Wharton Essay Questions 2015 Corvette

Wharton 2015-2016 Essay Topic Analysis

Following up our announcement earlier this week with Wharton’s Class of 2018 application essays, we wanted to offer our Wharton 2015-2016 essay topic analysis for this year’s crop of UPenn MBA hopefuls.

The Wharton adcom has decided to retain the same essay structure it used for last year’s admissions season, with one required essay about what the applicant hopes to get out of the Wharton MBA, an open-ended optional essay capped at 400 words, and an additional 250-word space for use by reapplicants and first-time candidates who wish to explain extenuating circumstances. This would suggest that the admissions committee was satisfied with the data these questions yielded last season as they made interview and admission decisions (though it’s also possible that the adcom wants to preserve some continuity as a new Director comes on board).

Let’s take a closer look at each of Wharton’s prompts and consider how each might factor into an applicant’s strategy:

Essay 1 (Required): What do you hope to gain both personally and professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)
A variation on the typical career goals essay, this question asks applicants to adopt a big-picture view of their b-school aspirations, touching on their hopes for both their personal development and post-MBA professional direction. On the professional front, candidates will want to share some information about their immediate post-MBA career goals, as well as their long-term aspirations and the broad impact they hope to have on their industry, community, country or region. This will help the admissions reader understand how business school fits into your professional arc and show that you’re making a well reasoned decision in applying.

Meanwhile, applicants will also need to touch upon how they hope to develop on a more personal level during their time in the Wharton MBA program. We recommend that you provide an authentic answer to this element of the question that provides a window into your values and/or your awareness around potential areas for growth. For example, some applicants might comment that they hope to hone leadership-related skills like their ability to motivate others, collaborate with colleagues from different disciplines, or more effectively work across cultures. This would reflect an appreciation for the soft skills that business schools — and employers — prize. Meanwhile, others may choose to highlight a personal interest that they wish to deepen alongside their classmates through participation in a student club, or comment on a planned involvement in the larger Philadelphia community. Such remarks will help the adcom form a fuller picture of the person behind the file. Of course, applicants would also do well to address how they see themselves contributing at Wharton, both in and out of the classroom — a topic in which the Wharton adcom has always been interested.

Given the tight word limit, applicants will need to write thoughtfully and concisely, demonstrating a strong understanding of how Wharton’s program would enable them to accomplish their stated goals. This will mean naming specific courses, clubs, and campus offerings that will facilitate the personal and professional goals that they identify in this response. Taking the time to learn about the school’s curriculum, special programs and extracurricular activities — whether by visiting campus, speaking with members of the community, or reading the Clear Admit Guide to Wharton — will pay dividends here.

Essay 2 (Optional): Please use the space below to highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words)
This is a fairly open-ended and inviting optional essay prompt. While we once took a somewhat conservative stance on optional essays, as schools have reduced the number and length of required essay questions over the past several years, we’ve increasingly felt that it’s a good idea to take advantage of this kind of opportunity to share some more information with the adcom. We therefore recommend that all Wharton applicants aim to develop a response to this question.

That said, it’s important that the information you share in this response add to and enhance your candidacy (and not appear elsewhere in your written application materials, including data forms). In other words, this isn’t the place to elaborate on your reasons for applying to Wharton — these should be covered exhaustively in your response to the required essay on that topic. It’s also important that you share information that will make a meaningful difference in your application by highlighting a desirable skill, experience, or element of your personal background that will help the reader better appreciate what you would bring to the Class of 2018. This response could be used to explain a formative experience that’s shaped who you are today (and therefore what you would bring to the campus community), or to highlight an especially proud accomplishment and the lessons that you would be eager to share with classmates.

We’d also encourage applicants to think about the balance of content across their responses, and aim to incorporate something about themselves here that complements the material in essay 1. This is particularly true for applicants from traditional pre-MBA fields like banking or consulting, who would be better served by highlight something unique that will help them stand out than by a professional accomplishment or work-centric response. Finally, we encourage applicants to think about how they can use their comments in this essay to reinforce their fit with Wharton, which aims to build an international study body populated by humble, hard-working, and pragmatic students who area willing to leave their egos at the door and embrace a transformational MBA experience.

Reapplicant Essay (Required): Explain how you have reflected on the previous decision about your application, and discuss any updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, extracurricular/volunteer engagements). All applicants, including reapplicants can also use this section to address any extenuating circumstances. (250 words)
For those who are applying to Wharton for a second time, this prompt clearly asks reapplicants to address what they learned from their previous application process and how they’ve worked to become stronger candidates this year; those who are struggling with the 250 word limit here may also choose to elaborate on some element of their improved candidacy in Essay 2). Reapplicants should note that Wharton asks about both material improvements in one’s application as well as the growth and reflection that has occurred after (or as a result of) previously being denied. Effective reapplicant essays will therefore address both of these angles in explaining how an applicant is “new and improved” this time around.

Meanwhile, the adcom also invites first-time applicants to use this space to address the circumstances surrounding weaknesses in their candidacies. For example, this is the place to address a low GPA or GMAT score, or to explain why you’re not providing a recommendation from your current direct supervisor. Effective responses will be direct and to the point, providing a straightforward explanation without making excuses.

Clear Admit Resources
Thanks for reading our analysis of this year’s Wharton MBA essay topics. As you work on your Wharton MBA essays and application, we encourage you to consider all of Clear Admit’s UPenn offerings:

Posted in: Essay Topic Analysis

Schools: UPenn / Wharton



Good luck to those who got a Round 2 app in at Wharton! You probably know that Wharton has a unique process when it comes to interviews, namely the Team Based Discussion — our 2017 Wharton Application Guide explains it for you. Invitations to come in February.


