Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wharton 2012-13 MBA Essay Analysis

What follows is my commentary and analysis on the Wharton MBA essay questions for applying to the program stating in the fall of 2013.

Required Question:

How will Wharton MBA help you achieve your professional objectives? (400 words)

This is a typical goals essay, where you want to include detail about a) your current work and skill-set b) your short and long-term career objectives, c) a brief assessment of what skills or experiences you need to gain to achieve those goals and d) specific reasons why Wharton is the best place for you to gain those skills or experiences. 

For the past few years it has been difficult to find space in the Wharton essay set to write about why you want to go to this particular school. However, with this new why Wharton question, admissions seems interested in learning once again why you are attracted to their school, so be as specific in possible in addressing this last part of the question.

Respond to 2 of the Following 3 Questions:

1. Select a Wharton MBA course, co-curricular opportunity or extra-curricular engagement that you are interested in. Tell us why you chose this activity and how it connects to your interests. (500 words)

After completing the required question above, most applicants will have already shared a few specific examples as to why they are attracted to Wharton. Those who choose this question will then instead probably focus on one of their personal interests, rather than on why they are interested in Wharton, as the subject of their answer.  This essay is a good opportunity to reveal a) one of your interests outside of work, b) the strengths and skills you have gained or demonstrate from participation in this activity, and c) why you are involved in this activity or have this interest. Addressing all 3 parts is a good way to introduce a bit about yourself.

Next, in terms of the Wharton course, co-curricular or extra-curricular activity, find something offered by the school that you are interested in and capable of contributing to.  How will your presence in this course or activity benefit the experience of your fellow Wharton students?  Moreover, don't forget to address why you are interested in it - how will your participation broaden or refine the interest you have in this area?  A good answer will emphasize both how you can develop from the experience, as well as how you can benefit your classmates too.

2. Imagine your work obligations for the afternoon were cancelled and you found yourself "work free" for three hours, what would you do? (500 words)

This essay can be used to talk about a "personal passion" you are engaged in outside of work.  What do you love to do?  It is fine and natural to talk about heading to the community center to see if you can join a pick-up game of basketball, or going home early to figure out how to bake a cake that your wife and kids can eat after dinner that night. Whatever topic you choose, try to show how it demonstrates a part of your personality. Don't make the mistake in this essay of talking about your job.

3. "Knowledge for Action draws upon the great qualities that have always been evident at Wharton: rigorous research, dynamic thinking, and thoughtful leadership." - Thomas S. Robertson, Dean, The Wharton School   Tell us about a time when you put knowledge into action. (500 words)

An effective answer to this question will emphasize what you did, i.e. the putting into action part.  This is essentially a leadership question, where you should demonstrate a time when you were able to lead others to accomplish something of significance to your division, department, organization or industry. Be sure to describe the knowledge or research that led you to initiate this experience. Did you discover something about a customer need, or did you learn of a weakness in your company's strategy that needed to be addressed?  Add detail on the steps you took, the result, the significance of the result on those around you, and what you learned during the process.  

Additional Question for Reapplicants:

All reapplicants to Wharton are required to complete the Optional Essay. Please use this space to explain how you have reflected on the previous decision on your application and to discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). You may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

If you were dinged in the past and are reapplying, hopefully you have been able to spend the year addressing and improving upon the part of your application that sass lacking the first time around.  Use this space to detail those improvements as well as what you have learned about yourself through the process.

Optional Section for all Applicants:

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, or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words)

Extenuating circumstances usually applies to something that may be considered a negative within your application. Use this space to explain it, but be carefully in your analysis to finish on an upbeat note - as the last essay in the set, it is always desirable to leave your reader with a strong message about what you can offer to the Wharton MBA.

These essays questions can be found at the Wharton MBA admissions official site here.  

John Couke