As a pair, the prompts for two application essays the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania requires essentially ask applicants to describe a kind of give-and-take with respect to their engagement with its MBA program. For Essay 1, you must discuss what Wharton can do for you, and for Essay 2, the focus is on what you can do for Wharton. Your greatest assets in crafting strong essay responses for both will be (1) a profound understanding of the school, its culture, and all it offers and (2) your ability to infuse your essays with a high level of detail. So, be knowledgeable, be authentic, and be thorough, and you should be well positioned to submit compelling, effective essays. In our analysis that follows, we provide more in-depth guidance on each of Wharton’s 2023–2024 questions individually.
Wharton 2023–2024 Essay Tips
Essay 1: How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words)
In just 500 words, you must discuss your career aspirations—giving sufficient context for why they are realistic for you—and illustrate 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 particular resources. To effectively do this and write a reasoned, nuanced essay, you must first familiarize yourself with Wharton’s various offerings, events, and extracurriculars and pinpoint those that truly pertain to you and the direction in which you hope to move. Go the extra mile in learning about the school—connect with multiple students and alumni, attend admissions events in your area, participate in the school’s webinars and other online/virtual offerings, read recent press releases from the program and any news stories about it published elsewhere, check out the Wharton School YouTube channel, and especially, visit the campus if at all possible. This will provide the kind of in-depth insight that you can use to show the admissions committee you are really serious about Wharton and are confident you belong there. Simply presenting a list of classes and clubs you think sound interesting will not suffice, and you must absolutely avoid vague, pandering statements about how great the school is. Your goal is to reveal clear connections 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.
That said, take care to not talk exclusively about the Wharton side of this equation. The admissions committee wants to more fully understand the vision you have for your future career, how you have developed this vision, and why you believe it is feasible and fitting for you (with respect to your interests, work style, strengths, values, and/or other such factors). In a post from 2021 about the essay prompts (the same ones the program is using this season), Blair Mannix, Wharton’s director of admissions, noted, “We made slight revisions to Essay 1 to ensure that the question remained applicant-centered while still requiring applicants to think carefully and specifically about how they can maximize two years at Wharton to prepare for their future career goals” (emphasis ours). Connect the dots, so to speak, between what you are bringing to Wharton yourself as a student and what you feel Wharton will provide to complement and strengthen that to set you on the path to success.
Note that Wharton asks you to address only the professional aspect—not the professional and personal aspect—of your business school goals. This means you should focus solely on sharing your career-related stories and ambitions here and then use the other essay(s) to discuss non-work aspects of your life, thereby providing a more complete and well-rounded picture of yourself for the admissions committee.
In many ways, this prompt is asking for a traditional MBA personal statement. We therefore encourage you to download a free copy of the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, in which we offer detailed advice on approaching and framing these kinds of topics, along with multiple illustrative examples.
Essay 2: Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)
In a blog post posted when this prompt took on its current wording, Mannix explained, “Our main goal is to get to know you the best that we can, and the change to our second prompt was largely motivated by that desire.” The breadth of this essay question allows you to provide a well-rounded impression of yourself for the admissions committee because you can discuss multiple aspects of or stories from your life and draw from any area (personal, professional, community related, and/or academic), thereby allowing you to highlight your strongest and most relevant options. However, the word count is fairly restrictive, so you need to be concise in doing so, without sacrificing effectiveness or thoroughness.
We recommend using approximately one-half of your allowed word count to describe your chosen experience(s) or quality(-ties), so that you have sufficient space in which to then explain how it (they) will enable you to contribute to the Wharton community in a meaningful way. Do your best to “show,” or really spell out, your story—rather than just flatly presenting or stating it—to give the admissions reader some perspective and context. You then need to demonstrate both self-awareness and, again, a thorough understanding of the Wharton MBA experience by drawing connections between this aspect of your background and what you can subsequently bring the school as a member of its community. For example, a past project might have given you some critical insights and skills you could now pass on to your classmates in a related class or club. Or maybe a personal challenge gave you an interesting new perspective on commitment, determination, or another valuable quality. What is most important in this essay is conveying how you envision applying the knowledge or attribute as a student in the Wharton program.
