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To commemorate Businessweek’s 2014 ranking of the top undergraduate business programs, Forster Thomas is profiling the top ten.  At #7 this year is a historical powerhouse, U. Penn Wharton. 

By Ben Feuer


Wharton has an unmatched pedigree among undergraduate business schools and fantastic name recognition, thanks to its pairing with a top three graduate school.  

• The most academically rigorous school in the top ten

• Academically flexible for dual degrees and collaborations

• 94% job placement rate and exceptional alumni network

• Top feeder for Goldman Sachs

• Average salary upon graduation: $68,000



In order to get into Wharton, you must first gain admission to U. Penn – not an easy task!  Penn students had a median 1540/34 SAT/ACT last year in the 75th percentile, and required GPA is also very high.

Above and beyond the numbers, Wharton specifically looks for a demonstrated ability to lead, and expects its students to have taken calculus before applying – and done well.

Penn’s writing supplement in 2014 was as follows --

“The Admissions Committee would like to learn why you are a good fit for your undergraduate school choice (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, The Wharton School, or Penn Engineering). Please tell us about specific academic, service, and/or research opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania that resonate with your background, interests, and goals."  400-650 words

This is a standard personal statement, but since it is a personal statement for Wharton, it does take on just a bit of a goals essay flavor.  Your professional objectives MIGHT be a part of this essay, but if they are not well defined or not well supported by your life experience so far, it might be better to go with a key experience that shaped you, and then relate that back to your current ambitions to apply to the school.

Common Application Essay prompts for 2013 - 2014 (minimum of 250 words with maximum of 650)

  • Some students have a background or story that is so central to their identity that they believe their application would be incomplete without it. If this sounds like you, then please share your story.
The most literal interpretation of this question would be a diversity statement -- writing about how your background shaped who you became as a person.  Of course, the severe wording of the question indicates that this prompt should be avoided unless you are CERTAIN it is the best choice for you.
  • Recount an incident or time when you experienced failure. How did it affect you, and what lessons did you learn?
This is a standard failure essay -- check out our book to learn about how to tackle them.
  • Reflect on a time when you challenged a belief or idea. What prompted you to act? Would you make the same decision again?
Potential Wharton applicants should consider this prompt very seriously -- if you want to display your experience as a leader, this is a great opportunity to do so.  Look for times in your life when the stakes were high and the consequences of your choices were meaningful, but also be sure to choose a time when you had a substantial impact on the course of events. 
  • Describe a place or environment where you are perfectly content. What do you do or experience there, and why is it meaningful to you?
The second part of this question is where 75% of your word count should be focused.  Don't get hung up on describing the way the trees look at your favorite dog park.  Focus on how it impacts you, and be specific -- cite stories or incidents from your life that grew out of this place in some way.

•  Discuss an accomplishment or event, formal or informal, that marked your transition from childhood to adulthood within your culture, community, or family.

Be careful not to let this answer overlap with your personal statement -- if your personal statement was more professionally oriented or dealt with some very specific, narrow aspect of your life, this is an opportunity to take a new angle on yourself or provide an alternate point of view.


All applicants must meet specific academic requirements by the end of the term in which they are enrolled at the time of transfer application. In addition to the academic requirements, all applicants should have demonstrated leadership skills through involvement in their current college community. Students are strongly encouraged to transfer after their freshman year to enter for their sophomore year. There are very few spaces available for entering juniors.

Calc, Microeconomics and macroeconomics are required for sophomore transfers – details can be found on the transfer website.

It is also recommended that all applicants gain proficiency in a foreign language by the time they enroll at Penn. Proficiency is usually equal to four semesters of college-level language courses and must be demonstrated by passing a proficiency exam at Penn before graduation.


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