Wharton School of Business 2011-2012 Essay Reviews

The Wharton School of Business is certainly near and dear to the hearts of the founders of Admit Advantage having walked the halls of Huntsman Hall for two (very short) years.   Wharton is certainly known for their analytical bent, so make sure you highlight areas of your background and career where you have demonstrated analytical rigor.  The misconception about Wharton is that it is very competitive (internally), but the school is actually very team oriented (learning team in yr 1), so make sure you display your ability to work in teams.  Another major focus for Wharton is innovation, so be sure to address your creativity and innovation in one of your essays.
Essay 1 (300 words): What are your professional objectives?

This is the standard ST/LT goal question.  Clearly lay out your professional objectives providing the bridge between jobs and enough background to tell the story of why you are on that career path.

Admit Advantage: 300 words will force you to be clear and concise, which is the goal.  Give enough background to “take them through the story”, but focus on the career post business school.  You may also want to incorporate why you need business school to be able to achieve your professional goals.

Essays 2 and 3: Respond to 2 of the following 3 questions:

1. Reflect on a time when you turned down an opportunity. What was the thought process behind your decision? Would you make the same decision today? (600 words)

This is a behavioral question where the Wharton School of Business is looking to get into your head and understand your decision making process.  The general question really ties into your values and also exhibits your ability and willingness to make tough decisions (a critical skill in any good leader).

Admit Advantage: Be careful about highlighting a poor decision.  Learning about how you’ve made decisions historically, they will be able to project how you may make decisions post-MBA.  It’s OK to say that you might make a different decision today, especially if you have more perfect information that would have an impact on your decision, but the decision process should be sound.

2. Discuss a time when you faced a challenging interpersonal experience. How did you navigate the situation and what did you learn from it? (600 words)

This essay allows you to highlight perseverance and adaptation– critical components of strong leaders.  It may also show your maturity level depending on the choice and context of the experience.  Think about the interpersonal experience, the impact it made on your life and what you learned from it.

Admit Advantage: It should be clear if this will be an essay choice or not.  If it is, make sure to vividly paint the picture of the situation, so the admissions committee fully understands the challenge that it posed.  When addressing the impact, make sure that you articulate how it impacted you then and how that impact has carried over into who you are today.  Finally, be sure to discuss what you learned from it and how you’ve adapted your personality or approach based on the learning.

3. “Innovation is central to our culture at Wharton. It is a mentality that must encompass every aspect of the School – whether faculty research, teaching or alumni outreach.” – Thomas S. Robertson, Dean, The Wharton School


Keeping this component of our culture in mind, discuss a time when you have been innovative in your personal or professional life. (600 words)

Innovation can be exhibited in various settings, so don’t relegate yourself to a “new” venture or your professional life.  When you think about your example, however, ideally, you will have made a lasting impact through your innovation.

Admit Advantage: This is a good essay for someone who may not work in an industry that seems to lack innovation (sorry actuaries, and widget manufacturers).  It really gives you the opportunity to show the admissions committee that you bring a new way of thinking to an otherwise stagnant market.    Don’t forget that the best essays are where innovation meets impact.


Admit Advantage: This also provides an opportunity for you to demonstrate your team skills.  Can you think of a time where you inspired your team members through your innovative idea?   A stellar essay would intertwine innovation, influence, and teamwork into one solid essay – I’m tearing just thinking about it.


All reapplicants to Wharton are required to complete the Optional Essay.  Please use this space to explain how you have reflected on the previous decision on your application and to discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). You may also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)

Hopefully, you have reflected upon your last denial and have taken appropriate steps to address your weaknesses.  If you are unsure of your weaknesses from the last application, Admit Advantage has a ding analysis that will help you in that regard.  Read your previous application before addressing this question (Wharton Adcoms will be).

Admit Advantage: Make sure to address any weaknesses from before and how you’ve mitigated them.  In addition, provide any other general updates since the last application.  Keep the tone of the essay positive and keep it short –250 is an absolute maximum.


If you feel there are extenuating circumstances of which the Committee should be aware, please explain them here (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, or questionable academic performance, significant weaknesses in your application). (250 words)

This essay usually formulates in one of two ways: 1) a weakness essay or 2) an area of strength/perseverance that you couldn’t fit in one of the other essays.  If you have a gaping hole (i.e. GPA, GMAT, long layoff, etc.), here is your opportunity to address it.  If you have a special talent or circumstance, go for it!  Keep in mind that this specifically asks for content that could not be addressed in the rest of the application.

Admit Advantage: Use your best judgment.  If you are a 710 GMAT at a 720 mean school and have good credentials otherwise, you probably don’t have to write about a low GMAT score.  Don’t feel compelled to write an essay here if you don’t need to, but don’t exceed the word limit.


Admit Advantage: Watch the tone of this essay.  Don’t apologize and rant about how life is hard (frankly, MBA admissions committee members have heard it all and don’t care too much).  Address the issue, talk about your mitigants and feel free to stop writing.


Admit Advantage: Don’t be afraid to talk about a positive characteristic that you couldn’t fit elsewhere.  If you’ve done the work upfront and identified what you want to say, you should know what you didn’t get the opportunity to highlight in the previous essays.  Do it here.

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