The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania must have been pleased with the submissions it received in response to its essay questions last year, because the school’s admissions committee is back with the exact same pair of prompts this season. Confusing matters slightly, Wharton also gives you an opportunity to write an “optional essay” of 400 words as well as to discuss “extenuating circumstances” in 250 words. We distinguish between these two essays in our analysis, which follows…
Wharton School Essay 1: What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)
In many ways, this prompt is asking for a typical MBA personal statement. In a mere 500 words, you must discuss your goals, giving very brief context for why they are realistic for you. You will then need to reveal how you will engage with Wharton’s resources in pursuit of these goals, by showing that you truly understand what the school offers and that you have a well-thought-out game plan for immersing yourself in the Wharton experience. You will need to familiarize yourself with the school’s various resources and pinpoint those that truly pertain to you and the direction in which you hope to go—definitely do not just present a list of classes you think sound interesting.
Wharton adds a slight twist to this essay by asking you to discuss personal growth as well. This request might perplex you, but before you get too bewildered, take a step back and ask yourself what personal areas you genuinely need to develop. Maybe you need to challenge yourself to become a better public speaker, so you look forward to debating ideas in the classroom and as part of your learning team—not to mention pushing yourself out of your comfort zone by taking a role in the Wharton Follies. Do not worry about finding the “right” answer for what or how you want to develop personally—no such answer exists!—but focus instead on demonstrating self-awareness and showing that you truly grasp how Wharton in particular will best serve your personal needs.
Because personal statements are generally similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge. Please feel free to download your copy today.
And for a thorough exploration of Wharton’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment, and more, please check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Optional Essay: Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words maximum)
As we noted in our introduction, we feel that this is not a prompt for a typical optional essay, in which you would discuss a problem area (e.g., a poor grade, a low GMAT score, an employment gap), but is instead an opportunity to discuss aspects of your candidacy/profile that you have not yet been able to explore or include in your application—which, in Wharton’s case, is basically the greater part of your entire personal story. We have joked that this is actually a “non-optional optional essay,” because forgoing a chance to flesh out and add color to your application by not writing it simply would not make sense (or be prudent). Interestingly, Harvard Business School noted this year that not a single one of its applicants failed to submit an optional essay last year. We would be curious to know whether Wharton saw similar results with its “optional” essay prompt last season—if the school offered such stats, we imagine that the number would also be miniscule.
As for what to write about, you could use this essay to showcase a single accomplishment, highlight a theme (thereby unifying several accomplishments), discuss a formative moment in your life, identify a time when your personal philosophy was challenged and changed—and probably countless other options. Just remember, you are trying to distinguish yourself from thousands of other eager candidates. To do this, you must own your story, and the best way to do this is to tell it, as it happened, in your voice.
Even though this is a “non-optional” essay, you should still be cognizant—and respectful—of the admissions committee’s time. In short, you need to write something that is truly worthwhile and that clearly reveals that you made good use of this opportunity to provide further insight into your candidacy. You cannot merely copy and paste an essay you wrote for a different school into this space. The information you provide needs to be very obviously crucial to understanding who you are as a person, not just a recounting of something particular you have achieved.
Additional Question for Reapplicants: All reapplicants to Wharton are required to complete this essay. Explain how you have reflected on the previous decision about your application, and discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words)
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 previous year 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 over the past year are presented in the best light possible.
All applicants, including reapplicants, can also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)
This is the true optional essay! Here is your opportunity—if needed—to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, a gap in your work experience, etc. In our mbaMission Optional Statement Guide, available through our online store, we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay (including multiple sample essays) to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.
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. And, on your way to this high level of preparation, we offer our free Interview Primers to spur you along! Download your free copy of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Interview Primer today and be sure to check out our one-of-a-kind Wharton Team-Based Discussion Simulation Sessions.
Wharton 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis
Following up our announcement earlier this week with Wharton’s Class of 2018 application essays, we wanted to offer our Wharton 2015-2016 essay topic analysis for this year’s crop of UPenn MBA hopefuls.
The Wharton adcom has decided to retain the same essay structure it used for last year’s admissions season, with one required essay about what the applicant hopes to get out of the Wharton MBA, an open-ended optional essay capped at 400 words, and an additional 250-word space for use by reapplicants and first-time candidates who wish to explain extenuating circumstances. This would suggest that the admissions committee was satisfied with the data these questions yielded last season as they made interview and admission decisions (though it’s also possible that the adcom wants to preserve some continuity as a new Director comes on board).
