How To Answer The Wharton MBA Essays

The Wharton MBA essays may be short, but your answers are no less important than for Harvard and Stanford. The Wharton MBA essay questions just force you to fit everything that makes you a great MBA candidate in a much smaller space! There’s a lot to keep track of, so Angela Guido is here to break down what makes a great Wharton MBA essay answer, why, and guide you to writing awesome essays of your own.

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In the Harvard application, the admissions committee is judging your ability to think clearly and think for yourself. Stanford, on the other hand, is judging your self-knowledge, your awareness of your own values. I wonder what Warton is gauging in the application? Stay tuned to this MBA Monday to find out.

Hello, I'm Angela Guido, the founder of Career Protocol, and today I'm talking about the Wharton MBA application essays. The Wharton MBA application essays present a unique challenge, especially for those applicants who are also applying to Harvard and Stanford, where the questions are a lot more spacious and a lot more open-ended, and give you a lot more creative freedom to show the admissions committee who you really are. Just because the Wharton essays are much briefer and more circumscribed doesn't mean you don't have to show them who you are. It's still your job to make sure that the admissions committee of every school you apply to really understands who you are as a person. And Wharton poses a very unique challenge on that dimension because on the surface, they have exactly two essays. One is 500 words and the other is 400 words. They're both very concise and very well circumscribed. Question number one is “How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals?”, and question number two is “Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and or academic, how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community?”. You see how both of these questions are really focused on your connection with Wharton. They wanna know how you see your life unfolding as a member of their community.

