Category Archives: Wharton

Applicant and Administrator Feedback on Wharton Team Discussions

Wharton Admissions Director Ankur Kumar recently provided an update on how Wharton’s team-based discussions went during Round 1. It sounds as though the experience has been positive so far, both for Wharton and for applicants. We still have a lot of questions about this as a means if evaluating candidates, but it’s interesting to study the early impressions from applicants and administrators alike.

The feedback we have been hearing from students is that the discussions haven’t turned out to be the shark tanks — with applicants elbowing each other for air time — that some had feared. If anything, applicants have erred on the side of being a little too friendly, with some going out of their way to show how courteous they can be. Many applicants have reported seeing this “unnatural graciousness” in effect.

According to Kumar on the Wharton Admissions Blog:

It was wonderful to observe our candidates connecting with one other – both inside and outside of the team based discussion. We saw you exchange contact information for future business endeavors, continue to discuss the question posed to your team far after the exercise came to a close, and we noticed a few groups that headed out for celebratory dinner or drinks after the interview was complete. The most heartwarming part for us was to see how much you invested in and supported one other; waiting for everyone in your group to be done, high fiving each other, laughing together, this is the true hallmark of Wharton’s culture of collaboration and something we look forward to your bringing to the program.

Wow, sounds like fun! Even the most collaborative MBA classrooms normally don’t have all of the back-patting described here, although we know that the stakes are much higher with these admissions discussions than they are in a typical business school classroom on any given day. Our take is that some candidates are indeed overdoing it, and going out of their way to show that they’re not jerks or sharks. Whether or not this helps them get into Wharton is still to be determined.

At the same time, we have heard that some applicants definitely felt a need to speak up, lest they be drowned out. This is fairly normal — this same pressure exists in the business school classroom, especially at case study-based schools such as Harvard and Darden — but this is the sort of thing that we’re sure Wharton wants to downplay as much as possible.

While we may still sound skeptical, we definitely laud Wharton for taking such a big risk in the admissions process. They, along with other schools that have significantly cut down their essays in some cases, are advancing the state of the art in the MBA admissions process. We’re reserving judgment, however, until we can better measure how performance in these discussions correlates with admissions success.

For more business school admissions advice, take a look at our book, Your MBA Game Plan, now in its 3rd edition. And, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

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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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Get to Know: The Wharton School

In our new “Get to Know” series, every so often we will profile one of the world’s top MBA programs, uncovering some of the less well known facts about a school to help you learn each MBA program better. For our first installment, today we take a closer look at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School

Wharton is one of the most prestigious MBA programs in the world, and every year the school attracts thousands of applicants from all over the world. Whether or not you get in may come down to how well you know the school. Today we dig into three things that contribute to Wharton’s unique, high-energy learning environment. If reading about these attributes make you even more excited Wharton, then the school might be a good fit for you:

Experiential Learning to the Core
Nearly every elite business school is advertising its “action-based” or “experiential” approach, but Wharton deserves credit for the way it puts a premium on student involvement in campus activities and organizations. Gaining knowledge and putting it into practice is seamlessly integrated into the student experience through initiatives such as the Global Consulting Practicum.

Leadership Everywhere
Building leadership acumen is a core of the Wharton program. While we’d be hard pressed to say that leadership is more important at Wharton than it is at Harvard, opportunities to build this skill abound at this school. Wharton features a dedicated Center for Leadership and Change Management, which spearheads multiple leadership-driven initiatives including Leadership Ventures (outdoor experiential leadership experiences and global leadership treks) and the Leadership Fellows Program (a leadership development/mentor program). Leadership is also baked into the Wharton experience through its entirely student-led community and the many opportunities to be a leader outside of the classroom through programs such as the International Volunteer Project and Wharton Community Consultants.

Heavy Student Involvement
Inside and outside of the classroom, students play a leading role in defining the Wharton experience for themselves, their classmates, and for future students. The expectation is that Wharton students will be active members of the community — a standard that manifests itself in all aspects of the Wharton experience as evidenced by more than 100 student run clubs that evolve each year depending on student leadership, the existence of the Dean’s Graduate Student Advisory Committee and the Wharton Graduate Association, and student participation in the admissions process.

To stay on top on all of the latest news and analysis of Wharton admissions, be sure to find us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

Wharton Application Essays for 2011-2012

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

Required Question
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)

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. “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!

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Wharton Overhauls Its MBA Curriculum

Recently the faculty at the Wharton School voted overwhelmingly in favor of approving the first overhaul to the school’s curriculum in 17 years. As reported by Bloomberg Businessweek, the school will introduce parts of the new curriculum in the fall of 2011 before fully implementing it in 2012.

