Wharton MBA Essay Tips: How to Tackle the New Question
The Wharton School debuted a new required MBA essay question for the 2020-2021 application.
Like Columbia’s new essay question, it pushes candidates to get more personal while giving them greater latitude to do so:
“Taking into consideration your background—personal, professional, and/or academic—how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community?” (400 words)
I really appreciate the evolution of this question from last year’s, which was: “Describe an impactful experience or accomplishment that is not reflected elsewhere in your application. How will you use what you learned through that experience to contribute to the Wharton community?”
Both prompts seek to know how you will contribute to the Wharton community, but instead of springing from an ‘impactful experience or accomplishment,’ Wharton widens the scope of your source material to the stuff of your identity.
As Wharton’s former head of Admissions, I can attest that your history is really important to Wharton in this question, especially how it relates to the next steps of a Wharton education. The admissions office wants to understand your ‘origin story’ and how it informs the next steps of your leadership journey: what you envision doing while a student in Philadelphia and then as an alumnus of the school as you continue to make an impact on your wider community.
Here are four top tips to crafting a great response to the Wharton essays:
1. Connect the dots for the admissions committee.
Do you have a background in community organizing that lends itself directly to such activities at Wharton? Does your choice of academic study, or family background, or culture – influence what you have chosen to pursue professionally? In this question, Wharton is offering you a lot of leeway choosing what influence(s) to focus on. Get introspective and be discerning about what historical threads you choose to share and their significance, both for you and the future community with whom you hope to engage.
2. Create a unifying narrative across your essays.
3. Prove you know the program as you answer the question.
The timing of Wharton’s essay release is terrific for anyone looking to get a head start now on their applications. If you’re looking for more advice and a personal, candid assessment of your chances, you can sign up now for a free consultation.
Fortuna Admissions Co-Founder & Director Judith Silverman Hodara is former head of Admissions at Wharton.