4 Tips On Answering the Wharton Essay Questions

  1. So the first tip, when you're approaching the Wharton Essays is, number one, do a ton of research and do it before you even sit down to write the essays. You basically have to fall in love with this program before you can even begin to put together a decent set of essays. So get to know the school, the programs, the professors, the clubs, the extracurricular activities, figure out all the ways that you are going to grow and learn and contribute at Warton before you sit down to write. Get inspired by your life at Warton before you sit down to outline and create your essence. That's tip number one.
  2. Tip number two is to think very carefully, both in a visionary way and in a strategic and tactical way about your future. I like to think that Harvard is again, really gauging critical and free thinking. Stanford is gauging values. Wharton is gauging your ability to envision and create a future. They're looking for futurists. Recently they've kind of rebranded the program and centering on innovation. They're trying to become known for being the most innovative program across the board of all MBA programs. So it's only natural that their questions are going to target your ability to project yourself into the future and show them that you can think strategically, tactically, credibly, but also innovatively about the future you're trying to create. So don't neglect your career game plan. We have a ton of videos on our channel about how to put together your career game plan, but that's going to be very core and essential to your Wharton applications. It is the centerpiece of essay one, and it even needs to make sense as you write essay two. You'll be talking about the activities, the contributions that you want to make that both leverage your past experiences and the future you're creating. So if you're planning to go into management consulting, for example, you might talk about the ways in which you're going to contribute to the Management Consulting Club in essay two. You want to be tactical but really focused on the future.
  3. Tip number three is to not get so blinded by the future that you forget to include your past in the essays. So it's really tempting to just jump into essay one, talking about your career game plan and how Wharton is going to help you achieve that. And indeed, that is essential to answering that essay question. But they also give you the opportunity to address a little bit of where you've come from so far. They even say that in the supporting text, they say “You might consider past experience, short and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton.”, and I really encourage you to make a very strategic choice between either essay one or essay two, and possibly both. If you've been applying to other schools, you've developed a set of stories that really define you. Those moments in your past experience that changed your values, or that helped you understand what really mattered to you, or that catapulted your growth in a major way because you are recovering from a huge setback or learning from experience. So if you've written any other essays, you've already probably cultivated your favorite stories, the three or four stories that are nearest and dear to your heart. So look for opportunities to include those in either essay one or essay two or both. So the future is the key to your Wharton essays, but your future is conditioned on who you are today, which is evidenced by who you've been in the past. So this is really going to take some wordsmithing because if you wrote the Harvard essay, as you probably know, I believe the Harvard essay has literally no limit as long as you're being concise and engaging, you can write as much as you want. In Wharton, you can only write 500 words. And you even have to copy and paste it into a text box, which cuts it off at 500 words. So you really, really have to be concise. So finding a way to include your favorite stories in those really tight word limits, it's just a completely different challenge from most of the other schools you're applying to. And Wharton does this because they're trying to understand how well you can make a case for your future, leveraging only critical details about your past experiences. If you think about what it means to be innovative, it's actually not based on the past, it's based on envisioning something new with just a little bit of tidbits of what you already know and where you've come from. So make sure that you're not omitting the chance to show your most important stories, to reveal aspects of who you are vis-à-vis showing who you've been through stories, but you're just going to have to be really concise about it, and you have to make sure that it flows really well together with everything else that you're saying in essay one and essay two. Wharton will not take kindly to copy and pasting a Kellogg essay and then tacking Warton on at the end, they will not like it if you just Frankenstein your Harvard essay into something that makes no sense, and then talk about your goals at Wharton. You really have to approach the Warton essays freshly and newly, with the intention of giving them what they really want, which is a sense of who you are and where you're going.
  4. Final tip for the Wharton essay is to think very carefully about that optional essay. So unlike most schools, where they very clearly outline an optional essay that's meant only to address weaknesses, low GRE score, strange choice of recommenders, gap in employment, Wharton gives you the opportunity to address those aspects of your candidacy in the optional essay, but the way the optional essay is worded, it actually gives you space to say whatever you genuinely want to say. The wording says “Please use this space to share any additional information about yourself that cannot be found elsewhere in your application, and that you would like to share with the admission committee.”. They then go on to say that you can also use it to address extenuating circumstances. So by this wording, they're signaling very clearly that if you want to use that extra essay to tell a story or to share your values, or to talk about an experience that isn't adequately covered in the essays or the resume. You have that space to do that. In our experience, about 20% to 25% of clients really actually need that extra space. There's something about them, something about their experience, that is so important to convey and it can't be captured in those brief two essays, that they really need that extra space to tell that story. But I want to advise you to be very judicious in thinking about that optional essay because most of you don't need it. Most of you will present an even stronger candidacy if you can show Wharton the key aspects of who you are in those two main essays and call it quits after that, because indeed, this is part of what they're gauging is, can you package yourself? Can you show a polished profile in a tight space? That's part of what they're looking for. But let's take, for example, a story of how you came to be who you are through a long series of events that shaped you. Or a really important extracurricular experience that just can't really fit because it's too big and too subtle to be crammed into the roughly 200 words or so you would have to talk about it in essay two, and you really need the space, because if you don't include that story, the admissions committee will not be able to make a fair decision on your candidacy because they're missing a key piece of information. If that's the case for you, then go ahead and use that optional essay to tell that story. But make sure that you write the story for Wharton. Don't copy and paste a Kellogg essay. Don't copy and paste “What matters most and why?” and cut it down a little bit. Really think about how do you need to tell your story to complement the other two essays that you've already written, to show that extra dimension of yourself to Wharton?

Content and How to Prepare

In terms of the content of the questions, Yale this year is being a little bit more cloak and dagger. They're not giving you any insight into what the questions are. In years past, they've been everything ranging from behavioral questions to questions about active live, social, and political issues to sort of fun quirky questions like “If you could go back to any point in history, where would you go?”. They're trying to put you through a range of questions so that they can see how you think and how you communicate at a variety of different levels.

Kellogg is actually doing exactly the same thing, but they're being a bit more transparent about the questions that you're going to be asked this year. You're going to have three questions for your Kellogg video essays.

