This post has been marked as OLD. EssaySnark's advice and strategies for winning MBA applications don't change from year to year, but some of the school-specific admissions policies, essay questions, or other information covered in this article may be outdated.
There’s almost no reason for this post. Wharton is re-using the same essay questions as they asked last year.
Which is weird, since Wharton is a school that changes its essays every single season. And, it’s weird since their new dean is no longer new. It’s usually the second admissions season after a dean is installed where that new leader’s priorities start to be seen in the application at a school. But we’re getting none of that.
(Side question: What are Dean Garrett’s priorities? Does anyone know? We’d love to be educated on them. Sadly, we’re not hearing about them from Wharton.)
Anyway, we’re often thrilled when a school keeps its questions. That means the questions are working. Plus it means our essay guide is not instantly out of date, which helps all of you.
This year, we were even saddened in one case when a school changed its questions. We wish that Haas had kept their essays from last year. We had called them the Goldilocks essays – the best ever. Too bad they had to go and mess with the best. They’re still good essay questions, they’re just not nearly as awesome as they were last year for you Brave Supplicants.
Oh wait – you may not know what we’re talking about here.
When we say “good” essays, we mean:
- Each essay question is clear and direct and easy to understand – the phrasing is good, the language makes sense
- Each essay question allows for the applicant to explore a story or example from his or her life that reveals useful details about the background or profile
- Taken as a whole, the set of essay questions gives applicants opportunity to share information about themselves in a way that can be distinctive
Most importantly, a “good” question does not force the applicant to jump through hoops.
“Good” essay questions are not usually easy to answer. In fact, the opposite is often the case. To write a solid essay, you’re going to have to exert some real effort, and multiple revisions are always required. But with a “good” question, the school is giving its applicants a fighting chance.
With a “bad” one (such as what MIT had for two years in a row), you can’t even figure out what they’re asking – much less figure out what you could possibly share with them that would be relevant or might differentiate you against the crowd of a gazillion others.
Against these criteria, the single Wharton essay – “What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA?” – is not altogether bad – but the problem is that it’s JUST ONE ESSAY, of limited length (only 500 words), and the so-called optional question (Essay #2) is completely undefined.
Yes, that worked for Harvard for two years. They had a question that said something like, “We have all your other info in the app. What else do you want us to know?” This Wharton “optional” Essay 2 is in that category. But how do you construct a cohesive pitch with the two different questions together? What are you supposed to put where? And what do they really want to know? Are you supposed to use Essay 2 (optional) or not?
If the entire application were open-ended, it would be easier to navigate. Let the BSer take full control of what she’s going to say. Yet these two essays together make for a more awkward presentation for many people. Plus, there’s simply the confusion around what exactly would be appropriate there or whether to even use that particular “optional” essay. (Not even counting the fact that there are TWO “optional” essays – but what if you’re a reapplicant?? Very confusing!!!)
This is the type of app that sends BSers running into the arms of admissions consultants.
But we beat that horse to death last year. The bigger issue frankly is how Wharton has changed its recommender’s questions.
Last year, Wharton jumped on the bandwagon of “standardizing” the questions that they ask recommenders to discuss. They asked the same questions that Harvard and Stanford and a bunch other schools did. Bravo. Simplifying the process for the people who are doing you this big favor by writing recs is noble indeed.
Except for…. what’s happened this year? Wharton has MODIFIED THE STANDARD QUESTIONS.
They’re not standard at all.
Here’s the agreed-upon language for the first question that the schools that “standardized” went with last year:
- How do the candidate’s performance, potential, background, or personal qualities compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.
Here’s what Wharton is asking:
- How does the candidate’s performance compare to those of other well-qualified individuals in similar roles? Please provide specific examples.
So what happened with all those other attributes? Do they not care about your “potential, background or personal qualities”?
Even more important: WHAT’S YOUR RECOMMENDER SUPPOSED TO DO?
She first writes a response to, say, Harvard’s questions – and then what? Is she supposed to cut out all the happy good stuff that she talked about on those other angles, before submitting it to Wharton??
Will she even NOTICE that it’s a different question?????
(Shameless plug: We have help for this! Our Recommender’s Instruction Sets will guide your recommenders through these and every other quandry.)
Wharton. You are not making it easy on people. Did you even THINK about this??
Tell us what you think.