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A catalog of one reapplicant's journey towards an MBA in 2008

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Wharton's Interview Policy

Last night I was thinking about b-school stuff, as usual, and I started to think about Wharton and their interview policy. They interview ~50% of their applicants and deny the rest. This leaves you with ~30% chance of getting in if you're interviewed. HBS has a different approach, where they interview far fewer candidates such that if you get an interview you have ~65% chance of getting in. BTW, all these statistics I'm using are numbers I worked out last year based on info provided by Wharton adcom in S2S and Businessweek's data. Presumably, if you are not selected to interview it is because you have no shot of getting in, even if you have a great interview. Therefore, if you get an interview you actually have a shot at getting in, depending on how the interview and maybe some other factors go. Reasonable assumption, yes? So, then one could conclude that Wharton either 1) places more weight on the interview than HBS, 2) does not thoroughly read the application before calling for an interview and just "overgrants" interviews figuring they'll sort it out later, 3) has some degree of inconsistency between the opinions of individual application readers and the committee as a whole and thus needs be more conservative about who they deny early, 4) has some degree of incompetence in the process relative to their peers, or 5) something I didn't consider. Now, I'm not inclined to believe #4 because Wharton is the only school I can think of that's competent enough to get all the decisions out before the holidays and have a full size applicant pool for R1. I don't know about the rest though. The only significant difference I can think of between Wharton and HBS adcoms is that Wharton has student members who need to be trained every year, thus increasing the liklihood of inconsistencies of adcom member opinions. I believe adcom members are supposed to draw the same conclusions about an application to ensure greatest consistency in the admissions process.

Now let's consider my situation. I was granted an interview at Wharton. According to what the adcom has said on S2S, that means I was a viable candidate for admission. At that point, the only thing left was the interview. Ok, so bad interview = easy ding. I happened to have had a great interview and my interviewer explicitly told me he'd recommend me at "the highest possible level". So, then if I had the best possible interview I could have possibly had (for all intensive purposes), how is it that I was still denied? That would seem to indicate that I never should have been interviewed in the first place because I never had a chance, but given my profile I can't believe I am not in the top 50% of applicants (don't mean to sound arrogant here). So what could explain this? Let's think about this. Perhaps my interviewer didn't write such a good recommendation? I considered this for while, but then I got an email from him which said he was "very surprised" by the decision. So, he most likely followed through with what he said he was going to write. Perhaps I was near the bottom of the "admitables" applicant pool and they happened to have many many great interviews this year thus rendering my great interview meaningless and thus denying me? Somehow I don't think this was the case. All I'm left with now is that either 1) Wharton has a clear idea about admission status ahead of the interview but for some reason doesn't act upon it, 2) there is some kind of disconnect between application readers and the committee process, 3) Wharton doesn't scrutinize applications that thoroughly until after interview offers go out, 4) "class sculpting" forces viable applicants in one profession/category to get denied because there are "too many" applicants from that field/group and this factor is not considered until the committee process, or 5) there is "noise" affecting admission decisions in the committee process (like someone "just doesn't like" a certain characteristic of an applicant. I presume since Wharton has so many applicants they can be picky when it comes time for admissions). I'm leaning towards #1, #4, and #5. I say "and" because I think it's mixed. Wharton says they train their readers in what to look for, etc., so I'm less inclined to believe in #2 beyond elements which would be captured in #5. #3 is just unrealistic based on the accounts of application readers like Hella.

I used Wharton and HBS in this analysis because they're the only schools I happen to know some admissions stats. Kellogg's method obviously doesn't fit this model to begin with. I am curious to know more about Stanford's stats because they also have a no-student adcom. I'd love to hear some thoughts on this since I haven't spent a ton of time thinking this thing through. I just threw it up here to get some ideas flowing and attempt to demystify the process a little. I think the admissions process should be a science, but in reality it's an art.

6 Comments:

  • At December 27, 2005 7:34 PM, Blogger Marina said…

    Going back to your first paragraph, at least from what I know about W, I think it is closer to reason numero 2 "does not thoroughly read the application before calling for an interview and just "overgrants" interviews figuring they'll sort it out later"

    HBS releases invitations on an individual basis without the time crunch, while it seems to me that Wharton set up the interview deadline date which, if there are more then usual applications, makes it difficult for them to thouroughly review each file.

