Every year, top business schools receive thousands of applications for admission, but they only admit an average of 25% of those who apply.
The story is no different at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, where approximately half of all applicants are interviewed, but less than one in 10 are ultimately granted admission and no student is admitted without an interview.
As a consultant who helps clients earn admission to top MBA programs, I know first-hand how important interviews are. They're a key component of how the admissions committee gets a full picture of you as an applicant, and evaluates whether you'll fit into the Wharton community.
Here are three tips for ensuring your Wharton interview strategy shows your assets and skills off to their best advantage:
1. Be prepared for the team-based discussion.
Wharton was among the first business schools in the US to implement a team-based discussion component as part of the interview process, in which five to six applicants discuss a topic while being observed by admissions committee members.
This new aspect of the application is designed to get a sense of who you are outside of a well-written essay or even a well-rehearsed interview. Wharton is looking for team players and people who can be analytical while working well with others.
Keep in mind that observers want to see candidates contributing without dominating the discussion; the idea is to see how you might engage in a productive conversation with a group of future classmates. To make a positive impression, be sure to share your point of view, but also listen thoughtfully; respect differing points of view; and bring others into the conversation.
2. Emphasize your experience as an innovator.
Innovation is integral to Wharton's brand. This doesn't have to mean you've invented the next billion-dollar app or founded a company, but it does denote someone who creates something that has not existed before whether that's a new product, process, or way of seeing the world.
To emphasize this aspect of your personality or experience, think of ways you've acted as a "change agent" in your workplace or community. Wharton wants students who are dynamic and energized about looking to change industries, economies, and even their countries.
Find examples of how you've seen the potential to make things better and taken action to create positive change.
3. Show your aptitude for thriving in a global environment.
Approximately 40% of Wharton's students hail from countries outside the US, so awareness and appreciation of other cultures is key to an applicant's ability to survive and thrive at Wharton and in today's multinational world of business.
Showing global awareness isn't necessarily about the number of stamps on your passport. Rather, it's about showing that you thrive in new and unfamiliar environments, and can successfully navigate the challenges of competing in a global marketplace.
If your career goals transcend borders, be sure to share your planned career path, and if you have experience working with global teams, be prepared with examples of challenges and successes. Above all, an honest curiosity and willingness to learn about other cultures and countries will go a long way.
Ultimately, remember that interviews for Wharton or any other top business school are designed not to be another hurdle standing in the way of your MBA, but as a way for the admissions committee to get to know you better.
The interview is your opportunity to connect the dots of your personal narrative and tell your story in your unique voice. Emphasizing your strengths and experiences as they relate to qualities that are important to each school's learning community will help show how you'll fit in and be a contributing member, and indeed an asset, to that school's learning community.
So if you're prepared to work well with a team, emphasize innovation in your approach, and share your global perspective, and you could find yourself on the positive side of Wharton's competitive interview and application process.