Wow, I realize I haven't been on this forum for AGES. Working till 2am 2 or 3 times a week doesn't help I guess.
I would just like to provide a quick update on my thoughts on my school now that a full year has gone. Would be great if other people did that too. I'm going to base myself on a previous post that compared Chicago to Wharton (http://gmatclub.com/forum/chicago-vs-wharton-74034-20.html
, good debate with Kwam), because I think it covered a lot of the things you should take into account.Academics
I'm fairly disappointed with the core program. I see how the core program makes sense in some ways: it's great for people with no financial experience for example, it puts everybody on the same level, etc. However, for those people with a financial background, it's not great. There should definitively be more flexibility around the program - waiving is simply not enough. I don't know what a good solution would be, but something must change. I think Columbia (correct me if I'm wrong) has recently introduced some sort of semi-flexible core program, maybe we should have a look at that.
Also, quality of the core classes is very variable, depending at 99% on the teacher. I've had some great teachers - Donaldson, Edmans, Stine, O'Sullivan - but I've had a lot of mediocre ones too (I'll mention no names). The problem here is that the allocation is purely based on luck: if you get good core class teachers, great. You get shitty ones, tough (for reminder's sake, different professors give the same class, because of the size of the program). It all evens out normally, but this shouldn't be the case. There is too little teacher accountability in terms of quality of teaching.
The balance of the classes is sometimes not ideal: for example we have had 3 classes of operations management, where 1 or 2 would have been more than enough.
However, that being said, I heard that the classes in second year are very good (some are apparently exceptional - Diamond and Friedman come to mind). I've not managed to get into all the classes I wanted to get into unfortunately, but ultimately that my fault (spent too much money on Siegel's class, not worth it at all). I'm really looking forward to some of them (and trust me when I say that academics is not my priority), there is some very high quality stuff out there. At the end of the day, I'd just say that you have to grind through the core to get access to the real quality stuff.
A very positive element of the academic program is the learning team concept (teams of 5 or 6 people working together for the group projects): I'm really close with all my team now. I love my team and learned a lot from them (really). Some other people had bad experiences, and although at the time it might seem frustrating, it's a great way to learn how to deal with tense situations - I know it sounds cheesy but it's true.
Finally, in terms of hours spent on studying, what they say is true: it really depends on you. If you are aiming for academic excellence, be prepared to work hard. If you have no financial / mathematical background (liberal arts kind of guy - nicknamed "poet" by the class usually), be prepared to work even harder (I weigh my words here). If however you're decent in mathy stuff and just want to get through school, it's pretty much painless. There is a bit of work involved, but it's really not that dramatically intensive. You'll have loads of time to do stuff that you want to do.
In conclusion, the academic level is still very high in comparison with other schools, even though there are somethings that need improvement.
Final point: no classes on Friday = PRICELESS. Nuff said. Program
Cohort vs cherry-picking, the eternal debate. You would think that I would be super in favour of cherry-picking after what I wrote on the core program. Well I'm not. I love the idea of cherry-picking, but I still think that some form of core program has a lot of merits. I'm not going to repeat them here though (have a look at the Chicago vs Wharton post). For Wharton specifically, I would sugggest to maybe waive some "high-risk" classes (ie classes where the chance of having a crap teacher is high) and stick with the others. And even in this case I'm not really massively in favour if waiving a lot of stuff.Brand name
This was the element that made me favour Wharton over Chicago. I still believe that Wharton has a big edge in terms of brand. However the school may not rest and must work hard to keep that brand up. I think that the school is up for the task though.Geography
At the end of the day - and this is going to sound shocking - geography doesn't really matter. I traveled all over the US with the soccer and rugby teams, and I could have done that from anywhere. The only big advantage of Philly is the proximity with NY (and AC
). However, what DOES matter is the city vs recluse place debate. I spend most of my time with my Wharton friends, and I mostly go to parties organised by the school, so you could ask me: "Well it doesn't matter where you are then does it?". Well, it does. If I want to do something else, I can. If I want to get away from the Wharton crowd (and trust me, that will happen to you too), I can. If you're in Ithaca, you can't.