The new curriculum represents more than a shuffling of electives or tweaks to first-year requirements. Most significantly, Wharton announced that it will deliver executive education to its alumni free of charge. All MBA grads will be eligible to attend enrichment classes every seven years. The school provided few details about the new lifelong learning mode, but it will be interesting to see how other schools respond.

Many of the other changes announced, while still significant, sound more similar to those announced at other top business schools over the past several years. These include reducing the number of required courses for first-year students, placing more emphasis on ethics in coursework, opening more opportunities for global exposure, and requiring that every student participate in a leadership coaching program that spans the two-year curriculum. Wharton will also put more emphasis on oral and written communication, adding a required course in this area for first-year students.

Most noteworthy among the announced changes is the introduction of continued executive education for its graduates. Not only is it smart for Wharton (because it keeps alumni more closely tied to the school), but it also shows that the school puts its money where its mouth is in terms of developing business leaders well beyond those students’ two years at Wharton. We wonder if other top MBA programs will follow Wharton’s lead.

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Social Service-Minded Applicants Visit Wharton in November

Recently The Wharton School announced its 2010 Social Impact Visit Day will take place on November 11. This event is designed for young professionals who plan on pursuing a career in public service or social entrepreneurship, and are unsure of whether an MBA will help them achieve their goals.

Social Impact Visit Day gives prospective applicants a top-down view of what Wharton offers in the areas of Social Finance, Social Entrepreneurship, Education Reform, International Development and Corporate Social Responsibility. The next day Wharton hosts its annual Social Impact Conference, so if you have the time, we recommend sticking around for the extra day to really soak up as much as you can. After a day or two at the school, you should be well equipped to make your decision . And, if you do decide to apply, you’ll be far ahead of many other applicants who never get a chance to visit the school.

As strong and as well known as Wharton is, it’s not always the first business school that comes to mind when people think of non-profit or public sector careers. Yale SOM and Haas are probably the best known MBA programs in this space. However, Wharton offers an impressive array of courses, clubs, and study programs that make it a very viable option for someone considering such a career path. Judging from the school’s admissions essay topics, we have no doubt that Wharton is serious about finding and training young professionals who have a bent toward making a positive social impact. Even if you’re not sure that an MBA fits into your plans, Wharton is worth a look as a way to get a head start in a career in social entrepreneurship or the public sector.

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Wharton Admissions Essays for 2010-2011

Wharton’s application essays for the 2010-2011 admissions season have recently been released. Pay attention, because there are some big changes afoot in Wharton’s application this year!

Wharton’s 2010-2011 MBA admissions essays are below, followed by our comments in italics:

Wharton Admissions Essays

Required Question
What are your professional objectives? (300 words)

This question is new this year. At its core, it is still in many respects a “Why an MBA?” essay. (Note that those questions don’t come up in any other essay here, so you will need to address them here.) Also note that, while this seemingly 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. Business schools always say that, but Wharton is really putting this idea into action.

Still, it is critical that you use this essay 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 1,800 – 1,900 words (across your three other essays) to help lead them to the conclusion that you’re a great fit with Wharton.

Optional Questions

Respond to three of the following four questions:

  1. Student and alumni engagement has at times led to the creation of innovative classes. For example, through extraordinary efforts, a small group of current students partnered with faculty to create a timely course entitled, “Disaster Response: Haiti and Beyond,” empowering students to leverage the talented Wharton community to improve the lives of the Haiti earthquake victims. Similarly, Wharton students and alumni helped to create the “Innovation and the Indian Healthcare Industry” which took students to India where they studied the full range of healthcare issues in India. If you were able to create a Wharton course on any topic, what would it be? (700 words)
  2. If you were worried about demonstrating your knowledge of (and fit with) Wharton, here’s your chance to show some of that here. The risk for many applicants will be in overreaching with this essay and discussing something too high-minded to be believable (e.g., “I want to start a class on providing drinking water to Third World nations.”) The Haiti and India examples will likely contribute to that problem. If there’s something you’re truly passionate about, this is a great place to discuss it, but it does NOT have to have the impact on the social good that the Haiti example provides. What are you passionate about? How would you want to educate your Wharton classmates on it?

  3. 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)
  4. This is a terrific “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’s far more interesting to Wharton 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.

  5. Describe a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself? How did this experience help to create your definition of failure? (600 words)
  6. This is the only question that carries over from last year, although the last part is new. As with all failure-related questions, the key is to put enough emphasis on what you learned. This sort of self-awareness is what admissions officers typically look for when they ask a “failure” question. Also, ideally you will be able to describe a later time when you applied what you learned to a new situation to avoid a similar failure.

  7. Discuss a time when you navigated a challenging experience in either a personal or professional relationship. (600 words)
  8. This question is also new this year, although, at its core, it’s similar last year’s Question #2, which asked about a time when you had to accept the perspective of people different from yourself. You need 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 said last year, 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.

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