Some hope to get their feet wet in the business world. Others hope to get a foot in the door at the Wharton School. Regardless of their motives, select rising high school seniors populate the Quad every July to take part in the intensive business program, Leadership in the Business World.
The camp was founded in 1999 in response to a demand from the Wharton administration to find ways to connect with high school students who were interested in finding out more about business school.
Since its first year with an inaugural class size of 30 students, the program has expanded: Last year, LBW received 700 applications and boasted a 20 percent acceptance rate, with the 140 admitted students representing 25 states and nearly 20 different countries.
The program carries a cost of $6,995 with a $75 application fee, but need-blind financial aid is available to applicants.
LBW alums and current students describe the program as being similar to the Management 100 class they took at Wharton in their first semester of freshman year.
The students are divided into teams of 10 students led by Resident Team Advisors, who are generally rising Wharton sophomores, and must create a business plan that they present at the end of the month to the entire program.
“Students get what we RTAs like to call ‘a four week crash course in Wharton,” Wharton senior and former RTA Charles Wetherbee said. “They are exposed to a sampling of coursework from renowned faculty, entrepreneurship exercises.”
Some summers, the program has taken place in both Philadelphia and San Francisco, with 70 students in each location; the San Francisco students then travel to Philadelphia for the final week. This year, all 140 students will be at Wharton’s main campus.
In addition to classes, students have the opportunity to go on site visits of companies in New York and D.C., at places like J.P. Morgan, Deutsche Bank and American Express. In San Francisco, students had the opportunity to visit companies like Google and eBay.
Some students like Wharton freshman Charlotte Elizabeth de Vaulx applied to LBW without any preconceived notions of Penn or Wharton. De Vaulx came from a liberal arts background and had been thinking that she might attend colleges like Brown University.
“My dad is in business, and I just wanted to get my feet wet,” she said.
Wharton junior Manning Feng had a similar experience. “I had never been on campus before and did not know how a business school works,” she said. “I thought that it would be a good idea to apply to LBW.”
Yet many students have a definitive interest in Wharton before applying to Penn. Wharton freshman Mariana Repsold applied to the program to find out if Penn would be the right fit. Prior to coming to LBW, Repsold had participated in summer programs at the University of California, Los Angeles and the University of Cambridge, adding that there was a culture at her high school in Brazil of attending academic camps.
“I decided Wharton was my dream school, and I wanted to see how living at Penn would be,” she said.
Regardless of their motives for applying, students responded positively to the experience.
“LBW was a huge part of my decision coming to Penn. It locked down that Wharton would be my first choice and that I would be going into business,” Wharton freshman Richie Lou said.
“It was a blast,” Wharton sophomore Michael Barton added. “I went into the program not wanting to go to Wharton and came out wanting to go.”
Repsold agreed that the program was fun and said that it solidified her interest in Wharton.
“LBW was the best program I did,” Repsold said. “It made me certain that this is where I fit in.”
She added that she had Management professor Anne M. Greenhalgh as a lecturer during the program, and then last semester had her as her Management 100 professor.
“I loved her from the summer and really wanted to have her again, so I was really lucky,” Repsold said.
While Wharton sophomore Hera Koliatsos said she was not blown away by the academic experience of LBW, she was still enthusiastic about her month at Wharton.
“The best part of the program is the people you meet ... the networking. They’re extremely intelligent kids,” she said.
And despite de Vaulx’s initial uncertainty, LBW completely changed her perception of the school.
“I just fell in love with the entire Wharton,” she said.
Yet the students agreed that, in addition to seeking positive academic opportunities and the social experience of working closely on their business plans with teammates, many of their peers in the program hoped that LBW would help them in the admissions process to Wharton or Penn.
De Vaulx said she was taken aback by the number of students who were set on applying to Wharton.
“[Upon arriving] I didn’t know that most people wanted to go to Wharton. I was wondering, ‘Why the hell do all these people want to go to Wharton?’ I was definitely not the traditional [student].”
In fact, approximately 30 percent of LBW participants are admitted to Penn, and about 30 students out of 140 end up attending.
“The fact that so many of us got in makes me feel like it would help,” Wharton freshman Elaine Chao said.
However, a disclaimer on LBW’s website reads, “Please note that participation in LBW does not guarantee admission into Penn.” During the program, this message is enforced.
“Dr. G [Anne M. Greenhalgh] said it a handful of times,” Koliatsos said.
Wharton sophomore Aaron Brenner added, “A lot of people might have had that perception but it was squelched the first week. The RTAs were adamant that there was no correlation.”
Feng had a similar experience.
“There was definitely a rumor, but RTAs made it clear that it’s not a 1:1 ratio [for acceptance into Wharton],” she said.
LBW administration also enforces that the program is not an express ticket to Wharton.
“By no means do we have it set up as being a feeder,” Associate Director of the Wharton Undergraduate Division and Director of LBW Teran Tadal said. “The students in LBW are great candidates for Penn regardless.”
“Just naturally if you have 140 students in a program and they spend a month in Philly, it really shows Penn and Wharton in a great light,” LBW lecturer Lawrence Gelburd added. “Going to LBW doesn’t help [with admission to Wharton] but encourages students to apply.”
Another reason for the higher acceptance rate to Penn for LBW students than for the general population is the culture of Penn admissions.
“Penn has a culture of taking students who know they want to be here,” Repsold said. “That’s why they take a large percentage of the class early decision. But I know a lot of kids [from LBW] that did not get in, too.”
But the lucky LBW students who did get accepted to Penn feel that their month of business immersion gave them a leg up over their Wharton peers who did not participate in the program.
“Coming out of LBW, you are already a step ahead of other Wharton students,” Lou said.
A previous version of this article misspelled Teran Tadal's last name as Tedal. The DP regrets the error.
Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.