Wharton Business School Essay Tips

When introducing the 2007-2008 admissions essays on their blog, the Wharton Business School admissions committee gives applicants the best tip – be yourself. Further, they ask that you be introspective, candid, and succinct.

Below are some thoughts on the required essays for first-time applicants.

1. Describe your career progress to date and your future short-term and long-term career goals. How do you expect Wharton Business School to help you achieve these goals, and why is now the best time for you to join our program? (1,000 words)

This is the standard why MBA question. As with Chicago Booth, note that there are a few questions embedded in this question and you must hit on each of them and budget your words.

What is your career progress to date? The biggest pitfall with this piece of the question is listing out items from your resume. Instead, try to provide color to your experiences by explaining the motivation for each career move you have made. In other words, tell them WHY you have done the things you have done, what you learned, and why you moved on. Emphasize the positive from each experience and demonstrate that you apply lessons learned in the choices you make. If you have had a few random twists and turns, this is a great opportunity to explain your reasoning for making changes. Be careful not to spend too many words here.

What are your future short and long term career goals?
Your career goals should in some way reflect what is important to you (this does not mean they are one and the same, but that there is some correlation). Articulate a concrete plan to create a career that reflects your values, and explain why your goals are meaningful to you. Be sure to lay out short term and long term plans.

How do you expect Wharton Business School to help you achieve these goasl?
Similar to the Stanford MBA Essay B and Chicago Booth’s career essay, you must be specific about how Wharton Business School will help you achieve those goals – offer up classes, clubs, etc that will help you. They want to see that you are ready to hit the ground running, that you will take advantage of Wharton Business School and make a difference in their community.

Why now?
Explain what is motivating you to apply to school – move up in current career, change careers, etc. Also your motivation may not be entirely career related. Perhaps a personal experience has inspired you to delve into a different field. Or maybe you’ve gained the skills you wanted after college and now feel ready to reach for your dream. Just be sure to articulate your reasoning. For some reason, many applicants neglect to answer this piece of the question.

2. Describe a failure or setback that you have experienced. What role did you play and what did you learn about yourself? (500 words)
This is similar to Harvard Business School’s essay on making a mistake. It is a great opportunity to show that you are reflective and know how to apply lessons learned. Set up the event quickly and then dedicate most of your words to your actions and reflection. They do not want to hear details of a deal; they want to hear what you did and thought. Be savvy about what example you choose (keeping in mind what topics you used for other questions) so that you show the admissions committee different aspects of your life.

3. Tell us about a situation in which you were an outsider. What did you learn from the experience? (500 words)
This is also similar to a Harvard Business School essay on experiencing culture shock. With this essay you can show your critical thinking, sensitivity, and self-awareness. You want to provide a surprising experience when you found yourself out of your element and learned something about your assumptions. You may show how you changed as a person by learning from others.

4. Please complete one of the following two questions:

Where in your background would we find evidence of your leadership capacity and/or potential? (500 words)
Wharton Business School has worded this so that you can think outside of the box, meaning you don’t need to write about work for this. Consider volunteer experiences or even personal experiences that have required resilience, vision, creativity, and achievement. Think about when you have led a group of people and demonstrate your ability to motivate a group and make things happen. As with the other essays, set up the experience quickly and focus on your actions and reflection.

Is there anything about your background or experience that you feel you have not had the opportunity to share with the Admissions Committee in your application? If yes, please explain. (500 words)
Because this is such an open question, you have the opportunity to round out your application by discussing a surprising aspect of your background or mitigating a red flag. Again, focus on the positive lessons learned from any experience. Show Wharton your self-awareness, resiliency, and passion for living a well-rounded life.

OPTIONAL:

5. 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, TOEFL waiver request, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words)
This should only be used for the topics they mention in the question. Be brief and simply explain the situation.

Good luck. Please see our other entries for essay tips on the Stanford MBA, Harvard Business School, and Chicago Booth.

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