The Wharton MBA Program – Everything to Know Before You Apply

Huntsman Hall, Wharton Business School

Wharton is a great business school across many areas. Although its strength as a finance program receives a lot of attention because of its excellent placement in that industry, Wharton is equally powerful in areas like entrepreneurship and technology, which are powered by huge investments Wharton has made in these areas. For example, the school launched Tangen Hall as the home for entrepreneurship at Wharton, created the San Francisco Campus to host one cohort of its Executive MBA program, and then used that San Francisco campus to host a rotating cast of full-time MBA students taking one semester away from Philadelphia through the Semester in San Francisco program.

Wharton’s MBA program is student led, with many “Fellows” programs allowing second-year students to take leadership roles in key areas, including admissions, leadership training, student life, academics, and career development. Outside of those programs, you’ll also be seeing a lot of your fellow students in your Learning Team, Cluster, and Cohort.

Wharton’s philosophy of “Give and Take” is based on star professor Adam Grant’s book of the same name, and the school seeks to enroll students who know how they will benefit from and contribute to the MBA program.

The breadth of the program, and the enormous resources of UPenn generally, make Wharton a business school that can help you to achieve almost any goal. (Which can make it a great choice if you’re still evaluating your exact post-MBA goals.

This profile lays out the basic facts about Wharton’s MBA program and the resources you’ll need to further research it. 

Wharton MBA Class Profile

Acceptance rate  21%
GMAT Median: 732
Range : 540-790
GRE Quant:162
Verbal: 162
Reporting GRE: Does not disclose
GPA Average: 3.6
Range: Does not disclose
Age/Experience Age: 28years
Work Experience (years): 5
Diversity Women: 47%
International: 30%
Pre-MBA Industries
Consulting: 25%
PE / VC: 12%
Other: 10%
Non-profit / Gov't: 9%
Tech / Internet Services: 9%
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Investment Banking: 9%
Other Financial Services: 6%
Investment Management: 5%
Health Care: 5%
CPG / Retail: 4%
Energy: 3%
Media / Entertainment: 3%
Undergraduate Majors
Humanities / Social Sciences: 43%
Engineering / Math / Science: 30%
Business: 27%

The data above is from 2019 and represents the Wharton MBA class of 2021.*
See the full report: Wharton MBA Class Profile

Student Experiences

Wharton MBA Employment Report & Careers

Offers & Compensation
Median Salary + Signing bonus: $175,000
% Offers upon Graduation:   Does not disclose
% Offers at 3 months: 98.5%
Post-MBA Industries
Consulting: 25.1%
Financial Services: 35.8%
Hedge Funds / Other Investments: 2.4%
Insurance & Diversified Services: 1.8%
Investment Banking / Brokerage: 11.8%
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Investment Management: 4.6%
Private Equity / Buyouts / Other: 11.0%
Venture Capital: 4.2%
Technology: 14.9%
Consumer Products: 3.4%
Food / Beverage: 2.1%
Other / Diversified Products: 1.3%
Health Care: 4.3%
Pharmaceuticals / Biotechnology: 1.3%
Services: 1.6%
Real Estate: 3.2%
Retail: 3.0%
Manufacturing: 2.4%
Legal & Professional Services: 1.9%
Future Mobility: 1.8%
Social Impact: 1.4%
FinTech: 1.0%
Media, Entertainment & Sports: 1.0%
Travel & Hospitality: <1%
Energy: <1%
Post-MBA Locations
United States: 88%
Mid-Atlantic: 8%
Midwest: 6%
Northeast: 43%
South: 5%
Southwest: 5%
West: 23%
Non-US: 12%
Post-MBA Companies UPenn Wharton Employers
Career Development Resources Wharton Career Services

The data above is from 2019 and represents the career statistics for the Wharton MBA class of 2019.*
See the full report: Wharton MBA Employment Report

Wharton MBA Academic Programs 

MBA Curriculum

Unlike most two-year programs, the Wharton MBA curriculum includes an additional required “pre-term”, which students attend before beginning year one. Students can choose courses that span either a quarter or a full semester. The core curriculum consists of fixed and flexible core courses that can be taken either in year one or year two. Wharton’s elective curriculum allows students to choose from 200 electives across 10 of the academic departments within the business school. Students can also take up to four courses from the 11 other schools at the University of Pennsylvania.


