What Is the Wharton School?

The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania—often referred to simply as “Wharton”—is one of the most prestigious business schools in the world. In 2019, its Master of Business Administration (MBA) program placed first overall in a global survey by US News.

The school is best known for its rigorous finance program and is a top choice for those seeking careers in investment banking, private equity (PE), investment management, or venture capital (VC).

Key Takeaways

  • The Wharton School of Business, part of the University of Pennsylvania, is one of the world’s foremost business schools.
  • Its finance program has long been considered the gold standard internationally, producing a long tradition of founders and senior executives in the financial sector.
  • The school has made new investments in its technology-sector educational offerings while also establishing new partnerships in the Greater China region.

Understanding the Wharton School

As is understandable given its high Ivy League brand value, the admissions process at Wharton is highly competitive. Its MBA Class of 2021, for example, received over 5,900 applications, of which only about 850 were accepted, or around a 14% acceptance rate.

On average, the accepted applicants boasted an average GMAT score of 732 and an average undergraduate GPA of 3.6 based on a 4.0 scale. Although these applicants hailed from a wide variety of industries, the most common among them were management consulting, PE, and VC, which collectively represented about 40% of the total.

In addition to its well-known MBA program, Wharton also offers a variety of undergraduate business degrees, along with a Ph.D. program. Examples of specific specializations that the school offers include accounting, finance, marketing, real estate, statistics, and entrepreneurship.

Wharton’s main campus is located at the heart of the University of Pennsylvania. In 2001, Wharton launched an Executive MBA (EMBA) program, which students can pursue out of a newly-established campus building in San Francisco, strategically placed near the heart of California’s thriving technology sector. In a similar move, Wharton also established the Penn Wharton China Center in 2015, a new campus based in Beijing, which is supported by over 20 additional partnerships with Chinese organizations.

The Wharton School's Reputation and Standing

Wharton’s MBA program boasts the largest alumni network of any business school in the United States, with a total membership of more than 100,000 strong. Among them are many notable figures, including U.S. President Donald Trump; Warren Buffett, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway (BRK.B); Sundar Pichai, CEO of both Alphabet (GOOG) and Google; and Elon Musk, founder of PayPal (PYPL), Tesla (TSLA), and SpaceX.

Historically, Wharton’s reputation has been especially strong with regard to finance, with the school producing a steady stream of top candidates for Wall Street firms and other finance-related positions. However, with the recent growth of the American technology sector, Wharton has been making greater efforts to bolster its programs outside of its core strength of finance, in order to better prepare its students for the workforce of the future.

The school’s recent investments in China are also oriented in a similar direction, with the Penn Wharton China Center already producing over 15,000 alumni in the Greater China region.