A Guide to the Wharton MBA Essays

Tips and tricks to writing a stand-out essay for your Wharton MBA application, including an overview of the questions, expert advice, and how to get started.

Posted January 9, 2024

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The Essays

The essay portion of your business school application is arguably the most important part. It gives the admissions committee a personal look at the candidate and allows the candidate to present themself as an individual, rather than a set of numbers. The essays for the Wharton school emphasize one of its goals: to foster a symbiotic relationship between the students and the school. The essay questions are as follows:

1. How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words max.) 2. 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 max.)

You can also find them on the University of Pennsylvania’s website here. With these prompts, Wharton is asking how it will help you and how you will be able to help it. It recommends its applicants try and be succinct, honest, and self-reflective. It’s important to fully be yourself–your essays should not be applicable to anyone else.

Before you begin the writing process, start by structuring your essay. You don’t necessarily need all the parts of a formal piece of writing, such as a thesis statement or topic sentence, but you should make sure that your point is clear, everything is tied together and relevant, and the writing flows smoothly between body paragraphs.

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Essay 1

The nature of the first essay requires applicants to have a very clear understanding of their goals, both personal and professional. In responding to this, Wharton wants to see that the applicants can clearly articulate the specific ways that the school will benefit them. This is not the place to list out the many classes you want to take; dig deeper and talk about the characteristics that are unique to Wharton. Options include professors that teach there, clubs and activities, or any unique development opportunities, among others.

Essay 2

On the flip side, the second essay is about explaining to Wharton how you will benefit them. The school emphasizes that the class size is small, so they want every MBA candidate to bring something to the table. The Wharton essays are often referred to as the “give and take” because you are trying to show what you will give to Wharton and what you will take.

With this essay, prove to Wharton that you will be an asset to the program. What do you bring that’s different than everyone else applying? This answer should be completely unique to you. Before you begin to write, research the program so that you have an idea of what the school wants. It will be difficult to argue that you’ll become an ROI for them if you don’t know what they’re looking for. Ideas may involve starting a new club or conference, or what you can bring to your cohorts.

Wharton Essay Tips

1. Answer the Question

When the topic is so broad and the word limit so low, it can be difficult to remain on-task. When you’re writing the essay, remember to step back and ask yourself whether you are actually answering the question. Are you explaining how you will benefit from Wharton or are you on a rant about everything you want to do with your life? This is why it’s important to start writing early. That way, you’ll have time to revise, get feedback, and read it from a fresh perspective multiple times before submission.

2. Do Research

The admissions committee will be able to tell if the applicant has spent time researching the school and the program. They want to know that you care about getting into Wharton specifically, and not just any MBA program. By supporting your thesis with well-researched facts, you’ll demonstrate an understanding of the program and present a more convincing argument to the AdCom. A full-time MBA is a commitment–show that you are ready for it by acknowledging what you’re getting into.

3. Be Yourself

As we’ve stated above, your essay should not be something that anyone else could have written. For the class of 2023, there were 7,338 applications. You need to show that you are different from the 7,337 other individuals vying for one of the coveted acceptances. Now, this also does not mean that you should grossly exaggerate any achievements or hobbies. Simply remain true to yourself as your write your application. Maybe you are an amateur beekeeper and this has helped you understand the power of working in a team, or you were scuba certified in Indonesia and want to make more affordable equipment. Whatever the case, be unique and be yourself.

4. Be Concise

You only have a combined 900 words to answer both essays, meaning your essay will likely need to go through several stages of edits. One alum on Wharton’s website recommends that you write out your essay, including everything that you’d like to say, without thinking about the word count. That way, you’ll be able to start to pare down the information to the highlights from the top-down. Every word in your essay should have a purpose–don’t go off on tangents or try and be verbose. Show off your writing skills by getting to the point and conveying the required information in a simple, understandable manner.

5. Don’t Restate Your Resume

Your essays should not be a rehashing of the information on your resume and the rest of your application. It’s commonly said that the essay portion should be where you “make visible the invisible.” This is your chance to write about something that can’t be found anywhere else in the application. The AdCom already has your resume, academic record, recommendations, and standardized test scores. What else is there to you beyond that? Whatever it is, write about that.

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Where Can I Start?

Applying to Wharton? Get started today with these articles:

If you prefer to get advice and help in a one-on-one setting, we’ve got some excellent Wharton coaches on Leland. Here are three of our highest-rated MBA admissions coaches and you can browse more here.

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