“We read hundreds of applications from brilliant, innovative, and visionary young minds. And I couldn’t help but feel inspired and motivated to help cultivate such an amazing, diverse, and influential group of individuals.”

Traditionally, business schools look for three to six years of full-time work experience to apply to top MBA programs. This one-size-fits-all track can be a barrier to some undergraduates eager to make an impact on the world. That’s why Ken Moelis, W’80, WG’81, and Julie Taffet Moelis, W’81 launched the Moelis Advance Access Program, to offer both undergraduate and full-time master’s students in their final year of study guaranteed admission to the Wharton MBA after two to four years of full-time work. Students apply and secure their spot in the future class with the freedom to explore any career path, including traditional business industries as well as entrepreneurship, social impact, or a passion project.

Wharton MBA Director of Admissions Blair Mannix and Director of the Moelis Advance Access Program Jake Kohler address the most asked questions, the advantages of deferred enrollment, the Moelis Fellows community, and takeaways from the 2020 Moelis Fellows cohort profile.

What is the Moelis Advance Access Program and how did it come to be?

Jake: The Moelis Advance Access Program is a deferred MBA admissions opportunity. College students, whether undergraduate students in their final year of study or master’s degree students in their final year study, have the opportunity to apply to the Wharton MBA. And then, in the period after they’ve been admitted, work full-time before actually arriving in business school.

Blair: We looked at our student population and saw that there were a lot of students that had an interest in an MBA as college students, starting to poke into graduate management education as sophomores, juniors, and seniors. But what we heard resoundingly from these students was that they felt nervous to go out into the world and not do what they perceived as the “traditional” MBA pathway from college graduation to MBA application. We wanted to provide an avenue for those students to be themselves and take risks, start the companies they wanted, give back to society, explore business internationally, and be part of social impact endeavors; giving them the opportunity to apply and gain admission as successful college students, and then later matriculate, provides them with the freedom to go out into the world and take those risks and start that company that maybe they wouldn’t have if they were trying to put together four to five years of so-called “perfect work experience” to gain admission into the best MBA program in the world.

Why apply to Wharton via this deferred admissions program, as an undergraduate or master’s degree student, instead of directly to Wharton MBA after several years of full-time work experience?

Jake: The idea of risk plays a big role. I’m going to paraphrase some of the advice that Ken Moelis himself shared during a recent conversation with our Moelis Fellows community. Mr. Moelis talked about the value of using de-risking experiences, such as being admitted into a top business school in the world, to provide a confident foundation to take advantage of risks. By being in deferred admissions, you can take, and you should take, more professional risks, personal risks, and pursue those areas that you might not have had the confidence to pursue otherwise. I’m a big believer that risk-taking is analogous to early investments with regards to the benefits gained. Early risk-taking begets greater knowledge, greater opportunity, and greater achievement later on, much in the same way that an early investment yields both earlier returns and greater returns over your lifetime.

Who does Wharton hope to attract to this Moelis Advance Access program?

Jake: Students who see themselves being leaders of organizations, innovating within industries, or creating their own companies sometime in the future. For some of the candidates applying, they might be ready to take those steps next year and create that innovative new venture. But for others, they see themselves in those roles years in the future. But no matter what the timeline is, if you see your leadership extending beyond the team to being the person that will inspire and influence departments, organizations, industries — you see that an MBA program can play a role in your professional journey.

What qualities do you look for in an applicant?

Blair: The successful applicants who come through this program are students that have done really well academically in college. That does not exclusively mean they have the highest GPAs, but they’ve learned a lot and are already seeking to apply that knowledge and skill in the real world. Beyond that, it really is what you can do and what you can achieve and how you can lead and influence others as a college student. Many of you might be thinking, “Oh, I haven’t done enough.” But being a college student, doing well in school, and making an impact in your environment is exactly what we’re looking for.

How do admitted students engage with Wharton during their deferment period?

Jake: This is one of the key tenets and one of the distinguishable aspects of the Moelis Advance Access Program. We’ve created a web-based, mobile-friendly platform where our Moelis Fellows community can engage with Wharton, take advantage of Wharton resources, and connect with alumni. But just as important as engaging with the business school, creating the online community allows our Moelis Fellows — who are currently spread across six different continents and work in multiple different industries — to interact and support one another.

We want the Fellows to learn from each other’s experiences and utilize one another as part of the Wharton network before they arrive in Philadelphia. For example, the analysts that are currently located in Hong Kong, Shanghai, London, New York, San Francisco, and other cities around the entire world can share critical insights about their work projects and share tools and resources that empower all of their successes as they explore their early professional years. Since this online community is limited to just the Wharton Moelis Advance Access Program, it is a safe space to ask questions and learn.

Blair: Once you are admitted and matriculate to the Moelis Advance Access Program, you are Wharton family members. Before you are current students — you’re part of our Wharton family.

What are the top takeaways from the Moelis Advance Access Program admitted student 2020 profile?

Jake: I was blown away by the ambition, the diversity of thought, and the types of institutions and locations from which students applied. We admitted that cohort in the summer of 2020, in the midst of this pandemic, when it seemed as though our immediate life was uncertain. We read hundreds of applications from brilliant, innovative, and visionary young minds. And I couldn’t help but feel inspired and motivated to help cultivate such an amazing, diverse, and influential group of individuals.

Blair: The two words that come to me, first is grateful: grateful that these students who are so immensely talented wanted to be members of the Wharton family. And second, is excitement. Just seeing the things that they’ve been able to accomplish this young and early in their lives. We want them to go out and change the world. Take risks. It’s an apt time in society to be able to do that. So I’m excited to see them come back with the hopes that we’ll see some interesting things have happened off their desks over the last two to four years.


— Erin Lomboy, W’21

Posted: February 4, 2021

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