Our Thoughts on Wharton’s MBA Application Essays for 2015-2016

Wharton AdmissionsApplication season at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business is officially underway with the release of the school’s 2015-2016 MBA admission essay questions. Let’s discuss from a high level some early thoughts on how best to approach these new essay prompts. There is only one required essay question this year, but an additional “optional” essay that candidates should strongly consider addressing is also presented.


Essay 1:

What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

A very similar essay to last year’s returns from the Wharton School. This is a classic “Why School X”/“Career Goals” question but with a little Wharton twist. The biggest trap in this prompt is to treat this question like the typical school fit variety. I caution against simply repurposing responses to similar questions from other schools. This question implores candidates to address not only the professional fit with Wharton but also the personal fit.

Breakthrough candidates will utilize a very personal narrative that uniquely captures the essence of why Wharton is the ideal fit for the applicant’s development goals. Wharton is looking for specifics here so avoid general statements that could be harbored by any candidate. This is your chance to connect 1 to 1 with the Admissions Committee, so do not waste this opportunity. The personal element is what makes this question a bit more unique, particularly since many applicants tend to struggle with the personal, more holistic side of the application process.

Really take a future-oriented approach to this essay and think of how the Wharton MBA is uniquely positioned to help you achieve these personal and professional goals. Don’t limit your response to just what things you can gain from Wharton – make sure to also share what elements you bring to the student community as well.

Essay 2 (Optional): 

Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy? (400 words)

Another dreaded “open ended” prompt from an elite program, and to complicate your application, this essay is technically an “optional” one. My first recommendation is to avoid treating this like an optional essay in two key ways:

The first, answer the question! With limited opportunities to tell your story in the Wharton application process, the chance to share additional details should not be missed.  The second, do not approach the response to this question as you would a typical optional essay – avoid discussions about low GPAs or gaps in employment in lieu of a well-developed, concrete essay response.

When contemplating topic selections here in Essay 2, consider focusing on topics that will round out the perception of your candidacy. This essay should offer additional information to showcase the candidate as a “360 degrees” applicant, so avoid any previously mentioned information that may live elsewhere in the application and put this additional real estate to use!

Just a few thoughts on the new essays from Wharton, hopefully this will help you get started. For more thoughts on Wharton essays and deadlines, check out another post here.

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Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants. You can read more of his articles here