Wharton Team-based Discussion: A Tactic for Success

Envision yourself entering the conference room for your Wharton Team-based Discussion (TBD). During the next 35 minutes, you need to build trust, exchange ideas and reach consensus with these smart, diverse, and highly accomplished individuals competing for the same seat in the Wharton Class of 2018 that you want. Challenging? Yes. Stressful? Yes. But definitely achievable if you are astute and strategic.

In our previous blog post on the Wharton TBD, The MBA Exchange provides 7 tips from our experts on how to optimize your overall performance in this discussion. In this post, we’re going to illustrate how you can put some of those tips into action during your actual TBD.

Let’s begin by reviewing the “prompt” that Wharton provides to TBD participants:

“The diversity of interests and backgrounds of the Wharton MBA community is reflected in the variety of programs that we support. The African American MBA Association, Private Equity and Venture Capital Club, Wharton Women in Business, Entrepreneurship Club, and the Veteran’s Club are five of the more than one hundred student-run clubs here at Wharton. Each year, many of these clubs run conferences, providing unique and exclusive opportunities for students to engage with business and thought leaders around the world. For the purpose of this discussion, picture yourself as a core member of a student-run club’s Conference Committee. Feel free to consider yourself part of an existing club or one that has not yet been created. In this role, you and your team must create and deliver a one-day, high-impact conference on the topic of your choice keeping in mind that the event’s aim is to provide a forum for students, faculty, alumni, thought leaders, and executives to explore and challenge ideas related to the topic at hand. Please take a moment to learn more about the current Wharton MBA student-led clubs and conferences.”

Each of the five student clubs specified in the prompt has a relatively narrow focus to which some, or even most, members of your TBD team will find it difficult to relate. For an applicant who works in technology or brand management, proposing meaningful content for a conference sponsored by, say, the Private Equity and Venture Capital Club will be very difficult. Featuring any one of those five clubs would give an unfair advantage to TBD participants who relate closely to that club’s mission.

Being first to point this out at the start of the discussion will be a relief to others in the room. So, rather than choosing one of the five existing clubs as a platform, suggest one – either existing or new – with broader appeal and interest so that everyone in the room can contribute.

Even if one of the other participants speaks first and advocates one of those clubs that he or she knows well, your stepping in to present your rationale for choosing a different, more inclusive club should be welcomed and effective. Your teammates will appreciate what you’ve done to help them contribute, and the Wharton adcom observers will spot you as both a natural leader and a team player.

Once you break the ice by proposing a club with a broader mission, you can then ask everyone at the table to suggest some aspect of their past, present or future that would enable them to add value to the conference plan. This helps establish shared ownership of your idea and encourages open collaboration from that point in the discussion. Again, you score points for leadership and teamwork!

This is just one tactic for elevating your Wharton candidacy by making the TBD more meaningful for others. By participating in our private, video-based simulation with other Wharton applicants, and then getting personalized feedback on your performance from one of our MBA admissions experts, you will discover and develop additional tactics that will help you minimize stress and maximize your chances for success in the actual Wharton Team-based Discussion.