I realize this. I am already thinking about course waivers. For the record, I haven't worked on my financial aid paperwork OR the essay. But someone posted last year's waiver guide on eTalk (the S2S for admitted students) and I have been obsessing over it.
A few Wharton alumni gave me this advice: waive any core courses you can. However, the tone of the Waiver guide is much more cautionary. It seems to say: you better be darn sure before you try to waive these classes, or you will regret it! Yikes.
Here's an example. I took three semesters of probability and statistics in undergrad, which were taught from an engineering perspective. Surely I should be able to waive the business statistics course, right? First of all, forget about waiving by credentials. Seems like you have to have a statistics degree to do that. Ok, so the waiver exam. There is even a preterm course to prepare for this. Slam dunk! But wait. Waiver Guide says students who pass the exam usually have taken a course in regression in the past 2 or 3 years. Hmmmm, I took mine 7 or 8 years ago. Also, "the focus of their course work has been the interpretation and critique of statistical methods rather than the memorization of formulas and grind-it-out calculation." Well, to be honest I don't really remember what the focus of my course work was. For that matter I am not positive I remember what regression is. This could be bad then: "they are familiar with multiple regression in particular and some features of the analysis of variance." And finally, there is this warning: "the Statistics Department and the Wharton MBA Program Student Advisory Board strongly discourage using STAT608 as a “crash course” to pass the waiver exam. A solid grounding in statistics will be expected in the remainder of your courses at Wharton. Passing the exam without that solid background will only cause you academic difficulties later." Wow. The Statistics Department AND the Wharton MBA Program Student Advisory Board? Am I jeopardizing my entire MBA experience by waiving statistics? Or are they just trying to scare me. Hmmmmm .....
There are also three operations courses that I think could be targets given my undergrad degree, Industrial Engineering. They are Quality and Productivity, Decision Models and Uncertainty, and Supply Chain Management. I’m pretty sure that I’ve had most of the subject matter covered in one of my undergrad classes, but spread out among many classes. To qualify for a waiver by credentials, it seems that I’ll have to provide course descriptions, syllabi, assignments, and maybe even exams so that the powers that be can decide if the topics match. Luckily, I am such a dork that I actually kept that stuff. Finally, my horrible habit of hoarding everything that ever comes my way might actually pay off!
So here’s what I’m grappling with. There are many pros and cons I can think of for waiving one or more classes. Right now I’m not sure where I lean.
Arguments against waiving: If all I do is review the subjects enough to pass waiver exams, am I really going to remember the material? Maybe a good review will be helpful and will prevent problems later. The material might be presented in a completely different way for a business class vs. an engineering class. Shouldn’t I take every opportunity to ensure that I really learn the core subjects Wharton has decided are important? Aren’t they the experts? Besides, since I’ve had some or all of the material before, maybe these classes will be on the easy side for me, and I’ll have a chance to be one of the people who can contribute in class because it’s not a completely foreign subject (unlike, say, Finance).
Arguments against waiving: Who am I kidding? This is Wharton, of course it’s going to be hard, even if I know the material. And if it’s somehow not hard, it will still be a lot of work. And what is the point of spending my hard-earned money and forgoing two years of my working life to get my MBA? Not to be a refresher for material I’ve already learned. Shouldn’t I take every opportunity to free up space for additional electives that really interest me and are new material?