What are your professional objectives? (300 words)
This is a straightforward career goals essay without the typical follow on questions about why you want an MBA or how Wharton will help you to achieve your goals. It follows that Wharton has granted candidates only 300 words, signaling that they expect a very focused description of your professional objectives. In our view, there are three primary criteria by which your essay will be judged.
First, Wharton values candidates who have grand plans to make a real difference in the world. If your professional objectives are to play the usual game in consulting or on Wall Street, Wharton probably isn’t interested. They are looking for game-changers.
Second, the admissions committee needs to know that you are motivated and passionate about your future career. In the current economic environment, many obstacles will stand in the way of achieving your professional objectives; you must convince Wharton admissions officers that you have the energy and commitment to stand up to pressure and vault over barriers to success.
Third, the dots need to connect between your current skills and experiences and your professional objectives – which is to say that the admissions committee must believe that your career plan is realistic and achievable. Expect your essay response to be judged alongside your resume. If Wharton doesn’t think your resume compares favorably to candidates who have similar post-MBA career objectives, then your candidacy will be compromised. While career switching is a valid professional objective, the burden of proof for a career-changer is very high.
For more tips on acing the career goals essay, you can also refer to our earlier blog post: How to Earn an A on Your Career Goals Essay
Essay Choices: Respond to 2 of the following 3 questions
1. Reflect on a time when you turned down an opportunity. What was the thought process behind your decision? Would you make the same decision today? (600 words)
This is a story telling essay, and a tricky one, because much of the action in your story takes place between your ears. Wharton values candidates who possess great judgment; so asking you to recount your thought process when faced with a major opportunity is a way for them to evaluate your decision making capabilities.
Many candidates go wrong on this question by misinterpreting the word “opportunity.” An opportunity is a chance to do something new or different. The best essays will spring from situations where this new and different thing was extremely appealing and difficult to pass up. The greater the dilemma, the better the essay.
Another tip: recounting your decision making process on paper can be challenging; so plan on writing a number of drafts. Keep in mind that this essay question is testing both your reasoning skills and your communication skills. On a learning team at Wharton, you will frequently need to explain and defend your thinking; therefore, Wharton is testing if your judgment is sound and if you can communicate your thinking clearly and succinctly.
2. Discuss a time when you faced a challenging interpersonal experience. How did you navigate the situation and what did you learn from it? (600 words)
This is a great essay question for the emotionally intelligent folks in the audience. If your Myers-Briggs test pegged you as a “feeler”, then this essay is your opportunity to show off your interpersonal prowess. Some people are privy to signals and dynamics in the interpersonal sphere that others simply don’t pick up on. They can read the emotional terrain and even draw a map for others. They will have no trouble sharing 600 words charting the interpersonal pathways of a thorny situation and recounting the way in which they navigated the trips and traps to resolve conflict with another person or a group of people. If your essay draft sounds more like the description of a person stumbling through a pitch-black room and groping for a doorknob to escape, then you should focus on one of the other optional essays.
As with the previous question, the admissions committee wants to look inside the way your mind works. In this case, they also expect to know about what you did once you had analyzed the interpersonal conflicts. When sharing what you learned, avoid superficial lessons such as “I learned that one must compromise to resolve conflict.” Instead, strive to express the deeper wisdom earned from this difficult situation. If you can’t express those kinds of lessons, then you have another sign that the murky realm of the interpersonal essay may not be for you.
3. “Innovation is central to our culture at Wharton. It is a mentality that must encompass every aspect of the School – whether faculty research, teaching or alumni outreach.” –- Thomas S. Robertson, Dean, The Wharton School. Keeping this component of our culture in mind, discuss a time when you have been innovative in your personal or professional life. (600 words)
The innovation question has appeared frequently in Wharton essays sets of prior years. As mentioned in our analysis of the professional objectives essay question, Wharton is on the look out for the game-changers in the applicant pool. This essay question is an opportunity for the creative thinkers and ingenious problem solvers to show Wharton what they’ve got.
Some Wharton MBA essay writers struggle to identify situations in which they “have been innovative.” In 1997, Apple Computer launched its “Think Differently” campaign in response to IBM’s “Think” slogan coined by founder, Thomas Watson. The idea is that if you think differently, then you frequently act differently. Thinking differently has made Apple one of the most innovative, and it follows, valuable companies in the world. So it might help if we reword, Wharton question as “discuss a time that you thought and acted differently.” Perhaps that will spur some ideas about times that you have been innovative. The status quo becomes the status quo because it yields consistent results. So try to identify a time when you challenged the status quo, defied conventional wisdom, and did something creative. You don’t have to have invented the iPad to prove you are innovative. Wharton is looking for the future innovators and a well-told story that demonstrates your ability to see the world in a different way than those around you and then to translate a creative idea into creative action will prove to Wharton that you will fit well in their culture of innovation.