How to Get into Wharton Undergrad | The Complete Guide

Navigating Wharton undergraduate admissions
Updated:
April 12, 2024
5 min read
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/12/24

The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business was the world’s first business school, established in 1881. Since then, the school has gained nationwide name recognition for its prestige and high-quality business instruction. 

If you’re looking to earn your undergraduate degree at one of the country’s top-ranked universities, Wharton is an excellent choice. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know about how to get into Wharton, like your chances of acceptance, every part of the Wharton undergrad application, and what you can do to be a stronger Wharton candidate. 

Why Wharton for Undergrad? 

Ranked No. 6 in U.S. News World and Report’s Best National Universities, The University of Pennsylvania is a school with a longstanding reputation for providing its students with the tools and knowledge needed to succeed. 

The school is a leader in business education, and with an “unmatched range of programs and faculty expertise, Wharton will give you the tools and knowledge you will need to make an impact on the world around you.”

Wharton offers a diverse undergraduate education not limited just to business. At least one-third of the classes you take at Wharton occur in Penn’s 11 other schools as you receive a comprehensive business, arts, and sciences. 

The program’s flexibility means you’re in charge of your curriculum, whether you want to pursue a minor, study abroad, earn another degree, or get a head-start on graduate school. 

All Wharton undergraduate students graduate with a Bachelor of Science in economics, but you’re free to choose a concentration and further tailor your learning experience to your interests. You have 18 concentrations to choose from, including Accounting, Legal Studies & Business Ethics, Healthcare Management & Policy, Marketing, Real Estate. 

If you thrive in a collaborative environment, Wharton is the school for you. Wharton’s team-based curriculum means you tackle working together as a group while gaining the interpersonal, communication, and leadership skills you need to succeed in any role. 

This learning model means you have more opportunities to forge deeper and perhaps life-long friendships with your peers before you eventually join Penn’s expansive global alumni network, with more than 300,000 graduates worldwide. 

Learning at Wharton is all about innovation; tailored teaching methods for each class and learning lab simulations go beyond the books and gain experience. 

Instead of reading about business situations and theory your entire undergraduate experience, you’ll have the opportunity to “Manage a billion-dollar stock portfolio, participate in a fare war, allocate raises among employees, control a country’s fishing fleet, or prepare a marketing plan for a totally new product.” 

Your Chances: Wharton Undergrad Acceptance Rates 

Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania has an acceptance rate of 4.5%, making it a selective undergraduate program. 

Take our interactive quiz below to find out how likely you are to get into Wharton Undergrad.

Early Decision Acceptance Rate at Wharton

For the Class of 2024 at Wharton, the early decision acceptance rate was 19.7%. That means out of 6,453 students who applied early, 1,269 got in. Interestingly, there was a 9.2% drop in early applications compared to the year before.

Wharton Yield Rate

The yield rate at Wharton is approximately 22.80%. This percentage reflects the number of students who accepted their admission offers and chose to become part of the Wharton community for their education.

The UPenn Wharton Undergrad Application

All UPenn hopefuls apply through the same first-year admissions process. When you apply, you’ll be asked to choose one of the undergraduate schools as your “home base” while you are a UPenn student. To apply to the Wharton School of Business, you’ll need to gather all required admissions materials and documents

Start a Common, Coalition, or QuestBridge Application 

For first-year admission, The University of Pennsylvania has no preference, so you can apply via the Common Application or Coalition Application. Both applications require you to fill out a personal information section an activities section and write a personal essay chosen from a list of prompts. 

UPenn is also a QuestBridge partner institution that participates in the National College Match. If you’re a high-archiving student from a low-income background, you can consider applying to top colleges using the QuestBridge application. 

You must also pay a $75 non-refundable fee or a waiver. 

Official High School Transcripts, Mid-Year Report, Final Report, and School Report 

Your high school transcripts, mid-year report, and final report show your grades, your academic aptitude, and the classes you’ve taken. The Wharton School wants to see transcripts that show: 

“an interest in business to fuel positive change to advance the world's economic and social well-being, demonstrated leadership, a strong preparation in mathematics, particularly calculus." 

Your mid-year report shows your senior grades in the middle of the school year, and all enrolled students must submit a final report at the end of their senior year. 

Your high school’s counselor will typically fill out the school report, a document that contains information about your school in general, how you rank compared to other students in your cohort, and a counselor recommendation letter. 

