A business school to watch?
Isn’t that for programs on the upswing? Why include the country’s top undergraduate school here?
Simple: These are schools to watch — and everyone is watching the Wharton School.
For the 5th straight year, the Wharton School earned the #1 spot in P&Q’s undergraduate business school ranking. That’s because Wharton attracts the best students, who achieve the best outcomes and ultimately give their alma mater straight-A’s as alumni. In the end, Wharton is the blueprint for how to run a business school; they are the ones that their peers aspire to be. Wharton may not be perfect, but it is elite in nearly every conceivable measure.
Want to get into the school? Among Penn freshmen, the average SAT is 1,497, with the ACT being 34. And the average GPA comes to 3.88. Here are two more facts: over 90% of this year’s Penn freshmen graduated among the top 10% of their class, including 38% being National Merit Scholars. Not surprisingly, just 6% of applicants get into the school, down 1.5% from the previous year.
Yes, Wharton may be part of one of the most selective schools in the country, but the results speak for themselves. 97% of Wharton students who seek a business-related internship land one, a number nearly identical to the Class of 2020’s placement rate (96.74%). When it comes to pay, the 2020 Class pulled in $94,895 in their first year out of Wharton — $3,800 more on average than any other school.
The top talent produces the best results — not exactly rocket science. However, it is what the Wharton School does between admission and graduation that makes it so special. Just ask alumni…and that’s exactly what Poets&Quants did last fall. In surveying 2019 graduates, P&Q came away with one conclusion: When it comes to student satisfaction, Wharton ranks #1 in seemingly everything.
Which school boasts the most engaged alumni network? That’d be Wharton, averaging a 9.76 on a 10 point scale. Wharton also notched the high scores from alumni for helping them reach their dream careers, climb in socio-economic status, and prepare for the world of work.
Here’s the number that really matters: 9.86. That’s the average score on whether alumni would recommend Wharton to family or friends. When it comes to whether Wharton was worth the cost in time and resources, survey respondents gave it a 9.74 — again, the highest score in the category. The same is true for whether Wharton was a “life-changing experience.”
Otherwise, Wharton’s average ranked among the ten-best in nearly every survey question. For example, Wharton placed 2nd for helping students access practicing professionals and alumni — with a negligible .03 of a point keeping it out of the top spot. By the same token, Wharton ranked 3rd for being worth the tuition, 4th for quality of teaching, and 6th for its ability to teach soft skills.
What’s behind these high marks? What can Wharton students expect in the coming months? Earlier this month, P&Q reached out to Diana C. Robertson, Vice Dean and Director of Wharton’s Undergraduate Division, to answer these questions. Here are her thoughts on new developments and unique advantages of the program .
5 QUESTIONS WITH DIANA C. ROBERTSON
P&Q: What are your undergraduate business program’s two biggest strengths and how do make students better prepared for business once they graduate?
Robertson: “First, we pride ourselves on our undergraduate business program delivering “Business and More.” Our flexible program combines business with the arts and sciences. Our students take at least 30% of their classes at other schools at Penn and can follow their individual interests. 28% of our students graduate with a dual degree in the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, or the School of Nursing. 27% of our students graduate with a minor outside of Wharton; the most popular minors are math, computer science, data science, and French and Francophone studies. The sheer size of Penn with its 12 individual schools offers a dizzying array of opportunities for our Wharton undergraduates. Wharton is also among the largest US business schools, affording our students a choice from more than 18 concentrations across 10 academic departments.
Secondly, we focus on developing responsible leaders for business and society. Our “Leadership Journey” is a sequence of experiential courses all students are required to take across their 4 years at Wharton. As first-years, students explore different business disciplines and examine their own leadership strengths and styles. As sophomores, students develop their formal and informal business communication skills in small classes of 8. Students practice and receive frequent personalized feedback on their ability to communicate with impact. As juniors, students learn how to work effectively as both members and leaders of teams. They learn that successful leadership includes distributing goals and work. Finally, in their senior year, students choose from an array of capstone courses integrating and applying knowledge and skills from prior coursework. Overall, our “Leadership Journey” helps students see different perspectives of responsible leadership and its challenges, while enhancing their ability to manage these challenges. Through each stage of the Journey, students practice applying their academic knowledge to situations where they are likely to encounter in their careers.”
P&Q: What are some new and upcoming developments in your program that will enhance the business program for future business majors?
