7 traits Wharton looks for in ideal MBA candidates




The Wharton School.

The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania is one of the most prestigious business schools in the US and is ranked the third best b-school in the world.


Wharton admits only about 14% of applicants.

After reviewing your application, essays responses, résumé, and references, the most qualified candidates will be invited in for an interview. The interview process starts with a group discussion with up to six other candidates and is followed by a one-on-one interview with a member of the admissions staff.

How can you stand out during this highly selective admissions process?

Stacy Blackman, founder of Stacy Blackman Consulting, helps clients earn admission to top MBA programs. She has an undergraduate degree from Wharton and an MBA from the Kellogg Graduate School of Management at Northwestern University.


Based on a decade of helping clients get into Wharton, her team has assembled a list of seven qualities Wharton looks for in its students:

1. The candidate must be innovative.

"Innovation is a popular catch phrase at Wharton and is integral to Wharton's brand," Blackman writes in her Wharton School Interview Guide.

Wharton looks for students that can initiate projects and create something completely new and different with industry-changing potential.

2. The candidate must possess analytical skills.

"Where possible, feature your ability to analyze and break down a complex problem, weigh the alternatives, and select one that best achieves your objectives," Blackman writes. You should also be able to discuss the options you didn't choose.

3. The candidate must show high-impact leadership skills.

John Sculley

Web Summit/Getty

Former Apple CEO John Sculley received an MBA from Wharton in 1963.

Whether you've been in charge of a classroom project or your own company, it's very important to prove you have leadership potential.


"The scale of your achievement is less important than the fact that you've left indelible footprints in areas that matter to you," Blackman writes.

4. The candidate must be collaborative.

While it's important to prove you can lead a team, it's equally important to prove you can be part of a team. The model at Wharton is fluid leadership, Blackman writes, meaning a team must be aware of each other's skills and must respond to a challenge by appointing the appropriate leader.

"Your capacity for working in a fluid, dynamic team environment, taking the lead when necessary, capitalizing on the strengths of others, and handing over the reins when the time is right are important attributes for fitting in at Wharton," she writes.

5. The candidate must have entrepreneurial abilities.

"Being entrepreneurial means knowing how to recognize and capture opportunity, minimize risk, make the most of limited resources, and make excellent decisions even with inadequate or incomplete information," Blackman writes.

"You can demonstrate an entrepreneurial mindset," she says, "if you have identified opportunities to make an impact above and beyond the call of duty."


6. The candidate must be community-oriented.

Finding time to do community service can demonstrate your devotion to making your community better, she writes. The hours required for a Wharton MBA are comparable to your current job, so you have to prove the ability to manage your time and energy and put it toward a good cause.

But admissions officers at Wharton aren't only interested in whether you've done community service, Blackman writes. They are also interested in the character revelations that come with the projects you took on.

7. The candidate must have global awareness.

It's imperative that you show an ability to "adapt, accept, and understand," Blackman writes.

"Wharton graduates will compete in a global marketplace," she says, "so experience with the challenges of doing business globally and a natural curiosity for learning more about other countries and cultures will be valued by the admissions committee and should therefore be emphasized during your interview."

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