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I had very high expectations going to Wharton. Not only is Wharton MBA consistently ranked one of the top MBA programs but I had heard that Dean Thomas Robertson had immensely changed the school for the better.
But, my overall experience during the school visit was below expectation. I want to believe that my experience was a bad fluke, but I cannot help but hold my doubts. In fairness, it was the last week of classes and I imagine the students and the school was busy with exams and end of year activities. This could be why no one showed up for out students’ lunch or why our tour guide seemed so apathetic. Same might hold true for the professors (although this last part is a bit far fetched).
But, no matter the explanation, I was a bit disappointed. If I am admitted, I will definitely need to give Wharton another visit in hopes of a better experience.Campus Tour
After my first class (see Class Visit below), we met in the MBA admissions office with a group of 20-30 other prospective students – the largest campus tour group I have seen so far. The tour itself was very basic and largely useless. It was led by a current student (I do not even know first or second year because she never introduced herself) and we simply walked around campus while she read some basic facts off of a piece of paper.
I couldn’t tell whether the student was nervous, ill prepared, or just apathetic, but she definitely failed to engage the visitors. Also, she seemed most interested in pointing out the best places eat, rather than talking about the actual MBA. As a result the tour was very short, approximately 15 minutes, with another 5 minutes for a short Q&A. But because she lost her audience so early in the process, I was the only one to ask a lame question.
My recommendation: skip the tour and enjoy some of the good food the tour guide talks about.Class Visits
I was able to attend two classes during my time there, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. If you go visit, do try to take advantage of this because I think Wharton is one of the few schools that allows you to attend two classes in a day.Class 1: Macroeconomics
I enjoyed this class: the material was interesting (European Debt Crisis) and the professor was engaging. He threw in a bit of humor to keep the material light and presented the material in a way that was easy to follow. The class had apparently read a case and were going to be discussing it.
The professor spent the first three-quarters of the class simply presenting the facts from the case and asking some inference-type questions on the facts. The last quarter of the class the students discussed potential outcomes of the European debt crisis and tried to apply some of the theories they had learned earlier in the semester.
Although, I would have liked to see more discussion rather than simple presentation, overall this class visit was a good experience and worked in favor of Wharton.Class 2:Capital Markets
This class was a complete opposite of my other experience – a HUGE disappointment. Working in Risk Management for OTC derivatives, I knew most of the subject matter already. But I was surprised to see how little the professor knew about the subject! Students would ask her questions to which she had no answers – answers I would expect a professor at Wharton to know. In fact, if the question was about anything extraneous to the slides she was presenting, she seemed to not be sure of the answer.
Therefore Most of the questions were answered by other students or were simply ignored. For example, she presented a 3D chart that she obviously got from an external source. She was trying to explain what the chart showed but her presentation was a bit confusing. As a result, there were more than a few questions that came up. I personally had one question:
“I see two of the axes are labeled and that makes sense, but the third axis has no label – what does it mean?”
“It is simply the percentage breakdown of the total. They all add up to 100%”
“But one of the bars alone is at 140%. I don’t think they add up to 100″
“Hmm… You are right….”
This was followed by a long awkward silence until someone else raised his/her hand. We never got an answer for my question…Lunch with Current Students
Did not happen. I showed up for the lunch – as did the 20-30 other visitors – but apparently no one sent the current students the memo. So I ate lunch with other visitors (who were quite interesting) but spoke to zero current students.Info Session
After the disappointing campus tour, lunch session, and the second class, I almost skipped the info session. But I am glad I did not because this was the probably the best part of the visit. The session was hosted by three current students, two 1st years and one 2nd year. Each of them was very enthusiastic and gave Wharton many accolades.
The session started off with a basic presentation of the program, the core values, and other standard marketing information you see at most such sessions. But that was quite short and the floor was open to Q&A for majority of the time.
The students spoke highly of the collaborative culture at Wharton and the fact that the Wharton community is very strong. This new culture was built recently by the Dean of Students (whose name unfortunately I did not catch) and has been noticed by employers. Apparently, the head of McKinsey NA offered the Dean of Students a job at McKinsey after noticing the change in collaborative nature of Wharton grads in the last couple of years.
As I had expected, the students also said career prospects after Wharton are among the best when compared to other schools. With Wharton’s new West Coast campus, students also have an opportunity to get involved more directly in start ups if they want. Of course, the Wharton Alumni network is not only large but very well placed in corporate America (and the world).
Finally, I asked one of the students presenting if she was in the Wharton Follies Ikea Video. Turns out she was and ended up speaking about that club a little bit. I found it very interesting and would love to get involved with that group if I am able to go to Wharton.