Tuesday Tips – Wharton Business School Essay Tips

The Wharton Business School class of 2012 essay questions have been revamped since last year. While there is still a keystone career goals essay, it takes a slightly different slant from the traditional “Why MBA, Why Wharton Business School, Why now” question. The other questions seek to understand who you are and how you handle failure, complex problems and improving yourself.

As in years past, Wharton Business School is interested in candidates who demonstrate maturity, self-awareness and the desire to engage with the Wharton Business School community. With a slightly more introspective keystone essay, Wharton is seeking to see the person behind the application materials.

The Wharton Business School admissions committee and current students are extremely open about the process and the program, so even if you are halfway around the world you can experience a bit of the “Wharton Business School way” on the blogs or Student 2 Student chat room.

2009-2010 Questions ”” First-Time Applicants
Wharton Business School Essay 1 ”“ (750-1000 words)
As a leader in global business, Wharton is committed to sustaining “a truly global presence through its engagement in the world”. What goals are you committed to and why? How do you envision the Wharton Business School contributing to the attainment of those goals?

This revamped career goals essay has a twinge of the introspection required for essays like the Stanford MBA“What matters most.” In setting the tone with Wharton Business School’s own commitment to global presence, the adcomm is asking you to think about what you are most committed to, why, and how your MBA fits into the plan.

In answering the why behind your commitment, make sure you can provide specific examples from your life. Wharton Business School certainly is a global business school, with joint programs spanning Europe and Asia. However, you are asked to discover your own goals and motivations. Whether you are committed to changing the world, creating innovative new products or executing marketing strategies, your goals should be yours and fit in with a track record of commitment throughout your life.

Why Wharton Business School is still an important part of the question. Rather than listing classes or clubs, take the time to explain why they are relevant. If you are interested in a club, think about specific ways you will contribute, as a leader or a member. Classes you mention should be relevant to the interests you have expressed. Any personal contact with the Wharton Business School community will help you determine if Wharton is the right fit for you, and provide useful context to describe why Wharton Business School is the place to pursue your next step.

Wharton Business School Essay 2 ”“ (750-1000 words)
Tell us about a time when you had to adapt by accepting/understanding the perspective of people different from yourself.

This question can be approached from the perspective of diversity in the traditional sense (race, nationality, gender) or you can broaden your brainstorming to include situations where you thought differently or had a different working style from someone you needed to work with. The best essay will demonstrate something about your personal qualities (how do you think? Work with others who are different from yourself?) and show that you are able to learn from situations that may be challenging or difficult.

If you have worked internationally or in a cross cultural company, this would be an ideal opportunity to demonstrate what you learned.

Wharton Business School Essay 3 ”“ (500 words)
Describe a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself?

Many candidates dislike the “mistake” or failure essay because of the misconception that adcomm is seeking to find your deep personal flaws through such an inquiry. Far from looking for your weaknesses, the mistake or failure essay is an opportunity to demonstrate your own confidence and ability to learn from challenging situations.

The failure can be a situation at work, your personal life or an extracurricular project. Far more important than the failure will be your response to the situation. What did you do and say? Be specific about the events and your contribution to the failure. The last prompt in the question is perhaps the most important. Explain what you learned from the situation, and especially why this lesson has been important to you. Perhaps it has helped you to avoid similar situations in the future, or taught you something important about yourself and your working style that has helped your impact in future situations.

Wharton Business School Essay 4 ”“ (500 words) Choose one of the following:

In choosing which of these questions to answer, you might consider both the aspects of your personal qualities you would like to highlight and the areas of your life you would like to discuss. If you have presented a failure from your work life, you might consider demonstrating how you solved a complex problem in an extracurricular or community oriented project. Or if you focused on work with a team in the prior question, you may want to discuss an improvements you have made as an individual.

a. Give us a specific example of a time when you solved a complex problem.

This question seeks to reveal your approach and thinking style. Perhaps you are a quantitative thinker who builds complex models to solve complex problems, or a strategic big picture thinker who tends towards sudden insight. Either way, explain the problem you solved clearly and reveal the thinking and analysis that led to the outcome. If you worked with a team, make sure you describe the team’s contribution and how you interacted with that team.

b. Tell us about something significant that you have done to improve yourself, in either your professional and/or personal endeavors.

Your area of improvement may have been suggested by a work supervisor, or something that you had a personal desire to improve. The improvement doesn’t have to be from poor to competent, it could just as easily be an improvement you made from good to great.
Once you have decided upon a topic, outline the specific steps you took to create this improvement, and what the outcome was. Whatever improvement you describe, make sure you explain why it has significance for you and any benefits beyond the achievement that you have realized.

Wharton Business School Essay 5 (Optional) ”“ (250 words)
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, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application).

This Wharton Business School essay is specifically meant to address gaps or weaknesses in your application. If you do not have any extenuating circumstances, you should not answer this question. If you are using this essay to explain a weakness in your application profile, focus on the positive and avoid the tendency to provide excuses. For example, rather than providing a story to excuse your low GPA, take responsibility for the mistakes you made and focus on the evidence in your life since college that demonstrates your academic potential.


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To see our Upenn Wharton School of Business Essay Guide for MBA Applications, click here.

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