Wharton MBA Academic Policies

Graduation Requirements for Master of Business Administration

The degree of Master of Business Administration (MBA) will be awarded to candidates who have met the course requirements for graduation, set forth below:

  • successfully completed a minimum of 19.0 credit units (CU), of which a minimum of 15.0 CU is Wharton MBA coursework. The remaining 4.0 CU must be graduate level coursework taken within The University of Pennsylvania or as part of an approved dual degree or exchange program.
  • successfully completed the Wharton MBA Core Curriculum
  • successfully completed the requirements of a minimum of one major

MBA Code of Ethics

Members of the Wharton community are expected to uphold the highest ethical standards. The MBA student body has articulated the following guidelines, approved by vote in the Spring of 1989, amended by vote in the Spring of 2005.

Concert Rules

To engender a classroom experience most conducive for learning, the following norms are expected in the Wharton MBA classroom. We affectionately refer to these guidelines as “Concert Rules,” alluding to the environment one ordinarily finds at an orchestral performance. By labeling them as such, they become an intuitively understood set of expectations.

Concert Rules

  • Class starts and ends exactly on time. Students and faculty are expected to be prompt.
  • Students sit according to a seating chart.
  • Students remain in attendance for the duration of class, except in an emergency.
  • Students display name tents.
  • Phones must be turned off and put away.
  • Laptops and tablets are not allowed unless for educational purposes as permitted by the professor.

To get the most out of your MBA experience, preparing for and attending classes are the most important steps you will take. Doing so allows you to engage your classmates and professors, advance your studies, and position yourself as a knowledgeable, thoughtful colleague. It is with these goals in mind that we invite you to participate actively in our “concert.”

Electronics in the Classroom Policy

The MBA program disapproves the use of electronic devices during any class for non-educational purposes.  Experience has shown that such use significantly disrupts learning, both for the students using the device and for others in the class. While the MBA program has had a general “no electronics” rule for several years, this policy now separately addresses phones, laptops, and tablets.

  • Phones must be turned off and put away. If a student must keep a phone on by reason of a personal emergency, the student must inform the instructor before class begins.
  • The use of laptops and tablets is not allowed unless for educational purposes as permitted by the instructor (e.g., notetaking, reading, or data analysis).
Instructors are expected to detail in their syllabi when and how any such uses are permitted and what penalties may be imposed for violations of the electronics policy. Penalties may include losing participation points, reduction of a final grade, or any other academic consequence, as the instructor deems appropriate. If a student is unsure regarding an instructor’s electronics policy at any point, he or she should ask the instructor for clarification. This policy applies to all MBA classes.by the MBA Program Office.

Course Attendance Policy

The Wharton MBA Program has a general policy regarding course attendance as well as an attendance policy specific to fixed core courses. Both policies are detailed below.

Attendance is an important aspect of the Wharton commitment. Wharton students are admitted in part because of the experiences they bring to the community and what they can add to class discussions. Without attending, learning as a collaborative process cannot exist. Accordingly, absences are only appropriate in cases of personal emergency. In addition, late arrival is disruptive to the learning environment and promptness is expected.

Faculty are the final arbiters of who enters and remains in their classes. If a student’s in-class performance has become disruptive to the class as a whole, the instructor can request that the MBA Program Office remove a student from the course roster. Some may require attendance in the first few classes as a necessary condition of enrollment in the course regardless of the student’s status in the registration. Some faculty may also require attendance in a minimum number of sessions to remain enrolled in the course. It is the student’s responsibility to find out in advance if the course has such a requirement.

Most professors choose to base part of your course grade on attendance or participation and have a limit on the number of classes you may miss. If you find it necessary to miss a class or turn in written work late, you should seek permission from the instructor in advance.

If you find yourself in a conflict due to your career search or recruiting activity, you should work with the MBA Career Management Office to find a resolution. Employers are prohibited from requiring recruiting-related activities (e.g., interviews, events or travel) that conflict with a student’s academic commitments. An employer’s inflexibility on this issue is considered a violation of Wharton’s recruiting policies.