  1. The first one is “Please introduce yourself to the admissions committee.”. So, you're going to have a few seconds to prepare, then the camera will start filming. You will have 60 seconds to give your answer, and then the camera will shut off. So you want to make sure that you're ready to answer that question within 60 seconds and so don't plan an answer that's 90 seconds because it will just get cut off. So in this first question, it says, “Consider this your opportunity to share what you would want your future Kellogg classmates and our admissions committee to know about you. What makes you, you?”. I'm not even going to give you a lot of advice on this content because you should really just trust yourself. Keep it simple. Say just a few things. In 60 seconds, you can't say a lot of things. My best advice is not to memorize a script. Do not write it out fully, neither by hand, nor typing. Instead, plan three or four bullet points that you want to get across in that amount of time. The three or four most important things that you want to convey. Practice with that bulleted list spontaneously a few times, possibly chatting with a friend, possibly chatting with a friend on Zoom or on Skype, and then just be ready to improvise based on your rough outline in terms of whatever it is that you want to say about yourself to the admissions committee and your future classmates. So don't overthink it. Just keep it simple. Talk about yourself and improvise.
  2. Second question, “What path are you interested in pursuing, how will you get there and why is this program right for you?”. So interestingly, Kellogg is putting their personal statement into a 60 second video essay format. This is really the only place in the application where they directly ask you: Why Kellogg? How are you going to use Kellogg to get ahead? Why is Kellogg the right fit for you? This is the only place where they asked that point blank. So this question is really, really important and you really want to prepare for this. 60 seconds is not a long time so again, you're going to be able to cover at most three or four bullet points. So do a little bit of research, come up with an answer that feels compelling and inspiring to you, include a discussion of your goals and why you're passionate about that, and then the rest is going to be about Kellogg. And so again, have a thoughtful answer here. Go beyond the basics, but don't memorize it. Improvise it. Have the points, practice, etc. I'm going to be a broken record on that one because so many people ignore this advice. They try to memorize it. And when you memorize something, you come across, not as you. You come across as just a little bit stilted, a little bit robotic, and neither of those looks are a good look for Kellogg. Kellogg is a really warm, vivacious, you know on average, extroverted community style. It's a student-led community. So all of the student groups, a lot of the career services even, are led by your peers. It's a group of people who love to be together, who love to collaborate. It's like a team spirit kind of place. Robots, stilted, awkwardness is not a good fit. So don't memorize. Again, just be yourself on camera improvising your well thought out answer to number two. 
  3. And then question number three is going to be a question about a challenge you've faced. This is almost certainly going to take the form of a behavioral question. Tell us about a time you overcame a challenge. Tell us about a time you faced a conflict in a team. Tell us about a time you got a negative piece of feedback and how you recovered. So, you're going to see this when we get into Interview week. That behavioral questions are huge in many MBA application interviews, and on average, to really do justice to a behavioral question, you need at least 2 minutes. Kellogg is only giving you 60 seconds here. So this is a question that, in our experience, is the hardest one for our clients to answer because they have to kind of cram quite a bit into a very small space. So, to prepare for this question – because you don't know how they're going to phrase it – it's really important that you not plan a specific answer, because if the framing of the question is different, you will be totally thrown off. You will have to quickly reframe the answer while you're talking or you'll give an answer that doesn't fit the question, which again reflects really badly on your communication skills. So think through two or three or four challenges that you faced in your career and then think about a couple of bullet points as it relates to each of those challenges. Those bullet points are: What was the situation? (You guys know the S.T.A.R framework.) What was the task in front of you? How did you overcome it? And then what was the happy ending? So just think through that and then for each of your challenges, make sure that you've got those details vividly in your mind and then improvise a few times to make sure that you're able to kind of tell the story within 60 seconds and then really show up for the video essay ready to improvise, because again, you don't know exactly how that question is going to be framed and a lot of what Kellogg really wants to see is how you're able to communicate when you're not fully prepared. That's going to give them a sense of your personality. So have fun with it. Smile. Enjoy the answer. The last thing you want to do is come across as a deer in headlights. That's not going to help you for Kellogg. Not a good look. And have fun with the answer.

Okay! See, I didn't get into Wharton. This is one of our longest MBA Mondays ever, because I'm not that great at being concise. I was waitlisted at Wharton, though. In fact, I'm still on the waitlist. It's like a joke among my whole community that I'm still just waiting to get off the Wharton waitlist. Okay, different story. Point is, those are your four tips. See, I even went over my usual three. Four tips for answering the Wharton essays. It's an amazing program. If you get invited to interview, you're in for a brand new, fascinating challenge with the team-based discussion. Wharton is truly trailblazing an innovative MBA application process so, you can do it! I'll see you next week.

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Angela Guido

Student of Human Nature| Founder and
Chief Education Officer of Career Protocol

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