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How to Get Into Wharton School’s Leadership in the Business World

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It’s common knowledge that in order to get into a selective college, you’ll need to have a competitive college application. This usually includes a strong GPA, solid standardized test scores, and a whole suite of impressive extracurriculars. But it doesn’t stop there.


More and more now, colleges are looking for applicants to spend their summers productively. Many even explicitly ask about summer activities on their admissions applications. While it might be tempting to spend your summer camped on a beach chair, if you want to put your best foot forward on college applications, you’ll need to do something that shows more initiative.


There are many options for summer activities. Some students get a job to save for college, make spending money, or help to support their family. Other students take college classes or find internships or research opportunities. Some might participate in a service project or a summer program.


Pre-college summer programs now exist in just about every content area. There are STEM programs, art programs, and foreign language institutes. Many students pursue politics or government programs, and still more are interested in business.


If you are interested in a career in business, you have probably heard of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. Wharton’s business undergrad and graduate programs are consistently ranked among the top in the country and are some of the hardest programs to get into as a potential business student. But did you know that Wharton also offers a summer program for high school students?


High school students thinking about an undergrad program in business should consider applying to Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World summer pre-collegiate program. This rigorous business and leadership program offers instruction and mentorship from some of the top business professors in the country. To learn how you can get in to Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World program, read on.


What Is Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World?

Leadership in the Business World is a summer program sponsored by the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania and running for 4 weeks each July. In years past, the program has occasionally operated at two separate sites for part of the program before coming together at UPenn, but most recently the entire program is run at UPenn for its duration.   


Leadership in the Business World is an intensive summer program geared towards a select group of rising high school seniors. These students should be interested in receiving a top-notch undergraduate business education and pursuing the opportunity to hone their skills in the fields of leadership, teamwork, and communication skills.


Leadership in the Business World is intended to provide the opportunity for some of the top business-oriented high school students in the country to learn about leadership in 21st century organizations through a mix of classes with Wharton professors and business leaders, company site visits, and team-building activities.


As of 2017, the program costs $7500 and includes tuition, most meals, activities, weekend trips, and housing. Financial aid is available and admissions are need-blind. 


What Do Students Do At Leadership in the Business World?

During the four-week intensive program, you can expect to attend lectures and presentations from Wharton faculty and guest speakers, engage in classroom discussions about core business subjects, entrepreneurship, and leadership, and visit business enterprises. You will also get the chance to speak with successful leaders from the industries of finance, entrepreneurship, entertainment, real estate, and more.


You will also participate in a team project for the duration of your program. For this project, all students are divided into teams led by Resident Team Advisors, who are generally rising Wharton sophomores. Each team must create a business plan that they present at the end of the month to the entire program. The plans are then evaluated by a panel of venture capitalists and business professionals.


How To Apply to Leadership in the Business World     

You are eligible to attend Leadership in the Business World the summer that you are a rising high school senior. You must apply online through the Wharton School’s Leadership in the Business World application.


You will also need to submit a high school transcript, two letters of recommendation from teachers, a short essay, and a school profile, which is a brief description of your school and its program and can be obtained from your school office or guidance counselor.


In years past, the essay has usually focused on your leadership skills and asks for you to describe your leadership experiences. This will be a key element of your application.


You will also need to pay a $75 application fee, though this can be waived in circumstances of financial concern.


Standardized tests scores are not required but are recommended.


The application may only be submitted online. Transcripts, recommendations, and any other materials may be sent via email to LBW-inquiries@wharton.upenn.edu or by mail to:     


Leadership in the Business World

610 S. Henderson Road

King of Prussia, PA 19406


All applications and supplementary materials must be received by the application deadline, which is usually in early February. Admissions decisions will be released at the end of March.


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How to Get Accepted

The Wharton School’s Leadership in the Business World summer program is highly selective. Only around 160 students are accepted each summer. In 2014, the program received 700 applications and accepted roughly 20%, with the admitted students representing 25 states and nearly 20 different countries.


Selections are based on a number of criteria. Successful applicants have a record of academic excellence, demonstrated leadership experiences, and a genuine interest in developing business leadership skills.


To be considered a strong candidate, you should have outstanding academic stats, including standardized test scores in the 97-99th percentile and a GPA that places you among the top students in your class. And this isn’t all you’ll need for acceptance.


Leadership in the Business World also places a strong emphasis on demonstrated leadership skills and unique experiences. A large proportion of the admitted students come from other countries and many others have unusual skills or hobbies that set them apart. If this is the case for you, be sure that these details are clear on your application, whether through your essay, your recommendations, or your summary of extracurricular activities.


The essay portion of the application focuses specifically on leadership skills. You need to be able to discuss your proven track record in leadership experiences, even if they aren’t explicitly related to business. Be sure to write extensively about your experiences as a leader, even if they didn’t come out of an official leadership position. Sometimes, taking leadership when no official leadership role exists shows even more initiative than a traditional role. 


Much like competitive college admissions, a strong academic record might get your foot in the door, but you’re going to need more than that to gain a letter of acceptance. Similarly, a tarnished academic record might discount you completely unless you can show some compelling skills and experiences that set you far apart from other candidates with a similar profile.      


You should seek a recommendation from a teacher who knows you well and can speak to your leadership qualities and ambitions. You can approach this recommendation in much the same way as you would a recommendation for college admissions. Read more in CollegeVine’s Getting the Best Recommendation Letter.


To summarize, successful applicants will present impressive academic statistics paired with unique leadership and life experiences and a sincere desire to learn more about business and the Wharton School.


Am I Guaranteed Acceptance at Wharton if I Attend Leadership in the Business World?

Attending Leadership in the Business World does not guarantee that you will get accepted to the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.  Wharton specifically notes that there is not a one-to-one acceptance correlation between the programs.


That being said, attending Leadership in the Business World and making a positive impression while there does improve your chances of being viewed favorably by the admissions committee at the Wharton School. After all, they are looking for candidates who will be successful at Wharton, and successful alums of Leadership in the Business World may have already proven themselves capable.


In 2014, 140 students attended Leadership in the Business World and of these, about 30 ultimately went on to attend Wharton. That is a matriculation rate of about 21%. General undergrad applicants are admitted at an acceptance rate of 9% and about 6.4% of all applicants end up attending. Furthermore, students who attended Leadership in the Business World and went on to attend Wharton report that their month of business immersion gave them a leg up academically over their Wharton peers who did not participate in the program.   


While attending Leadership in the Business World is no guarantee of getting in to Wharton (and in fact, some Leadership in the Business World alums are rejected from Wharton), it is a good way to initially explore the undergrad experience at Wharton, and alums in general are accepted at a higher rate than other candidates. Keep in mind, though, that these alums had been accepted to Leadership in the Business World beforehand, thus resulting in a pool of candidates who were already highly qualified.


Looking for help navigating the road to college as a high school student? Download our free guide for 9th graders, and our free guide for 10th graders. Our guides go in-depth about subjects ranging from academicschoosing coursesstandardized testsextracurricular activitiesand much more!


To learn more about business programs and activities, also check out these CollegeVine posts:



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Kate Sundquist
Senior Blogger

Short Bio
Kate Koch-Sundquist is a graduate of Pomona College where she studied sociology, psychology, and writing before going on to receive an M.Ed. from Lesley University. After a few forays into living abroad and afloat (sometimes at the same time), she now makes her home north of Boston where she works as a content writer and, with her husband, raises two young sons who both inspire her and challenge her on a daily basis.