 MBA Program Fixed Core Attendance Policy

1.1. The MBA Program Attendance Policy below currently applies to fixed core classes, in that MGMT 610, MKTG 611, STAT 613, STAT621, MGEC 611, and MGEC 612 require student attendance.

1.2. Student attendance in those fixed core classes will be observed. Grade point average and class attendance will be among the selection criteria used to select Fellows in the MBA administration and participants in exchange programs. This includes Fellowships such as Leadership Fellows, Student-Life Fellows, Communications Fellows, Admissions Fellows, Venture Fellows, and exchange programs with our overseas partner schools and the Semester in San Francisco Program.

1.3. Absences may be excused. Two types of absences warrant immediate excuses without further explanation or documentation, Personal Illness and Personal or Family Emergency. Religious holidays during which classes are scheduled will be excused for observant students. Absences due to job interviews, career pursuits or travel are not appropriate reasons to request an excuse.

1.4. The MBA Program Attendance Policy may differ from each faculty’s attendance policy typically outlined in the class syllabus, and faculty may also base part of the course grade on attendance and participation. Each faculty also decides on the form of attendance taking.

MBA Program Check-in App

2.1. A student may check in to a class in which he/she is enrolled any time during the Check-In Period.

2.2. In order to check-in a student must be physically present in the classroom. A student may only check-in him/herself, though he/she need not use his/her own personal device to do so.

2.3. Definition of Absence: A student who has not checked in after a class’ start time will be marked absent. Forgetting to check-in is not grounds for excusing an absence. Attendance taking through such an app is heavily reliant on the MBA Code of Ethics.

 MBA Program Attendance Notification

3.1. Students will receive an email at the close of the day showing a list of classes which require attendance and for which the student has been marked absent. No email will be sent if no absence has been recorded.

3.2. If the student wishes to petition for an excused absence (see Section 1.3.) he/she may follow the embedded link to do so. Any free-text entered to petition for an excuse must be reviewed and approved by the MBA Program Office.

Grading System

1. Wharton’s MBA courses are graded on a traditional letter grade system of A through F, with + and – distinctions. The letter grades carry the usual point values A=4, B=3, C=2, D=1, F=0. The +’s and –’s trisect the interval between full letter grades; i.e., a ‘+’ grade will be 0.33 above the full grade value and a ‘–’ grade 0.33 below. A+’s are allowed but still carry a 4.0 point value, a University of Pennsylvania policy.

2. For MBA classes with an MBA enrollment of 20 or more at the conclusion of the course, the class MBA Grade Point Average (CMGPA) may not exceed 3.33. This upper limit CMGPA is raised by 0.04 for every enrollment count below 20. CMGPA is defined as the average point value of the grades assigned to all MBA students in a class who are governed by this grading system.

3. Faculty are required to notify the MBA Program Office of all students whose performance falls in the lowest 10% (LT) of their Wharton classes when total enrollment is greater than or equal to 20. Students who are consistently in the lowest 10% of their Wharton courses may be subject to academic discipline. See the section on Academic Performance Standards.

4. While the grades A+ through D- are relative performance indicators (i.e., they depend on how other students in the class perform), the F grade is based on an absolute performance standard in every course.

5. The F grade does not earn credit toward graduation and when students receive it in a core course, they are required to re-enroll in the course and obtain a passing grade in order to graduate unless an alternate remedy is deemed appropriate by the faculty member. The courses in which students receive F grades are counted toward the maximum course load for tuition purposes and F grades remain on the transcript.

6. Pass/Fail Option: Each student may take up to one elective credit unit on a Pass/Fail basis each semester. Pass grades will be excluded from individual GPA calculations. Fail grades will be included. Pass grades are not eligible for LT designations, but Fail grades are. The Pass/Fail option does not supersede departmental requirements for majors. (Please note that courses which may only be taken on a Pass/Fail basis, such as MGMT 656 (GIP) and MGMT 891 (offered in conjunction with CPT), do not count toward the one credit unit limit for Pass/Fail courses.)

