7 Tips for Acing the Wharton Team-based Discussion

While almost every business school requires that applicants have a 1-on-1 interview prior to admission, Wharton has taken this aspect to a higher level with its Team-based Discussion (TBD). After scrutinizing applications, the admissions committee invites a subset of Wharton applicants to convene as group of 4-5 for a 35-minute dialogue on an assigned “prompt.” The adcom observes and assesses the performance of each participant as a major component of the admissions decision.

Stressful? You bet! But there are proven strategies and actionable tactics that can maximize your chances for success in the Wharton TBD. Admissions consulting firm The MBA Exchange asked for insights and advice of senior admissions consultants Jessica Burlingame and Marina Glazman, both of whom led successful Wharton applicants in a simulation of the TBD.

Here are 7 key tips from these gurus for your consideration:

1. Plan ahead.

Think through your comments before you make them to ensure that you deliver it clearly, confidently and succinctly. Your opening statement is most important.

2. Break through.
Occasionally, start your comment with the punchline, then provide support points to ensure that you’ll make your key point before being cut off.

3. Stay engaged.
Avoid repeating a comment that has already been made as that will turn off your teammates and the adcom. This requires active listening rather than tuning out to plan your next contribution.

4. Exit your comfort zone.
Consider how you naturally participate in other team discussions. If you tend to be very talkative, dial it down by making sure that at least two other participants comment before you speak again. Or if you tend to just sit back and listen, get comfortable speaking up at least once every five minutes – and volunteer to take notes or be the final presenter.

5. Show adaptability.
Demonstrate your abilities to be assertive and supportive at various points in the discussion. Show the adcom observers that you adapt your behavior to team dynamics. When you do push back, a positive way to do so is by asking clarifying questions.

6. Be relevant.
Consider how your final proposal will benefit the overall Wharton community. This shows your familiarity with the school and adds gravitas to your idea.

7. Practice, practice, practice.
Simulate the discussion with a group of other Wharton applicants and a savvy facilitator. If you can’t convene in-person, do so via online video with personalized feedback from an MBA admissions expert. That way, the actual TBD won’t be nearly as stressful.