University of Pennsylvania (Wharton) Essay Analysis 2012-2013
This year’s Wharton essays give candidates ample opportunity to share personality and uniqueness. This is in sharp contrast to many other schools, where fewer essays and word counts will challenge applicants to show a balanced perspective of themselves. The essay topics are very general and Wharton also provides the flexibility to select among essay topics, which gives more freedom to show this balance. The downside of this year’s essays is that the questions share common themes which may result in redundant stories. As a result, there is added importance on topic selection to demonstrate one’s candidacy in the best light.
Essay questions #1 - How will the Wharton MBA help you achieve your professional objectives?
This year Wharton adds 100 words to their general “Professional objectives” essay and also makes it more specific by asking the candidate to link these objectives to a Wharton MBA. We often say that each school’s “career goals” essay is different, and should be written as such, but this is starting to migrate towards one of the more standard ones. The bulk of your essay should still be a clear elaboration of your professional objectives, but now the path to this career should be presented with the specific bridge of an MBA and a Wharton experience. It is important that the Adcom understands this bridge and feels that your goals will not be reached with an alternative path.
RESPOND TO 2 OF THE FOLLOWING 3 QUESTIONS:
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)
The foundation of this essay should not be the specific Wharton activity, rather it should be a specific interest that you have demonstrated in your life. This interest should then be described within the boundaries of the question, which is a Wharton activity. Schools are looking for a pattern of behavior, which indicates that your topic is more than just an interest, but rather, it has become a regular part of who you are. To answer this essay question, a candidate will obviously need to conduct ample research on the Wharton community; however focusing too much on the Wharton activity will constrain the essay and prevent the “why” of the essay from coming through.
Imagine your work obligations for the afternoon were cancelled and you found yourself "work free" for three hours, what would you do? (500 words)
Unlike the previous essay choice, this one does not ask “why”. However, the “why” is equally important and should also be the foundation for this essay. Once you have brainstormed several “patterns of behavior” in your life, you then need to select the most powerful one that fits within the boundaries of an unplanned three hour afternoon. The surprise of having obligations cancelled for the afternoon constrains what you can do – activities that require advanced preparation are eliminated. The 500 word essay length and the time limit of 3 hours would allow you to select a couple of activities that are somewhat related, but please don’t try to cram in a hodgepodge of many different things in an effort to appear rounded. This will just weaken the “why” and come across as shallow.
This essay is very similar to the second question, and as such, most candidates will not select both. We suggest brainstorming for both of these together, determining the most relevant and powerful passions you have and then figuring the best framework in which to present it. However if you do have different examples or passions and the framework of these two essays fits with them, then by all means select these two.
"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)
Academia is often criticized for failing to translate grand theories into practical actions. This quote from the Dean steers the applicant to think of academic teachings that they may have implemented. However, we recommend you focus on the actual question instead of the quote. This knowledge does not have to be academic – it can be as simple as wisdom that was imparted to you from a grandparent. The key is demonstrating that you did something tangible with this knowledge.
The format of this general question, like the other ones, gives you many options for topics. Obviously you need to have a strong example of translating knowledge into success, but we suggest strategically selecting your topic to ensure your essays are balanced. This essay provides a good platform for demonstrating leadership, and we would encourage you to do so if you haven’t elsewhere in your application.
By creating new essays that are more introspective than in the past, Wharton is following the path of many of the top schools. We believe it is even more critical now for an applicant to conduct significant brainstorming and understanding of their core selves. Please don’t do this in a vacuum. Have friends, family or even consultants be your mirror in this process. Let us know if we can help.