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The Wharton School/UPenn Essay Topic Analysis 2013-2014

As we reported earlier this week, Wharton has announced its essay topics for the 2013-2014 admissions season.  A quick comparison to last year’s topics shows that the school has done a major overhaul of its essays, both by changing the questions themselves and by reducing the number of required essays from three to two.  That said, as in previous years, Wharton’s essays continue to reflect an interest in an applicant’s personal and professional goals, reasons for applying to Wharton, and anticipated contribution to the school.

Now for a closer examination of each prompt:

Essay 1: What do you aspire to achieve, personally and professionally, through the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)

While last year’s corresponding essay question asked applicants to describe how attending Wharton would enable them to achieve their professional goals, applicants this year must go a step further by also addressing how the school would further their personal development.  In acknowledgment of this new component, the Wharton adcom has extended the word limit for this essay from 400 to 500 words.

A variation of the typical career goals essay, this question asks applicants to adopt a big-picture view of their aspirations.  Along with describing their immediate post-MBA career goals, applicants should explain their long-term plans and the broad impact they hope to have on their industry, community, country or region.  In addition, applicants will need to touch upon how they hope to develop on a more personal level, such as improving their ability to motivate others or honing their understanding of other cultures.

To craft a truly compelling essay, applicants must display a strong and specific understanding of how Wharton’s program would enable them to accomplish their goals.  Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities—whether by visiting campus, speaking with members of the community, or reading the Clear Admit Guide to Wharton—will pay dividends here.

Essay 2: Academic engagement is an important element of the Wharton MBA experience. How do you see yourself contributing to our learning community? (500 words maximum)

In this essay, applicants are asked to discuss how they envision themselves fitting into and adding to the academic community at Wharton.  As with Essay 1, the key to an effective response here is to be specific—while anyone can argue that he or she could bring a unique perspective to the classroom, candidates will be well served by some deeper reflection on this topic, with the ultimate goal of offering insight into the factors that differentiate them from others in the applicant pool.  Discussing some focused ways that your skills and experiences would affect the Wharton community both in classes and extracurricular activities can really bolster one’s response here, since the adcom is sincerely looking for applicants who will change the program for the better.  For example, work experience in a niche industry or with a prestigious firm could allow an applicant to share meaningful anecdotes that could contribute to his or her classmates’ future academic and professional success.

As with any prompt of this sort, it would be ideal to link the courses or clubs mentioned in the essay with applicants’ established interests or career goals, as these will help the reader understand an applicant’s motivation for getting involved.  Applicants who outline the specific contributions they could make to the Wharton culture, the ways in which they intend to make them, and the reasons they are uniquely equipped to do so, will make a positive and lasting impression on the adcom.

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Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis

Schools: UPenn / Wharton

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