7. Students who withdraw from courses after the semester has begun may receive a grade of “Withdrawn” (W). The final decision on awarding a “W” rests with both the course instructor and the MBA Program Office. This grade is not included in the calculation of the GPA (see Academic Honors). Courses in which students receive a “W” after the drop deadline count towards the 21 cu maximum course load. Closed courses in which students receive a “W” may also count toward the 21 cu maximum course load.

8. Re-grade requests: Students who believe that there are errors in the grading of an assignment, exam, or any other course component may request that their instructor re-grade that component. These requests should be made as soon as possible and must comply with the requirements and time limits set by the course instructor. If the student is unable to resolve the matter with the instructor, the student may raise the matter with the department chair.  Please note, it is within the exclusive province of the instructor to exercise academic judgment in relation to his/her course and the chair cannot simply substitute their judgment for the academic judgment of the instructor. Students should be aware that, because of the cumulative GPA limit and the LT requirement, a change in one student’s grade or LT status can affect another student’s grade or LT status.

Academic Honors Eligibility

The Wharton School recognizes outstanding academic performance in the MBA Program in several different ways. Academic honors are determined on the basis of the Grade Point Average (GPA) during the fall and spring semesters (summer courses are excluded from consideration for honors, with the exception of courses taken by three-year JD/MBA students in the summer preceding Pre-Term). The GPA is determined by assigning the following numerical weights to the letter grades received in Wharton MBA courses: A=4 points, B=3 points, C=2 points, D=1 point, and F=0 points, with + (plus) increasing the full grade value by .33 and – (minus) decreasing the full grade value by .33. A+’s carry a 4.0 point value, a University of Pennsylvania policy. Courses outside the Wharton MBA program are not included in the GPA computation. Courses taken on a Pass/Fail basis are not  included in the GPA calculations unless a Fail grade is earned. Thus, the GPA reflected on the transcript may not be the one used  to compute academic honors as the transcript  GPA reflects all coursework taken at the University of Pennsylvania.

1. Director’s List: The Director’s List is compiled and published each semester to recognize superior academic performance in that semester and is awarded to students who rank in  the top 10% of their class based on their GPA for the semester. Eligibility for Director’s List requires that the student take at least 4.5 credit units in the first semester and at least 4 credit units in each subsequent semester, 3 cu of which must be from Wharton courses taken for credit on a graded basis.

2. First-Year Honors: Students ranking in the top 20% of their class at the conclusion of the first-year will be awarded First-Year Honors. The ranking for First-Year Honors is based on the cumulative GPA during the first year and requires that students take at least 9 credit units during the fall and spring semesters.

3. Isik Inselbag Scholarship: To be eligible for the Isik Inselbag Scholarship, a grant of $7,500, a student must have a first year GPA that places him or her among the top students in the class. In addition, the Inselbag Scholar must exemplify the spirit of Wharton through leadership, teamwork, scholarship, and service, as determined by the Vice Dean of the Graduate Division with inputs from the faculty and Graduate Division directors. Professor Inselbag, for whom the scholarship is named, served as Vice Dean and Director of the Graduate Division during 1992-95 and taught in the Finance Department for over twenty years.

4. William G. McGowan Fellow: Wharton selects one rising second year student as a McGowan Fellow each year. This student must have achieved an academic standing in the top five percent of his or her first year class and exemplified leadership in current or former activities. Students must apply and complete an essay provided by the McGowan Fund. Financial need is a factor. The nominee receives one full year’s tuition, attends the annual conference for McGowan Fellows and Alumni, and is assigned a respected business leader  as a mentor.

5. Ford Fellowship: The student (or students, in the case of a tie) who achieves the highest academic performance during the first-year of the MBA program is awarded the Ford Fellowship, a grant of $10,000. Academic performance for the Ford Fellowship is measured by the GPA during the first year and requires that the student take at least 9 credit units during the first year.

6. Director’s List Fellowship: To be eligible for the Director’s List Fellowship, a grant of $5,000, a student must rank in the top 10% of their class based on their GPA for the semester. In addition, the Director’s List Fellowship recipient must exemplify the academic spirit of Wharton as determined by the Vice Dean of the MBA Program with inputs from the faculty and Graduate Division directors. The application requires an essay outlining the student’s contribution to learning, both inside and outside of the classroom in pursuit of academic excellence. Students can apply for the Director’s List Fellowship each semester after the Director’s list is published. A recipient is selected for the first, second, and third semester of each class.