Let’s take a closer look at each of Wharton’s prompts and consider how each might factor into an applicant’s strategy:
Essay 1 (Required): What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
A variation on the typical career goals essay, this question asks applicants to adopt a big-picture view of their b-school aspirations, touching on their hopes for both their personal development and post-MBA professional direction. On the professional front, candidates will want to share some information about their immediate post-MBA career goals, as well as their long-term aspirations and the broad impact they hope to have on their industry, community, country or region. This will help the admissions reader understand how business school fits into your professional arc and show that you’re making a well reasoned decision in applying.
Meanwhile, applicants will also need to touch upon how they hope to develop on a more personal level during their time in the Wharton MBA program. We recommend that you provide an authentic answer to this element of the question that provides a window into your values and/or your awareness around potential areas for growth. For example, some applicants might comment that they hope to hone leadership-related skills like their ability to motivate others, collaborate with colleagues from different disciplines, or more effectively work across cultures. This would reflect an appreciation for the soft skills that business schools — and employers — prize. Meanwhile, others may choose to highlight a personal interest that they wish to deepen alongside their classmates through participation in a student club, or comment on a planned involvement in the larger Philadelphia community. Such remarks will help the adcom form a fuller picture of the person behind the file. Of course, applicants would also do well to address how they see themselves contributing at Wharton, both in and out of the classroom — a topic in which the Wharton adcom has always been interested.
Given the tight word limit, applicants will need to write thoughtfully and concisely, demonstrating a strong understanding of how Wharton’s program would enable them to accomplish their stated goals. This will mean naming specific courses, clubs, and campus offerings that will facilitate the personal and professional goals that they identify in this response. Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities — whether by visiting campus, speaking with members of the community, or reading the Clear Admit Guide to Wharton — will pay dividends here.
Essay 2 (Optional): Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)
This is a fairly open-ended and inviting optional essay prompt. While we once took a somewhat conservative stance on optional essays, as schools have reduced the number and length of required essay questions over the past several years, we’ve increasingly felt that it’s a good idea to take advantage of this kind of opportunity to share some more information with the adcom. We therefore recommend that all Wharton applicants aim to develop a response to this question.
That said, it’s important that the information you share in this response add to and enhance your candidacy (and not appear elsewhere in your written application materials, including data forms). In other words, this isn’t the place to elaborate on your reasons for applying to Wharton — these should be covered exhaustively in your response to the required essay on that topic. It’s also important that you share information that will make a meaningful difference in your application by highlighting a desirable skill, experience, or element of your personal background that will help the reader better appreciate what you would bring to the Class of 2018. This response could be used to explain a formative experience that’s shaped who you are today (and therefore what you would bring to the campus community), or to highlight an especially proud accomplishment and the lessons that you would be eager to share with classmates.
We’d also encourage applicants to think about the balance of content across their responses, and aim to incorporate something about themselves here that complements the material in essay 1. This is particularly true for applicants from traditional pre-MBA fields like banking or consulting, who would be better served by highlight something unique that will help them stand out than by a professional accomplishment or work-centric response. Finally, we encourage applicants to think about how they can use their comments in this essay to reinforce their fit with Wharton, which aims to build an international study body populated by humble, hard-working, and pragmatic students who area willing to leave their egos at the door and embrace a transformational MBA experience.
Reapplicant Essay (Required): Explain how you have reflected on the previous decision about your application, and discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). All applicants, including reapplicants can also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)
For those who are applying to Wharton for a second time, this prompt clearly asks reapplicants to address what they learned from their previous application process and how they’ve worked to become stronger candidates this year; those who are struggling with the 250 word limit here may also choose to elaborate on some element of their improved candidacy in Essay 2). Reapplicants should note that Wharton asks about both material improvements in one’s application as well as the growth and reflection that has occurred after (or as a result of) previously being denied. Effective reapplicant essays will therefore address both of these angles in explaining how an applicant is “new and improved” this time around.
Meanwhile, the adcom also invites first-time applicants to use this space to address the circumstances surrounding weaknesses in their candidacies. For example, this is the place to address a low GPA or GMAT score, or to explain why you’re not providing a recommendation from your current direct supervisor. Effective responses will be direct and to the point, providing a straightforward explanation without making excuses.
Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Wharton MBA essay topics. As you work on your Wharton MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s UPenn offerings:
Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis
Schools: UPenn / Wharton