In the essay section of the Wharton MBA 2018-2019 application, the admissions committee states that they, “want to get to know you on both a professional and personal level.” The school’s essay questions reflect this dual desire, so candidates should be ready to write about all aspects of their lives. Essay 1 is very traditional: “What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)” Whereas Essay 2 gets more personal: “Describe an impactful experience or accomplishment that is not reflected elsewhere in your application. How will you use what you learned through that experience to contribute to the Wharton community? (500 words)” We’ll break down the questions and offer up some strategies for tackling the essays.
While the question is standard in nature, don’t treat it as such. The admissions committee is looking for you to present your vision to them in this essay. A great equation or rule of thumb for questions of this nature is: past professional experience + the Wharton MBA = post-MBA goals in the short term and long term. If any part of that equation is not well explained, or worse boring, the admissions committee will probably pass on your application, so it’s important that everything you’re saying in your story of self adds up. For example, if you say your passion is healthcare, and you have no volunteer or professional experience in healthcare, it’s not going to be believable. The story that you present needs to ring true. This doesn’t mean that every job you’ve ever held needs to be in the healthcare industry or match your post-MBA goals, but your past should help you explain how you came to your current decision to obtain an MBA (more specifically an MBA from Wharton). Remember as you answer question 1, the committee isn’t only going to want to know about how they can help you get to where you want to go, but they’ll also need to hear about what you’re bringing to the table. What unique skills or traits are you bringing to the discussion at Wharton? Why do you need to be the person having these discussions?
You may be tempted to collapse into resume regurgitation. Fight the urge, if you want to standout from the crowd. Admissions Committees aren’t looking for you to add an anecdote or two to your resume, they are looking for true passion and vision here. As the admissions committee advises on the website, “be yourself.”
In essay question 2, the admissions committee asks for more personal information about your candidacy. Once again, they aren’t looking for you to stay on message about some huge deal you’ve closed, they are looking for certain characteristics, a good cultural fit. As you choose the anecdote, the number one piece of advice we have is to think about what’s most impactful to you. It might be something that an outsider would consider small, but it’s up to you to explain this event and why it had so much meaning. Perhaps it’s a larger accomplishment, and that’s okay too. The point is to focus on what you’ve learned and how it will make you a great member of the class and community. If you don’t know where to start instantly, think about the most impactful events in your life and the lessons learned. You can also start with the characteristics you’d like to exhibit to the admissions committee and work backwards to determine the accomplishments or events that demonstrate these characteristics.
A couple of do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:
- Talk about a meaningful event or accomplishment
- Tie everything back to the Wharton MBA program
- Explicitly state what you learned
- Regurgitate something from your resume
- Be generic; it should be clear that you ONLY used this essay for Wharton
- Lose prime real estate with exposition/ setting up the story
- Think the lesson is implied
Hopefully this helps you get started. For more essay advice for Wharton, check out our free Essential Guide to Top Business Schools.
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