Letters of Recommendation  

UPenn requires three recommendation letters and can satisfy the requirement in one of two ways: a high school counselor recommendation and two teacher recommendations, or a counselor recommendation, a teacher recommendation, and one other letter from someone else. The admissions committee does not prefer one path and urges you to choose which works best for you. 

Standardized Test Scores 

Although the University of Pennsylvania has suspended the mandatory SAT or ACT scores, you typically need to take one of these tests. Obtaining excellent scores on the SAT or ACT can fortify your application because the tests’ content demonstrates your academic ability and your college readiness. 

Supplemental Essays 

Even though you’ll write a longer essay as part of your application, you also need to complete essays. These prompts can change every admissions cycle, but they generally revolve around similar themes. The most recent supplemental essay prompts are: 

  • Write a short thank-you note to someone you have not yet thanked and would like to acknowledge. (We encourage you to share this note with that person, if possible, and reflect on the experience!) (150-200 words, only required for first year applicants)
  • How will you explore community at Penn? Consider how Penn will help shape your perspective, and how your experiences and perspective will help shape Penn. (150-200 words)
  • The school-specific prompt will now be unique to the school to which a student is applying. Considering the undergraduate school you have selected, please respond to your school-specific prompt below. (For example, all applicants applying to the College of Arts and Sciences will respond to the prompt under the “College of Arts and Sciences” section).

Interviews 

UPenn typically offers more than 90% of applicants an opportunity to interview with a Penn alumni volunteer. If you’re not offered an interview, you don’t have to worry—it won’t be held against you in the admissions process. 

The interview is more conversational than an interrogation, and the university encourages you to be yourself and relax. This is an opportunity for you to learn more about the school and for the school to learn more about you; your interviewer doesn’t want to trip you up or see you fail. 

Supplementary Materials (Optional) 

Although most Penn applicants don’t submit supplemental materials, you may want to if you think revealing a talent or another letter of recommendation is needed to make your application shine. However, take heed of what UPenn says concerning supplemental materials: “In many cases, too many extra documents can take away from the strength of your application. In short, keep it simple!” 

Supplemental materials can include an extra recommendation letter from someone who knows you personally and can provide a perspective different from anything else in your application or an art or music sample. 

How to Be a Stronger Candidate for Wharton Undergrad

Now that you know exactly what you’ll need to submit, how do you ensure that your application is impactful and stands out from the rest? Our best tips can help you tailor your application to what the admissions committee seeks and make you a stronger candidate for Wharton’s undergraduate program. 

Take the Most Challenging Classes Offered 

Your GPA matters: “Performance in high school is the single most important factor in the student selection process at Penn.” However, Penn understands that not all high schools follow the same grading and ranking policies, making it challenging to compare applicants’ high school experiences. That’s why the university seeks applicants who take the most challenging courses available to them and achieve high grades. 

You won’t be penalized for your high school’s lack of course offerings in the admissions process. However, if your school offers the IB program, AP classes, or dual enrollment, it’s in your best interest to pursue one of those rigorous curriculums. 

Take the SAT and ACT Seriously, Or Consider a Retake 

Although UPenn paused the standardized testing requirement in the 2021/2022 admissions cycle, you typically need to submit SAT or ACT scores. Your SAT or ACT scores are important tests that show your college readiness and your ability to handle the rigor of college-level instruction. 

Recent class profile data shows that admitted UPenn students reported SAT scores between

1490 to 1560, and ACT scores between 35 to 36. If Wharton is your dream program, you should strive to achieve SAT or ACT scores in this range. 

If you already took a standardized test and weren’t happy with your score, consider retaking the SAT or ACT. 

Take Charge With Your Activities List 

Your activities list shows the admissions committee your interests and time commitments outside the classroom. When you complete your list, order your activities to show which are most important to you or the ones you spent the most time doing. Penn wants to know how much time you spent doing each activity and your specific responsibilities. 

Be sure to list an array of activities: they could be related to school, your family, a part-time job, or summer and community experiences. Remember, Penn isn’t looking for anything specific, although it would help to list any activities related to business, leadership, or any initiatives you’ve taken. 

Choose Your Recommenders Wisely 

You need to produce three letters of recommendation. For your teacher recommendation, be sure to ask an instructor in your junior or senior years who taught you a core course. The University of Pennsylvania says, “Consider obtaining a recommendation from a teacher in your area of academic interest. We don’t, however, recommend submitting letters from two teachers of the same subject area.” 

