Wharton Admissions Essays for 2009-2010

Several weeks ago Wharton released its application deadlines for the coming admissions season. Now, the school has released its admissions essays for the coming year. If you plan on applying to Wharton, even if you don’t start working on your essays for a couple of months, we recommend that you at least review them now to familiarize yourself with the subject matter you will need to cover in your Wharton application.

Wharton’s essays are below, and our comments follow in italics.

Wharton Application Essays

  1. As a leader in global business, Wharton is committed to sustaining “a truly global presence through its engagement in the world.” What goals are you committed to and why? How do you envision the Wharton MBA contributing to the attainment of those goals? (750 – 100 words)

    (This is a new essay question for Wharton this year, although, at its core, it’s still looking for you to to describe why you want an MBA, and why a Wharton MBA specifically will help you in your career. In this way, it’s very similar to other schools’ “Why MBA? Why this school?” questions. However, note the emphasis that the school has placed on “global business” and “engagement in the world.” This isn’t a sign that you need to have international or multi-cultural experience in order to be a fit with Wharton, but the school is clearly looking for applicants that can frame their experiences and goals in a global context, and who plan on engaging in the communities around them.)

  2. Tell us about a time when you had to adapt by accepting/understanding the perspective of people different from yourself. (750 – 1,000 words)

    (This is also a new question this year. It is another hint that the school seeks a great deal of diversity in its applicant pool, and wants students who will thrive in this environment. Don’t let this question intimidate you if you feel that your global experiences are minimal — any situation where you accomplished something by working with someone who has a different background or outlook than you is fair game. That can include someone’s personal beliefs, cultural background, professional experience, or academic background. An applicant’s tendency here will be to automatically go for the most obvious case of a cultural or language barrier, but it’s more important that you can make clear why the situation was challenging, what you did to overcome it, and — hopefully — how you were successful.)

  3. Describe a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself? (500 words)

    (This question carries over from last year. 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.)

  4. Choose one of the following: (500 words)

    - Give us a specific example of a time when you solved a complex problem.

    - Tell us about something significant that you have done to improve yourself, in either your professional and/or personal endeavors.

    (Both of these essay choices are new this year. The first question gives you the opportunity to take the reader through how you broke down the problem at hand, whether it was an analytical problem or an organizational challenge. The word “complex” will often take people down the path of a story that shows off their analytical abilities, but think broadly about the definition of this word. A story about how you overcame multiple organizational or cultural challenges to achieve something is also fair game. The second question gives you another opportunity to demonstrate self-awareness and a commitment to self-improvement. One example of a good essay here is a story of how you overcame tremendous odds to better yourself at a particular task or skill.)

  5. If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words)

    (As we always tell applicants, it’s tempting to use this type of question as an opportunity to pour out a list of excuses for weaknesses in one’s background. Avoid this temptation, and only use it if you must address a glaring weakness in your application. Address it, explain what happened, and move on.)

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