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Through our very own editors and guest writers, this blog will discuss the INSIDE scoop on the admissions process of various schools and programs. If you wish to ask a specific question, please write to us, and we will make every attempt to address your questions in our future blog discussions.
Monday, August 31, 2009
Wharton MBA Application Essays
Just over a week ago, Wharton opened its online application for its class of 2012 MBA graduates. Here are their new questions:

Essay 1 – (750-1000 words)
As a leader in global business, Wharton is committed to sustaining “a truly global presence through its engagement in the world.” What goals are you committed to and why? How do you envision the Wharton MBA contributing to the attainment of those goals?

Essay 2 – (750-1000 words)
Tell us about a time when you had to adapt by accepting/understanding the perspective of people different from yourself.

Essay 3 – (500 words)
Describe a failure that you have experienced. What role did you play, and what did you learn about yourself?

Essay 4 – (500 words) Choose one of the following:

a. Give us a specific example of a time when you solved a complex problem.
b. Tell us about something significant that you have done to improve yourself, in either your professional and/or personal endeavors.

What I want to highlight with regard to these questions isn’t Wharton, but the scope of the questions and what those questions can tell you about what any MBA program is looking for in their candidates. You'll notice, for example, that the questions intentionally blend the personal and the professional. While the first question clearly demands a consideration of your own professional goals and how the Wharton MBA program will prepare you to meet those goals, the rest of the topics allow you to choose between presenting an example that is personal in nature, or one that speaks to professional experience and qualifications.

The point is…all MBA programs (not just Wharton's) are competitive; there are many more applicants than there are spaces. That's the reality. Candidates therefore need to be particularly selective about the information that they choose to present. Ideally, you should help the admissions committee understand who you are on both a personal and professional level. The questions are left intentionally 'open' in order to allow you, as a prospective student, to showcase your individual skills and experiences. There is no 'rule' that says you must use a professional experience to address the question. Rather, you should concentrate on making sure that your response (regardless of the specific example you use) highlights your talents and abilities.

When you look at the essay topic(s) for your MBA program, you should consider how best to tell a story about YOU. When it's possible (especially if you have a long resume of experiences), take the opportunity to tell the committee about who you are 'on the job'. But don't rely on that alone; it's simply not enough. For those of you who do not have a great deal of business exposure (and even for those of you who do), you've got to use personal experiences to show that you have a range of skills that will prove helpful in the MBA program…and beyond. Stepping into the personal also gives your readers a chance to know you on many levels--to understand your personality…and your potential. That may just make all the difference when they are staring at hundreds of essays…and trying to recall the applicants who captured their interest. My best advice: find the balance, whether you are given four essays to answer, or just one. See yourself as a storyteller and your MBA essay(s) as the story you are excited to have the opportunity to tell.


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