Why Wharton Mba Essay Questions

 

Good luck to those who got a Round 2 app in at Wharton! You probably know that Wharton has a unique process when it comes to interviews, namely the Team Based Discussion — our 2017 Wharton Application Guide explains it for you. Invitations to come in February.

 


Wharton’s Class of 2019 profile remains daunting. No change to average GMAT (730) however they’re now publishing averages on GRE scores, which is a clear sign that a) it’s fine to apply with one, and b) your scores must be decent if you do! Average GRE quant is 163 (85th percentile) and average verbal is 162 (90th). We expect these GRE averages to go UP this year.

 

2017 Wharton MBA Essay Questions – Class of 2020

Same questions as last year – but the recommendations are changing radically!!

Essay Questions:

  1. What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)
  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 maximum)

They also have a 250-word Optional Essay which is required for reapplicants to use, to explain how they’ve improved since their original application, and it’s also for new applicants if there’s other critical details that are important for the adcom to know, which you can’t fit into the main essays.

Our Wharton guide has now been updated — with lots more content and strategic advice for crafting great essays, based on the direct experience we had in working with lots of BSers who made it in last year!!

The Wharton Class Profile show the Class of 2018 stats which are largely the same as previously: Average GMAT is 730, 80% range is (gulp) 700 to 770. The worst news out of that is the fact that applications increased by 1.4% yet they REDUCED the class size by ten students, to 851. That could’ve been due only to factors of yield; it’s possible that it wasn’t an intentional class size reduction. Still, doesn’t bode well. Things were sooooo competitive last year and we do not expect it to be any different for the Class of 2019 when that data comes out this summer.





The SnarkStrategies Guide for Wharton has now been fully refreshed for the 2017 version of the Wharton essays and app. It walks you through background info and exercises that are useful for creating a strong strategy. We also cover reapplicant concerns, the Team Based Discussion, the Lauder joint degree program, and of course the new letters of recommendation. This is be your best resource with insights on the Wharton MBA application!

Wharton MBA recommendations

Wharton has totally unique recommender questions in 2017 — they’ve gone in a whole new direction!

Two free-form questions:

Question 1: Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success in the Wharton MBA classroom. (Word count: 300)

Question 2: Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success throughout their career. (Word count: 300)

This is definitely a situation where our Recommenders Instructions Sets can be valuable!
 

Wharton 2017-’18 Dates and Deadlines

Wharton MBA Application Deadlines
The deadlines are out for the Class of 2020; these are morphing ever closer to what Harvard uses.

  • Round 1: – a full week earlier than in previous years. You’re encouraged to apply in the first round at such a competitive school. Round 1 interview invites released on 10/31.
  • Round 2: – ouch. This is one of the earlier Round 2 deadlines and you will not be a happy camper after New Year’s because of it. Round 2 at Wharton is still viable, though they get a lot more apps then, which is why Round 1 is really really preferable if you can pull it off. Round 2 interview invites will likely happen in the first half of February.

 

Interviews at Wharton

Wharton’s interview process is quite unique compared to most other American bschools (though Michigan Ross also does things in a similar way). Wharton has what’s called the Team-Based Discussion which is basically a simulation of how you will experience academic life at this school. It’s designed to help the admissions team see candidates in action. You will also have a (short!) one-on-one interview, usually with a second-year student.

Participation in the Team-Based Discussion is by invitation only. Invites start going out about a month after the round deadline; in past years, they issued them on just one day a week, every week for four weeks (or so) – but last year (2014) in Round 1 they did a big-bang approach, where on one single day they announced the invites, and the early rejects for that round. See the Wharton adcom’s blog to understand the process as described for Round 2 two years ago. We also go into great detail on how this works in the essay guide.

 

Wharton Useful Links

8/10/12: If you’re interested in the Lauder program, then check out this interview with their admissions director . Very helpful! The Lauder application is also covered in our essay guide.

9/22/13: We offered advice to someone considering the Wharton Health Care Management track.

 

EssaySnark blahg posts on Wharton and their app

 


The 2017 Wharton Application Guide offers a discussion of the focus and emphasis in the admissions process at this school and how that might affect you as an applicant. It also discusses the Lauder MBA/MA program, and as always, we go into great detail on the Team-Based Interview experience — and everything else you need to know to construct the strongest set of essays possible.

 
Got the essays done? Get them reviewed!


 

For Reference: Wharton’s Past-Season Questions

Included for historical purposes, in case you want to study what they’ve asked in the past.

