WJ Survey Finds Wharton the ‘Discover Card’ of MBA Programs

A Little Friendly Competition
Back in February, Harvard Business School’s student newspaper, The Harbus, published an article entitled “Harbus Survey Says HBS MBA Program more Walgreens than Apple.” They had conducted a survey of how likely their classmates were to recommend HBS to others, and calculated a Net Promoter Score (NPS) of 41. According to the Satmetrix Net Promoter US Consumer Benchmarks for 2014, this score placed HBS in the company of brands like Walgreens (42) and, more hilariously, Tracfone (39).

In the spirit of friendly competition, we ran our own survey and compared the results. At 51, our NPS score is almost 25% higher than HBS, putting us squarely in the company of brands such as Discover Card (52) and State Farm (45)—and people love Discover Card…right?

Under the Hood

Two weeks ago, we sent out an anonymous survey link via email blast and Facebook. Over 249 students filled out the survey, which asked them to rank on a ten-point scale how likely they would be to recommend a Wharton MBA to a suitably qualified friend or colleague. Under the NPS methodology, pioneered by Bain & Company, everyone who scores Wharton as a nine or ten is a “promoter” while all those who score six and below are “detractors.” To get the “Net” Promoter Score, the percentage of respondents who are detractors is subtracted from the percentage that are promoters.

Wharton’s NPS of 51 was comprised of 61.85% promoters and 10.84% detractors. My hope had been that that we might have a higher score than Harvard, but I wasn’t prepared for just how much higher it would be.

Even better, a breakdown by class shows an enormous uptick of support from second years: the NPS for 1st years was only 49, though amongst 2nd years it was 53. This suggests that Wharton students value the experience more the longer they are here, as opposed to becoming increasingly embittered towards the school, which would be disturbing.

Because the sample was not randomly selected, it’s not technically appropriate to calculate a confidence interval for our numbers. Though the Journal did not attempt to solicit responses from any particular group of students, given that it was a web survey, Wharton’s Amish population is vastly underrepresented. Regardless, we believe a sample size of 249 can be deemed fairly representative of the whole MBA population.


Why Wharton
Respondents were asked why they gave the rating they did, with almost 80% of respondents actually providing feedback. Promoters predictably showered praise on their classmates, as well as the resources available on campus, the academics, and student life. One promoter, who may or may not have been Pat Purdy (WG’16), summed up these general themes with a list of Wharton positives that included “Kembrel, the people, Penn, Pat Purdy.” It’s unclear how Pat Purdy’s departure in 2016 will affect Wharton’s NPS.

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Detractors cited a broad array of concerns. Some took issue with the academic curriculum, and the quality of the professors, while others just felt overwhelmed by the size and breadth of opportunities available. Predictably, the cost of the experience was a major drawback for some.

Alongside these broader concerns were a host of niche problems. One commenter complained that “coexisting with the undergrads is a constant source of frustration,” while his beleaguered colleague brought up serious issues with “the bathroom sitch.” One student complained, presumably while listening to Pink Floyd and stroking his goatee, that the school was too full of “Ex PE robots who just want to make money and die.”

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How Can Wharton Improve? 

Respondents were also prompted to suggest ways in which Wharton could improve. Many students suggested that the classroom experience could use more rigor and practicality, though most placed the blame on the students themselves. As one commenter pointed out, “Not enough people take classes seriously.” Wharton’s brand also featured prominently as an area for improvement, with several students suggesting that the school needed to focus on improving its brand outside of the US. One sagely commenter suggested that Wharton just needed to “think bigger” while another wrote that the school needed to “[represent] a broader and more daring vision of itself for community to rally behind.”

Moving Forward
We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to fill out the survey. The administration has already expressed an interest in reading the feedback, so rest assured, your voices will be lifted to the heavens.  When asked for comment, Deputy Vice Dean Maryellen Lamb added “Given the data-driven culture of Wharton, I’m delighted to see our students express their school spirit and pride through a system like NPS.” We’ll keep you posted on any future developments.


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