The Wharton School is considered by many to be the best business school in the world. Unlike many of its competitors in the top then, however, Wharton is one of the few business schools which has both an undergraduate and a graduate business program, essentially doubling its resources. Here are three other reasons why Wharton is so well respected…
This post is going to feel like its about Wharton, but its not - not really. I'm prompted to write it because of Wharton, but it is about a larger issue, which is whether or not you should have a takeaway when you see that an MBA program is going all in on its marketing. Should you read into it or ignore it? And if you do search out some meaning, is it is good or bad thing when a business school suddenly seems to have hired a new marketing whiz who knows how to game the headlines? Let's dive in.
Trying something new for Mondays, which is to pass along my favorite MBA resource that I found that weekend. It's a good way to start the week, a way to get great tools out into the MBA community, and, quite frankly, a good for me to remember these items myself so I can show them to future candidates and corporate clients.
Today's Resource is the Knowledge@Wharton podcast.
Normally, once the fireworks go off on the 4th of July, that's our signal to start digging into the apps in earnest, as "October" Round 1 deadlines are a few months away. However, in recent years, the deadlines keep getting earlier and earlier. I know I had to really reset my own calendar given these changes, so I figured I'd do a public service and list them out here, calling special attention to the front-loaded nature of the deadlines.
Entering 2015 school year, Duke Fuqua comes out on top when it comes to sending MBA graduates (as a percentage of all graduates in 2014) into the pharmaceutical, biotech and healthcare industries - 9% of its graduating class get jobs in these industries. Dartmouth Tuck, Wharton and MIT Sloan hold their own, coming in at 2nd, 3rd and 4th best.
It's time to cover Wharton, as it looks like I've locked myself into a pattern of covering every school's set of essays. The common response to Wharton's new essay set (one of which is required, one is optional) is "another case of schools shrinking this essays!" This is technically true, as the total words went from either 1,000 to 900 (if you use the Optional) or from 1,000 to 500 (if you don't). However, the next leap is almost always "as schools continue to try to make things easier for applicants." I'm sorry, I simply don't buy that line of reasoning. Almost everyone who truly knows admissions knows that fewer words makes things harder, not easier. This is because it requires confidence and clarity to approach such a task, it requires concise and structured writing to execute it, and it makes it far less likely that you will "accidentally" come up with something great, just by virtue of spewing out words. Now, it might be a byproduct of the essay shrinking that it's easier on the readers or that a few people might (mistakenly) think it's easier to apply, but I highly doubt that is the intent.
Amerasia's Adam Hoff lays down his opinion on Booth versus Wharton in an article by Poets & Quants author John Byrne.
“Chicago and it’s not close. Reasons: I believe that we are only now seeing the full force of Ted Snyder’s run there (and that we will see the same trail at Yale over time). I believe he might be the best graduate school dean of my lifetime, so it’s no surprise that Chicago has a massive up arrow next to it in my mind."
It is not often that we make any major strategic adjustments from Rd 1 to Rd 2 with any of the schools, because once we have them pegged, they don't tend to move around that much. However, we are issuing a Public Service Announcement today to Wharton Round 2 applicants: proceed with caution when it comes to laying out your post-MBA plans. If your goal is even remotely hard to achieve, we strongly advise reconsidering that goal as it relates to your Wharton application. Let us explain.
How should you begin to construct your candidacy? That is, how would you begin to think about where you stack up relative to an MBA programs themes -- thus showing fit with the school. As we know, the primary place to demonstrate this fit is through a school's essay questions. I have created a simple visualization that demonstrates how you would approach aligning your background with a school's specific essays. In the following graphic, I use "Wharton" as an example. However, the "career goals", "failure" and "significant accomplishment" essays illustrated below are representative of many top MBA programs (in a not necessarily specific to Wharton.)
[caption id="attachment_186" align="alignnone" width="600" caption="MBA Program Essay Map"][/caption]
So what are you looking at above?
The schools essays are represented by the colored circles and the numbers one, two and three. for this representative school, essay number one is a career goals essay. If you move from right to left, you will see that this career goals essay should incorporate the following elements -- short and long-term goals, current and past work experiences, your values/norms/beliefs, why MBA/why this program/why now? if you continue to move from right to left, you will see the elements that make up each item. For example, your values/norms/beliefs will incorporate elements of your family, personal and academic histories. Constructing this type of map visualization for each program or essay type will definitely help you think about all the elements that make up a successful candidacy.
