Wharton MBA Essay Questions & Tips

Applying to the Wharton MBA program? If so, you’ve likely begun thinking about how to approach the Wharton MBA essay questions. You’ve come to the right place. Read on for the Wharton MBA essay questions and tips to ensure your responses are as strong as possible.

Wharton MBA Essay Questions

  1. How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words)
  2. Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)

Wharton MBA Essay Tips

The Wharton essay prompts are direct and allow enough word count to paint a robust picture of who you are and why Wharton is right for you (and vice versa). As such, this application can be a good one to tackle early in the process. The deadlines are also early in each round, which lends additional credence to this approach.

While the Wharton essay questions read as fairly straightforward, don’t let them lead you down the path of writing bland essays. Run of the mill essays do nothing to help you stand out from the sea of applications Wharton receives. Additionally, despite the generous word count, you will absolutely need to be strategic about what you include – and don’t.


Your Career Goals Are the ‘Anchor’ For Essay One

When it comes to the first essay, the critical thing to keep in mind is that all of your content should be ‘anchored’ by your short- and long-term career goals. If you haven’t given robust thought to these and done your due diligence to ensure they are sound, now is the time to do so.

Once you have defined and refined your career goals, you need to think backwards and forwards. By thinking backwards, we’re encouraging you to think about the formative experiences that led you to your post-MBA career goals. Perhaps in your work as a consultant you were staffed on a healthcare project that opened your eyes to how complex yet exciting the healthcare industry can be. This sparked your interest in shifting to a strategy role within a healthcare company where you can make a lasting impact on the industry and those it touches. Tell this story so the adcom can really feel your passion and the authenticity behind your goals.

By thinking forwards, we’re recommending that you think very specifically about the skills you need to build to be successful in your target career. Then, research and describe the unique elements of Wharton’s program that will help you to build them. If the examples you cite are offered by other business schools, they are not specific enough to make a compelling argument as to why Wharton will best position you for success. Getting this part right takes work and that is exactly why it matters.

Focus Essay Two on Being a ‘Giver’ Not a ‘Taker’

When it comes to the second essay, take a cue from what Wharton professor extraordinaire Adam Grant’s concept of ‘givers and takers’. Whereas the ‘why Wharton’ section of the first essay can cover what you will ‘take’ from the experience, this essay should focus on the ways in which you will be a ‘giver’ while at Wharton and even after graduation. A giver ‘…[looks] to help others by making an introduction, giving advice, providing mentoring, or sharing knowledge, without any strings attached.’

To be in a position to ‘give’, you need to have a unique knowledge base, personality trait, or past experience from which others will benefit. This is the crux of the essay. It is, first and foremost, the place to share what distinguishes you from other applicants. Because the first essay is so career focused, we urge clients to write about something personal here.

For example, a past client discussed how she would use the determination that had helped her overcome personal challenges to motivate her peers in Wharton Women in Business. She went on to describe a specific area of programming she would bring to the club that tied in with some of the personal challenges she had conquered. The essay was strategic, specific, and thoughtful (and it was successful in earning her an acceptance with full scholarship).

Structure Ideas

Note: In some cases, the topic noted under a single paragraph below may span two or even three paragraphs, but, topically, the below lays out a good flow.

For Essay 1, we recommend a structure somewhat like this:

P1: Directly and concisely share your short-term and long-term career goals
P2: Share a story that explains the ‘why’ behind your goals
P3-5: Describe 3ish key “things” you want to get out of the Wharton MBA to support those goals

For Essay 2, we recommend a structure somewhat like this:

P1: Introduce the ‘unique contribution’ you will bring to Wharton and preview how you will use it to benefit others
P2: Share the ‘origin’ of this contribution (i.e., what experience or person/people helped you to develop it)
P3: Forward-looking discussion of ~two specific ways you will leverage your ‘unique contribution’ to ‘give’ to the Wharton community while you are on campus or after you have graduated

We hope these frameworks and structure ideas are helpful as you work to differentiate yourself and demonstrate the amazing mark you are prepared to leave on the Wharton community.

If you’d like assistance with your Wharton essays or your broader MBA application strategy, click here to schedule an initial consultation!

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