Click to view last year's questions

2016 Wharton MBA Essay Questions

As announced on the Wharton blog in June , they changed the questions based on feedback from applicants (yes we thought they were bad – so thank you Wharton!). Here’s what you get to deal with now:

  1. What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)
  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 maximum)

IMPORTANT: THERE IS NO 400-WORD “ESSAY 3”!! Their website was wrong through most of the summer.

They also have a 250-word Optional Essay — ALSO IMPORTANT: IT’S **NOT** 400 WORDS; THEIR APPLICATION SAYS 250 WORDS ONLY as of app open on 8/1/16.

The Optional Essay is required for reapplicants to use, to explain how they’ve improved since their original application, and it’s also for new applicants if there’s other critical details that are important for the adcom to know, which you can’t fit into the main essays.

(Except for the word count confusion) this is definitely an improvement! Hopefully they are also fixing the confusing bits of their application instructions along the way (haven’t seen it happen yet but we are optimists).

We have covered all of this to the best of our ability in the Wharton Application Guide, which went through a quick refresh on 8/1/16 to capture these $!#&* inconsistencies.

Wharton MBA recommendations

Wharton did NOT have standardized recommender questions in 2016.

For history: In 2014 Wharton went along with the party and had the same questions as Stanford and Harvard had. We’ve since seen more and more schools diverge from that. Having sort of standard questions is actually WORSE than having completely non-standard ones! What are your recommenders supposed to do with THAT!?

Here’s what the 2016 situation was:

  • Two recommendations, one of which should be from your current supervisor if possible
  • Three questions for your recommenders to answer which are slightly different from the “standard” questions that other schools ask – (review them here )

 
Other schools had two questions or four questions but no, Wharton had to have three!!

Lots of resources for choosing your recommenders available here on the blahg; if you want more help, our Letters of Recommendation App Accelerator walks through the specifics and lets you submit your recommenders’ strategy for feedback from EssaySnark. All of this will be updated once we know firm facts on requirements.

[End 2016 question section.]


Click to view 2015 questions

2015 Wharton MBA Essay Questions

 

The Wharton app has some gotchas

We had hoped (especially now that we’re further into the new dean’s tenure) that Wharton admissions would make changes to their not-totally-amazing essay questions. But no! Same single-essay app, with an optional opportunity to submit other stuff. They actually made more changes to the recommender’s questions (see below and our blahg rant on the topic). More and more schools claiming to have “standardized” the recommendations are straying further and further from a “standard.” Oh well.

UPDATE: We did a last-minute essay critique on the Wharton “what do you hope to gain?” main essay.


Really?!?? They kept the same questions? THESE questions?

We explained why we’re not total fans of this in our Wharton app changes post on June 16, 2015.

These are really not the easiest to deal with. A full pitch in just 500 words? Whatever. Wharton isn’t doing you any favors with what they’re asking here.

  • What do you hope to gain personally and professionally through the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)
  • (optional) Please highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words maximum)

They are also keeping the traditional “optional essay” – which is NOT the second question above – where they allow 250 words to discuss gaps in the profile – but boy their website does not make this easy to understand. It’s included under the so-called “Additional Question for Reapplicants” section. They say you can use the reapp essay for “extenuating circumstances” – anyone can. Not just reapplicants.

Say wha’? Wharton, why can’t you make your instructions clear??? Why use that header on the page saying it’s for “Reapplicants” when ALL APPLICANTS can use that space?

Aaargh!!!

Anyway, having two “optional” questions was definitely confusing last year, particularly when most schools say, “Don’t answer the optional question unless you have a situation that warrants it!” So what are people to do with Wharton Essay 2 (optional) – answer it or not?

They also have offered no instructions whatsoever whether a reapplicant needs to answer the “required” essay – which is exactly the same from last year – or not. Or, what is a reapplicant supposed to do when they need to answer the reapplicant question AND they have “extenuating circumstances” – it’s only 250 words! That’s hardly enough for just one of those topics.

WHARTON!! You confound us. Why not HELP your peeps in applying!??

[End 2015 question section.]


Click to view 2014 questions

2014 Wharton MBA Essay Questions

They switched to just one required essay!

  • What do you hope to gain personally and professionally through the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)

The “achieve” -> “gain” verb change is the only difference from the prior year’s question (besides deleting a couple of commas; they also changed the word “aspire” to “hope” sometime after first publishing the essay prompt, which was a little odd to us). We discuss the implications for that main verb change with this year’s question and how you should focus your writing in the Wharton MBA essay guide.

