For four straight years, The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania has topped our ranking of Best Undergraduate Business Schools. The reason? Wharton has tough admissions standards, enrolling top students, gives them a top-notch undergraduate business education, and places them into coveted jobs.
This year, Wharton led in our admissions standards and employment outcomes category and placed seventh in the alumni experience category. At 7.62%, Wharton’s acceptance rate was the toughest of all schools for students entering during the fall of 2020. Students entering this past fall (2020) averaged an SAT score of 1504 and 90% finished in the top-10% of their graduating high school classes.
In terms of outcomes, 98% of the graduating Class of 2020 had at least one business-focused internship before graduation. Despite the Coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc on the economy, Wharton placed its 2020 graduates in full-time positions at a clip of 97.01% — more than all but four other schools participating in this year’s ranking. Wharton graduates reported the highest average salaries in their jobs immediately after graduating, earning a whopping $86,217.
SENIOR CAPSTONE PROJECT MOST POPULAR ‘SIGNATURE EXPERIENCE’ AMONG RECENT GRADS
Among the respondents to our survey of the Class of 2018 Wharton graduates, two-thirds (66.67%) reported having at least one “signature experience.” Alumni mentioned launching startups and working on research projects as some of those signature experiences. But the most popular experience mentioned was the senior capstone.
“I also participated in Wharton’s Senior Capstone, which took place over three days,” one 2018 alum told us in the alumni survey. “There were about 80 students participating, divided into eight teams, each representing a company. In addition to negotiating and forming alliances with other companies, the simulation included interaction with simulated governments, as well as environmental impacts. We also had alumni present who constituted the board of directors for each company and served as advisors after a presentation made to them, as well as a leadership facilitator who sat in all the team discussions and helped us reflect on the experience and our communication and teamwork skills at the end of the program. It was quite superbly executed.”
As part of the survey, we ask alumni to rate various experiences of their program on a one-to-10 scale. Of the 16 scaled questions we asked, Wharton graduates gave their overall experience an average score of 9.28, which was higher than all other schools besides the University of Virginia’s McIntire School of Commerce and Georgia Tech’s Scheller College of Business.
Wharton graduates rated their school higher than alumni from all other ranked schools when asked if they thought their degree was worth its cost in time and resources. It also earned the highest score when asked how much the alumni network could help alumni throughout their careers and if the business school experience was “life-changing.”
While the alumni network earned high ratings, the school’s career advising department earned the lowest rating among all 16 scaled questions. It’s an ironic result considering Wharton won the employment outcomes category and had some of the best employment results. On the other hand, while more than 93% of 2018 alumni said their first jobs after graduation were in their desired industry, just over 63% said it was at a desired company, which was low compared to other schools. It should be noted, however, that was based on 2020 employment data and it was 2018 graduates that completed the alumni survey.
NEARLY TWO-DOZEN CONCENTRATIONS AND 50 STUDENT-RUN ORGANIZATIONS AND CLUBS
Wharton boasts a flexible curriculum. Business students are required to complete 22 business courses, 10 electives based in liberal arts and sciences, and five more unrestricted electives anywhere in the Penn community. Wharton offers nearly two dozen concentrations for students looking to specialize. Those concentrations include traditional business fundamentals like accounting, finance, and marketing as well as relatively new areas like social impact and responsibility, managing electronic commerce, and business analytics.
For out of the classroom experience, Wharton also has nearly 50 student-run organizations and clubs including the Black Wharton Undergraduate Association, Social Impact Consulting, and Wharton Women.
Wharton made a statement earlier this year, becoming the first top-ranked business school to appoint a Black woman as dean when it announced the hiring of Erika James. A former dean of Emory’s Goizueta Business School, James boosted faculty diversity while increasing programs and fundraising during her time at Emory. She has already made national headlines for the potential she has to put diversity and inclusion at the forefront of the Wharton experience.
CONTINUING DOMINANCE IN THE RANKINGS
Wharton continues to dominate in our annual rankings, thanks to its stringent admissions standards and impressive employment outcomes. This year, Wharton didn’t have the alumni scores to top the category. Students looking for similar top-ranked schools that scored better in the academic experience category should look at the University of Virginia, Indiana University, Georgia Tech, and New York University, all of which finished ahead of Wharton in the alumni survey portion of the rankings.
Still, according to our rankings, Wharton continues to be the creme of the business school crop for undergraduate business education.
“I had a unique privilege to be in the first class of Penn-Wharton Public Policy Research Scholars (PPRS) for which I completed a policy capstone my senior year. This was a certificate program allowing accepted students from the four different undergraduate schools at UPenn to delve into public policy and research during our sophomore through senior years through lectures, skill training, travel opportunities, and special industry guests. I also completed a senior thesis through the Wharton Research Scholars program which was a full year of working with faculty to complete a novel research project of our choosing. Finally, although not directly connected to Wharton, I had the opportunity to work at Perry World House as a Student Fellow ultimately due to the generosity of Wharton and other UPenn alumni.”
“I got to learn Data Science + Statistics at an MBA level, and completed a project as a Volunteer Data Scientist Consultant with Planned Parenthood. I now do a lot of work with data + tech, so having the experience of working with a real client to solve a real data challenge for them gave me a lot more to talk about in interviews, and enabled me to share real world examples of how I could contribute to the organization I was applying to.”
“I participated in a Global Modular Course that had both MBAs and undergrads – it was a Tech and Entrepreneurship program in Bangalore, India, and it was hosted in the campus of the Indian Institute of Management, Bangalore (IIM-B), which is the second most prestigious business school in India. We had exposure to several different Indian startups and VCs, as well as the opportunity to work on a project for them. It was also really cool to interact with some IIM-B MBA students who were part of the course as well – it helped build connections in different countries and helped me understand the Indian startup ecosystem better.”