When most candidates read an essay question, they interpret it quite literally. So, when Wharton asks, “Describe your career progress to date and your future short-term and long-term career goals. How do you expect a Wharton MBA to help you achieve these goals, and why is now the best time for you to join our program? (1,000 words),” many candidates assume that they must answer each sub-question within the broader question, in the very order that it was asked. But that is not the case. These questions are indeed quite flexible, and at times, by pursuing your own structure, you can truly engage the reader.
We have found that when it comes to overrepresented candidates who have unique professional goals, one strategy which can be quite helpful is to lead with goals instead of professional history. After all, “typical” experience is not as captivating as unusual (but realistic!) ambitions. So, the Indian technologist who intends to open a boutique hotel or the male investment banker who aspires to start a competitive windsurfing circuit can use these bold goals to stand out from the start.
Again, we emphasize that such candidates need to have a compelling connection to the goals themselves, and we do not suggest that overrepresented candidates strive to imagine or create “wild” goals. However, if you have a profound connection, then reordering the question and ensuring that your goals are out front can make a difference.