Students can choose from 18 Wharton MBA majors. Most majors require the completion of 5 course units, and students also have the option of graduating with a double major.

Experiential Learning Programs

The McNulty Leadership Program and Wharton’s Center for Leadership and Change Management offer students a variety of experiential learning opportunities. These programs are complemented by the Wharton Leadership Ventures program, which offers students the option of outdoor experiential treks in the form of expeditions and intensives or one to three day-long workshops.

Research Centers

Wharton has over 20 research centers and initiatives in topics such as behavioral economics, entrepreneurship and innovation, finance, risk management, and social impact. The full list can be found on the Wharton Research Centers page.

MBA International Study Programs

The Wharton International Study Programs are comprised of:

  • Global Modular Courses
  • Global Immersion Program
  • Combined International Study Degrees

Through the Combined International Study Degrees program at Wharton, students can pursue full interdisciplinary degrees through three institutions:

Video Resources on Wharton Academics

Wharton MBA Application

The latest application requirements set by the Wharton MBA admissions office are described below.


Wharton’s two essays are based on the “Give and Take” philosophy espoused by star professor Adam Grant:

  • 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)

A great essay for Wharton requires significant research. Read more about this in our article: How to Crack the Wharton MBA Essays.

For the first essay, you must understand your career goals in detail, your gaps in achieving those goals, and the specific ways in which Wharton will help you fill those gaps. (Hint: a list of classes will NOT be a compelling essay.

For the second essay, you must identify a way that you will give back to the Wharton community. The more you know about the clubs, classes and programs at Wharton, and the needs of current students, the more likely you will be able to spell out a convincing case that you will be a great contributor to the program.

Letters of Recommendation 

The 2020-2021 Wharton recommender questions are as follows:

  • Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success in the Wharton MBA classroom. (Recommended: 300 words)
  • Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success throughout their career. (Recommended: 300 words)
  • (Optional) Is there anything else we should know? (text box, 7500 characters max)

Video Resources on Wharton Admissions

Wharton MBA Admissions Interviews

Because Learning Teams, Cohorts and Clusters are central to the Wharton experience, Wharton wants to recruit students who work well with others. The interview process is designed around this–if you’re invited to interview, you will participate in a team-based discussion, followed up by a short one-on-one interview with a student Admissions Fellow (or, depending on the location, an admissions committee member) who observed you during the group discussion. 

The team-based discussion brings together a group of 4-6 applicants for a 35-minute discussion on a pre-announced discussion prompt dealing with some aspect of improving the Wharton MBA program. Previous discussion prompts have included what to do with alumni donations, launching a new course, or opening up a new facility on campus. This group discussion allows Wharton to gauge your skills in working together with a team.

After the team-based discussion, each applicant is invited to a 10-minute face-to-face interview. During this interview, you will likely be asked to reflect on how your group discussion went, as well as answer a few traditional questions (e.g. why you want an MBA, why you chose Wharton), and maybe an open-ended question asking about whether you’d like to share anything else about your candidacy.

Want to know more? Learn how to prepare for your Team Based Discussion.

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What Makes Wharton Unique?

McNulty Leadership Program: This is the umbrella program for almost all of Wharton’s leadership training programs, including the famous leadership ventures (want to trek to Antarctica with your classmates?), the P3 Program (Purpose, Passion, Principles), the Executive Coaching and Feedback Program, and more.

Technically, even the MGMT 610 course designed by Adam Grant falls under this umbrella.

Wharton's Adam Grant teaching MGMT 610

Wharton Lauder program: This program combines the Wharton MBA with an MA in International Studies from Penn’s School of Arts & Sciences.  Concentrations are available in:

  • Africa
  • Latin America
  • East and Southeast Asia
  • Europe
  • South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa
  • Global

*You must be fluent in a second language relevant to your concentration, and must apply in Round 1 or Round 2 only, because the program begins in May rather than August.

Semester in San Francisco: You can spend one semester in your second year at Wharton’s San Francisco campus, which provides a great networking opportunity with local tech companies — it’s much easier to secure informational interviews as a Wharton student than as an employed professional. 

*All data retrieved from the Wharton Business School MBA Program webpages, unless otherwise stated.