Wharton also has two optional essays – the first question, which maybe should be answered, is:

  • Please highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words maximum)

We recommend being exceedingly strategic in using this essay.

And, they have the traditional “optional essay” where they allow 250 words to discuss gaps in the profile.

Should you submit something there? Hmmm… That’s definitely a case-by-case assessment. Most people should not need to use that space. Our Comprehensive Profile Review can help you out if you need insight into the places where an optional essay (or optional info like this) is warranted, and the Wharton essay guide also covers both of these essays.

See section below for what Wharton asked in 2013 – the changes may seem subtle but they’re significant. You may want to study them.

The recommendation questions have also been streamlined. Here’s a post from the Wharton blog (6/2/14) that provides a bit of context on the changes.

6/3/14 We discussed the changes to the Wharton essays when they were first released.

[End 2014 question section.]



Click to view 2013 questions

2013 Wharton MBA Essay Questions

This is what we said when two-years-ago questions came out… remember this analysis is old.

Here’s the Wharton essay questions – as we predicted, there’s fewer of them, and they’re more straightforward this year (Thanks ! Ankur left; Maryellen is now in charge of admissions at Wharton)

Two essays:

  1. What do you aspire to achieve, personally and professionally, through the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)
  2. Academic engagement is an important element of the Wharton MBA experience. How do you see yourself contributing to our learning community? (500 words maximum)

We did a post about these essays: You lucked out: Wharton’s essays are sooooo easy this year.

[End 2013 question section.]



Click to view 2012 questions


2012 questions – these are REALLY OLD
Three essays:

One required question

  • How will Wharton MBA help you achieve your professional objectives?

Choose two more:

  • 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. (
  • Imagine your work obligations for the afternoon were cancelled and you found yourself “work free” for three hours, what would you do?
  • “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.

[End 2012 question section.]


 

[Index of essay questions by bschool]

Wharton MBA Essay Questions for Class of 2020


Aug, 17, 2017


In this post, I analyze the essay questions for the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania for Fall 2018 admission. You can find testimonials from my clients admitted to Wharton in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017  here.  For my most recent post on Wharton interviews, please see here and here.

My clients have been admitted to Wharton every year since 2002. Since I started my own counseling service in 2007, I have had 51 clients admitted to Wharton (44 admitted to Wharton and 7 admitted to Wharton Lauder), which is my biggest total for any school (INSEAD, HBS, Columbia and Booth follow, in that order, in terms of highest totals). My clients’ results and testimonials can be found here. In addition to providing comprehensive application consulting on Wharton, I regularly help additional candidates with Wharton interview preparation.

 

A few initial thoughts about Wharton

The thing I like most about Wharton is that they really do admit a very diverse class. The class size certainly helps in that respect. But beyond that, I have really found Wharton to be a school where applicants are evaluated holistically and one need not be perfect to gain admission.  Such factors as a less than stellar GPA, a less than super GMAT, an older age or work experience in companies that are not necessarily prestigious are not inherent barriers to admission to Wharton’s MBA program.  I have worked with clients who had such issues, but also other amazing strengths which helped them gain admission. This could  also happen at HBS or, more rarely, at Stanford, but it happens more at Wharton.  The school’s diversity is also shown through the range of courses offered and the many international programs.  Some people think of Wharton narrowly as a finance school, but to do so is to ignore the course catalog.

 

The thing I like the least about Wharton is the location. I wish it were just me but I know I am not alone. Philadelphia was a great American city in the 18th century. The location of the University of Pennsylvania is certainly not ideal as the neighborhood is not particularly safe and crime is relatively high.  Wharton is as much as commuter school as Booth (the commute for the Wharton students is shorter, but the Booth students have a better city to be in).  Its primary advantage location wise is that one can get to New York City quickly and with no classes on Fridays,  it is even possible to go intern in NYC. The location is ideal for those who want to work in the pharmaceutical industry given that industries’ presence in the area.  On the other hand, if Wharton’s location were better it would likely be a harder school to get into.

 

 

Essays Class of 2020:

“First-time applicant and re-applicants (those who applied to begin the program in the fall of 2017 or 2016) are required to complete both essays.

The Admissions Committee wants to get to know you on both a professional and personal level. We encourage you to be introspective, candid and succinct. Most importantly, we suggest you be yourself.

  • Essay 1:  What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
  • 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)

Additional Question (required for all Reapplicants):

  • 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)*

*First-time applicants may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)”

The Required Essays

  • Essay 1:  What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

 WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM WHARTON?

