How To Get Into University of Pennsylvania’s
The Wharton School
The legendary cylindrical tower edging Locust walk houses Wharton, a business school with a history of shaping the minds and clarifying the values of top business leaders. Wharton prides itself on team work, leadership, and instilling lessons of self-reflection and growth into the Learning Team—a group of six students placed together during pre-term to support one another, share ideas and bond.
To become part of the esteemed Wharton class, you must first tackle the application. The prompts haven’t changed since last year, so here are a few tips to help you write a sensational essay and to bring you one step closer to admissions:
Essay 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
This essay is the bridge from your past experiences to your future career. It is an opportunity to communicate to the admissions committee what you hope to accomplish and how.
1. Share your future: Be able to articulate your story. Tell admissions select tidbits about where you came from, your current life junction, and where you’d like your goals to take you. The context of your story is important—it can highlight defining moments, and help admissions understand why an MBA makes sense.
2. Show your research: Wharton is data-driven and research-focused school, and your essay should reflect this. This doesn’t mean you should rattle off the school’s rankings, mean student age, or average GMAT, but you should do enough research to show you know which resources the school offers and how they will help you reach your goals. Think about classes, extracurricular activities, and even the local community to answer “Why Wharton?” over any other B-school.
3. Be authentic: Don’t try to imagine what admissions wants to hear. Your passion will show in an authentic essay and trying to write about someone else’s dream isn’t going to help Wharton know the real you or to find that diverse incoming class. Don’t be afraid to write about something if it defines you or your goals—or admit that you still have decisions to make about your future. The important part is that you have a plan—and Wharton fits into it.
Essay 2: Teamwork is at the core of the Wharton MBA experience, with each student contributing unique elements to our collaborative culture. How will you contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)
Some of Wharton’s key attributes include leadership, entrepreneurship, student-driven activities, and engagement. This is a chance to show Wharton that you will embrace their culture. Here’s how:
Teamwork. It will come up over and over again at Wharton, and you should allot a few of those sacred 400 words to this topic. The admissions committee doesn’t want to know whether or not you were a member of a team, rather they are interested in understanding the role you played and what it says about your future involvement with your team at Wharton.
Leadership. This is not necessarily about taking charge. As in the Team-Based Discussion, it is all about knowing your strengths and how you are able to create impact. Be specific about your plan to use your talents at Wharton or what your goals may be in terms of improving your leadership skills and how Wharton will help you do this.
Storytime. Your past can be good indicator of how you will react and work in the future. If you have a story that aligns, or even prefaces this, use it! These narratives can set you apart, and you won’t just be writing another essay talking about leadership in a generic and impersonal way.
And with that, I’ll leave you to brainstorm and outline.
Check out our Essay Blog for best practices on how to get writing.
Stratus Admissions Counseling is a full service admissions counseling firm distinguished by its team based, multi-step process ensuring each application is crafted for optimum impact. Our MBA counseling team has a representative from virtually every top 20 MBA program, enabling us to provide school-specific guidance.
Sign up for a FREE consultation with a business school admissions specialist.
At Stratus, we know your time is valuable. You may be asking “why should I spend 30 minutes of my time speaking to an expert strategist?” The answer is this: we make it all about YOU. Your goals. Your profile. Your experience. This is an opportunity for us to explore your background and start to help you cultivate a plan of action for your future.
Use the form below to sign up today and a Stratus Admissions Specialist will contact you right away.
Topics: MBA Admissions Insights, MBA Application Tips, School Specific Articles, Your Top Schools | Tags: Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
Business schools look for candidates who not only have something to gain from an MBA program, but also something to contribute. Think about that. What can you contribute to an MBA class? We invite you to explore the different types of contributions you can demonstrate through your application and then to meet two students who have already answered this question. You might also want to take a look at our guide to crafting your best MBA application.
We also know that if you aren't yet sure you see yourself as an MBA candidate, you may not feel ready to even approach the "What can you contribute" question, and that's okay—you’ll soon discover that self-reflection is a big part of the MBA application process.
Demonstrating your work experience, academic potential, and passion to an MBA program
The application review process for the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA, Full-time MBA, and Berkeley MBA for Executives programs is quite holistic, meaning that your whole application is examined to determine the value of your experience and expertise.
