University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Essay Analysis, 2016–2017
How can you write essays that grab the attention of MBA admissions committees? With this thorough analysis, our friends at mbaMission help you conceptualize your essay ideas and understand how to execute, so that your experiences truly stand out. You do not need to be actively working on a $5 billion deal or have won an Olympic gold medal to go to HBS. You just need to have done the everyday things remarkably well, and you must make sure that your essays reflect your actions.
By today’s standards, the essay questions for the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania are remarkably vast. The school presents candidates with two mandatory essays and, if needed, an optional essay that applicants can use to address any extenuating circumstances. Wharton provides applicants with a fairly extensive opportunity to tell their whole story, which is quite rare these days. So take advantage of it! Brainstorm thoroughly before you start writing, and carefully consider how to optimize your best anecdotes to showcase yourself in full.
Required Essay 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
In many ways, this prompt is asking for a typical MBA personal statement. In a mere 500 words, you must discuss your career goals—giving very brief context for why they are realistic for you—and then reveal how Wharton will help you pursue these goals by demonstrating a thorough understanding of what the school offers and a well-thought-out game plan for immersing yourself in the Wharton experience. To effectively do this, you must first 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. Simply presenting a list of classes that you think sound interesting is not sufficient. Likewise, avoid vague statements about how great the school is. Focus on showing a clear connection between your aspirations, what you need to achieve them, and what Wharton in particular offers that will enable you to fulfill those needs.
A subtle tweak to this essay prompt that distinguishes it from last year’s is that Wharton asks applicants to address only the professional aspect—no longer both the professional and personal aspect—of their business school aspirations. This will allow you to share your career-related stories and goals much more fully, which means you can and should use the other essays to discuss non-work aspects of your life and thereby provide a more complete and well-rounded picture of yourself for the admissions committee.
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.
Required 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)
So, is this question about teamwork or about contribution? Although we see nothing wrong with relating some of your team-related experiences in your essay, what the admissions committee is really interested in learning is what you can contribute to a team—and these are not necessarily the same thing. You can contribute to the Wharton community and culture in many different ways. For example, perhaps you have specialized knowledge you could offer your Wharton Learning Team that would provide context in analyzing certain business problems and cases. Maybe you have a character trait that has enabled you to bring people together in past communities, such as a good sense of humor or even strong listening skills. You might even have specific experience that pertains directly to a club you would like to lead or join.
We can think of almost limitless examples, and the ones we have offered here are possibly even a bit banal, because the key to being effective with this essay is to really own your proffered contribution by sharing your unique personal stories and then relating them to specific resources at Wharton. We suspect that many applicants will discuss a certain trait or skill and then end their essay with a platitude like “And I will bring this skill to Wharton for the betterment of all.” To create a truly strong and compelling essay, you must convincingly show that you fully understand the Wharton experience and are prepared to make a distinct and personal contribution.
And for a thorough exploration of Wharton’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment, and other key features, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.
Reapplicant Essay: 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)
All applicants, including reapplicants can also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)
If you are a Wharton reapplicant, this essay is pretty straightforward. 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.
However, if you are not a Wharton reapplicant, pay special attention to the last line of this prompt: All applicants, including reapplicants can also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. 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, or a gap in your work experience. In our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, available through our online store, we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay (along with 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 to help you achieve this high level of preparation, mbaMission offers free Interview Primers! 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.
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As a part of the application process, applicants must complete a personal essay. Additionally, Penn applicants must complete the Penn-specific Essay.
We carefully read each essay you submit, as they can help us get to know you much better than your transcripts and test scores. While essays are a good indication of how well you write, they are also windows into how you think, what you value, and how you see the world. Your numbers tell us what kind of student you are. Your essays tell us what sort of person you are—and provide a glimpse into the intangibles you might bring to our community.
Be sure to answer the question or questions that are being asked of you. We understand that you may be writing essays for different schools and you may be looking to reuse material, but read through your essay to make sure your essay is relevant to the essay prompt. Essay topics are chosen because the Admissions Committee wants to know these specific things about you. If you do not address the question directly, the Admissions Committee is left with having to make decisions regarding your application with incomplete information.
Students applying to Penn must submit their application for admission to one of our four undergraduate schools. In the Penn-specific Essay, be sure to specifically address both why you are applying to Penn and why you are applying to that specific undergraduate school. Students who are applying to one of our coordinated dual-degree programs will have additional essays they need to complete, but the Penn essay should address the single-degree or single-school choice.
How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying. (400-650 words) *Students applying to Digital Media Design and Computer & Cognitive Science should address both the specialized program and single-degree choice in their response. For students applying to the other coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer this question in regards to your single-degree school choice; your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essay.
Huntsman: The Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business
Discuss a current international issue, which demonstrates how international affairs and business intersect and explain how the Huntsman curriculum might assist to resolve the issue. (500 words maximum)
LSM: The Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management
LSM seeks students who are enthusiastic about combining science with management. What excites you about this combination? What kind of benefits could an individual trained in both disciplines bring to society? Be as specific and original as possible in addressing these questions. (400-650 words)
M&T: The Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology
Please complete both prompts. Question 1: Explain how you will use this program to explore your interest in business, engineering, and the intersection of the two. It is helpful to identify potential engineering and business paths available at Penn. (400-650 words) Question 2: Please describe a time in which you displayed leadership. (250 words maximum)
NHCM: Nursing and Healthcare Management
Discuss your interest in nursing and health care management. How might Penn's coordinated dual-degree program in nursing and business help you meet your goals? (400-650 words)
VIPER: The Roy and Diana Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research
Describe your interests in energy science and technology drawing on your previous academic, research, and extracurricular experiences that allow you to appreciate the scientific or engineering challenges related to energy and sustainability. If you have previous experience with research, describe your research project (outlining the goals, hypotheses, approach, results, and conclusions). Describe how your experiences have shaped your research and interests, and identify how the VIPER program will help you achieve your goals. Also, please indicate which VIPER majors in both science and engineering are most interesting to you at this time. (400-650 words)
NETS: The Rajendra and Neera Singh Program in Networked and Social Systems Engineering
Describe your interests in modern networked information systems and technologies, such as the Internet, and their impact on society, whether in terms of economics, communication, or the creation of beneficial content for society. Feel free to draw on examples from your own experiences as a user, developer, or student of technology. (400-650 words)
Seven-Year Bio-Dental Program
• Please list pre-dental or pre-medical experience. This experience can include but is not limited to observation in a private practice, dental clinic, or hospital setting; dental assisting; dental laboratory work; dental or medical research, etc. Please include time allotted to each activity, dates of attendance, location, and description of your experience. If you do not have any pre-dental or pre-medical experience, please indicate what you have done that led you to your decision to enter dentistry. • List any activities which demonstrate your ability to work with your hands. • What activities have you performed that demonstrate your ability to work cooperatively with people? • Please explain your reasons for selecting a career in dentistry. Please include what interests you the most in dentistry as well as what interests you the least. • Do you have relatives who are dentists or are in dental school? If so, indicate the name of each relative, his/her relationship to you, the school attended, and the dates attended.