I have tasted the Wharton Kool-Aid...and it tastes good! As of last night, I'm officially off the fence and will be applying to Wharton.
Before I get to a recap of the event and why I'm a convert, I have a little tangent to take care of. I arrived at the event a few minutes early (not as much as I had hoped thanks to traffic) and imagine my surprise when I step off the elevator and run into a friend from undergrad at Washington State. Small world, eh? Come to find out he's also living in San Diego. I couldn't track him down after the break-out sessions and swap contact info so...Dave Otis, if by some chance you're reading this, email me!
The first 15 minutes or so was just a free-for-all social hour. I did not get any networking done since I spent most of the time catching up with Dave and meeting Dirty_Martini in person. After the social, they herded us into a large conference room and all of the alums (probably 15-20) introduced themselves and provided little anecdotes from their time at Wharton. The host of the event went through a few slides with talking points for each of three main categories: Career, the Wharton Experience, and Applying. The alums volunteered their insights about each category. A couple of my favorite quotes:
"Play the hand you're dealt masterfully. Wharton will give you a new set of cards and the adcom wants to make sure you'll know how to play them well" (in regards to dealing with strengths and weaknesses in your application package)
"Don't bullshit the bullshitters" (in regards to students who serve on the adcom, who will see through any BS you put in your application because they've been there and done that)
Key messages for applying/getting in: Don't be generic. Be sincere. Be specific. Bare your soul. Prove to the adcom how bad you want it.
Other highlights from the alums: The network is very powerful and it's worldwide. They know how to have a good time. Whartonites are very smart and worldly, yet humble and very candid.
What got me off the fence? The kicker was the media/entertainment breakout session. This was my biggest concern with Wharton. My post-MBA aspirations are in the strategic planning/business development realm of the sports media industry. Wharton is not known for media, nor is it in one of the media centers of the US. What I learned in the breakout is that somewhere like Anderson might make it easier to get a job, but your MBA will be very media focused and your network will be great in LA, but limited elsewhere. They really sold me on the idea that Wharton will provide a great general business management education that you can supplement with student group activities and working the worldwide network. And its so true. An MBA will not get you a job in media, passion and networking will. So Wharton gives you solid generalist knowledge, involvement in media related activities will signal your passion to potential employers, and the network will provide contacts to get a foot in the door. One other point is that coming out of Anderson, you're one of many trying to get in the door. Coming out of Wharton, you're one of a handful, and last night showed me that Whartonites are fiercely loyal and passionate about Wharton.
Dirty_Martini and I both walked out of there last night with Kool-Aid grins on our faces. I don't think they were trying to sell Wharton last night, but we were ready to buy.