In addition to the suggestions we offered earlier for ways of better familiarizing yourself with Wharton, be sure to download a free copy of the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, which provides an in-depth look at the school’s academic program, unique offerings, social life, and other key characteristics.
Required Essay for All Reapplicants: Please use this space to share with the Admissions Committee how you have reflected [on] and grown since your previous application and discuss any relevant updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, and extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words)
Thankfully, 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 time since you last applied 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 are presented in the best light possible.
Optional Essay: Please use this space to share any additional information about yourself that cannot be found elsewhere in your application and that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee. This space can also be used to address any extenuating circumstances (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, areas of weakness, etc.) that you would like the Admissions Committee to consider. (500 words)
With this prompt, Wharton is acknowledging that some candidates have aspects of their profiles that might need a little clarification. This essay is therefore your opportunity—if needed—to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a low GRE or GMAT score, a legal or disciplinary incident, or, of course, one of the extenuating circumstances the school suggests. However, keep in mind that by submitting an optional essay, you are requiring the already overtaxed admissions readers to do additional work on your application, so do not rush to fill this space just because you fear that not doing so will somehow count against you (it will not), and also avoid being overly verbose or sharing more information than is truly necessary just because you technically can. You must ensure that the admissions committee’s extra time and effort are truly warranted. If you feel you might have a valid reason for submitting this additional essay or are not sure if the issue you are considering would warrant doing so, we encourage you to download a 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.
Wharton MBA Essay Examples
How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words)
After transitioning from banking to private equity, I first found the faster pace and expanded scope startling, but ultimately invigorating. Shifting from agent to principal, I leapt into formulating a go-forward strategy for rewardify.com’s rapidly growing consumer data analytics business and explored a complex carveout for the payments division of a Dutch online bank. I had absolutely no experience with either industry, but all that really mattered was that I could quickly learn, adapt and contribute. Over the past two years, I have learned to appreciate the “messiness” of investing and the vast opportunities it offers to create value via ingenuity, collaboration and old-fashioned elbow grease. I plan to return to technology investing after I graduate, focusing on later-stage venture or growth equity in Seoul or Shanghai, where wired populaces are driving innovations in consumer tech. Meantime, I aspire to use my Wharton experience to “accelerate my acceleration” both personally and professionally, refining the hard and soft skills I need to thrive in my chosen industry.
As I assess my long-term needs, I recognize that to be a “full stack” partner to management teams, I must grow beyond the financial plain and develop my operations and marketing tool kit. Wharton’s Marketing and Operations Management Major is therefore ideal for me. Having an undergraduate degree in mathematics, I find myself guided largely by intuition in these areas and would take foundational classes like “Operations Strategy” and “Dynamic Marketing Strategy” to then extract the most from uniquely applicable advanced courses like “Contagious: How Products, Ideas, and Behaviors Catch On” and “Online Business Models and the Information-Based Firm.” Beyond Wharton’s vast course options, I find the opportunities to unify theory and practice to be incredibly compelling. The Startup Challenge would allow me to partner with an entrepreneur and engage in the entrepreneurial process, thereby making me a more operationally oriented and thoughtful investor. And a Global Modular Course, like “Global Supply Chain in China,” will provide invaluable insight into the world’s most vexing business issues, while enabling me to expand my industry-related network and form closer bonds with classmates.
I feel fortunate to have already witnessed firsthand the role my diverse and dynamic classmates will play in my education; I visited my cousin Tarek Masoud (W ’19) on campus just before the pandemic, and while there, I observed his “Managerial Decision Making” class and attended that week’s Pub. Both revealed a community that truly comes together to share ideas—and even laugh sometimes at the intensity of the past week. Being a part of this warm yet fervent community greatly appeals to me. An intensive Leadership Venture will allow me to work with peers to actively reflect on and hone my leadership style, and I look forward to the awesome commitment and teamwork that characterize the Learning Team experience. I will enter Wharton with an open mind, ready to listen, absorb, and share, knowing that by bringing the entirety of my energy to the experience, I can confidently embark on the next phase of my career.
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. To help you attain this high level of preparedness, we offer our free Interview Guides. Download a complimentary copy of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Interview Guide today.
To learn more about the essays for other top business schools, visit our MBA Essay Tips and Examples Resources Page.