University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Essay Analysis, 2016–2017

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Manhattan Prep GMAT Blog - University of Pennsylvania Wharton School Essay Analysis, 2016-2017How can you write essays that grab the attention of MBA admissions committees? With this thorough analysis, our friends at mbaMission help you conceptualize your essay ideas and understand how to execute, so that your experiences truly stand out. You do not need to be actively working on a $5 billion deal or have won an Olympic gold medal to go to HBS. You just need to have done the everyday things remarkably well, and you must make sure that your essays reflect your actions.


By today’s standards, the essay questions for the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania are remarkably vast. The school presents candidates with two mandatory essays and, if needed, an optional essay that applicants can use to address any extenuating circumstances. Wharton provides applicants with a fairly extensive opportunity to tell their whole story, which is quite rare these days. So take advantage of it! Brainstorm thoroughly before you start writing, and carefully consider how to optimize your best anecdotes to showcase yourself in full.

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

In many ways, this prompt is asking for a typical MBA personal statement. In a mere 500 words, you must discuss your career goals—giving very brief context for why they are realistic for you—and then reveal how Wharton will help you pursue these goals by demonstrating a thorough understanding of what the school offers and a well-thought-out game plan for immersing yourself in the Wharton experience. To effectively do this, you must first familiarize yourself with the school’s various resources and pinpoint those that truly pertain to you and the direction in which you hope to go. Simply presenting a list of classes that you think sound interesting is not sufficient. Likewise, avoid vague statements about how great the school is. Focus on showing a clear connection between your aspirations, what you need to achieve them, and what Wharton in particular offers that will enable you to fulfill those needs.

A subtle tweak to this essay prompt that distinguishes it from last year’s is that Wharton asks applicants to address only the professional aspect—no longer both the professional and personal aspect—of their business school aspirations. This will allow you to share your career-related stories and goals much more fully, which means you can and should use the other essays to discuss non-work aspects of your life and thereby provide a more complete and well-rounded picture of yourself for the admissions committee.

Because personal statements are generally similar from one application to the next, we have produced the mbaMission Personal Statement Guide, which helps applicants write this style of essay for any school. We offer this guide to candidates free of charge. Please feel free to download your copy today.

Required 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)  

So, is this question about teamwork or about contribution? Although we see nothing wrong with relating some of your team-related experiences in your essay, what the admissions committee is really interested in learning is what you can contribute to a team—and these are not necessarily the same thing. You can contribute to the Wharton community and culture in many different ways. For example, perhaps you have specialized knowledge you could offer your Wharton Learning Team that would provide context in analyzing certain business problems and cases. Maybe you have a character trait that has enabled you to bring people together in past communities, such as a good sense of humor or even strong listening skills. You might even have specific experience that pertains directly to a club you would like to lead or join.

We can think of almost limitless examples, and the ones we have offered here are possibly even a bit banal, because the key to being effective with this essay is to really own your proffered contribution by sharing your unique personal stories and then relating them to specific resources at Wharton. We suspect that many applicants will discuss a certain trait or skill and then end their essay with a platitude like “And I will bring this skill to Wharton for the betterment of all.” To create a truly strong and compelling essay, you must convincingly show that you fully understand the Wharton experience and are prepared to make a distinct and personal contribution.

And for a thorough exploration of Wharton’s academic program/merits, defining characteristics, crucial statistics, social life, academic environment, and other key features, check out the mbaMission Insider’s Guide to the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Reapplicant Essay: All reapplicants to Wharton are required to complete this essay. 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)

All applicants, including reapplicants can also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

If you are a Wharton reapplicant, this essay is pretty straightforward. Whether you have improved your academic record, received a promotion, begun a new and exciting project, increased your community involvement, or taken on some sort of personal challenge, the key to success with this essay is conveying a very deliberate path of achievement. Wharton wants to know that you have been actively striving to improve yourself and your profile, and that you have seized opportunities during the previous year to do so, because a Wharton MBA is vital to you. The responses to this essay question will vary greatly from one candidate to the next, because each person’s needs and experiences differ. We are more than happy to provide one-on-one assistance with this highly personal essay to ensure that your efforts over the past year are presented in the best light possible.

However, if you are not a Wharton reapplicant, pay special attention to the last line of this prompt: All applicants, including reapplicants can also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. Here is your opportunity—if needed—to address any lingering questions that an admissions officer might have about your candidacy, such as a poor grade or overall GPA, a low GMAT score, or a gap in your work experience. In our mbaMission Optional Essays Guide, available through our online store, we offer detailed advice on when and how to take advantage of the optional essay (along with multiple sample essays) to help you mitigate any problem areas in your profile.

The Next Step—Mastering Your Wharton Interview

Many MBA candidates find admissions interviews stressful and intimidating, but mastering this important element of the application process is definitely possible—the key is informed preparation. And to help you achieve this high level of preparation, mbaMission offers free Interview Primers! Download your free copy of The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania Interview Primer today and be sure to check out our one-of-a-kind Wharton Team-Based Discussion Simulation Sessions.


mbaMission is the leader in MBA admissions consulting with a full-time and comprehensively trained staff of consultants, all with profound communications and MBA experience. mbaMission has helped thousands of candidates fulfill their dream of attending prominent MBA programs around the world. Take your first step toward a more successful MBA application experience with a free 30-minute consultation with one of mbaMission’s senior consultants. Sign up today at www.mbamission.com/manhattangmat.

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