Wharton has released its MBA application deadlines and admissions essays for the coming year. Last year Wharton really stirred the pot by introducing radically different essays. Let’s dig into this year’s application and see how much things have changed this year.
Here are Wharton’s deadlines and essays for the Class of 2014, followed by our comments in italics:
Wharton Admissions Deadlines
Round 1: October 3, 2011
Round 2: January 4, 2012
Round 3: March 5, 2012
These deadlines are virtually identical to last year’s deadlines. Note that applying in Round 1 means that you’ll receive your decision by December 20, giving you time to adjust your Round 2 application strategy if you don’t receive good news from Wharton.
Wharton Admissions Essays
What are your professional objectives? (300 words)
This question carries over from last year, when it was new. Although it’s phrased differently than other schools’ questions, you can still consider this a “Why an MBA?” essay. (Note that this question doesn’t come up in any other essay here, so you will need to address it here.) Also note that, while this mandatory question only requires 300 words, Wharton gives you 600 words for each of the other, more introspective essays. Clearly, the Wharton admissions committee is more interested in getting to know you as a person than as a professional. We always hear MBA admissions officers sat this, but Wharton is really putting this idea into action.
Think of this essay as your chance to properly “set the stage” for the rest of your candidacy. It’s only 300 words long, but after reading this essay admissions officers should clearly understand where you want to go in your career and why a Wharton MBA makes sense for you now. Wharton doesn’t ask “Why Wharton?” and you don’t have many words to spare, so don’t devote too many words to answering this here. You have 1,200 more words (across your other essays) to help lead them to the conclusion that you’re a great fit with Wharton.
Optional Questions (Choose Two)
- Reflect on a time when you turned down an opportunity. What was the thought process behind your decision? Would you make the same decision today? (600 words)
This question carries over from last year, and we love it as an “introspection” question. MBA admissions officers really want to see self-awareness and introspection in applicants, and this question provides that. Don’t worry if the opportunity that you turned down seems small — you don’t need to blow them away with the “sexiness” of the opportunity. Also, note the emphasis on your thought process; that matters more to the admissions committee than what the actual opportunity was. Help them understand why you made the decision, what you learned about your wants and values in the process, and how it’s shaped you as a person. Also, answering “No” to the last part of the question is okay. Having the humility to wish you could make a decision over again is one terrific sign of introspection and maturity.
- Discuss a time when you faced a challenging interpersonal experience. How did you navigate the situation and what did you learn from it? (600 words)
This question is new this year, although it is not radically different from one of last year’s essays. The difference to note is that, while last year’s question only asked about navigating a challenging relationship, this new version specifically asks for how you did it and — perhaps most importantly — what you learned from the experience. Our bet is that last year many applicants didn’t place enough emphasis on this last point, and now Wharton wants to make clear that this is a critical part of this essay.
This essay is your chance to demonstrate empathy, maturity, and a willingness to consider others’ points of view. Where it differs is that it takes a little emphasis off of the idea of diversity and explores tough relationships of all types. As we’ve said before, it’s most important here that you can make clear why the situation was challenging, what you did to overcome it, and — hopefully — how you were successful. Even if you weren’t successful, though, what’s most interesting here is what you learned in the process.
- “Innovation is central to our culture at Wharton. It is a mentality that must encompass every aspect of the School – whether faculty research, teaching or alumni outreach.” – Thomas S. Robertson, Dean, The Wharton School. Keeping this component of our culture in mind, discuss a time when you have been innovative in your personal or professional life. (600 words)
This question is entirely new this year. “Innovation” can be interpreted in multiple ways, and if no example from your past immediately springs to mind, then think about the word “creative.” How did you creatively solve a problem at work or in your life? How did you go beyond your normal job description or come up with a solution that had never been tried before? While it’s so trite that we’re reluctant to use this phrase, think about a time when you “thought outside the box.” More than anything, here the Wharton admissions committee looks for signs that you’re not content to just follow your job description, you do more than simply work on assignments as they’re handed to you (but do no more than that), and you’re not afraid to dream big now and then. Don’t think “innovation” necessarily means “science” or “tech” here!