For Wharton hopefuls, this may be teachers who instructed you in math, English, business, or any other related subject area. 

Remember to give your recommenders context, including your resume, a list of your past achievements, and more background on why you want to go to Wharton. You should ask your recommenders to provide you with letters as early as possible to give them adequate time to write one.  

Your recommenders should be able to speak about your character, growth, and talents. Your best recommender may not be the teachers who gave you the best grade but those who’ve seen you change, grow, and better yourself. 

Tailor Your Essay to Wharton 

Because every student must apply to the University of Pennsylvania generally, the supplemental essays are your opportunity to show why you’re a great candidate for Wharton. 

You must explain how you will explore your academic and intellectual interests at Wharton. To write a masterful essay, college research is your first step. Is there a particular course in the Wharton curriculum that inspires you? Are you excited to jump into one of 18 concentrations? Think about how the program offerings relate to your interests and how that exploration will help you achieve your goals. 

The second essay asks, “How will you explore the community at Penn? Consider how this community will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape this community.” 

This is an excellent opportunity to write about clubs you’re interested in joining, how your unique experiences will add value and differentiation to the community, and how you hope to be influenced outside of the classroom. A great starting point for your response would be to check out the more than 45 Wharton clubs

Know What To Expect In Your Interview 

Your interview with a Penn volunteer alum will be conversational, but it can help you relax more if you know what to expect. UPenn lists questions your interviewer may ask you: 

  • “Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What’s important to you?
  • What are your current academic and/or extracurricular interests?
  • What led you to apply to Penn?
  • What classes, programs, and activities on Penn’s campus are exciting to you?
  • What plans do you have for your future?”

Remember, this interview is not a test—you’re here to let Penn learn more about you and for you to learn more about the school. This is why you should also make up your own list of questions! UPenn has the following examples of questions you may ask your interviewer: 

  • “Can you tell me about the most influential parts of your Penn experience?
  • What is one of your favorite Penn traditions?
  • In what ways are you still connected to campus and your Penn peers?
  • What are the advantages of the Penn alumni network?” 

You don’t have to ask these exact questions, but you may want to ask about Wharton and elements of the undergraduate experience. 

FAQs

1. What Degree Do I Receive From the Wharton School? 

All Wharton undergraduate students will receive a Bachelor of Science in Economics at graduation. 

2. How Many Wharton Students End up Studying Abroad? 

About 25% of Wharton students take advantage of study-abroad opportunities. There are over 100 programs that UPenn sponsors, so there is something for everyone. In addition, Wharton sponsors more than 20 programs “that enable students to take business courses in addition to arts and sciences courses.” 

3. Will Wharton Grant Me College Credit for IB and AP Classes? 

While taking challenging coursework is an excellent way to pump up your application, Wharton does not grant college credits for these classes. 

4. How Does Housing Work at Wharton? 

All first-year Penn students live on campus in a College House and must buy a dining plan. There are many College Houses to choose from to suit your lifestyle and vibe. You must go through the application process to help match you with your ideal room. 

5. What Kind of Courses Will I Take at Wharton? 

Wharton offers a diverse education to its students. In your first year, you’ll take courses in math or statistics, business fundamentals, economics, and more. Your junior and senior college years are spent fulfilling concentration requirements, considering minors, traveling abroad, and completing a capstone requirement.

6. Do I Need to Know Exactly What I Want to Do in My Fours Years Before I Enroll? 

No, you have a lot of time to figure out what concentrations interest you, whether you want to do a minor or want to study abroad. UPenn encourages students to explore their interests and research opportunities in their first year. 

Conclusion 

The Wharton School of Business is an excellent choice to pursue a business-centered curriculum. Although the Wharton School acceptance rate is low, don’t let that discourage you from applying. With a polished application, you’re sure to be a strong candidate. 

Remember to request recommendation letters early, demonstrate your Wharton fit in your supplemental essays, and show off your academic aptitude with your test scores and rigorous high school curriculum. Using all these tips, you’re sure to increase your chances of acceptance at Wharton. 

Conclusion 

The Wharton School of Business is an excellent choice to pursue a business-centered curriculum. Although the Wharton School acceptance rate is low, don’t let that discourage you from applying. With a polished application, you’re sure to be a strong candidate. 

Remember to request recommendation letters early, demonstrate your Wharton fit in your supplemental essays, and show off your academic aptitude with your test scores and rigorous high school curriculum. Using all these tips, you’re sure to increase your chances of acceptance at Wharton. 

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