"We look at every aspect of someone's candidacy to evaluate program contributions and make that final decision," says Eileen Jacob, senior assistant director of admissions of MBA Programs for Working Professionals. "This includes looking at applicants' job responsibilities, investments they’ve made in their team and department, impacts they've made at their companies, formal and informal leadership experience, and opportunities they've taken advantage of with professional organizations or events and clubs at work. We also look at contributions outside of work, including community involvement, active membership or leadership in organizations, and interest in various hobbies or causes.”
Tip: Look at other areas of your life in which you're already making a contribution, and think about how what you bring could translate to business school.
“When considering academic potential, we examine undergraduate and any graduate transcripts and overall academic progress in chosen areas of study. We also notice when applicants take an active role in making themselves as competitive as possible. For example, some Berkeley MBA applicants show initiative by bolstering their quantitative abilities with math courses like the UC Berkeley Extension Math for Management course.”
“Aside from professional and academic experience, we want to see students who have drive and who are getting their MBA because they have passion for their career plans and for creating new opportunities for the future. If you're showing those areas of excitement early on, you will get us more interested in learning how you can contribute to the Berkeley MBA community."
One applicant's approach: underscoring design thinking experience
Shivam Goyal, senior product manager at Adobe Systems and a second year student in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, evaluated his potential contributions by examining his past, and he recommends that other applicants do the same.
"It is important not to discount the uniqueness of your own journey," says Shivam. "Admissions committees care less about big achievements or awards and more about personal anecdotes that will help them assess you as human being. When you dig deep and think about what triggered the events in your life to get you where you are today, it helps you understand and demonstrate who you are.”
Tip: Focus less on big achievements and awards and more on personal anecdotes that let admissions committees get to know you as a human being.
“Self-reflection helped me think about what I am bringing to the program, why that makes me unique, and what past events shaped my work and education experiences. For example, I started off as a design thinker. When I saw problems in the area where I was growing up, such as people not having universal access to information because of the digital divide between rural and urban populations and the lack of technology penetration in all strata of the society, it instilled a sense of humility and keenness to solve difficult social problems and made me think about the benefits of a design education."
"I started off as a user experience designer and was really close to the customer in terms of building the product. I started thinking about how I could contribute more by influencing product strategy at its inception and moved into a product management role. In that role, I realized the need for gaining business acumen to compliment my design and technology background. That's what led me to an MBA program.”
“The design experience I acquired in undergraduate school and at work was unique to me and I thought it might be something valuable that I could bring to the program. I knew I could talk about customer empathy and solving real-world cases for a particular user problem to get the right outcome when introducing a product into the market. When I started writing my essays, I pushed myself to think and write about those experiences so that I could really tell a story about me as a person."
Sharing thoughts on how you'd add value both inside and outside the classroom
Sera Lee, bank examiner at the Federal Reserve Bank in San Francisco and a first year student in the Evening & Weekend Berkeley MBA Program, did a lot of research prior to applying to the program and realized that her work experience was one of her most valuable assets.
"Looking at the statistics, I knew that fewer Evening & Weekend MBA students were on the banking side," says Sera. "When considering what I could contribute to the program, I thought about how I could provide the value of my work experience in classes like ethics, finance, or macroeconomics. I figured I could be the voice of the banking industry and share some of the experiences that I have gone through in my work. And by being around people in different industries, I have been able to learn what's going on in their worlds.”
Tip: Check out the class profile to see if you bring experience that is under-represented
“I also have a passion for community volunteering. In my admissions essay, I wrote about the possibility of creating a program or student club committed to volunteering as an example of how I could contribute to the program outside of class."
Sera recommends that applicants do a lot of research in order to figure out which MBA program is the best fit for their contributions, but she also encourages them to be open to exploring.
"I sometimes tell my friends that they should get an MBA, and they tell me they don't see themselves as a 'business person' or a 'leader type.' I'm sure all of us have thought that at one time during the pre-application or application process. It's important to be open to exploration and change. Don't let the voice inside your head prevent you from taking that step forward. If you're open to learning, being adventurous, and meeting new people, you're ready to contribute to an MBA class."