Robertson: “Tangen Hall, which opened this past fall, is one of the largest hubs of its kind on any college campus. It houses Venture Lab, which is a partnership by the Wharton School, Penn Engineering, and the Stuart Weitzman School of Design to consolidate Penn’s startup ecosystem and to provide experiential learning to all Penn students.
Student programs such as the Goergen Entrepreneurship Center, the Sol C. Snider Center, and Weiss Tech House are integrated into Venture Lab and support hands-on activity such as creating, developing, and scaling numerous ventures. Within the building are nine innovation spaces, including five Maker Studios, the Food Innovation Lab, Digital Media Lab, Digital Design Studio, and Retail Lab. Wharton’s Jay H. Baker Retail Center, Harris Family Alternative Investments Program, and Stevens Center for Innovation in Finance are also located in Tangen.
Also as of fall 2021, Wharton is offering a separate undergraduate concentration in Entrepreneurship and Innovation. Combining theory with practice, this program will provide students with a set of skills, analytical tools, perspectives, and experiences that will prepare them for entrepreneurial careers.
In June of this year together with Apollo Global Management, Inc. (Apollo), Ares Management Corporation (Ares) and Oaktree Capital Management, L.P. (Oaktree), Wharton announced a 10-year industry-first initiative, “AltFinance: Investing in Black Futures.” The initiative is designed to diversify the alternative investment industry by attracting, training, and providing career opportunities for college students attending three Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs): Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, and Spelman College. The initiative has three primary components: a mentored fellowship program, a tailored virtual institute, and a scholarship program. We are currently exploring opportunities for our Wharton undergraduates to engage in this exciting new initiative.”
P&Q: Penn is one of the nation’s most selective undergraduate programs. What are two key qualities that prospective students must possess to land a spot in your program? What are two things that prospective students can do to enhance their odds of landing a spot at Wharton?
Robertson: “There is no formula or model for the ideal Wharton or Penn student; the University of Pennsylvania seeks a diverse student body along a number of dimensions. We are looking for students who are both curious, demonstrating a broad range of interests, and motivated. Students who succeed at Wharton and Penn possess a history of academic excellence and a well-developed interest and involvement in their community and environment.
What I tell applicants is that you are the best person to tell your story. The more you tell us who you are, and what interests and excites you, the more we begin to picture you as a Wharton student. I frequently characterize our Wharton undergraduates as amazing because I meet with them and hear their individual stories. Every applicant has their own story.”
P&Q: In P&Q’s alumni survey, Wharton ranked 1st for helping students reach a new socioeconomic status and 1st for enabling them to enter their dream career. What types of support and experiences does Wharton provide to students that help them achieve these ends?
Robertson: “Wharton’s support begins with the Successful Transition and Empowerment Program (STEP), a college readiness program that introduces incoming students from historically underrepresented backgrounds to important Wharton and Penn resources, fosters connection and community, and helps participants build skills to effectively navigate college, both academically and socially.
Through STEP, students are exposed to the power of building relationships from the beginning of their time at Wharton. As they advance in their academic career, they gain mentors and connections in industries that they would not typically consider. Wharton also hosts a series of career-preparation workshops for our First-Generation Low-Income (FGLI) students. Making the dream accessible ensures that not only is it attainable, but that Wharton supports the steps to getting there.
In addition, Penn Career Services is a significant resource for our students’ career development needs including support for their job and internship searches. Career Services assists with career exploration, résumé and cover-letter reviews, and practice interviews; hosts on-campus and remote interviews, career fairs, workshops and programs; and provides an online career management platform (Handshake). More details on services available for students can be found at here.”
P&Q: In the same alumni survey, Wharton also earned the highest score for the quality of its alumni network. How does Wharton facilitate student-alumni connections to help students open doors and enjoy amazing career opportunities and learning experiences?
Robertson: “Wharton alumni alone number over 100,000 worldwide. Wharton and Penn alumni can and do connect with current students through a variety of mentoring and networking opportunities. For example, Wharton students have a chance to observe a “day in the life” of professionals in careers of interest to them through Career Services’ Discovery Days program.
Wharton offers a Wharton Industry Exploration Program (WIEP), a for-credit course. In addition to academic content, students travel to companies and meet alumni in specific industries. Recent programs have included exploration of the tech and media and entertainment industries.
Alumni are also available to offer career advice and guidance to Penn students and fellow alumni with career questions through the MyPenn platform. At Wharton, we invite students to engage one-on-one with our alumni through Career Exploration Chats each semester and we host numerous alumni speaker events throughout the year.”
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