7. Academic Excellence Fellowship: The student(s) who achieves the highest academic performance during their second and third semester of the MBA program is award the Academic Excellence Fellowship, a grant of $10,000. Academic performance for the Academic Excellence Fellowship is measured by the cumulative GPA during those two terms, not counting summer courses. It requires that the student take at least 9 credit units during their second and third semester, not counting summer courses. The recipient of the Ford Fellowship at the end of the first-year of the program is not eligible.

8. Graduation with Honors: Students who rank in the top 20% of their class at graduation are awarded Graduation with Honors. The ranking for Graduation with Honors is based on the cumulative GPA earned during the program.

9. Palmer Scholars: Students graduating in the top 5% percent of the class are designated Palmer Scholars. Class rank is based on the student’s cumulative GPA earned during their two years at Wharton.

Students with any ‘F’ grades are ineligible for academic honors. For the Director’s List, this applies only to the semester under consideration. The University notes all honors on  the official transcript.

Academic Performance Standards

(a) Academic Probation. A student will be placed on academic probation upon reaching any one of the following conditions: (1) receive two grades of F in any grading period*, (2) earn 2.5 credit units of Lowest 10% (LT) indicators in the first semester, (3) earn 4.0 credit units of Lowest 10% (LT) indicators in the first two semesters cumulatively, (4) earn 6.0 credit units of Lowest 10% (LT) indicators in the first three semesters cumulatively.** Once a student is on academic probation, the following steps are required:

1. Meet with an academic advisor and develop a plan to succeed which includes:

a. Course work for the remaining semesters
b. Extra-curricular activities
c. Career search activities
d. Other personal interests and needs

The effect of probation may include a limit on the number of credit units taken in a term, a limit on the number of leadership positions the student may hold, and/or the opportunity for school-funded tutoring.

This plan must be approved by an academic advisor in the MBA Program Office. Failure to develop an acceptable plan within the requested deadline articulated on the probation letter may lead to enforced restrictions on the student such as a limit on credit units, a recommended suspension of school-sanctioned leadership roles, or a limit on career management services.

2. At the end of the grading period in which the plan is initiated, review the plan with an academic advisor to assess the student’s success and the plan’s viability;

3. At the end of the semester in which the plan was initiated, the student will meet with his or her academic advisor. If the student has avoided reaching the next probationary state, he/she will be taken off probation.

(b) Academic Dismissal. Any of the following three academic conditions will lead to dismissal from the MBA program: (A) receiving three grades of F in any grading period or in any two contiguous grading periods; (B) receiving two subsequent grades of F after being placed on academic probation; or (C) accumulating five credit units of the sum of lowest 10% (LT) indicators and F grades that did not carry an LT in the first year or eight credit units of the said sum during the program.

(c) Incompletes. Grades of Incomplete are given at the discretion of the instructor when, on the basis of work completed, the student is doing passing work, but some requirement of the course (e.g., exam or paper) is not completed. All Incomplete grades not removed from a student’s record by the end of the first four weeks in the following regular semester shall be converted automatically to F. For example, a grade of Incomplete earned in the spring semester must be removed by the end of the fourth week of the following fall semester. Grades of Incomplete are changed to permanent grades by the instructor, who submits a change-of-grade upon completion of course requirements. Degrees are awarded in May, August, and December.

(d) Students who finish any semester with grades of Incomplete shall have each Incomplete be considered as one-half of an F grade for academic standards purposes.

(e) For the purpose of paragraphs (a) and (b) above, any Incomplete grade automatically converted to F will be presumed to be an F earned in the semester the student was registered for the course. This could cause a student to be retroactively placed on probation or be dismissed from the program.

(f) A student who is dismissed from the program for academics or other reasons may appeal the decision by writing to the Chair of the MBA Executive Committee within seven days of receiving the dismissal letter. Upon receipt of the request, the committee will convene a hearing and give the student seven days advance notice. The student may appear in person or submit a written appeal. If the student wishes to appear, but cannot, the hearing will still be held. All Committee decisions are final. There is no further appellate body.