An excellent answer to the Wharton essay question would identify those specific aspects of Wharton that you will most benefit from.It is a future focused question.  A general characterization of Wharton- data driven, but also a place with a commitment to experiential learning, East Coast focused but with a San Francisco campus that is now become integrated into the MBA program, highly international, highly flexible with strengths in a large number of areas, including healthcare, finance, real estate, and marketing- is  helpful to keep in mind when writing this essay. Wharton has a lot to offer and, while some have characterized it as a CFO school, a finance school, a Wall Street school, all too some extent true, this is not so helpful when you consider that, for example, Sundar Pichai, Google’s guy in charge of Chrome, Android, and Google Apps, is a Wharton alumnus. Wharton is a huge program with so many strengths that the point is not to think about some big overall image of the school, but to focus on what you want to get out of it. Which specific resources you want to use and why. Keep in mind that Wharton is much bigger than HBS because of the undergraduate program. The range of courses, research, and opportunities is huge. The point is to provide a specific game plan on how you will use Wharton for your professional and personal growth.

I think an effective essay here will do the following:

1. Professional means providing Wharton with a clear understanding about what you want from your professional future.  In other words,  what do you want to do and/or how do you want grow as a professional?

2.   Think widely about what you want from a Wharton MBA.  The point is to give Wharton a sense of the best of who you are so don’t limit yourself too narrowly, but if you try to cover too much, you will end up not covering anything effectively. Focus on specific factors that will help you achieve your professional objectives.

 

If you are having difficulty determining what your goals are and/or why you need an MBA in general, please see my analysis of  Stanford Essay B. In that post I provide a detailed method for thinking about goals and need for an MBA. Except for length, there is little difference between Stanford Essay B and Wharton Essay 1 as both questions ask i what one wants from the school.

 

Make the assumption that an MBA from Whartonwill be a transformative experience for you.  If you don’t make this assumption, you will likely find it particularly hard to explain what you want from the experience and will also probably come across as rather dull.  Your job is to engage the admissions reader so that they understand what you want from Wharton for your future.

 

What are your aspirations?  You need to give Wharton admissions a very clear image of professional objectives for attending the MBA program.  You might include a clear post-MBA career goal and a longer term vision/goal, but depending on how you answer the question, you might express what you want from Wharton more in terms of the kind of person and kind of professional you want to become. You might express it in terms of your present situation and how you hope to be transformed by your Wharton experience.  A purely abstract dream or visionary statement could easily come across as unrealistic or ungrounded if not handled carefully, so be careful to connect your aspirations to  your past actions and/or clearly defined goals. Career changers (those planning on  changing industry and/or function after MBA) should explain why they want to change their careers and how Wharton will enable that. Career enhancers should explain how an MBA will enhance their careers to continue along the pathway that thy are already on.

You should be explaining why you need a Wharton MBA in  particular. You should  learn about the curriculum, clusters / cohorts/ learning teams, Learning @ Wharton, community involvement, clubs, and WGA in order to determine what aspects of Wharton really relate to your professional objectives. You need not mention the names of particular courses as long as it would be clear to your reader that your aspirations align well with Wharton’s offerings. For example, it is really a waste of word count to mention the names of particular finance courses if the main point you are simply trying to make is that you want to enhance your finance skills. Every admissions officer at Wharton is well aware of the programs major offerings.  If you have a particular interest in a more specialized course or studying with a particular professor, it might be worth mentioning it as long as it is an explanation of why you want to study the subject and not based on circular reasoning.

An example of circular (tautological) reasoning:  “I want to take Advanced Corporate Finance because I am interested in developing advanced corporate finance skills.” This kind of bad circular reasoning is so common in early drafts I see from my clients and in the failed essays of reapplicants that I am asked to review. Usually it takes place within a paragraph consisting of many such sentences. These sentences actually convey nothing about the applicant. The admissions reader wants to learn about you, not about their own program. If you don’t explain what you need and why, you are not actually answering the question, you are just writing something dull, surface level, and without positive impact.

An example of an actual explanation:  “While I have been exposed to finance through my work at MegaBank, I presently lack the kind of comprehensive understanding of corporate finance that I want to master at Wharton to succeed as a future leader of cross-border M&A.” By focusing on very specific learning needs and explaining those needs in relationship to one’s goals and/or past experience, admissions will be learning about you and really be able to understand what you need from Wharton. Mentioning a course name is not important if the learning need is already something obviously obtainable at Wharton. A more complete explanation would include additional details about the kind of issues that the applicant is interested in learning about and/or specific ways the applicant intended to apply what he or she would learn at Wharton.

