Stay on top of the latest

Advice, tips and insights from the
admissions dream team.

Table of Contents

Wharton MBA Essays: Tips & Strategy

Wharton’s two required essays are designed to let the admissions committee get to know you on a personal and professional level.

First-time MBA applicants and re-applicants are required to complete both essays. The Admissions Committee wants to get to know you on both a professional and personal level. We encourage you to be introspective, candid and succinct. Most importantly, we suggest you be yourself. Below is my advice on how to respond to each required essay question, along with the overarching strategy to keep in mind for making a compelling case for your candidacy. (For a candid assessment of your chances of admission and to learn more about Fortuna’s MBA packages, sign up for a free consultation.)

First, a bit of context. As Wharton’s former head of Admissions, I can attest that Wharton is without a doubt team-based, but it’s also community based. With more than 900 students in any incoming class, the Wharton MBA experience is about being part of a much larger organism than your learning team or your cohort, and also discerning how your unique experiences will shape the experiences of many of your fellow students, the program, and the institution writ large. Wharton’s two required essay questions reflect these cultural values.

Decoding the Wharton MBA Essays

In essence, Wharton first essay question is asking what you’ll get out of Wharton, while the second question wants to know what Wharton will get in return. This is a big bottom line for admissions: What are the forces that shape who you are, and how do they shape the kind of leader and community member you will be? Successful essays reflect self-awareness and profound understanding of the community you’re hoping to join.

Essay 1: How do you plan to use the Wharton MBA program to help you achieve your future professional goals? You might consider your past experience, short and long-term goals, and resources available at Wharton. (500 words)

Wharton’s first question is straightforward, asking you to connect a persuasive career vision to how the Wharton MBA positions you to achieve your greatest aspirations. Wharton admissions officers want assurance that you can create a viable path to follow; understanding that while the actual industry and functions are variable, you should enter the program with a sense of purpose.

It also requires a deep understanding of Wharton’s values, culture and what makes it special. Without a nuanced appreciation of its distinctive community and program offerings – gained by thorough research, thoughtful networking and, whenever possible, a visit to campus – the admissions committee may not see you as a good fit. It’s key to acknowledge the specific things that stand out about the school and why they are important to you.

In referencing your past experience within what you “might consider,” Wharton is really looking to learn about what skills you have gained in your career thus far and how those will propel you into your MBA program. Using the Wharton MBA degree, what are your short and long-term career goals? The important thing here is to clearly identify your long-term goal and describe how your short-term goal will help get you there. You want to create a cohesive story so Wharton understands where you’ve been, where you’re going, and how they fit into your story.

What is it you want to do and how is Wharton going to get you there? For a question like this, the why behind the goal is as important as the goals themselves.

The first of Chicago Booth’s MBA essays poses a similar question, and my Fortuna colleague Bill Kooser (former Chicago Booth Associate Dean) offers this perspective: “Think of your long term goal in terms of impact — personal, organizational and social/community wide — not just in terms of a position or role. Why is this goal important to you? What led you to it?”

For a deeper dive and some great examples of short and long-term goals, view this article by Fortuna’s Heidi Hillis on How To Create MBA Goals: Long-Term Vs. Short Term-Career Vision.

Essay 2: Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)

Your history is really important to Wharton in this question, especially how it relates to the next steps of a Wharton education. The admissions officers want to understand your ‘origin story’ and how it informs the next steps of your leadership journey: what you envision doing while a student in Philadelphia and then as an alumnus of the school as you continue to make an impact on your wider community.

The specificity of this question’s wording signals that you should connect the dots for the admissions committee between where you are coming from and where you are heading. Unlike earlier iterations of this prompt, there is little room for ambiguity and also a lot of room for backstory. This essay question invites you to go deeper into clarifying how elements of your identity and background shape your awareness and why it matters going forward. Don’t just reinforce a link to how your background will “aid in my teamwork skills,”or how you’ve developed better communication skills. Rather, share specifics with your reader that go deeper into who you are, what makes you unique and what you stand to offer. The Admissions Committee wants specifics.

Do you have a background in community organizing that lends itself directly to such activities at Wharton? Does your choice of academic study, or family background, or culture influence what you have chosen to pursue professionally? In this question, Wharton is offering you a lot of leeway choosing what influence(s) to focus on. Get introspective and be discerning about what historical threads you choose to share and their significance, both for you and the future community with whom you hope to engage.

Let’s Get You In.

Fortuna Admissions is a dream team of former MBA Admissions Directors and Officers from 18 of the top 20 business schools, including Wharton. With our unparalleled collective expertise, we are able to coach you to develop a clear vision of your goals for business school and beyond. We work closely with you throughout the application process and provide expert guidance at every stage to maximize your chances of admission to a top school.

Our free consultations are consistently rated as the best in the industry. To learn more about Fortuna and assess your chances of admission to Wharton and other top programs, request a free consultation.

Want More Advice?

Check out our team’s latest articles, videos, and analysis related to how to get into Wharton:

For a deeper dive on how to position a successful MBA application to Wharton, join our Wharton MBA Admissions Masterclass on Wed., June 29, at noon ET, a live strategy session and Q&A with Fortuna’s Wharton insiders and industry experts. This 50-minute webinar delves into essential, insider guidance and is also the chance to have your questions answered. View our 3-part Masterclass series and register now to reserve your place.

Updated Sept. 27,  2023

Fortuna Admissions Co-Founder & Director Judith Silverman Hodara is former head of Admissions at Wharton. If you’re looking for more advice and a personal, candid assessment of your chances, you can sign up now for a free consultation

Share this article on social media

Sign up now for a free 30-minute discovery session to get personalized feedback on your profile and learn how Fortuna can help you secure admission to your dream school!

Free Consultation