Philly is actually a much better place than people think. I actually miss some aspects of the city (and I'm saying that while living in London). But it's not a great city like NY or London, where options are simply limitless. You always end up going to the same places. However for 2 years of your life, as an MBA student, Philly offers more than enough. Plus Philly Center City is a very safe place. I have never felt threatened or scared at any point - although it is true that I'm a 6'5 guy, and not the size 0 type, which obviously helps. The worst that could happen is having your house broken into - that happens A LOT if you don't have a doorman (as in I know at least 3 or 4 people that have had that). Restaurant options are pretty good too - decent choice of average priced restaurants. The only massive down aspect is the wine: if you like wine, don't live in Pennsylvania, it's not only very hard to find good wines because of the law, but it's also very expensive. International students
The school is super international which is great, plus for me US people are international too
There is however a bias to the Asian continent, but that probably happens in all the US schools (to be fair it is a VERY populated continent
Sports are brilliant at Wharton. I have met most - if not all - of my close friends from school though sports. The rugby and soccer teams are great and tour regularly to plenty of tournaments through the country, which as you can imagine leads to some pretty... interesting moments. The quality of the organisation is usually excellent (well I'm the co-president of the soccer club so I'm not going to say we're bad
). It is definitively a great opportunity to make friends fo life.Infrastructure
Wharton's Huntsman Hall is gorgeous and pretty new, but we have to share it with the undergrads (there's a story behind this but I wont go into details) and it's clearly too small for 2 big programs like ours. It's tough to book study rooms and it's tough to find spots in the study lounges, especially in the busy periods. However, there are plenty of other places where you can go and study on campus (and even meet those fit girls from law), but it's annoying that you can't do it in your own building. As for sport, mentioned in the Chicago vs Wharton post, indoor sport infrastructure is brilliant, outdoor infrastructure is incredibly poor. Although there is a massive project going on to build outdoor infrastructure close to the river for 2015 or something like that (it has apparently even won prizes), the current lack of outdoor infrastructure is simply shocking.Student groups
The level of implication of the students is not a legend, it's phenomenal. There are loads of students that get implicated and get stuff done, whether it's trips (Japan trek, legendary), sports, professional activities, you name it. As a skeptical European, I had my doubts when people told me that, but I can guarantee you that it's very true. Usually the quality of organisation is pretty high too. On a personal level I am the co-president of the poker club and the soccer club - gonna be a lot of work btw. Wharton Leadership Ventures
The leadership ventures are great possibilities to visit places where you will probably never go to again: Antarctica, Kili, Cotopaxi, etc. That is something that I definitively took into account when I decided for which school I was going to go to. The only issue is the price: they are very expensive and overpriced. But at the end of the day it's an unique opportunity to get to do unusual stuff with people from your school, which is great. Nightlife / partying
Ah, the parties... When I was debating between Wharton and Chicago, I remember asking a second year how the parties were, because I was scared that it might be a bit quiet. I had this image of the MBA student being a studious person, working hard to get good grades / a good job. How pathetically wrong I was. There are an incredible amount of parties all the time. Every club organises parties. There is pub (140 dollars for free pizzas and beer every Thursday). There is second year drinks (every Wednesday). There are massive parties every Thursday night. There are home parties (a lot of them actually). There are "Let's go to Vegas and go crazy" parties. You name it. I've got a pretty resistant body to those type of "events", but I can tell you that I couldn't do them all. If you like partying, you will love the school. And just to get things clear: there is no "pressure" to booze till you drop (it's not frowned upon either btw, not that I know of anyway, unless you annoy people obviously). Just show and chill.
I'm not sure other top schools party as much as we do to be honest - although I could be massively wrong obviously. I heard for example that Chicago is a more "studious" kind of place.Career opportunities
In these tough times, it pays to be at Wharton. The major banks have only recruited from the top schools, including Wharton. The brand and the alumni network can really get you very far, and that's great. For that the school has been brilliant. The only thing is that Wharton remains a US centric school; there are less alumni in Europe than in the US for example (kind of obvious but worth remembering). However there are still loads of opportunities to interact with alumni all over the world.
I also wanted to say a couple of words about the career services dpt, but to be honest my view would not be very reflective since I used them so little. What I can tell you though is that when it comes down to recruiting outside the US, expect to be helped a lot less. Not that it matters a lot though. Maybe another student can take the relay and talk more about the career services dpt.
In conclusion, I really love my school, love the experience (probably one of the best in my life), despite some negative aspects of it. I would recommend to anyone to come over at Wharton. I have made friends for life, I have begun stuff I would have never done otherwise (poker, rugby, golf, cigars, whiskey to name a few), I'm really enjoying myself. However, be prepared to spend A LOT of money
Hope this helps. As usual, if you have any questions, feels free to ask. Hope I covered everything; if not let me know.
What would be terrific is that other students talk about their experience after 1 / 2 years, what they thought before going to school and what changed / did not change in their perception. I'd love to hear from other people!
PS: sorry for the poor writing, I have a massive hangover.
Wharton admits, join the rugby team!! It'll be by far the best experience of your MBA life