How important is an applicant’s GMAT score?

It really depends.  If it is the weakest part of their application, it is going to be quite important.  That is kind of saying the same thing for whatever is weakest for a particular candidate, whether it is the GMAT, work experience, or any other aspect of their application.  When you apply to Wharton, it is expected to have good things in every aspect of one’s application.  In and of itself, the GMAT score is evaluated within one’s academic history.  So a person’s GMAT is considered in relation to where they did their undergrad, how successful they were, and did they take any quantitative classes.  The average GMAT has come up perhaps five points per year in the last five years.  The reason for that is that candidates are focusing more on the GMAT, in terms that it is now more important.  Candidates are also more prepared when they take the test.  I think it is because there are more resources out there so the candidates can maximize their scores.  We are typically comfortable with the verbal and quantitative scores being around or above the 80 percentile.

What advice do you have for applicants who struggled with this exam?

They must prepare well and possibly take the test more than once.  Obviously because we evaluate it within the context of their academic work, it shows us whether or not they can do the course work and handle Wharton’s rigorous program.  So we look at the academic record and any additional classes that someone has taken.  We don’t have an explicit minimum, but if an overall score is quite low, it is going to be difficult.

What was the GMAT score range for admitted applicants this year?

Typically, the 80 percentile range is 650 to 750.

What should applicants most heavily emphasize in their work experience?

People have a misperception that in order to get into a business school like Wharton, they have to come from the banking or consulting industry.  This is not necessarily the case.  There are a variety of industries both for profit and non-profit or whatever that could be appropriate.  What we are looking at is a person’s evolution within their chosen career, what choices were made if they switched careers, and what they learned from their experiences.  We are also looking at how their experience is formulated into their plan and their goals going forward.

What specific applicant traits are you using the interview to gauge?

The interview for us is a blind interview.  That means the candidate is interviewed without the application.  A lot of the questions are similar.  The applicant wants to think of the interviewer as another person reviewing their candidacy, but instead of reading about the candidate, they just chat and talk.  From this interview, we clearly get a sense of verbal communication skills, a little more sense of emotional intelligence, we are able to probe a little more into getting underneath decisions that someone has made and things like that.  The best way to prepare for the interview is simply to feel good about your essays and choice of business school.

Who can an applicant expect to interview with at Wharton?

We use alumni and admissions professionals, as well as second-year graduate students.

How are re-applicants viewed by Wharton and what do they need to do to be successful the second time around?

The first thing they should do is get feedback.  We have limited resources we can provide.  Then they should figure out what the issues were, and then prepare the reapplication.  The candidate should address those issues. The reapplication instructions are a little different in terms of what essays to write.  The admit rate of re-applicants is higher than first-time applicants.  I think there are good reasons for that.  (1) We do provide feedback and that translates into a level of self-selection where people can get a sense of whether it is worth reapplying and (2) there is a learning curve associated with writing good business school essays.  So clearly if you are applying a second time around, you are going down that learning curve.  You will be more effective in communicating the issues through the application.

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