Wharton Essay Analysis Outlines

* Students applying to Digital Media Design and Computer & Cognitive Science should address both the specialized program and single-degree choice in their response. For students applying to the other coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer this question in regards to your single-degree school choice; your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essay.


This essay is asking a very straightforward question: what do you want to study and why do you want to study that at Penn in particular. With this question, the admissions officers are trying to do three things. First, they are trying to weed out those candidates that are just applying to Penn because it is a “fancy school.” Second, they want to learn something about your intellectual passions and interests. Third, they want to see if you have done your research and started to figure out how you will use Penn to pursue those intellectual passions and interests.


When they ask you to talk about your major within one of the four schools — Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Nursing, and Wharton — you should realize that you are not necessarily talking about these schools in general. Each of these schools contains a multitude of different majors, areas of focus, research opportunities, and Penn wants to know that you have taken the time to research their offerings.


For example, if you are applying to the College of Arts and Sciences, you should not be talking about “Arts and Sciences” as a whole (everything from biology to French literature!). Focus on the major and classes within the school of Arts and Sciences that you want to pursue.


Maybe you want to study at Penn because of its remarkably high number of professors (10!) working on differential geometry — a subject of particular interest to you. You might begin your essay by talking about how you have been interested in differential geometry ever since you asked your high school math teacher, “Okay, we’ve gone over how to find the surface area of a cube, but how would you even begin to find the surface area of something like a plastic bag floating in the air?” You can then go on to talk about the work you’ve done studying new topics in geometry over the summer, the thrill of thinking about how billiard balls bounce around differently shaped boards, and the overlap between your interests and the unique research profile of Penn’s mathematics faculty.


An important thing to remember here is that you need to talk about both your passion for a particular subject area and what Penn has to offer you — both aspects are equally important!


If you are interested in one of Penn’s specialized programs, you still need to write an essay about how you intend to pursue your intellectual interests at Penn, regardless of whether you are admitted to a specialized program or not. The trick here is to write an essay that communicates the full force of enthusiasm and excitement for a plan of study at Penn that does not hinge exclusively on admission to a specialized program, such as Huntsman (discussed in more detail below).


Maybe you have been fascinated with international relations and diplomacy ever since you started learning French and playing Massive Online Multi-player strategy games that required weaving complex treaties with people from many different parties. You can write a great essay about how you hope to use Penn’s resources to pursue a major in international relations, and how you especially look forward to studying abroad — maybe to meet some of the people who you have been collaborating with from all over the world.


Then, if you are interested in the intersection of business and international relations, you might use your Huntsman essay to talk about your abiding interest in logistics (perhaps related to your work in gaming) has drawn you to the problem of how conflicts in international law might affect the efficiency of global shipping supply chains.


The College of Engineering’s special programs in Digital Media Design and Computer & Cognitive Science are something of a special case.


For these two programs, your statement of why you fit into them belongs in this general admissions essay, not in a separate prompt. As such, you need to treat this essay like an application for a specialized program that also addresses the major you will pursuing outside these specialized programs. This means you will need to cram a lot into this essay. The trick in these cases is to use your essay to show how the distinctive intellectual interest that you are pursuing in the College of Arts and Sciences or the College of Engineering will be augmented by the addition of these specialized programs.


For example, if you are applying to Computer & Cognitive Science, you might also be applying to the College of Arts & Sciences to study Linguistics. You can start the essay by talking about how language has always fascinated you: you always wanted to dig deeper than the rules listed in your grammar books. Why — you ask — do we say “the big red house” and not “the red big house?” Maybe part of what drove you to start learning Spanish and Russian was to see if rules of syntax in English also applied to other languages.


Then, you’ll pivot in a new paragraph to talk about how your interest in syntax also makes you interested in Penn’s program in Computer & Cognitive science. Your interest in word-order might go beyond human-made languages and extend to the languages machine intelligences are starting to create. In order to show the admissions committee that your passion for computing is no less than your passion for learning new languages, you might talk about the work you did programming a chatbot or creating a little video game to help you study your Latin declensions. If you are applying to any of these interdisciplinary programs, you want to show the admissions committee that you have already started to think across disciplinary boundaries.


What if you are not particularly interested in any of Penn’s specialized programs? That’s perfectly fine! Not applying to those programs will not hurt your application or make you seem like an “unambitious” student. After all, most of the specialized programs are focused on the intersection between the business school and other areas of study. Returning to our math example above, maybe you are just fascinated with geometry and not particularly concerned with its applications on Wall Street? That’s perfectly fine! But for those with a sincere interest, Penn’s specialized programs offer unique interdisciplinary possibilities. The rest of this article will tackle those prompts.


