THE FIRST REQUIRED COURSE IS MANAGEMENT 100 IN THE FALL SEMESTER OF FRESHMAN YEAR
Wharton has an exceptionally pragmatic undergraduate program. Even within Wharton, there are 10 different departments and more than 20 concentrations. As freshmen, students are divided up into one of nine cohorts, with 60 students in each group. As they travel through the program as a cohort through four years, students get hands-on experience working with actual problems from the business world. The major way they do this is through group projects.
Vivek Jois, a junior with a triple concentration in finance, statistics, and management, described an emblematic moment from his Wharton career: his first group project. In freshmen year, all Wharton students are required to take Management 100, a class that breaks students into teams of ten, and assigns them to a non-profit in the Philadelphia or New Jersey area. The students must plan and execute a community service project over the course of the semester, diving right into applied business curriculum from the very beginning of their education. Jois believes group projects like this one are unique to a Wharton education.
“What MGMT100 ultimately teaches you is that when you put a diverse group of individuals together, you can really drive some impressive results, regardless of any one person’s personal business background,” Jois said in an email.
STUDENTS LEARN HOW TO WORK TOGETHER TO CREATE THE BEST RESULTS
Lisa Xu, a senior from West Chester, PA who works as a Wharton peer advisor, says during her time at Wharton, she’s seen the effects of group work firsthand. In freshman year, she says, students were competitive and aggressive in groups—it wasn’t always easy to work together. By senior year, she says group members worked smoothly and efficiently together. She ascribes this difference in behavior to Wharton’s emphasis on teamwork over all four years. Students learn how to work together to create the best results possible.
Yang just finished a group project in a management class. She and a group of four other students were asked to identify a problem facing a company in any industry, and then try to analyze the problem and provide a solution, using theories and frameworks they had learned in class. Yang, who is the Wharton beat reporter for The Daily Pennsylvanian, suggested they examine The New York Times. At the end of the semester, the group had identified that the paper had a revenue loss problem, and developed a series of alternative sources of revenue. In projects like this one, students learn how to apply coursework to real-life challenges in the business world.
Group work can be particularly intense at Wharton because students have a reputation for being competitive. Souhail Salty, a senior from Menlo Park, CA who transferred to Wharton from the College of Arts and Sciences, says the reputation isn’t entirely undeserved. The environment at Wharton is much more competitive than it is in the liberal arts college, partially because many of the classes have an imposed curve, he says. Typically, the curve is 30-40-30, though it varies by professor and department. Wharton students are more professionally focused (they are in a pre-professional program, after all) and so tend to be extremely focused on the post-graduate jobs they’re working towards even while at Wharton, according to Salty.
THE STEREOTYPICAL WHARTON STUDENT GETS AN INTERNSHIP EVERY SUMMER
“If you’re really low key and casual, sometimes a person will say—oh you’re in Wharton? I never would have pegged you as that,” Salty says.
Many of the students talk about the stereotypical Wharton undergraduate, a character Yang described as someone who “takes a finance concentration, gets an internship every summer, goes through the on-campus recruitment process, and then moves to New York after graduation.”
The stereotype isn’t entirely inaccurate. About 54% of students in the class of 2013 went into finance and 21% went into consulting after graduation. About 50% of students in the class of 2013 moved to New York after graduation.
The dominance of finance and consulting can be both exciting and frustrating to students on campus.