Preparing for Your Wharton TBD and One-on-One Interview 2023-2024

Written by Rachel Nelson, Gatehouse Consultant and Wharton MBA.

Wharton’s unique interview structure—the Team-Based Discussion (TBD)—often causes anxiety for applicants, but it should not! In fact, past Gatehouse clients have often reported having enjoyed their TBD experience and having made strong connections with their “teammates.”

Wharton LogoFirst things first—what is the Wharton TBD?

The Wharton TBD is a 35-minute session involving six Wharton MBA applicants and one or two observers taking notes. All participants are sent the prompt to be discussed in the TBD when they are invited by Wharton to interview. Each participant is expected to provide their proposed solution to the prompt—a “pitch”—at the start of the TBD, and then all members of the group work together to agree on one solution, further flesh it out, and then present it to observers.

After the TBD, each participant is invited to a ten-minute, one-on-one interview with a member of Wharton’s admissions team, often a second-year MBA student.

What should you know about the Wharton TBD?

As a Gatehouse Admissions Consultant and Wharton alumna, I have moderated dozens and dozens of Wharton mock TBDs. Having observed so many TBD participants, I wanted to share my list of the most important things to keep in mind about the Wharton TBD.

1. This is a collaborative, team-based activity.

The structure of Wharton’s curriculum requires that students work well with others. The TBD allows Wharton to evaluate whether you would fit in with the program’s ethos and work effectively as part of a team. One simple strategy to demonstrate a team mindset is to learn your teammates names when they introduce themselves (write down their names!) and then refer to everyone by name during the discussion.

2. Make yourself look good by helping your teammates shine.

Look for ways to support your teammates and build on what they have said.  If someone has a great idea, call that out. If you have something to add that helps develop someone else’s idea, even better—and always be sure to give credit where credit is due. The TBD is not a zero-sum game; your entire team “wins” by working together to find a solution. Entire TBD groups can be, and have been, admitted to Wharton!

3. It is fine to respectfully disagree.

You do not need to agree with everything that your teammates suggest, and your team does not have to be in lockstep throughout the TBD. Groupthink or the tendency to rush to agreement without digesting an idea poses its own set of problems. You want to be respectful and thoughtful of your peers, but asking clarifying questions or presenting an opposing viewpoint is also fine. Much as you might do at work, you could say something along the lines of “To play devil’s advocate…” and then pivot the discussion in a different direction. If the group disagrees with you, that is okay: fostering open and honest debate is a hallmark of an effective team—and of a great teammate. But, if you have made your argument thoughtfully and the team still disagrees, be prepared to drop it—there simply is not time for complicated negotiations, and being argumentative will not benefit you.

4. Spend time working on your pitch ahead of time.

Wharton conveniently provides the TBD prompt ahead of time, so use that to your advantage. It often helps to propose a solution that you know something about already or have an interest in—or both! Take time to develop your pitch and think through all the elements asked for in the prompt.

As you practice your pitch, time yourself. Participants are generally given one minute to present. One minute can fly by, and you will need to be strategic about what to cover in such a short amount of time to ensure you address the prompt clearly.

5. Be prepared if your pitch is selected as the group’s focus.

You need not be an expert but doing a bit of research in advance will benefit your whole team if your idea is selected for further exploration. If that happens, you will become a de facto leader within the team, and you will want to keep the discussion moving forward. You will not be alone—you can expect your teammates to step up as well—but you want to be prepared to guide the discussion, perhaps by having thought through specific elements (e.g., certain companies or activities). Having such details at the ready can provide a starting point for your teammates to react to and build on. Be advised that you probably will not have time to include all of these details in your pitch and will need to think carefully about what belongs in your introductory comments and what ideas you can keep in your back pocket if your idea is selected.

6. Finally, have fun!

The more you can relax and allow your true self to come out, the more you will positively contribute to your team’s effort. Consider the experience a preview to the work you will do with teams in business school. We hope you enjoy it!

Interested in more strategies and practice? Gatehouse Admissions offers Wharton Mock Interview Services—hosted by me and my colleague, fellow Wharton MBA Marcus Dahllof.