Admissions Upheaval at UPenn Wharton School

After nearly five years in MBA admissions at the Wharton School, director Ankur Kumar has decided to leave her post, effective tomorrow. In an entry posted on the admissions blog, Kumar gives notice of her departure to applicants and explains that the timing of her leave—which comes just days after the round one deadline October 1st—is because she didn’t want to leave in the middle of this year’s application cycle.

In July, Bloomberg Businessweek reported on the sharp drop in applications to Wharton last year, down 6 percent while other top ten schools reported increases, making many wonder about the timing of her decision to move on to other, non-specified, ventures.

Kumar denies the connection, telling Businessweek Wednesday that this decision is unrelated and “absolutely not” the reason she’s leaving. Rather, she indicates the new team-based admissions interview likely scared off many applicants. Deputy Vice Dean Maryellen Lamb will replace Kumar, at least temporarily, the school said in a memo distributed by Dean Tom Robertson and Vice Dean Howie Kaufold.

The spotlight first hit Wharton in the Wall Street Journal‘s September 27th story, What’s Wrong with Wharton?” Melissa Korn‘s piece attributes much of the school’s current troubles to its sluggish reaction during the financial crisis. Long known as a top feeder to Wall Street, Wharton’s finance-focused students struggled when it came time to find work in investment banks and brokerage firms post-MBA.

Meanwhile, “Top institutions—and the Philadelphia-based school is still in that class—responded to the downturn by restructuring their courses and seeking students from less-traditional business backgrounds,” Korn explains.

Despite all the seemingly bad press, the outlook for Wharton is still solid, notes editor John Byrne of Poets& Quants. The school continues to increase female enrollment at a higher percentage than either Harvard or Stanford, and surpassed all previous job placement records this year, with 97.8% of the class landing an offer three months after graduation.

There’s a lot of interesting information, and sometimes contradictory opinions, reported in each of these stories linked above. We encourage applicants to explore the issue further if Wharton is on your short-list of schools.




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