The Wharton EMBA adcom shows a very clear focus in its set of essay questions (in black font). It wants to understand your goals and how executive business studies support them (essay 1), it wants to get a glimpse of you as a person and a professional (essay 2), and it wants to make sure that once you commit to taking one of their precious slots, you’ll stay for the duration (essay 3). This trio of essays comprises a clear, well-rounded picture for the adcom with no excess meandering about – they want straightforward substance. My comments are in blue.
Answer all of the following questions (no word limit): What is your career objective and what do you see as the next steps needed to achieve it? How will the Wharton MBA Program for Executives contribute to your attainment of these objectives? Why is this the right time for you to undertake this program?
First a warning: don’t clap in glee or sigh in relief to see “no word limit”! That phrase simply means you have to impose your own discipline, and failure to do so will doom your essay. With that point in mind, I suggest keeping this essay to between 750 and 1000 words – long enough to address all the points but short enough to require focus, concision, and astute selection of content. Also, resist the temptation to review your career progress, which seems to be a reflexive response but is not asked for.
This goals question requires both the broad picture – “your career objective,” and specifics – “the next steps.” You may want to start with where you are as a context, and discuss how the MBA learning will enable you to achieve your immediate goals in your current role. Doing so will enable you to effectively answer the question “why is this the right time. “ In describing your goals at any given point, short- or long-term, be sure to clarify why you are taking that step or pursuing that role. In discussing how the specific program will benefit you, be specific: about what skills and knowledge you need, and about how the program meets those needs. Also refer to the structure and special features of the program, noting how you will benefit from them.
Answer one of the following three questions (500 word limit):
- Describe the most significant way, either in or out of your job, that you have demonstrated leadership.
- In one of your Wharton MBA courses, you are given a case assignment to be completed in a study group comprised of six students. What is the most significant strength you would bring to the group process?
- As ‘The Ethicist’ in the New York Sunday Times Magazine often demonstrates, many ethical dilemmas are fairly complex with gray areas making the decision path a challenging one. Give an example of one such dilemma and how you handled it.
In selecting the question, keep in mind a few factors: You want to write about something that is fresh and not redundant of other parts of the application; that lets the adcom get to know you as a person; and that shows an aspect of you that is memorable, distinctive, and relevant. No one of these three options is inherently “better” than the others. Pitfalls to avoid: The first and third questions are straightforward; if you choose one of them, after you complete your story add a short paragraph or even just a sentence or two with some summarizing, reflective point. On the other hand, with the middle question, don’t be lured to just “talk” in abstract descriptive terms about your “significant strength” – rather, ground the discussion in actual experiences and examples.
While many factors (i.e. your academic background, the part of the semester you’re in) can influence the amount of time dedicated to the program, students have estimated that it’s approximately 20 hours/week. Given your already demanding job and the desire to remain committed to important family and personal obligations, how do you plan to handle this additional demand on you? (500 word limit)
A straightforward question that deserves a straightforward answer. Discuss the accommodations you will make at work, such as delegating more, adjusting travel schedules, etc. You don’t have to go overboard and tell them every single thing you can think of – focus on the most significant two or three things. Also discuss how you will meet your personal responsibilities – even acknowledging that you’ll have less time at the playground with your toddler or mentioning the support of your significant other will give them confidence that you’re facing this issue squarely. If you’ve already had experience successfully balancing grad school and working full time, by all means mention it.
(Optional) Is there anything else you would like to add that would help us in evaluating your candidacy? (No word limit)
This question’s wording indicates that you can use it not just to explain a problem (low GMAT, employment gap) but also to present new material that you think will enhance your application. However, along with the warning about the “no word limit” for essay #1, I add another warning: if you are making the adcom read more than is required, there better be a darn good reason, not just that something is nice to know. First, succinctly explain any points that need explaining. Then, if there is something you feel is important that you haven’t had a chance to discuss elsewhere, write about it, noting why it’s important for the adcom to know. Examples might be details of significant community service or a particularly illuminating work experience.
Deadline for class entering May 2010: February 1, 2010