Wharton – An Insider’s Guide

This week, we’re giving you a peak behind the curtain at Wharton! You may think of Wharton as ‘the finance school’, but that’s not all this top ranked program has to offer. It also boasts a world-renowned curriculum in areas such as Real Estate, Healthcare, Entrepreneurship, and Marketing. Curious what else might surprise you? Read on to find out.

The Basics

Located in Philadelphia, Wharton enrolls one of the largest classes of the top MBA programs each year (the last class was 877 people strong). Its class profile mirrors that of its peers on many metrics, with an average GMAT score of 733 (324 GRE) and an average undergraduate GPA of 3.6. One difference, however, is that Wharton is the only top MBA program to have reached gender parity, enrolling 50%+ women in each of the last two years.

Another difference between Wharton and its peers when it comes to the admissions process is that its invite-only interview process is the ‘Team Based Discussion’. The ‘TBD’ is a group interview where you partner with 4-5 other applicants on a case study that is observed by and presented to adcom representatives (typically two second year students).

Additionally, beyond the standard two-year MBA, Wharton offers a number of notable specialty programs, including:

  • Health Care Management (you must apply at the time of regular application and be in this program to take most health care management classes)
  • 3rd Semester in San Francisco (heavy focus on entrepreneurship, start up and VC space)
  • Joint degree in International Studies, aka Lauder (24-month joint degree including language training, global immersions, and Lauder-only coursework)
  • Joint degree in Public Policy (with the Harvard Kennedy School)
  • Exchange program with INSEAD (spend a semester in France or Singapore, which can even be done after graduation)


When it comes to academics, students find that Wharton has a relatively light core curriculum and eligible first year students can waive or test out of all core classes. Otherwise, the core curriculum is still relatively flexible, with only three required classes and the rest self-selected.

There are several favorite classes in the Wharton curriculum, including Management 612 (orientation class) with Professor Adam Grant, Negotiations with Professor Gus Cooney, Legal Aspects of Entrepreneurship with Professor Robert Borghese, Applied Probability Marketing Models with Professor Pete Fader, and Scaling Operating with Professor Gad Allon.

Wharton is also known for its leadership ventures through the McNulty Leadership Program. Through these expeditions students can practice teamwork in places such as Antarctica, Patagonia, and many more. The school also offers Global Modular Courses (GMCs) and Global Immersion Programs (GIPs) which students can take for school credit at locations across the globe.

There is grade non-disclosure (voted on by students every year) and recruiters asking for grades is uncommon. Grades are on an A-F scale, with mostly A/Bs due to curving. The bottom 10% of each course gets an “LT,” several of which lead to academic probation.

Participation is not a large part of grading (5–10%) for quantitative courses (FIN, ACCT), but very important (up to 50%) for others. Many electives across departments have team projects and teams are typically self-selected. Often 30–50% of your grade in elective courses is based on team project work.

Students are assigned a cohort with ~70 students and a ‘learning team’ of 5–6 people from within your cohort. You may be assigned to work with your learning team in core classes for first semester, notably a 1-week management simulation focused on team dynamics and leadership during pre-term.

Culture & Student Experience

Wharton is known for having a fun and highly collaborative culture. School policies such as grade non-disclosure and no classes on Fridays give students ample opportunity to explore their interests, whether they be academic, professional, or social. The size of the class also gives ample opportunity for everyone to find their niche while affording the opportunity to try new things.

With a large class size, it’s hard to describe a ‘typical’ student. A few things most Wharton students have in common are being outgoing, not being overly focused on grades, and a desire to travel.

Wharton has the largest alumni network of any business school. Because of the enjoyable experience most students have during their time at Wharton, alumni are generally more than happy to ‘give back’ by connecting with current students.

The Wharton campus is in West Philadelphia while nearly all MBA students live in the Rittenhouse Square area of downtown Philadelphia. Students generally walk to campus for their first class of the day and stay on campus until their last class or recruiting event. The walk to and from campus is 25-30 minutes and is a time when most students catch up with their classmates.


Almost all extracurricular events, including conferences and career treks, are led by students. There are over 110 student-run clubs, with most students being actively involved in at least a few clubs and passively involved in many more.

Due to the number of clubs, almost everyone seeking a leadership role gets one. Students can form new clubs through the Wharton Graduate Association and several new student clubs are formed every year. Popular clubs include: Wildmen Hockey Club (an ice hockey league for beginners), Whiskey Club, Boxing Club, Rugby Club, and Ski & Snowboard Club.

Every year Wharton has a number of treks including a November trip to Colombia, winter break ski trek to the alps or Japan, winter break treks led by international students to their home countries, a spring break trip to Israel, and numerous others. Wharton students love to travel.

Wharton hosts a number of highly regarded conferences including the Future of Work conference, Women in Business conference, and the Whitney M Young conference, to name a few.

Be on the lookout for timeless Wharton traditions such as weekly pub every Thursday and once a year Red & Blue Ball, Out4Biz White Party, Veterans Gala, Follies, Dance Show, Charity Fashion Show, Fight Night, and many more!

Closing Thoughts

We hope this article provided insight into aspects of the Wharton experience you won’t easily find on the school’s website or in the forums. Having a nuanced understanding of what makes each program unique will not only help you decide where to apply (or attend), it will also help you put your best foot forward during the admissions process. Best of luck on your journey. If we can be of assistance, reach out to request an initial consultation.  


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