While high school can teach you a lot of theory and even provide you with some practical experience via projects and the like, the one thing that it cannot teach you is the intangibles of leadership. Leadership comes from experience, but much of its foundation can be obtained from well-designed pre-college programs - by a mix of learning the theoretical concepts of leadership, case studies and examples, and of course simulations and team-based activities.
One program that ticks all these boxes is Wharton’s Leadership in the Business World (LBW).
In this post, we’ll delve into all that this program has to offer.
What is Leadership in the Business World all about?
Leadership in the Business World is an initiative of the Wharton Global Youth Program, a branch that utilizes Wharton resources and opportunities to provide high school students with a transformative educational experience. LBW aims to introduce participants to Wharton’s undergraduate curriculum and help them learn about business leadership in the 21st century. Stretching across three weeks at the University of Pennsylvania's Philadelphia campus, you will be engaging in a myriad of activities including but not limited to lectures and presentations by Wharton faculty, digital simulations involving core business concepts, case competitions, and discussions on research-based theories of leadership, as well as interactions with guest speakers and industry leaders.
LBW is one of Wharton’s most selective pre-college programs, with slightly more strict eligibility criteria. You must:
Be a high school student enrolled in grade 11 (international students are welcome).
Have demonstrated leadership experience and academic excellence.
Have an unweighted GPA of 3.5 or higher.
Only 120 or so students will be selected for the program.
Application Timeline, Process, and Costs
LBW, being a Wharton Global Youth program, has two separate deadlines:
Priority Deadline: January 25, 2023 - you will have a greater chance of admission if you applying in this period, and the program is also likely to fill up during this time.
Priority Decisions Released: March 15, 2023.
Final Deadline: April 5, 2023.
Final Decisions Released: April 26, 2023 - any slots that remained open after Priority Deadline will be filled in this decision release.
The available session dates for 2023 were as follows:
June 4 - 24
June 25 - July 15
July 16 - August 5
An application to LBW requires the following:
Your high school transcript.
A recommendation completed by a high school guidance counselor, teacher, or advisor.
A short essay based on a prompt. For 2023, the topics were:
Tweet-style bio: In 140 characters or less, give us your biography as if it were a tweet.
Select a leader you admire from your local community. Explain your selection and give examples of how they demonstrate effective leadership. 200-300 words
Video OR Written Supplement - this is a specific requirement for LBW, requiring you to submit either a 90-second video OR a 400-word written statement introducing you. Ideally, this should cover your leadership experience, passions, ambition, and motivation for joining the program.
If you’re a non-native English speaker, you will also need to submit test scores to verify your English proficiency. The minimum requirement is 7 for IELTS and 100 (iBT) for TOEFL.
You can also optionally share any standardized test scores to supplement your application.
A non-refundable application fee of $100 ($359 for international students). If you’ve attended a public or charter school in the School District of Philadelphia, this fee is waived.
The registration fee for the program is $9,899, making this Wharton’s most expensive pre-college program. Fortunately, Wharton also offers scholarships for those who:
Come from a historically underrepresented group or identify as first-generation to college.
Demonstrate financial need.
Leadership in the Business World is designed to be an efficient mix of theoretical learning, peer learning, and industry exposure. On an average day, you can expect to attend around three hours of lectures, another two and a half hours of group work and simulations, and the occasional site visit or case competition. The curriculum covers the following topics:
Business Model Generation
One of the biggest draws of LBW is the faculty. You will have the privilege of being taught by Wharton's award-winning faculty members - who between them have phenomenal leadership experience as former C-suite executives, proven thought leadership, and experience working for or with Fortune 500 companies. With plenty of focus on group projects and peer learning, you will also interact aplenty with TAs consisting of graduate and undergraduate students at UPenn, enriching your learning and exposure even further.
Is It Prestigious?
Leadership in the Business World is without a doubt the most prestigious pre-college program offered by Wharton, as reflected both by its faculty and its overall structure. For one, Wharton’s own reputation is strong enough that you will gain a significant edge in your academic and professional pursuits should you be a part of it. Secondly, it’s a fairly selective program, with an acceptance rate of 20% (compared to the higher 22-25% of the other Global Youth Programs), and mandates a high GPA as well as leadership experience. Of course, the structure of the program itself and the quality of the education it provides - a broad syllabus, experiential learning, plenty of industry exposure, and simulations, all backed by Wharton's faculty, means that you will greatly benefit from the experience almost regardless of its prestige. The broad feedback on the program sings praises for the case competition, peer learning, and the fact that being an LBW grad signals to Wharton’s admissions officers later that you really want to study there. While LBW does not guarantee a Wharton admission, there is no denying that a portion of its participants do end up at Wharton soon after.
Pros and Cons of Attending
You will have access to quality education: The fact that the course is designed to introduce students to Wharton’s undergraduate curriculum and is taught by its leading business faculty guarantees that you will have a phenomenal learning experience.
You will get excellent exposure: This course requires you to be spending plenty of time with not only Wharton’s faculty, who are industry leaders themselves, but also with guest lecturers, TAs working in the field, and your own peers.
You will get the chance to boost your profile: You will receive a certificate from Wharton on program completion, providing your profile with an exclusivity bonus. It will demonstrate that not only are you already judged as academically gifted, but that you have also spent time and effort further honing your leadership skills at one of the country’s best management schools. By some estimates, nearly 30% of LBW grads get into Wharton themselves!
You may have to shell out a lot of money: While scholarships and waivers are available, that doesn’t change the fact that LBW is one of the most expensive pre-college programs in the country. There is also no guarantee that the scholarship award you are granted will be full, and you may not receive any at all.
You cannot participate remotely: This is a residential, on-campus program, which means if you lack the means to be able to travel to UPenn or if you’re an international student who cannot travel, then you will not be able to participate.
You need to make the most of the opportunity: The program’s essential intent is to introduce you to Wharton’s undergraduate curriculum and provide a practical, case-based learning experience in management and leadership. On its own, this is only useful if you’re able to build on the networking and peer learning opportunities yourself, else you will be better off just doing an internship or participating in a competition if you simply want to boost your college profile.
Our Review: Should You Consider It
Leadership in the Business World is a solid pre-college program in management and leadership that provides a worthwhile combination of experiential learning and networking. While it is commensurately expensive, the knowledge, exposure, and experience you gain are quite valuable. It also works as a signaling mechanism to show future admissions officers and HRs that your academic and leadership skills have already been acknowledged. If you are interested in leadership and management, and you can either afford the program or are able to secure a scholarship, then you should strongly consider applying.
Lumiere Research Scholar Program
If you’re looking for the opportunity to do in-depth research on various topics in business management and leadership, you could also consider applying to one of the Lumiere Research Scholar Programs, selective online high school programs for students I founded with researchers at Harvard and Oxford. Last year, we had over 4000 students apply for 500 spots in the program! You can find the application form here.
Stephen is one of the founders of Lumiere and a Harvard College graduate. He founded Lumiere as a PhD student at Harvard Business School. Lumiere is a selective research program where students work 1-1 with a research mentor to develop an independent research paper.