Despite trends, applications to Wharton MBA hold steady


Many of Penn’s peer business schools saw drops in application numbers this year




With a struggling economy and a bleak outlook on hiring rates, some graduate students are reconsidering the appropriateness of pursuing an MBA in the near future.

This year, several high-ranked business schools experienced significant decreases in the number of applicants who applied to their full-time MBA programs. The Wharton School, however, appears to have avoided the trend.

According to The Wall Street Journal, notable business schools like the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, New York University’s Stern School of Business and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Sloan School of Management saw applicant pool decreases of 17, 11.5 and 8 percent respectively. In the Ivy League, Columbia, Yale and Harvard universities all saw their total MBA applications decrease by 19, 9.6 and 4 percent, respectively.

At Wharton, though, the number of applicants who applied to the full-time MBA program remained relatively stable this year at 6,408. Last year, Wharton received a total of 6,442 applications to the MBA program.

Wharton MBA Director of Admissions and Financial Aid Ankur Kumar partially attributed this stability to the vast diversity of Wharton applicants.

“We saw growth in the social sector, military and also across industries including technology, energy, retail and healthcare,” she said.

In addition, Kumar noted the appeal of the MBA program’s recently modified curriculum.

“I truly believe that our approach and curriculum really resonates with the interests and the needs of the generation of students who are coming to business schools,” she said. “We boast a fixed and flexible part of our curriculum. We find that students value having both a general management curriculum and also the flexibility to carve out their own individual experiences.”

In looking at some of Wharton’s peers, second-year MBA student Matthew Alexander believes the decreasing trend in applications to full-time MBA programs is a result of the current state of the economy.

“MBA applications are highly cyclical,” he said. “It’s a function of what’s going on in the economy, especially for the industries that provide natural feeders into MBA programs like finance and consulting.”

While the size of Wharton’s applicant pool remained essentially stable this year, a small handful of other peer schools did see increases. For example, Cornell University’s Johnson Graduate School of Management and the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business saw 15 and 9 percent upticks, respectively.

Alexander considers Wharton’s recruiting efforts as a major factor in its applicant pool stability.

“In terms of why Wharton holds up, Wharton has done a good job of attracting candidates from less conventional areas, like international students, that aren’t as susceptible to that same volatility,” he said.

Regarding the future trend in the number of applicants to top-tier full-time MBA programs, Engineering sophomore Freddy Hernandez, who plans on pursuing an MBA after graduating from Penn, has an optimistic perspective.

“I think there will be an increase once the economy picks up,” he said. “Once it does, you’ll have that boom again when people want to go back to school in order to further their careers.”

Although the number of applicants to MBA programs may vary from year to year, Alexander expects Wharton to at least maintain the same numbers it has seen so far.

“I absolutely expect Wharton to continue driving application volume and interest,” he said. “That’s just a function of the quality of the program and as more people learn about it, we’ll get more applicants.”

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