our students achieve their set of professional and personal aspirations. Those are:

  1. Our approach to learning.
  2. Our access to a diverse and collaborative student body and the most powerful business network.
  3. Our approach to helping you develop as a leader.
Let me explain the first and third a bit further. In terms of our approach to learning, we provide students with the foundational business knowledge through our core curriculum in the first year, as well as the opportunity to specialize by taking electives and choosing majors in your second year. And in terms of leadership - we actually believe leadership can be learned by doing. The first core class you take is on leadership - you actually do a simulation exercise that helps assess your leadership on a number of dimensions and then you work with a second year student adviser to help you craft a plan of how to develop your leadership skills through courses and extracurricular activities.

Saurabh (Aug 26, 2009 12:34:40 PM)
Ankur: I'm trying to compensate for my poor GPA. In addition to a good GMAT, what do you recommend more -- formal part-time classes at local colleges, or certifications like CFA?

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:36:21 PM)
Saurabh - as I mentioned to Aspirant, we look at applicants holistically and on this dimension as well, we triangulate across GPA, GMAT, etc. If you feel that courses will help boost your academic profile, then that's your judgment call.

Robin (Aug 26, 2009 12:36:45 PM)
Ankur: How does the nature of industry you have work experience in, build your candidacy for Wharton? What is the most important point according to you, which sets a candidate apart from his usual creativity in assignments, etc?

AnkurKumarWHARTON(Aug 26, 2009 12:37:52 PM)
Robin - we have students who come from all industries and there is no one preferred path to Wharton. We look for excellence and standout factors in all aspects of one's candidacy including your work experience and whatever industry you have chosen to pursue and are passionate about.

arjun (Aug 26, 2009 12:38:26 PM)
Ankur: I’ve heard students read/screen applications. Does the admissions staff also review applications after this? Could you provide some more information on the application review process?

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:41:15 PM)
Arjun - the application evaluation process is very iterative with multiple touch-points - meaning, your application is read multiple times by multiples Admissions Officers. We do have second year students known as Graduate Assistants, who are selected and trained, who evaluate applications and interview candidates.

Rahul Joseph (Aug 26, 2009 12:53:38 PM)
J.J/Ankur: In working with the family business, what are considered appropriate choices for recommenders?

Roshni (Aug 26, 2009 12:53:50 PM)
Ankur, the essay question on career goals is different from last year's question. So does it mean we should focus more on our goals than our current career progress in that essay?

J.J.CutlerWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:56:52 PM)
Rahul, we obviously get quite a few applicants who are in family businesses and ask this question, so we certainly will take this into consideration. In general, try to find unbiased people who do not have a financial connection/incentive. This could be suppliers, business partners, other employees who are not family members, coaches, customers/clients, etc.

AnkurKumarWHARTON (Aug 26, 2009 12:57:33 PM)
Roshni - this is another example of judgment being a key component of the application process. It's hard for me to say how much emphasis or focus you should place - to the extent that your current career progress is important for us to understand your goals, then you should tell us as much or as little as you think important to tell your story.

Rahul Joseph (Aug 26, 2009 12:57:38 PM)
Thank you very much for your time.

Linda Abraham (Aug 26, 2009 12:58:00 PM)
Thank you again all for participating today. Special thanks to J.J. & Ankur for joining us and sharing their inside knowledge of Wharton.

For more information about Wharton admissions, please visit the web site or Wharton's adcom blog. Highly informative and helpful!

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Michigan Ross -September 10th

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Consortium - October 20th

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