Please keep in mind, that the above visualization is merely an example. For example, if you are constructing a career goals essay, some schools do not want you to delve into any sort of personal leaf system or values. They simply want you to state your short and long-term goals. This is why you have to read each essay prompt very carefully. Reference the following career goals example:
Haas asks this --
What are your post-MBA short-term and long-term career goals? How do your professional experiences relate to these goals? How will an MBA from Berkeley help you achieve these specific career goals? (1000 word maximum)
Meanwhile, Wharton asks this --
What are your professional objectives? (300 words)
So what is the deal? The first thing to notice is the difference in word count, along with the relative complexity of each question. Haas wants you to delve into your background, your values/norms/beliefs and how they have taken shape at your workplace, both past and present. They also want you to sell them on your knowledge of the school in this essay. This is a lot of information from one essay. If you stop and think about it, this is why it is a 1000 word essay. I would personally suggest using 500 words of it to describe your goals, 250 words to describe how your professional experiences provide a meaningful and even personal justification for pursuing these goals, and the remaining 250 words to sell Berkeley on how you fit the program. That is, the last 250 words should be dedicated to demonstrating what you bring to the table, using the school's programs and courses as a conduit.
On the other hand, Wharton just wants you to get to the point. This is a simple exercise in stating your long and then short-term goals (or vice versa.) So it makes sense that this type of very direct question prompt would only require 300 words. You do not need to overtly sell Wharton on what you know about the school or how bad you want to go there. Keep in mind that your choice of relevant career goals covertly sells the Wharton admissions committee on whether or not you are a fit (or even have a clue as to what the school can do for you.)
Overall, this type of brainstorming and mapping should be one of the first steps you engage in as an applicant applying to business school. Your map does not have to be as complicated as the above. Maybe you write it on the back of an envelope or maybe you construct PowerPoint, nonetheless it is a very valuable exercise.
If you need help constructing your candidacy and applying to business school – either comprehensively or just stress testing your essays to make sure they hit the mark – email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to set up your complimentary consultation. The arms race for consulting help usually starts in April for Round 1 of the next year, but the best value is probably right now. You can get more distance from the field by doing your homework early and the quality of your preliminary work will make a huge difference when it comes time to hit submit.
The row about Wharton's new behavioral interview questions is mostly bullshit.
- Tell me about a time when you worked in a group to complete a task, which required you to consider the opinions or feelings of others.
- This is what I tell my clients.
- This is a leadership question that asks you to detail a story.
- Story answers always follow this (trademarked) format - SCARA - Situation, Complication, Actions, Results, Applicability
- Hint: Leadership action means that you are leading other people - so you are in a team - being a good team leader requires considering and reconciling opposing opinions.
- Results are both quantitative and qualitative.
- See if you can take your answer and loop it back to the school.
- If you can't answer a question like this, with 3 to 4 examples, well then, we wouldn't have applied to Wharton ...
- Describe a time when you contributed to a team that didn't have a clear or appointed leader.
- This is what I tell my clients. See the above. Just tweak to cover a power vacuum where you stepped up.
- Every decent applicant should have an answer to this for every school. Think about it, chances are that you already answered this question (correctly) in your essays. It's not rocket science.
- Explain a time when your ideas were challenged, when you had to defend your opinion and/or approach.
- This is what I tell my clients. See question number one above.
- Mix this one up and provide an outside of work example - if you have not done so already.
- How would you describe your leadership style?
- Oh snap, this is basically question number 1.
- A good answer here means providing an example. The same example you could use for question number 1 above.
- The only tweak I would make is to use a Pyramid format, instead of SCARA format above.
- How would your colleagues describe you if you left the room?
- If you were the CEO of your company what would you do differently?
- Dizzamn, questions 2 and 3 here are remarkably similar to the "new" "behavioral" Wharton question 2 above. You can't fool me Wharton.
- For question 2 here - your colleagues would describe you as a leader who steps up to fill a power vacuum. Then they would provide an example - an example very, very similar to the one you would give in question 2 above.
- For question 3 here - you would talk about stepping up as a leader to make sure there was clear organization. Then you would provide an example - an example very, very similar to the one you would give in question 2 above.
- Please give me an example in which you exemplified leadership?
- Please describe a team situation that did not work?
- Questions 4 and 5 here can be answered by the example provided in question 3 above.