 

Finally, remember that if you have something that you really want to discuss about what you contribute to Wharton or wish to mention particular classes, clubs, and events at Wharton that you could not fit into the essay, you can always discuss that in the optional essay.

 

  • 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)

WHAT CAN YOU GIVE TO THE WHARTON COMMUNITY?

For me this question is like an old friend. I have been an MBA admissions consultant since 2001 and the contribution question is one that I could explain to a client in my sleep.  I have done it on this blog many times before. Here is one of my old (2008) favorites, which includes a table that you can easily modify based on what I have written below (Sorry I am too busy to do that). I think one of the easiest ways to brainstorm this question is to break it down into three key considerations:

 

1. Distinct Contributions. The first thing to consider here is that you need to discuss distinct ways you will contribute to the Wharton Community. You can focus on one story if you like, but typically applicants will likely focus on two to four distinct contributions. It maybe that a single story contains multiple contributions or, and this more likely, each story will focus on one key major contribution.  These are selling points based on a skill, value, or unique experience. Contributions are, at their heart, selling points based on something. It might be a professional or interpersonal skill, a value (ethics, morality, belief about how to interact with others, etc.),  or a unique experience (First person in family to go to college, experience on the battlefield, acting in a movie, etc.).  You will need to tell a story related to this in order to convince the reader that you have something to contribute.  Some applicants will write more detailed stories and others mere anecdotes.  In general, the longer the story, the less contributions you will cover in the essay.  Less is not bad. Be convincing is good so 1-3  contributions that are distinct and interesting is better than 5 that are purely surface level.

 

2. How will this distinct contribution contribute to the Wharton community? One of the chief functions of an MBA admissions committee is to select people who will add value to the community.  The director and the rest of the committee have done their job properly if they have selected students who can work well together, learn from each other, and if these students become alum who value the relationships they initially formed at business school. Your contributions need to clearly connected to the community. Maybe it will be through the way you work with others, the knowledge you share, or the activities you organize but make sure the reader can fully understand how this be a contribution at Wharton.

 

3. Have you demonstrated that fit Wharton’s collaborative culture? There are a number of ways of trying to determine whether someone really “fits” at a particular school, but certainly the most direct thing to do is just ask. Since the prompt is telling that Wharton values teamwork and collaboration, your contributions should highlight how you fit that.  They are not asking for just any contribution but rather contributions that will contribute to a collaborative culture. This does not mean you can’t discuss some  knowledge area that you have, but that you need to relate it to collaborating with others. For example, you might be highly experienced in sales and discuss how you will share this with your classmates who lack such experience in a particular professional club you are interested in where the sales function typically becomes important in later stages of a career (tManagement consulting for example).

 

 

Additional Question (required for all Reapplicants):

  • 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)*

 

First for reapplicants, an effective answer here will do the following:

1. Showcase what has changed since your last application that now makes you a better candidate.

2. Refine your goals. I think it is reasonable that they may have altered since your last application, but if the change is extreme, you had better explain why.

3. Make a better case for why Wharton is right for you.

For more about reapplication, please see “A guide to my resources for reapplicants.”

 

*First-time applicants may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)”

Second, for addressing any extenuating circumstances: As with the school’s other optional question, do not put an obvious essay for another school here. If you read the above, it should be clear enough that this is the place to explain anything negative or potentially negative in your background. If you have no explanation for something negative, don’t bother writing about it. For example if your GPA is 2.9 and you have no good explanation for why it is 2.9, don’t bother writing something that looks like a lame excuse. This is more likely to hurt than help you. In the same vein, don’t waste the committee’s time telling them that your GMAT is a much better indicator than your GPA (the opposite is also true). They have heard it before and they will look at both scores and can draw their own conclusions without you stating the obvious. That said, if you have a good explanation for a bad GPA, you should most certainly write about it. In addition to GMAT/GRE, TOEFL, and GPA problems, other possible topics include issues related to recommendations, serious gaps in your resume, concerns related to a near total lack of extracurricular activities, and  major issues in your personal/professional life that you really think the admissions office needs to know about.

 

Best of luck with your Wharton application!

-Adam Markus



-Adam Markus

I am a graduate admissions consultant who works with clients worldwide. If you would like to arrange an initial consultation, please complete my intake form. Please don't email me any essays, other admissions consultant's intake forms, your life story, or any long email asking for a written profile assessment. The only profiles I assess are those with people who I offer initial consultations to. Please note that initial consultations are not offered when I have reached full capacity or when I determine that I am not a good fit with an applicant.

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