The Wharton EMBA adcom, through its three required questions, expresses its vision for and interest in a relationship: the relationship between the applicant/student and the program. Each of the questions highlights a different facet of this relationship. Respecting, recognizing, and responding to that vision through your essays will be the key to a successful application.
• Essay question 1 focuses on your goals and Wharton’s role in helping you achieve them.
• Essay question 2 invites you to directly address what you will bring to the Wharton community personally and/or professionally.
• Essay question 3 seeks confirmation that you understand in practical terms what a commitment to attending the program involves.
My tips for answering Wharton’s EMBA essay questions are in blue below.
1. What is your career objective and how will the Wharton MBA Program for Executives contribute to your attainment of these objectives? (750 word limit)
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 goals. In describing your goals at any given point, indicate why you are taking that step or pursuing that role. Put more detail on the roles you plan immediately post-MBA and the several years following; longer-term goals need less detail, they still should present a clear direction.
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.
2. Students and alumni of the Wharton School form a lifelong learning community. What do you feel you will contribute as a student in the Wharton MBA Program for Executives and as a Wharton alumnus/a? (500 word limit)
While there is no single “best” formula for answering this question, it will often be advisable to discuss one non-work factor as well as professional factors, to provide a sense of balance and well-roundedness.
“Contribute” can connote a broad range of action, from initiating or participating in specific activities, to sharing of valuable experience, knowledge, and/or perspective. Be sure to discuss how you’ll contribute both during and following your time of study. With only 500 words, you won’t have room for detail in every point you discuss, but do include a concrete example for at least a couple, to make the essay interesting and credible.
Finally, this essay offers a great opportunity to demonstrate your understanding of the Wharton EMBA community – its values, its needs, its concerns, etc. Let this understanding guide your selection and presentation of topics.
3. 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)
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 tell them every single thing you can think of – focus on the most significant two or three adjustments.
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.
Please explain any extenuating circumstances you feel the Admissions Committee should be aware of (e.g., unexplained gaps in your work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent academic performance). You may also take this opportunity to share other aspects of your life that you feel have shaped you that the Admissions Committee would not otherwise have learned from your application or resume. (500 word limit)
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 had 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.
Wharton 2014 Application Deadlines:
San Francisco – early, December 2, 2013; regular, February 10, 2014
Philadelphia: early, upon request; regular, February 10, 2014
If you would like professional guidance with your Wharton EMBA application, please consider Accepted’s EMBA essay editing and EMBA admissions consulting or our EMBA Application Packages, which include advising, editing, interview coaching, and a resume edit for the Wharton EMBA application.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, co-author of The Finance Professional’s Guide to MBA Admissions Success, and author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her last fifteen years with Accepted.