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The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania has opted to maintain its two broad mandatory essay questions—one focusing on “why Wharton?” and the other on applicants’ expected contributions to the school’s community—this year, with no changes whatsoever. Wharton obviously wants to know that candidates have taken the time to get to know the school’s program and character in depth and can clearly visualize themselves as part of it. Applicants also have the opportunity to submit an optional essay, if they feel a need to do so, to address any problematic or potentially confusing elements of their profile. Altogether, the school’s prompts allow you to craft a rather personal impression of yourself for the admissions committee, one that should complement the more quantitative parts of your application. In our analysis, we proffer our advice on how you might accomplish this.
Required Essay 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
In a mere 500 words, you must discuss your career goals—giving very brief context for why they are realistic for you—and then reveal how Wharton will help you pursue these goals by demonstrating a thorough understanding of what the school offers and a well-thought-out game plan for availing yourself of these offerings. To effectively do this, you must first familiarize yourself with Wharton’s various resources and pinpoint those that truly pertain to you and the direction in which you hope to go. Simply presenting a list of classes that you think sound interesting will not suffice here, and avoid vague statements about how great the school is. You must clearly demonstrate a connection between your aspirations, what you need to achieve them (e.g., skills, experience[s], connections, exposure), and what Wharton in particular can provide that will enable you to fill those gaps.
Note that Wharton asks applicants to address only the professional aspect—not the professional and personal aspect (as it has in past years)—of their business school goals. This allows you to share your career-related stories and ambitions more fully, which in turn means you can and should use the other essay(s) to discuss non-work aspects of your life and thereby provide a more complete and well-rounded picture of yourself for the admissions committee.
In many ways, this prompt is asking for a typical MBA personal statement. We therefore encourage you to download your free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide. This complimentary guide offers detailed advice on approaching and framing these subjects, along with multiple illustrative examples. Be sure to claim your copy today.
Required Essay 2: Teamwork is at the core of the Wharton MBA experience with each student contributing unique elements to our collaborative culture. How will you contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)
Whether this question is meant to be about teamwork or about contribution is not immediately clear. We see nothing wrong with relating some of your team-related experiences in this essay, but what the admissions committee is really interested in learning is what you can contribute to a team—and these are not necessarily the same thing. You can be an additive member of the Wharton community and culture in numerous ways. For example, perhaps you have specialized knowledge you could bring to your Wharton Learning Team that would provide context in analyzing certain business problems and cases. Maybe you have a character trait that has enabled you to bring people together in past communities, such as a good sense of humor or even strong listening skills. You might even have specific experience that pertains directly to a club you would like to lead or join.
We can think of almost limitless examples, and the ones we have presented here are possibly even a bit banal, because the key to being effective with this essay is to really own your proffered contribution. This you accomplish by sharing your unique personal stories and then relating them to specific resources at Wharton. We suspect that many applicants will discuss a certain trait or skill and then end their essay with a platitude like “And I will bring this skill to Wharton for the betterment of all.” To create a truly strong and compelling essay, you must convincingly show that you fully understand the Wharton experience and are prepared to make a distinct and individualized contribution.
To better familiarize yourself with the Wharton program and get an insider’s perspective on its academic program, unique offerings, social life, and other key characteristics, be sure to download a complimentary copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Additional Essay: Required for all reapplicants. Explain how you have reflected on the previous decision about your application, and discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words)
First-time applicants may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)
If you are a Wharton reapplicant, this essay is pretty straightforward. Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement, or taken on some sort of personal challenge, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Wharton wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because a Wharton MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.
However, if you are not a Wharton reapplicant, pay special attention to the last line of this prompt: First-time applicants may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. Here is your opportunity—if needed—to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GRE or GMAT score, or a gap in your work experience. If you feel you may need to submit an additional essay for such a reason, consider downloading your free copy of our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay (along with multiple sample essays) to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.
The Next Step—Mastering Your Wharton Interview: Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Interview Primer today.