University of Pennsylvania Wharton MBA Essay Tips

Joining the trend of streamlined application essays, University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has published only two required essay questions for the 2013 application.

Wharton seeks diverse candidates who understand the Wharton brand of Knowledge For Action. Understanding yourself and your fit with Wharton, and telling a cohesive story is key to success with these essays.

Required Questions:
What do you aspire to achieve, personally and professionally, through the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

The career goals essay is a standard MBA prompt. Wharton has traditionally kept the career goals question focused entirely on professional goals, but this year expands this essay question to also include your personal goals for the MBA. This is certainly about fit with Wharton and to gauge more about your personality and potential success in the program.

Be careful to answer the specific question in this career goals essay. Notice that you are not asked about your professional background or your key accomplishments. To answer the question asked, you will want to focus mainly on the future and what you are planning to pursue with your MBA degree. At the same time, there is certainly room to add color by using your background information where it is most relevant to your goals. Think about the key moments of your professional life that crystallized your goals for you, and focus on illuminating those decision points rather than reciting your entire resume.

When you address your personal goals for the MBA make sure you are making the case for Wharton specifically. Consider what living in Philadelphia might be like, the many clubs and student activities, and leadership development opportunities like traveling to Antarctica with your classmates that may address some of your personal life goals.

Academic engagement is an important element of the Wharton MBA experience. How do you see yourself contributing to our learning community? (500 words)

This question is similar to questions asked in previous years about courses and the opportunities you plan to pursue at Wharton. This question is both about your intellectual curiosity and your knowledge of the Wharton MBA program.

Wharton no longer asks candidates “Why Wharton” explicitly in essay questions, but rather seeks to understand how your unique personal qualities fit with the overall Wharton culture. Doing your research on the culture and understanding exactly how you fit in will help you approach this essay, as well as navigate interviews and other interactions with the Wharton admissions committee. Consider inlcuding specific information from your Wharton research in this essay such as Wharton faculty you would like to study with or unique educational opportunities at Wharton.

Remember that Wharton’s brand positioning is “knowledge fuels action.” As you consider how you might contribute to the learning community do not neglect your professional experiences and the way you approach learning at work and at school. The Wharton academic environment is one where professors often consult to industry and like to experiment in the real world, and you should be able to bring your own real world experience to contribute to the community.

Reapplicant Essay:
All reapplicants to Wharton are required to complete the Optional Essay. Please use this space to explain how you have reflected on the previous decision on your application and to discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). You may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

All reapplicants are required to provide information that supports your renewed candidacy. The most successful version of the reapplicant essay will provide tangible evidence that you have improved the overall package you are submitting this year. Improvements like GMAT score or new quantitative classes as especially tangible, but a promotion, increase in responsibility at work, a job change or even a change of goals and mission can apply.

A rejection or waitlist last year is a form of feedback, and may have led to soul searching for you. When you describe your changes make sure reflect your ability to take feedback and improve. Describe how you approached the reapplication process after assessing your own strengths and weaknesses as a candidate and making the appropriate efforts to improve.

Optional Essay:
If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words)

This question is truly optional and should only be used if you have extenuating circumstances in your background. If you do have an area of concern that is on this list, make sure you spend your optional essay space on explanations, not excuses. While you might be embarrassed to explain your D in undergrad Chemistry, better to explain that you had a difficult semester in your personal life than to leave the admissions committee to speculate.

Stacy Blackman Consulting has over a decade of experience assisting candidates to achieve their Wharton MBA dreams. We offer customized advice, including specific preparation for the Wharton group interview, to give you a competitive edge. Contact us to learn more.

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