I am a big believer in preparation. There is enough evidence of the payoff of preparation, think of the countless hours Kobe Bryant puts into perfecting his jump shots.
But having said that, I still think that there is such a thing as over preparation which can backfire and hurt your admissions chances.
So when it comes to the new Wharton Team Discussion, I think some level of preparation can help but I wouldn’t go overboard to try and simulate the actual experience since the reality is that it is near impossible to replicate the conditions each individual will face.
Here are a few pointers to help you navigate this phase of the Wharton assessment:
1) Take a deep breath and relax! The group discussion will not have as profound an impact on your admissions as many people think it would.
The admissions board is going to be looking to identify people who have extreme issues such as being painfully shy, poor communicators, socially awkward, hyper competitive and arrogant candidates.
I assume none of these characterizations come any where close to describing you so relax and be yourself.
2) Know what to expect: You are given two question prompts ahead of the interview.
You should reflect on each of them, come up with specific points that you feel strongly about and be ready to defend them.
Remember that you are not going to be tested on having “the right answer”! It more about whether you express yourself effectively and how well you can defend your point of view.
Of course your point of view has to make sense and present an intelligent view point.
3) You also need to be confident and show that you can hold your own even when your ideas are being questioned.
It is a delicate balance between holding strong to your opinion and taking other people’s point of view into account.
You don’t want to come across as pig-headed nor do you want to be seen as wishy washy without any strong convictions.
So before the interview, be clear on why you feel a particular way about the topic in question and then anticipate the pushback you could get and practice defending your opinion.
Don’t forget to leave room to acknowledge when a good point has been made that calls into question your assumptions.
4) Be flexible. You don’t know what the make-up of your team members will be.
Some groups are made up of people who are extremely cautious, where no one wants to step on any toes. Others may have a few aggressive people in the group.
Regardless of who you have on your team, be adaptable. Don’t hesitate to step up and show yourself as a leader by speaking up when the conversation goes off course or when everyone is just simply agreeing to “play nice”.
Trust me when I tell you that the admissions board would hate that! Be willing to speak up but do it respectfully. Speaking up when everybody else is fearfully compromising will clearly set you apart.
Having said that, this isn’t a license for you to play the lone ranger and argue a divergent view point for the sake of argument.
5) Be astute and read the non-verbal part of the conversation. More than 50% of conversation is done non verbally.
Be aware of your own body language and the vibes you send out. At the same time, be aware of what is happening around you as well so you can pick up on the subtle clues that may be critical in shaping the discussion.
6) Don’t forget to have fun. It’s easier said than done but keep in mind that if you approach the interview as a “do or die” interaction you will likely make unnecessary mistakes and can also come across as socially awkward.
Remind yourself that this is not surgery where lives are at stake. Do your best and try and let your personality come through. Good luck on your interview!