Finally, though this essay asks you to discuss the “specific undergraduate school” you are applying to, that does not mean you cannot mention (in a short paragraph, maybe at the end of the essay) some of the social and cultural reasons that attracted you to the city of Philadelphia and its surrounding social and cultural possibilities. Maybe you are a history buff fascinated with Benjamin Franklin or maybe there is an exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of art that you have been dying to see. You won’t spend all your time in class at Penn, and it can’t hurt to offer a glimpse of your extracurricular interests in this essay. As Penn says, “Your essays tell us what sort of person you are — and provide a glimpse into the intangibles you might bring to our community.”


Specialized Program Prompts

Wharton MBA Essay 2

Teamwork is at the core of the Wharton MBA experience with each student contributing unique elements to our collaborative culture. How will you contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)

Here’s some context for new applicants to the Wharton MBA. Years ago, these guys had one of the longer sets of required essays, close to 3,000 words. Recently, they swung the pendulum far in the other direction. Last year it was just a single 500-word essay. This year, they’ve added a second question to the mix. This should be a signal: the one essay was somehow not quite enough. So let’s look at this new question, and dig deep.

You’ll hear this theme a lot. Wharton would never claim a monopoly on the idea that they prize teamwork. Kellogg has probably been the most successful at BRANDING that aspect of their culture. When you think MBA programs that sport teamwork, you think Kellogg. Well, the fact is, teamwork, as it pertains to elite MBA programs, is a key universal element. Find me one elite MBA program where students felt generally isolated and independent. {Crickets.} There’s teamwork everywhere. And for all intents and purposes, it’s equal. So, first things first: let’s not waste time attempting to make the argument that you’re DRAWN to Wharton for that reason. Mkay? Mkay. Next.

Let’s remember what business schools are after: INDICATORS OF FUTURE SUCCESS. Cannot stress this enough. All they want to see (in your applications, in your interview) is as high a probability score that you are going to be successful in life. Well, there’s a twist. Let’s just say you had a first year class of 100 MBA students. If each of those 100 students scored an “A” on the promise of future success, that’s fabulous! That class will graduate and those individuals will achieve some version of greatness. Let’s call it a future success score of “A.” Let’s replay it though. Imagine another set of 100 students who showed signs that they will not only be successful as individuals, but that in addition, they scored high on the TEAMWORK index. Meaning, they scored high on their ability to improve FROM others, and to IMPROVE others. What happens THEN? Well, that same class of 100 business school students will begin with their already-destined success, and then IMPROVE IT based on the synergies between them. This means that their future potential as individuals inside THIS type of class – heavy with cooperative individuals – is even MORE impressive.

So, signs of teamwork are part of it. What they really want to see is evidence that your own abilities grow more powerful in the company of other motivated individuals. And that your energy and leadership and innovativeness has improved the brains and abilities of others. Where in your past (your recent past especially) can you find evidence of either or both of those two things? Put together a list, rank it. You’re off to a smashing start.

Now, let’s talk about structuring this sucker. They want to know how your addition to their class is gonna make the individuals in it… better. Well, first, consider that everyone applying will lay claim to the fact that THEY – no seriously – THEY really embody teamwork. So, saying it isn’t going to get you anywhere. We need proof. Go back to that list you made, and pick your top one or two stories. Start this essay by bringing us back to an experience that reveals – through your decisions and actions – your ability to interact with others, compromise, inspire, negotiate, repair, etc. One helpful way to “solve for X” in this problem (where X = teamwork-related-strength) is to imagine some of your most powerful wins, and to reimagine them WITHOUT the help of others helping YOU. Or, to reimagine them without YOUR helping others… to help you. Either of those scenarios should result in a “less good” version of the same story. And therein lies the GOLD that will anchor this essay. Whatever caused the DIFFERENCE between those two versions is some ability of yours either to contribute, or to respond, in a way that will be tasty to Wharton. Because it should be proof that when you are interacting with others… good things happen.

Build that argument through an example or two. This should take you through the first 250-300 words. Then for your final shot, see if you can make a case for why this trait of yours will create particularly exciting sparks for you in the Wharton environment. Yes, you can bring this teamwork talent anywhere (Stanford, Harvard, CBS, Kellogg, etc.). But if there’s something specific about Whartonians, or Wharton offerings, that convinces you that you are more likely to thrive in this environment, make that case here. Doing so will reveal just how much research you’ve done on this, and how intimately you know the program. (And therefore, how much more likely you are to succeed because you seem to be a tightly wound coil, holding a ton of potential energy.)

Specificity is your friend here. If we see you make any argument that can be applied equally to another program, we will smack you. Or, if you make an argument that anyone else who’s applying can make, we will double-smack you. Your arguments need to be both specific to you, and specific to Wharton. A great way to pull this off is first to express what type of environment YOU need in order for YOU to succeed maximally. Then, map certain specific aspects of Wharton TO those points. If you do that, we’ll give you a Borat-approved High-Fiiiive.

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