“Relax, be genuine, and enjoy the opportunity.” That’s the guidance offered by the admissions staff at Wharton in their invitation to the all-important, team-based discussion. What the adcom doesn’t tell you is that, in order to achieve that sense of tranquility and participate successfully on the big day, serious candidates plan and practice. Peace and joy are the end state, not the starting point in this process.
Where to begin? Well, at The MBA Exchange we advise our clients to frame their thoughts in response to the assigned prompt. Going into the actual 35-minute session with solid content that should resonate with others is absolutely essential. Anticipate obvious answers that other participants are likely to offer, and then come up with a distinctive solution that both answers the question and reveals your thought leadership.
Once you have your hypothesis in mind, it’s wise to test it in advance. You could do so over coffee with a friend or in a conference room with a couple of colleagues. However, we’ve found it more effective to simulate the actual team-based discussion by practicing with a group of actual Wharton applicants. Not only does this approach “test-drive” your comments, but it also replicates the feeling that you’ll encounter when you listen and respond to 4-5 “competitors,” each trying to score points for himself or herself. We accomplish this with our clients by hosting a private, online video meeting in which Wharton applicants – using pseudonyms to ensure their anonymity – interact in real time. Each participant then receives individualized, written feedback and access to a confidential, video recording of the session so he or she can continue to refine their performance.
If you’re a Wharton applicant who has thoughtfully planned and thoroughly practiced in advance, the day of the actual team-based discussion should be exhilarating. Confident that the substance and style of your comments are strong, and having practiced the art of listening, supporting, challenging and summarizing, you will maximize your chances for a successful discussion and a subsequent offer of admission to Wharton. Then, and only then, can you truly “relax and enjoy.”