Breaking Down the New Wharton Essays - 2012/2013

The new Wharton essays are out, candidates are stressed, and in reality its going to be one of the easier applications to deal with this year from a strategic standpoint.  In other words, it’s exactly like the last three years.

We’ve taken to calling it the Wharton Weave – the art of taking the usual tenants of a career goals question and weaving them throughout an entire (and superficially tough) Wharton application.

In the Summer of 2010, we found that our clients were really stressed and somewhat confounded by the tiny Required Essay of 300 words that asked for professional objectives.  We walked them through how to use the Create a Class essay to place parts of a typical goals essay and the result was a series of really clear, strong essays.

Last year, Wharton must have decided that A) they were making their admissions officers read too many words, and B) the Create a Class concept was not being as deftly handled by the majority of applicants.  So out with last year’s optional choices and in with a new set – from which candidates could choose two of three.  And in with even more confusion.

This year, they have done it again – slightly altering the goals question (up to 400 words, includes the “why Wharton” part) and completely shuffling up the three “choice” essays.  It’s enough to make a candidate want to give up.

Luckily, we have the Wharton Weave solution.

It starts with understanding what must go in a traditional career goals essay.  We don’t mind sharing the secret sauce on this because we’ve posted it all before and share it on consult calls anyway.  But a rock solid career goals essay in a typical 600-1000 word setup will need to feature the following:

WHAT (defined goals)

WHY (the motivator behind an MBA and especially the long-term goal)

HOW (the proof that you can get the post-MBA jobs by pointing to transferable skills – we’ve written about this at length)

WHEN (why now is the right time)

WHERE (why School X)

For instance, a good Columbia Essay #1 includes all of that, in that exact order, in five balanced paragraphs.  In many applications though, parts of that sequence have to be farmed out to other essays.  Wharton – and its 400-word goals statement – is the ultimate example.

So here is where everything goes:

Required Question (400 words) – How will Wharton help you achieve your professional objectives?   


WHAT – Define your goals.

HOW – Indicate the experiences that have given rise to the necessary transferable skills to achieve them.

WHERE – Why Wharton.

Optional Question 1 -  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. (500 words)

This is where you reinforce Why Wharton, but, more importantly, explain WHY you are pursuing an MBA and devoting yourself to your life-long goals (which were stated in Essay 1).  As you would (or should, at least) in Stanford’s Essay 1-2 sequence, be sure to tether your strongest interests and passions to what you are declaring as your long-term goal.

Optional Questions 2 and 3 (500 words) - 

2. Imagine your work obligations for the afternoon were cancelled and you found yourself “work free” for three hours, what would you do? (500 words)

3. “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. (500 words)

These questions go together because they are the truly optional piece, in our opinion.  Essay 2 is a fluff ball of a question that we don’t particularly love, while Essay 3 stems from the same structure as the “innovation” question from last year (using a Dean Robertson quote, advertising Wharton tenants within, etc.).  Whichever you choose, this is your chance to explain WHY NOW for an MBA.  If you were to follow our blueprint throughout, there won’t be another shot to address the timing issue, so the best use of this space is to pick a story that can be concluded with a realization of sorts – “what I learned from this experience is that now is the time to pursue my MBA” or “in fact, the very idea of three free hours to explore who I am and what I am all about is further proof that I am ready to embark on this MBA adventure.”  That kind of language can transition you out of the specific essay prompt and into a broader commentary on why now is the right time.

We hope this helps all of you aspiring Wharton candidates out there.  Good luck!

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