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Wharton Admissions Essays

The Wharton School at University of Pennsylvania has kept this set of essays simple. Specific advice on essays from a student reminds applicants that “the Admissions Committee is looking to understand more about you and your unique personality and how that can ultimately contribute to the Wharton community. We are a student-driven campus and need each and every MBA to bring something to the table.”

As you consider how to approach this set of essays, get to know the Wharton community. Some possible ways to connect include campus visits, online research and the many admissions events around the globe. Wharton has a specific culture, and fit with that culture is an important part of the admissions criteria.

Essay 1:
What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

This is both a standard career goals question and an inquiry into your personality and potential success in the program. Jordan Mock, WG’16 wrote a blog post with three excellent tips for this essay, in which he says, “Wharton is unique and your essay should reflect that.”

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 outright. 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. How will a Wharton MBA help you “connect the three career dots” that Jordan writes about?

To answer the question there is 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. Anything unique in your background is always worth highlighting.

Understanding exactly how you fit in will help you describe what Wharton will do for you, as well as navigate interviews and other interactions with the Wharton admissions committee. Consider including 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.

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.

Essay 2:
Teamwork is at the core of the Wharton MBA experience with each student contributing unique elements to our collaborative culture. How will you contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)

Wharton is an intense environment, but also one that takes pride in collaboration and community. This question seeks to understand how you work with others and what your leadership style is. Collaboration and teamwork are important key concepts to illustrate in this essay.

Your contribution to Wharton could be in the classroom, clubs or within small group projects. You might bring your experiences launching a new product to your marketing case studies. Maybe you will lend creative ideas to your learning team as you prepare a research project.

Perhaps you will tutor your learning teammate in accounting principles because he has never done accounting at work. Or you might contribute to the Media and Entertainment Club by leading a career trek or bringing a new speaker to campus. Think about what you have learned in your career and in prior academics that may help those around you.

This essay does not explicitly require examples of teamwork or leadership from your past experiences, but it will be a stronger essay if you provide evidence. Think about a time you demonstrated your collaborative approach to team problem solving, and consider how you can prove what you contributed to your community in your workplace or extracurricular activities.

Additional Question (required for all re-applicants):

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)*

*First-time applicants may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

All re-applicants are required to provide information that supports your renewed candidacy. The most successful version of the re-applicant 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 are especially tangible and convincing, but a promotion, increase in responsibility at work, a job change or even a change of goals and mission can serve as reasonable updates.

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.

If you are not a re-applicant you may use this space to address any areas of concern in your application. If you have a low GPA or GMAT, gaps in your resume, grades under a C in any quantitative courses, disciplinary action in undergrad or anything else that you want to explain, this is where you would provide a brief explanation and any supporting evidence to show you have moved past the setback and corrected any concerns.

Contact Stacy Blackman Consulting for customized advice to give you that competitive edge in your Wharton application.

This entry was posted in Application Tips, UPenn Wharton Advice and tagged advice, application advice, application tips, applications, career goals, Essay Questions, Essay Tips, Fall 2018 MBA Essay Tips, MBA application, MBA Essays, MBA program, the Wharton School, UPenn Wharton, UPenn Wharton School, Wharton, Wharton School.
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Wharton School operations and innovation management professor Christian Terwiesch teaching class – Ethan Baron photo

After a major review, the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School has decided to ask recommenders of its MBA applicants to effectively write two short essays on the candidates they are recommending.

The changes, effective with the upcoming 2017-2018 admisssions cycle, occured after the school surveyed more than 1,200 writers of recommendation letters and asked about their experience with the process. Vice Dean Maryellen Reilly, who deemed the overall “significant,” said they were being made “in an effort to get a deeper understanding of a candidate’s personal characteristics and their impact on others throughout their career.”

It’s a major changeup, in part, because business schools have been reducing the number and the length of essays for MBA applicants for several years now. At least on the surface, it seems ironic that a school would now decide to essentially ask recommendation writers for a pair of 300-word essays. The move also comes not long after several schools have moved to a common rec letter format to make it easier for recommenders to provide support for their candidates to several schools.

IMMEDIATE FEEDBACK FROM ADMISSION CONSULTANTS MIXED

But Wharton ostensibly thought it could improve on the current system after asking rec writers for their perspectives. “Utilizing their valuable feedback, in conjunction with conversations with writers at a variety of companies and Wharton stakeholders, we have revised and improved how recommenders provide information on who a candidate is both personally and within an organization,” wrote Deputy Vice Dean Maryellen Reilly in a blog post about the change.

Several MBA admission consultants, however, weren’t nearly as enthusiastic about the change, largely because they saw it as an additional burden on recommenders. That could encourage more recommenders to ask applicants to write the essays for their approval. “For the personality traits, the good news is that Wharton is trying to get authentic and thoughtful responses from recommenders, rather than literally ‘check-the-box,'” says Betsy Massar, founder of Master Admissions. “Because there are truly no right or wrong answers, hopefully, students won’t be as anxious about not being top at everything.  For the qualitative questions, It’s great that the essay question specifically says up front, “give examples.”  Maybe that will bring more substance into some of the high-praise-but-fluffy recommendations that don’t differentiate candidates in the least.

“On the downside,” she adds, “moving away from the common application questions that have been asked by other top schools really does put more of a burden on the recommender. That has all sorts of repercussions that increases anxiety for the student and might even mean that Wharton loses some applicants.  Not sure that’s an optimal outcome for anyone.”

APPLICANTS MORE LIKELY TO SUCCUMB TO ‘YOU-WRITE-IT-I’LL SIGN-IT’

Linda Abraham, founder and CEO of Accepted.com, agreed. “Even those inclined to write their own recs are more likely to succumb to the time-saving temptation of you-write-it-I’ll-sign-it if they have to write two additional, distinctive responses to the open questions posed in the Wharton rec,” she says.  “This would be especially true for applicants applying to more schools.”

Jeremy Shinewald, founder and CEO of mbaMission, sees an upside and downside to the change. “Unquestionably, relative to other schools, Wharton will get more thoughtful and colorful letters from those who take the recommendation process seriously – the questions almost force that outcome,” he says. “Unfortunately, they may also serve as a catalyst for those recommenders who may not want to put the time in and who may not put the time in and decide to shirk their responsibilities altogether. Because a truly excellent letter of recommendation can be a very powerful differentiator for any applicant, we strongly advise our clients to meet with their recommenders and discuss the process and more so what it means to write a standout letter.

“In doing so, we always advise our clients to be ready to diplomatically push back against a boss who says “write it yourself.”  There is a reason why the schools want recommendation letters – they want insight that an applicant just can’t objectively and compellingly state about themselves. So, we may emphasize an extra level of preparedness for pushback to our Wharton applicants, because it will serve them well. They will have a better chance of getting in if they can persuade their recommenders to embrace the process.”

NEW RECOMMENDATION PROCESS IN TWO SECTIONS

Wharton’s Maryellen Reilly Lamb

Reilly said the new approach will break letters of recommendations into two sections:

1) A selection of positive personality characteristics. Recommenders will be asked to choose three characteristics from a list of ten that best describe the candidate they are recommending.

2) Two free-form questions:

Question 1: Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success in the Wharton MBA classroom. (Word count: 300)

Question 2: Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success throughout their career. (Word count: 300)

Wharton’s online application is expected to open in early July. The round one MBA application deadline at Wharton this year is Sept. 19th.

DON’T MISS: 2017-2018 MBA APPLICATION DEADINES FOR LEADING SCHOOLS

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