What credentials do you need to get into the Wharton undergraduate program?

If you come from a very famous high school in the US, but your GPA is around the 90-edge (now junior), do you still have a chance of acceptance to Wharton? (Also, if you are Asian.) You only start taking AP's during junior year. Courses are AP Chinese and APUSH.


Nedda Gilbert, MSW, Educational Consultant, Writer and Parent

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There are so many variables as to who gets into Wharton and why, this is a tough question to answer.

And you've packed a lot of your own variables into your query, so let me try to tackle them one by one.

I'm not sure that your being Asian is any factor at all, unless your essays put forth a wonderful story about your background or culture that demonstrates some unique passion, feature, cultural identity or aspect of diversity that is inherently interesting and compelling. U Penn has an incredibly international and diverse student body - you would be more than welcome and comfortable there. But unless you are from some rare, under represented nationality that Penn is eager to bring into the mix for even greater diversity, your background may be only marginally important. Unless you make it fascinatingly vital.

Beyond that, the key factors are: what do you have to contribute? What is your particular lens of the world? How would you enhance the Penn community? How would you contribute to the learning environment at Wharton? What makes you primed to be tomorrow's mover and shaker? (U Penn boasts the worlds largest number of billionaire graduates - possibly from the Wharton School effect - surpassing even the venerable Harvard.) So what will you do with that Wharton degree?

As for the very famous high school part and your 90-edge GPA...are you suggesting that because the school is famous, it's also known for killer academics and that your 90 GPA is really more like a 99 GPA at another less awesome, well known school? It could be. But that's tough to assess without knowing the exact school. There are probably only a very small number of schools that Wharton/U Penn would award that big GPA upgrade to. Are you sure your school is one of them? Otherwise, you are in direct competition with other students from equally rigorous high schools who typically apply to Wharton with a higher GPA. The 90-edge is a tad low, (and you leave out your scores, which are an important part of the picture). More importantly, are students ranked at your school? If so, where do you sit in that ranking - that says more about your candidacy and relative GPA. It's HOW you perform within your school environment and among your peers that matters most.

On to the APs...if your school does not allow you to take APs until your junior year then that will not be held against you. You're on track. That said, many juniors - at a famous school or not - take more than two APs their junior year. It's important to ask yourself, are you taking one of the more demanding course loads? That's what Wharton and any Ivy League looks for. I'm also curious about your AP choices, Do they reflect a challenge of your abilities? A broadening of your learning? This too is something that will be closely looked at.

Finally, Wharton is a fiercely competitive, elite school to win admission to. You should never give up on your dream of going there, but know that many others share in that dream. It might make sense for you to schedule a series of meetings with your guidance counselor and work on your academic candidacy. Beyond that, have you done anything standout or innovative in an extracurricular activity? In the business community? Invented something? Wharton admits are a pretty accomplished bunch even before college.

Notoriously picky and idiosyncratic in their admissions picks, there is no guaranteed path to winning admission to UPenn and Wharton. Although you may want to work on that GPA, plenty of students with perfect scores and perfect grades never get into Penn. You should consider other top ranked undergraduate Business Schools (Villanova and Penn State to name a few). Of course, you can always aim for Wharton for your MBA. It's one of the few schools at which you'll get a second shot for that Wharton pedigree, Some might even argue, it's the better return on investment. Whatever you decide, you've got great credentials! Broaden your business school list, and good luck!

Anonymous, Appreciation

Needa Guilbert, you are my savior. Thanks, for such detailed answer. I'm trying to get into the Wharton undergraduate program, but I'm an athlete and with a low GPA rate, so have some issues with that. Thanks to you I started taking AP's during junior year and decide to enhance the Penn community with my sport achievements. I'm going to write about the use of steroids in sport, unfortunately, I have observed doubtful situations my teammates was involved.

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