Wharton Admissions Essays for 2012-2013

Wharton recently released its admissions essays for the 2012-2013 admissions season. Last year Wharton didn’t make too many big changes after really mixing it up the year before. 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 2015, followed by our comments in italics:

Wharton Application Essays

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

This question is a revised version of last year’s required question, which asked, “What are your professional objectives?” Also, bucking the early trend we’ve seen with other school’s essays so far, Wharton actually bumped up its word count from 300 to 400 words, no doubt to make room for the new “Who will Wharton” part of this question. (Note: “How will Wharton MBA” is how it’s written on Wharton’s site as of right now. We agree that this looks odd.) Looking at how this question has evolved since last year, it’s not hard to imagine that the Wharton admissions team felt that applicants weren’t connecting their career ambitions to Wharton quite enough. When you answer this question, don’t write an “This is why I need an MBA” essay and then sprinkle in a few Wharton references… Plan on writing an essay wholly dedicated to why a Wharton MBA (and not just an MBA) is what you need to help you achieve your professional objectives.

Optional Questions (Choose Two)

  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)

    Ahh, Wharton has taken out some words here. These optional essays each had a limit of 600 words last year. And we’re sensing a theme… This question is new this year, and note that it also puts the spotlight on Wharton. (Last year’s question was entirely different.) We tend not to love this kind of question since we see many applicants simply find a course or student club on a the school’s website and write about it, giving admissions officers what applicants think they want to see. If there is something that truly excites you about Wharton — especially something that very few other top MBA programs can offer, such as one of Wharton’s well known research centers — then this essay may be a great opportunity for your to truly demonstrate your fit with the school. Otherwise, resist the temptation to invent interest in a class or club just for the sake of completing this essay.
  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 question is also new this year, and it replaces a “deeper” question about dealing with a challenging interpersonal experience. While we liked that essay prompt, we also like this one. In the above two questions Wharton shows that this year’s it’s looking for more “Why Wharton?”-type insights in your essays, but don’t forget that they also need to get to know you as a person. Don’t feel that you need to reveal something amazing here — will the admissions committee really believe that you would use those three hours to work in a soup kitchen or build a house with Habitat for Humanity? What do you enjoy doing? What do you wish you could do more, or know that you should do more? Going for a run, fishing off of a pier, and reading a book on a hammock all make for good answers. The key is to not only say what you would do, but why you would do it. That’s what the admissions committee really looks for here.
  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)

    This question is also new, although it replaces a similar prompt from last year. Putting “knowledge in to action” can be interpreted in multiple ways, and if no example from your past immediately springs to mind, then think about the words “creativity” and “insight.” 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, using the information that was right in front of you? 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. “Knowledge” is nice, but “action” is how people make a positive impact on those around them. Wharton is looking for those people.

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