Wharton EMBA Student Shares Insights on Admissions Process

Dan Pohlig is a Wharton EMBA student in Philadelphia and vice president of The Campaign Group. He recently participated in an online video chat about Wharton’s admissions process during which he shared his application experience and insights about his first year at Wharton. Here’s what he said:

Taking the GMAT Twice

I’ll be the first to admit that I could have done a better job preparing for the GMAT. I was very busy at work and standardized tests hadn’t given me much of a problem in the past, although I hadn’t taken one since the Clinton Administration. I picked up a low-cost test prep booklet and looked through it in a weekend and then took the GMAT. As soon as I got my score, I realized that I’d be taking it a second time. I had six weeks between the first and second tests so I shelled out money for some better prep materials. My wife and I had scheduled a vacation long before this, so I found myself on the beaches of Costa Rica with prep books studying for the GMAT. But that experience was good preparation for the workload you will have once you are in the program.

Interviewing Early in the Process

I did my admissions interview last December and sat in on a statistics class. That was long before I had finished my application material and it was in between taking the two GMATs. You should treat the interview as a way to meet people in the program and put a face to your admissions materials as well as a chance to get your questions answered. You don’t want to put all that work into applying and then realize that it might not be good fit for you. The earlier you can interview and visit campus, the better. Students welcome visitors to class so don’t feel intimidated by visiting.

The interview was a very positive experience. Everyone on staff is there to make our lives as easy as possible both in the application process, and also once you are in the program. They know you are coming from busy environments and generally have family situations so they are there to help the students.

Being Authentic in Your Essays

Avoid using buzz words and instead be yourself and tell your story. I used it as a chance to do some soul searching and figure out what I wanted to get out of program. I reflected back on my past experiences and how best they would add to the program. Everyone has something unique to bring to the program and that is what you should be focused on when working on the essays.

Put yourself in the perspective of the people reading the essays so feel free to let your sense of humor come through and tell a story about yourself. You can even do it as a narrative. It’s probably more interesting to read and maybe will help you tell your story as genuinely as possible.

The essay about evaluating yourself and what you bring to a team may seem to be the least important of the essays, but this is a huge part of the program here. I’m amazed every day at the people on my learning team and how talented they are. It’s satisfying to bring something to the table that my team hadn’t considered before. It can’t be emphasized enough how important your team is and what a great part of the program your teammates become.

Offering Diverse Perspectives

I started as a political operative on campaigns and moved to the broadcast journalism space working for the NPR and PBS affiliate in Philadelphia. Now, I’m back into politics, working for a political campaign consulting firm based in Philadelphia. I saw Wharton’s EMBA program as a great opportunity to acquire skills that would help me advance.

It’s a great aspect of the program that people are from so many different backgrounds. If I look to my right in a class, I see an orthopedic surgeon in his mid-50s who has reached the pinnacle of his profession. To my left are people in media and entertainment. Yes, there are people from the finance world, but there are also plenty from fields like healthcare, pharmaceuticals, transportation and manufacturing. When they speak up in class, they are telling real stories about things happening in their work place and how that practical experience applies to the material we are learning.

Managing Your Time

Wharton’s EMBA program is intense and I’d be doing a disservice to say otherwise. You want to treat the program like it’s a part-time job in addition to your full-time job. My class weekends are sometimes the most relaxing ones I have because in class I’m shut off from the distractions of the outside world. Between class weekends, you can probably expect to put in a couple of hours every night, especially when it comes time for exams. My learning team has been getting together every Sunday for six or seven hours to go through assignments. We’ve also taken on an additional course load with the Global Consulting Practicum.

There are all kinds of different options for working together when you’re not in class. We often use Canvas, which is an internal Wharton system for sharing documents and collaborating. It makes it easy to get together virtually if you can’t be together physically. And if you are local to your campus, which my team members all are, you can come in and use classrooms or study rooms any time.

Considering Families/Partners

The staff knows how intense our schedules are so they do everything they can to include spouses and families as much as possible. Early on, we had a family weekend where people brought their kids. Soon after that, we had a partners’ weekend. We also have a Facebook group for partners of students where they can plan fun events for those Friday nights when we’re all in school. There is a strong network there. And within my learning team, our families get together.

Selecting Electives & Other Options

The class selects the electives that will be offered in the second year. You start with a presentation about the different classes offered in each department. After going through the course catalog, everyone allocates their credit hours among the different classes that they want to see offered. After that initial round, it’s narrowed down and from that you choose again and that brings you down to the final group of electives. That said, there is the potential that a class you want will not be chosen, but there is flexibility to make arrangements in other departments for interdisciplinary work. However, given the range of different people in each class, it’s unlikely that you’ll wind up in a situation where there are no classes you’d want. There are plenty of interesting topics and courses that will be available. You also can participate in the Global Consulting Practicum as well as things like the Wharton Business Plan Competition.

To watch the full admissions discussion, click here.

Wharton EMBA Student Dan Pohlig, WG'14, and classmates in Israel Wharton EMBA Student Dan Pohlig, WG'14, and Classmates