(g) Students are considered to be in their first year for purposes of academic standards through the end of their first two full-time semesters in the MBA program. Lauder students and three-year JD/MBA students are considered to be in their first year through the end of their first three full-time semesters, which includes their first summer term and the subsequent two semesters of full-time residency.

(h) The two summer sessions combined shall be considered as one semester (regardless of whether one or two sessions are attended) for the above purposes of probation or dismissal.

(i) Except when an error is made, only those grades initially reported by instructors will be considered in determining whether a student is subject to probation or dismissal.

*A grading period may be a quarter or a semester.

**Note that a “semester” generally refers to fall and spring semesters and that summer terms may count if the student carries a full-time course load in that term, but are to be considered on an individual basis.

***Contiguous grading periods are those that are immediately adjacent to each other. For instance, the contiguous grading period for a full semester course would be the full semester immediately succeeding or preceding (e.g., spring follows fall; fall follows spring). The contiguous grading period for a half semester course would be the half semester immediately succeeding or preceding (e.g., Q2 is contiguous to Q1 and Q3 is contiguous to Q2; however, Q3 is not contiguous with Q1).  In addition Q3 is contiguous to the fall semester. Q4 would not be contiguous to the prior fall semester, but would be contiguous to the following fall semester. 

Wharton Grade Disclosure Policy

Wharton students are free to disclose any aspect of their own academic transcripts to prospective employers or any other interested parties, and are encouraged to do so. Such disclosure is a legal right and it is Wharton policy to protect this right. Prospective employers are free to request from students any aspect of their academic transcripts.

Examination Conflict Policy

Examinations (including both midterms and finals) in Wharton courses are governed by the University policies on examinations which are published periodically in the University Almanac and can also be found in the Pennbook. You should be aware that examinations are given on Fridays and evenings, including Thursday evenings, and you should check the examination calendar carefully.

If you have documentable special circumstances such as time conflicts between multiple exams, illness, or grave personal difficulties such as a death in the family, you should petition the MBA Program Office, which will work with the faculty in appropriate cases to find a resolution. The MBA Program Office will require documentation of your conflict as a matter of course. See the Pennbook for policies covering absences resulting from religious observances. You should never approach an instructor with a request to reschedule an exam or make a special accommodation. Approaching an instructor with a request to reschedule an exam or to make a special accommodation can be considered use of a dishonest method to gain unfair advantage over other students.

If you find yourself with a conflict due to your career search or recruiting activity, you should work with the MBA Career Management Office to find a resolution. Employers cannot require a student, as a condition of his or her employment candidacy, to participate in recruiting-related activities at a time that conflicts with his or her academic schedule. An employer’s inflexibility on this issue is considered a violation of Wharton’s recruiting policies. A time conflict due to a job interview, a career pursuit or travel is not an appropriate reason to request accommodation on an academic commitment.

Academic Course Load

The Wharton MBA degree requires 19 CU of graduate level courses, but allows up to 21 CU to be taken without incurring additional tuition charges. If you elect to waive courses, you must replace the waived credit units with elective coursework. The minimum requirement for graduation remains 19 CU at the graduate level regardless of courses waived. Thus, the typical course load in any semester is approximately 5 CU. In order to maintain status as a full-time student, you must be enrolled in a minimum of 3 CU per semester.

If you have a strong academic record, and wish to take more than 6 CU per semester, you may petition the MBA Program Office for permission. You must be in good academic standing and must demonstrate the ability to handle the extra workload. Course loads and limits differ for dual degree students.

Leave of Absence Policy

If you need to interrupt the normal two-year course of study in the MBA Program, you must request a leave of absence by writing a letter to the Deputy Vice Dean of Academic Affairs stating the reason for the request and the length of the expected absence. Depending on the circumstances, a leave of absence may be granted for a semester or a full academic year. The MBA Program only grants leaves to students in good academic standing, and handles requests for extension of the leave on a case-by-case basis. The maximum total duration for a leave of absence from the MBA Program is five years.