Wharton Admissions Director Ankur Kumar recently provided an update on how Wharton’s team-based discussions went during Round 1. It sounds as though the experience has been positive so far, both for Wharton and for applicants. We still have a lot of questions about this as a means if evaluating candidates, but it’s interesting to study the early impressions from applicants and administrators alike.
The feedback we have been hearing from students is that the discussions haven’t turned out to be the shark tanks — with applicants elbowing each other for air time — that some had feared. If anything, applicants have erred on the side of being a little too friendly, with some going out of their way to show how courteous they can be. Many applicants have reported seeing this “unnatural graciousness” in effect.
According to Kumar on the Wharton Admissions Blog:
It was wonderful to observe our candidates connecting with one other – both inside and outside of the team based discussion. We saw you exchange contact information for future business endeavors, continue to discuss the question posed to your team far after the exercise came to a close, and we noticed a few groups that headed out for celebratory dinner or drinks after the interview was complete. The most heartwarming part for us was to see how much you invested in and supported one other; waiting for everyone in your group to be done, high fiving each other, laughing together, this is the true hallmark of Wharton’s culture of collaboration and something we look forward to your bringing to the program.
Wow, sounds like fun! Even the most collaborative MBA classrooms normally don’t have all of the back-patting described here, although we know that the stakes are much higher with these admissions discussions than they are in a typical business school classroom on any given day. Our take is that some candidates are indeed overdoing it, and going out of their way to show that they’re not jerks or sharks. Whether or not this helps them get into Wharton is still to be determined.
At the same time, we have heard that some applicants definitely felt a need to speak up, lest they be drowned out. This is fairly normal — this same pressure exists in the business school classroom, especially at case study-based schools such as Harvard and Darden — but this is the sort of thing that we’re sure Wharton wants to downplay as much as possible.
While we may still sound skeptical, we definitely laud Wharton for taking such a big risk in the admissions process. They, along with other schools that have significantly cut down their essays in some cases, are advancing the state of the art in the MBA admissions process. We’re reserving judgment, however, until we can better measure how performance in these discussions correlates with admissions success.
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