    Maybe? Who knows... I don't see a reason for a school to lead someone on though.

     
  • At December 28, 2005 12:23 AM, Blogger sghama said…

    I'm inclined to believe that they have a good sense of who they want to admit, but want the interview to verify that the person is who the application says he/she is. That and shaping the class for diversity, etc. That said, not sure why in that case they send out so many interview invites. Maybe because they have a policy of that initial round of rejections by the interview cut-off deadline. Only they would know...

     
  • At January 15, 2006 10:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I think you are giving these schools too much credit. I don't mean to imply that they are stupid, I mean that you think the process is more scientific than it is. The process at any school is not perfect and is prone to error. That's life. The question is, how do you deal with things when they don't go your way?

    I used to be on the recruiting team at one of the "Big 6" (or whatever the count is now) consulting firms. I'm also currently a student at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business. I had a 4.0 undgrad GPA, stellar career in consulting, 740 GMAT, and I still didn't get into every school I applied to. The fact of the matter is, these schools (like the "blue chip" companies that recruit at them) get a TON of resumes and applications. They don't have enough time to digest and properly weigh every one of them. Keep in mind their goal -- it is NOT to let in every person who is "deserving", but instead their goal is to ensure that every person that DOES get in is top notch.

    Reread that last sentence a few times. Take a few deep breaths. Let it sink in.

    This means that there are great people who will not get in that should have. When I was in consulting, we would pre-screen up to 500 resumes for about 50 interview spots for each campus visit. Do you think we had the proper amount of time to evaluate and discuss each one? No way. We knew that deserving resumes were getting tossed out...but our priority was to make sure that the ones that got in were going to be great hires.

    My advice to you: chill out.

    I see a similar "thing" happening right now within the MBA hiring process at the Chicago GSB. The "pre-select" lists for the big consulting firms and I-banks just came out, and people that didn't make the lists act like its the end of the world. The people who are successful in life are the ones who can move on and focus on the opportunities that do present themselves. The only truly closed doors are the ones you create in your mind. Just because you don't get into a school or get hired for a job, doesn't mean you won't do it (or something better) eventually...at that location or another. Quit wasting time trying to figure out why you didn't get accepted and how the process works. You've been accepted to at least one stellar program, and I can tell you, from my personal experience, your time is now better spent reviewing Calculus and a whole bunch of other stuff they expect you to know before you take your first class.

    Note, some schools do provide "denied" students with an interview with their recruiting team so they can tell you why you didn't get in. This can be valuable and eye-opening. If you have the chance, do it...but then drop it. Also, I hope you spent as much time trying to decide WHY you want to go to a particular school as you did trying to decipher how their recruiting process works. ;-)

     
  • At October 21, 2006 8:19 AM, Anonymous AlabamaGene said…

    Your comments imply that admissions are an absolute process...but they aren't. They're relative.

    If you did awesome, but everyone else did bad, you probably would have been admitted. Your chances hinged not only on your performance, but everyone elses.

    According to Wharton, if the first two readers believe you deserve an interview, you get one...irrespective of the quality of the pool.

    So, invites are based on absolute criteria, but admission is relative.

     
  • At February 18, 2008 7:39 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I know it is too late to comment now but I only came across this post now. I think HBS has a higher accuracy in the first round of assessment itself and hence lesser invites and still a stellar selection. It shortlists a small core pool of outstanding applicants within the first screening and finishes its intake within that. While Wharton takes a more varied approach in the first cut and is more stringent in terms of interview assessment.Both approaches work fine in terms of hiring/ admitting(I hire from both these campuses). If you have the bandwidth to assess flawlessly, you would rather separate out as much irrelevant applications at the beginning and avoid tedious assessments of large pools in the later stage of the process. HBS can. Wharton can, on the other hand, afford to eliminate/separate over a period of 2 different steps. Wharton has that kind of bandwidth and HBS doesn't. So I think its more what approach is more feasible for each school than being intentional.

     
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