MBA News: Wharton Professor Discusses School’s Image Problem

Last week, the Wall Street Journal examined the Wharton School’s recent drop in application volume (5.8% over the past year) as several other schools saw increases. The article blames this apparent lull on Wharton’s inability to slough off its finance-centered identity in the face of a diminishing financial job market. In a response posted on LinkedIn, Wharton professor Adam Grant offers some clarification to dispel the finance school stereotype. “I think Wharton has an image problem,” Grant says, pointing out that the school has in fact greatly diversified and expanded its curricular and extracurricular offerings beyond streamlined Wall Street career paths. The tech sector and entrepreneurship, for example, account for an increasing percentage of job offers accepted by the school’s graduating class each year, with the latter jumping from 1.5% to 7.7% over the past six years.

“The defining feature of Wharton is a belief in the power of evidence,” Grant says, suggesting that beyond finance, the common denominator among all Wharton students is an interest in gathering data points and experimentation. In short, the Wharton experience is rooted in an analytic, quantitative approach that applies to all business career paths—not simply finance. Therefore, Grant argues, if Wharton hopes to attract interest from applicants, it is going to require some serious rebranding.

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