Does the oldest business school actually need a brand?
Ironically, Wharton is a more powerful global brand than the elite Ivy League university of which it resides. In fact, many people don’t know that the University of Pennsylvania is a highly regarded Ivy League institution. Outside the United States the University of Pennsylvania, Wharton’s “parent” university is often confused with Penn State University, the “parent” university to the Smeal College of Business, to the humorous consternation of both schools.
As I searched through Wharton’s collateral, it was difficult to zero in on its point of view. However, its tagline, putting knowledge into action, was easy to find. But I ask, is Wharton’s tagline synonymous with its brand? I will go out on a limb here and say, “no.” Wharton is its own brand. Wharton is Wharton. But the admissions officers and their marketing colleagues are giving you a hint through this tag line that they are seeking students who can “put knowledge into action.”
How does one “put knowledge into action”? Well, I would venture to say that you would put knowledge into action the same way Columbia students “bridge theory with practice” and how Michigan Ross students put “thought into action.” These taglines sound extremely similar, but they do get to the crux of the type of student these schools seek.
Wharton seeks a student who can take the information that he or she gathers from school, the workplace, the community, and the world, process the information and then act on the ideas and concepts acquired. As an applicant you need to demonstrate that you not only know the information, but that you have implemented the concepts that you’ve learned. For more information on how to do explain this process in an essay, read my blog post “Show me, Don’t Tell Me.” While I wrote the blog for PhD students, the “theory” applies to MBA candidates as well.
In the application, the main essay looks toward the future, so you can’t demonstrate that you have the trait to turn your knowledge into action in the main essay. You can only explain that you can act on your knowledge in the work experience, extracurricular activities and community service section in the application. You can also establish that you offer this trait on your resume and in optional essay 1.
I’ll focus on optional essay 1 for the purpose of this blog. I suggest exhibit how and where you learned about something and then acted upon it in optional essay 1. Did you read about a theory in a book and then test it out in the real world? Did you hear a political pundit on the news describe something and gather your friends in a grass roots effort to implement or refute the pundit’s opinion? A great example comes from a environmentally astute MBA. He believed that if areas of the world that don’t have access to potable water were given access to potable water that it would lessen the political unrest in these countries where access to water is a big issue. He researched his theory through expert white papers and journal articles. He tested his theory by creating a process to make polluted water potable and distributed his patented invention to several regions that suffered from political unrest. He put his theory into action, and had results that proved his theory worked in over half of the regions where he distributed this process. He is now working with a manufacturer and an NGO to gain more distribution throughout the world.
While your example doesn’t need to have the kind of impact that changes the world, it does need to describe in detail, what you did to make a difference. Did your Relay for Life impact the latest therapies for cancer? Did your understanding of the book Trading Systems that Work lead you to pursue a finance degree? Did your Improvisational class at school help you become a skilled public speaker? Did you learn something from a colleague at work or at school that enabled you to arrive at a better answer.
Their tagline is put to the test during their Team Based Discussions. If you are invited to participate, you are given a mini-case, asked to present a solution and then work for 35 minutes with a team of potential future classmates to come up with the best or optimal solution. The evaluators will observe how you synthesize the information around the table and use it to come up with a viable action Wharton can use in the future.
So while Wharton’s brand stands alone, its tagline is instrumental to the success of your application. For more information about successful strategies on your Wharton application, register for Accepted’s Get Accepted to Wharton webinar and contact our consultants for assistance with your application.
This post is part of our Big Brand Theory Series for MBA applicants.
By Natalie Grinblatt Epstein, an accomplished Accepted consultant/editor (since 2008) and entrepreneur. Natalie is a former MBA Admissions Dean and Director at Ross, Johnson, and Carey.