The Wharton EMBA adcom shows a very clear focus in its set of essay questions. It wants to understand your goals and how executive business studies support them (essay 1), it wants to understand you as a person (essay 2), and it wants to make sure that once you accept 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 room to elaborate and illustrate key points – it requires real substance. My tips for answering Wharton’s EMBA essay questions are in blue below.
What is your career objective and how will the Wharton MBA Program for Executives contribute to your attainment of these objectives? (1000 word limit)
I’ll start by offering a warning – resist the temptation to review your career progress, which is not asked for. Limit discussion of career progress to points relevant (directly or indirectly) to your goals. I say this because I frequently see exactly such an approach. (In fact just a couple of days ago I reviewed a draft of this essay that was over two-thirds career summary, with goals just touched on.)
You may want to start by discussing your current career situation to set the context, and clarify how the MBA education will enable you to achieve your immediate goals in your current role. You can then naturally move on to your future short- and long-term goals. In describing your goals at any given point, indicate why you are taking that step or pursuing that role. In discussing how the program will benefit you, be specific: describe what skills and knowledge you need, and how the program meets those needs. Also refer to the structure and special features of the program, detailing how they will support you and your goals.
We’d like to get to know you beyond your professional life. You may tell us about the people or experiences that have shaped you, what inspires and motivates you, and anything interesting that we wouldn’t otherwise learn from your application. (1000 word limit)
In selecting the topics for your answer, think about what reflects or shows aspects of you that are memorable, distinctive, and relevant. With 1000 words, I suggest discussing about three topics, not necessarily at equal length. At least one might be a key formative experience in your life; show – by example and anecdote – how it has shaped you subsequently. In selecting topics, don’t worry that they might not be unique – they likely won’t be – e.g., a move to a new country, a family transition, or discovery of a deep interest or passion. But your essay will be unique if you personalize your stories with detail, anecdote, and your own perceptions, responses. Also, in weighing potential topics, think strategically: which ones will showcase something fresh and relevant about you and your candidacy? Usually it’s helpful to vary the type of topics, for example, a person and an experience and a passion or interest. What not to do is to briefly discuss ten things – which will create a perfect blur. Rather, be selective and delve into your topics in some detail.
Given your already demanding job and the desire to remain committed to important family and personal obligations, how do you plan to handle the additional demands on your time once you enroll? (500 word limit)
This straightforward question 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 address your personal responsibilities and how you will meet them with this additional significant demand on your time and energy; even acknowledging that you’ll have less time at the playground with your toddler or mentioning the support of your significant other will show that you’re facing this issue squarely. If you’ve already successfully balanced 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 the optional essay not just to explain a problem (low GMAT, employment gap) but also to present new material that you think will enhance your application. However, 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.
Deadlines: San Francisco: February 6, 2013; Philadelphia: February 4, 2013.
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