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A $10 million donation will establish a deferred-enrollment program for Penn undergraduates seeking early admission to the Wharton School’s MBA program.

1980 Wharton graduate and 1981 Wharton MBA graduate Ken Moelis and 1981 Wharton graduate Julie Taffet Moelis provided the funds to establish the Moelis Advance Access Program. The program will allow students from all four undergraduate schools to apply and gain admission to Wharton’s MBA program during their senior year.

The program will enable students to enter the workforce for two to four years knowing they will be able to return to Wharton to pursue an MBA.

Ken Moelis completed Wharton’s submatriculation program, earning his undergraduate degree and Wharton MBA in five years. His experiences inspired him to make early admission into the MBA program available to all Penn undergraduates, as opposed to only those in Wharton.

“We kept asking, ‘Why haven’t we already been doing this?’” Moelis said. “We have a pool of some of the most accomplished people in the world — why not give them a chance to stay at this university to continue their education?”

He said he hopes the program will encourage students to combine liberal arts and business.

“I think if you’ve done something else in your undergrad — history, art, engineering, nursing — and then can tag on a Wharton MBA, it would be a phenomenal opportunity,” Moelis said. “With the submatriculation program, we were only marketing to Wharton undergrads.”

Much of the gift will go towards merit-based financial aid. All students in the program will be considered for a $10,000 per year fellowship during the two-year MBA program in addition to other financial aid awards.

“If after two years we see that they have had really quality work experience and their academics are clearly very strong, they will be considered for more financial aid,” 2009 College graduate and Associate Director of MBA Admissions Danielle DeShields said.

Admitted students will have access to mentoring during their years away from Penn.

“We want to make sure we connect [admitted students] with current MBA students who just recently went through a similar time frame of working, so they can offer some peer-to-peer advice,” DeShields said.

Wharton Deputy Vice Dean for MBA Admissions, Financial Aid and Career Management Maryellen Reilly sees differences between this program and those at some of Penn’s peer institutions.

“While students are out working in the world, we’re going to have many different ways of staying connected to the MBA program,” Reilly said. “So they bring interesting work experience but haven’t gotten too far from us either.”

Moelis also said the program could provide an alternative way for students to combine business and engineering other than dual degree programs such as the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology.

“M&T is a spectacular program, but I know it’s a lot of work,” he said. “[With the Advance Access Program], you could do the engineering part of it in four years and not try to jam so much in.”

The security of early acceptance into Wharton’s MBA will allow students more freedom to pursue their interests instead of padding their resumes between college and graduate school.

“A lot of people are very restrictive on their job experience because they think they have to do certain things to come back to school and make themselves attractive,” Moelis said. “If you’re already in, then you can take a lot more risk in your job.”

Information sessions on the program will begin in late April for current juniors.

Moelis believes the opportunity to study liberal arts at Penn and gain early acceptance to the MBA program will attract both current undergraduates and high school students applying to the University.

“I’m hoping it’s a draw for some of the best students in the country to want to come to Penn,” Moelis said.

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