Tuesday Tips – Wharton Business School Essay Tips

Wharton Business School consistently seeks well rounded and community minded applicants that can demonstrate innovative thinking, a record of accomplishment, and very solid career goals. The essays this year are consistent with the admissions goals, though very different from the previous years’ essays. The required essay asks for career objectives, and telling a cohesive story is key to success with this set of Wharton Business School questions.

When contemplating the optional essays, it will be important to choose topics that will allow you to demonstrate both achievements at work and your extracurricular or personal activities. In addition, refer back to your application strategy and strengths and weaknesses to determine which personal qualities you can highlight in these essays.

Required Question:
What are your professional objectives? (300 words)

The career goals essay is a standard MBA prompt. While in past years Wharton Business School provided plenty of space to explain your background and goals, this year’s essay asks you to keep your career aspirations brief and focused. With only 300 words, you will want to focus mainly on the future and what you are planning to pursue with your MBA degree, using your background information where it is most relevant to your goals.

Because you have limited space, you will likely want to briefly cover why Wharton Business School in this essay, and use one of the optional essays to delve deeper into your interest in the Wharton Business School and fit with the community.

Respond to 3 of the following 4 questions:
1. Student and alumni engagement has at times led to the creation of innovative classes. For example, through extraordinary efforts, a small group of current students partnered with faculty to create a timely course entitled, “Disaster Response: Haiti and Beyond,” empowering students to leverage the talented Wharton Business School community to improve the lives of the Haiti earthquake victims. Similarly, Wharton Business School students and alumni helped to create the “Innovation and the Indian Healthcare Industry” which took students to India where they studied the full range of healthcare issues in India. If you were able to create a Wharton Business School course on any topic, what would it be? (700 words)

This essay is a great way to demonstrate your capacity for creativity and innovative thought. In addition, this essay can be an opportunity for you to highlight experiences in your professional life that may not have been covered in the previous essay due to limited space. Think about the areas where you are an expert, and how you could share your knowledge with the Wharton Business School community. If your professional experience doesn’t demonstrate the innovation you would like to highlight in this essay, perhaps your extracurricular or academic pursuits offer ideas.

Along with describing the course you would create, this question can provide the opportunity to delve into why Wharton Business School is the right place for you to pursue your MBA. You can discuss faculty you would like to collaborate with, clubs and activities that demonstrate an interest within the community that you also share, or existing classes that are an example of the type of class you would design.

2. Reflect on a time when you turned down an opportunity. What was the thought process behind your decision? Would you make the same decision today? (600 words)

This Wharton Business School essay asks about the path not taken. The opportunity could have been professional, either a job or a project you decided not to pursue, or perhaps personal. Think about the areas you have already covered in other essays and decide what situation would be best for this question. Whatever situation you describe, make sure you spend equal time on the second and third part of the question.

Be clear about exactly how you decided to turn down the opportunity and the factors you considered. Are you the kind of person who weighs pros and cons or goes with your intuition? What criteria did you consider? Why did you ultimately decide not to take the opportunity presented?

The final question is whether you would make the same decision today. Think about the outcome of turning down the opportunity ”“ did it ultimately lead to a better job or project? Did you ultimately reach your goals, or do you think the opportunity may have led you down an interesting path? Either way, clearly articulate how you consider the decision today, and why.

3. Describe a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself? How did this experience help to create your definition of failure? (600 words)

While this essay question has appeared in prior Wharton Business School applications, the final question takes a new twist on the question. When thinking about a situation you would like to discuss in this essay, you might want to consider situations that were pivotal in your development and that led to your point of view on what success and failure mean to you.

Many Wharton Business School 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.

4. Discuss a time when you navigated a challenging experience in either a personal or professional relationship. (600 words)

Behavioral questions like this one are meant to illustrate how you have acted in situations in the past, as a predictor of future behavior. Your answer should be concise but detailed, and clearly lay out both the situation and what you did and thought as you navigated the outcome.

Often a tough experience is an excellent learning opportunity and contributes to your growth and development. Think about the type of person who will be successful in an MBA program, and as a manager and a leader. What skills do you share with a strong leader, and were any formed during a challenging interpersonal situation like this?

The challenge could range from a difficult boss or coworker, to a relationship with a friend or family member. The key to a successful essay is to demonstrate how, specifically, you navigated the experience. A lesson learned or beneficial outcome to the experience would end the Wharton Business School essay well and allow you to illustrate your leadership, teamwork or social skills.

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

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