As the director of MBA Admissions and financial aid at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, No. 5 in BusinessWeek's 2002 B-School rankings, Rosemaria Martinelli has her hands full. Her office scanned 7,215 applications in the 2003 admissions season and admitted 1,154 students, of whom 799 accepted. Martinelli fielded admissions questions from a live audience during a Nov. 13 BusinessWeek Online chat that was co-hosted by reporter Mica Schneider and Jack Dierdorff, a BW Online consulting editor. Here's an edited transcript of the chat:
Q: How many interview invitations has Wharton extended to first-round applicants, and how many will your office extend in the weeks ahead?
A: Great question. We expect to interview approximately 50% of the round-one applicants. I expect approximately 200 interview invitations to be released in the next week.
Q: What are the most successful themes that applicants use to position themselves -- for instance: leadership and teamwork?
A: For me, the most important quality or factor in the application is the person's awareness of who they are, where they've been, what they've learned, and where they're going. Leadership and teamwork are part of how we evaluate an individual. But nothing can replace an individual's self-awareness and their ability to articulate to others how they fit.
Q: Why do people say it's very hard to get financial aid at top MBA schools? Are there a lot of restrictions as to who will be eligible for aid?
A: At Wharton, we're more interested in providing access to all of our students, so financing options become more about packaging than addressing small needs.
Let me try to explain this. We recognize that most students have short-term financing needs. They have made fairly good money before the MBA and will make extremely good money after. Therefore, we feel that offering financing options is a better use of our funds. For students with what I would term extreme financial hardship, we will assist by providing some need-based grants. In addition, Wharton provides merit-based fellowships to approximately 15% of the class -- these are based on leadership, teamwork, community contributions, and general accomplishments, as stated in the application -- and will be given at the time of admission.
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