After I reviewed the Wharton waitlist chat transcript, Wharton’s policy towards post-deadline submissions wasn’t entirely clear. Nor was it clear why waitlist applicant are categorically discouraged from submitting anything while applicants before receiving an answer can exercise their judgment as to whether they can submit additional material.
Thomas Caleel, Director of MBA Admissions and Financial Aid at Wharton, was kind enough to clarify Wharton’s policy for me this morning. Here is a summary of our conversation.
Submissions of Additional Material after Submitting Application (Not waitlisted)
Thomas feels very strongly that candidates should not submit additional information after the deadline. In his mind it is a matter of equity that candidates go by the same rules. If some candidates work like the dickens to stick to the rules and submit complete applications that reflect them at their best and others submit what they have by the deadline and then update as is advantageous, he feels it is unfair to the applicants who play by the rules. Furthermore, that gamesmanship damages the transparency and integrity of Wharton’s admissions process, something Thomas values intensely.
If something significant and unexpected happens post-submission and before interview, the candidate should discuss it at the interview. If the Development occurs after the interview the Development has to be:
- unanticipated, and
- of significant benefit to the applicant in the time remaining until matriculation
to merit informing the Wharton adcom. And then the applicant has to realize that the new information may not even be considered.
Thomas says that he views even an updated GMAT score negatively. He says that if an applicant isn’t happy with his score, he should retake the exam and then apply, postponing his application until it accurately reflects his qualifications. If an applicant is anticipating a promotion or change in responsibilities that will enhance her candidacy, then Thomas feels the applicant should wait until that change happens or mention in her application that she anticipates an increase in responsibilities
I pressed Thomas a little on the last point and he admitted there is gray there. As he put it, “Wharton issues clear guidelines. Applicants show their judgment in responding to those guidelines.” Realize that all your interactions with the admissions committee reflect your judgment and contribute to the opinion that the adcom has of you. “Interactions” include decisions about updates after the deadline.
Submissions of Additional Material From Waitlisted Applicants
If Thomas Caleel feels negatively about additional submissions from non-waitlist applicants, he feels even more strongly and negatively about submissions from waitlisted applicants. He said “I respond negatively to anything that comes in on a waitlist” even letters of reference. He claims that “I must assume” that letters of support are requested and he considers them to be an indication of the applicant’s judgment. While he understands the pressure and anxiety faced by waitlisted candidates, he asks that they respect the process and know that the strict guidelines are in place to ensure an equitable treatment for all candidates.
My reaction to this information
The rest of this post was not part of my conversation with Thomas Caleel.
Certainly if a school says “No more material after date X,” it has to apply that rule uniformly across the board. I wonder, however, if it is fair to those who apply in October and are still stewing on the waitlist in May or June to say “NO updates.”
I also question whether the policy of no updates leads to decisions based on the best information available. On some level Wharton (and schools with similar policies) cannot be evaluating a complete and current picture of R1 applicants come May or June. The applicants cannot send in relevant information about significant developments, as they do at schools like MIT and Michigan. Plus, Wharton so discourages any update that it doesn’t see the applicants exercising or failing to exercise judgment.
Wharton’s admissions policy is a model of transparency and the school has really been a pioneer in opening up its admissions process. I wonder sometimes, however, if transparency at Wharton has become a little one-way. You can see into Wharton and its process with much commendable clarity, but perhaps Wharton has blurred the information coming to it by restricting it.
Nonetheless and regardless of my opinion, follow Wharton’s rules. The first mistake in my The Nine Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make on an MBA Waitlist is “Ignore the instructions you receive from the school.” Clearly it behooves Wharton’s waitlisted applicants to refrain from sending in any additional material. Period.