Wharton’s Class of 2019 profile remains daunting. No change to average GMAT (730) however they’re now publishing averages on GRE scores, which is a clear sign that a) it’s fine to apply with one, and b) your scores must be decent if you do! Average GRE quant is 163 (85th percentile) and average verbal is 162 (90th). We expect these GRE averages to go UP this year.


2017 Wharton MBA Essay Questions – Class of 2020

Same questions as last year – but the recommendations are changing radically!!

Essay Questions:

  1. What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)
  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 maximum)

They also have a 250-word Optional Essay which is required for reapplicants to use, to explain how they’ve improved since their original application, and it’s also for new applicants if there’s other critical details that are important for the adcom to know, which you can’t fit into the main essays.

Our Wharton guide has now been updated — with lots more content and strategic advice for crafting great essays, based on the direct experience we had in working with lots of BSers who made it in last year!!

The Wharton Class Profile show the Class of 2018 stats which are largely the same as previously: Average GMAT is 730, 80% range is (gulp) 700 to 770. The worst news out of that is the fact that applications increased by 1.4% yet they REDUCED the class size by ten students, to 851. That could’ve been due only to factors of yield; it’s possible that it wasn’t an intentional class size reduction. Still, doesn’t bode well. Things were sooooo competitive last year and we do not expect it to be any different for the Class of 2019 when that data comes out this summer.

The SnarkStrategies Guide for Wharton has now been fully refreshed for the 2017 version of the Wharton essays and app. It walks you through background info and exercises that are useful for creating a strong strategy. We also cover reapplicant concerns, the Team Based Discussion, the Lauder joint degree program, and of course the new letters of recommendation. This is be your best resource with insights on the Wharton MBA application!

Wharton MBA recommendations

Wharton has totally unique recommender questions in 2017 — they’ve gone in a whole new direction!

Two free-form questions:

Question 1: Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success in the Wharton MBA classroom. (Word count: 300)

Question 2: Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success throughout their career. (Word count: 300)

This is definitely a situation where our Recommenders Instructions Sets can be valuable!

Wharton 2017-’18 Dates and Deadlines

Wharton MBA Application Deadlines
The deadlines are out for the Class of 2020; these are morphing ever closer to what Harvard uses.

  • Round 1: – a full week earlier than in previous years. You’re encouraged to apply in the first round at such a competitive school. Round 1 interview invites released on 10/31.
  • Round 2: – ouch. This is one of the earlier Round 2 deadlines and you will not be a happy camper after New Year’s because of it. Round 2 at Wharton is still viable, though they get a lot more apps then, which is why Round 1 is really really preferable if you can pull it off. Round 2 interview invites will likely happen in the first half of February.


Interviews at Wharton

Wharton’s interview process is quite unique compared to most other American bschools (though Michigan Ross also does things in a similar way). Wharton has what’s called the Team-Based Discussion which is basically a simulation of how you will experience academic life at this school. It’s designed to help the admissions team see candidates in action. You will also have a (short!) one-on-one interview, usually with a second-year student.

Participation in the Team-Based Discussion is by invitation only. Invites start going out about a month after the round deadline; in past years, they issued them on just one day a week, every week for four weeks (or so) – but last year (2014) in Round 1 they did a big-bang approach, where on one single day they announced the invites, and the early rejects for that round. See the Wharton adcom’s blog to understand the process as described for Round 2 two years ago. We also go into great detail on how this works in the essay guide.


Wharton Useful Links

8/10/12: If you’re interested in the Lauder program, then check out this interview with their admissions director . Very helpful! The Lauder application is also covered in our essay guide.

9/22/13: We offered advice to someone considering the Wharton Health Care Management track.


EssaySnark blahg posts on Wharton and their app


The 2017 Wharton Application Guide offers a discussion of the focus and emphasis in the admissions process at this school and how that might affect you as an applicant. It also discusses the Lauder MBA/MA program, and as always, we go into great detail on the Team-Based Interview experience — and everything else you need to know to construct the strongest set of essays possible.

Got the essays done? Get them reviewed!


For Reference: Wharton’s Past-Season Questions

Included for historical purposes, in case you want to study what they’ve asked in the past.

Click to view last year's questions

2016 Wharton MBA Essay Questions

As announced on the Wharton blog in June , they changed the questions based on feedback from applicants (yes we thought they were bad – so thank you Wharton!). Here’s what you get to deal with now:

  1. What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)
  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 maximum)

IMPORTANT: THERE IS NO 400-WORD “ESSAY 3”!! Their website was wrong through most of the summer.

They also have a 250-word Optional Essay — ALSO IMPORTANT: IT’S **NOT** 400 WORDS; THEIR APPLICATION SAYS 250 WORDS ONLY as of app open on 8/1/16.

The Optional Essay is required for reapplicants to use, to explain how they’ve improved since their original application, and it’s also for new applicants if there’s other critical details that are important for the adcom to know, which you can’t fit into the main essays.

(Except for the word count confusion) this is definitely an improvement! Hopefully they are also fixing the confusing bits of their application instructions along the way (haven’t seen it happen yet but we are optimists).

We have covered all of this to the best of our ability in the Wharton Application Guide, which went through a quick refresh on 8/1/16 to capture these $!#&* inconsistencies.

Wharton MBA recommendations

Wharton did NOT have standardized recommender questions in 2016.

For history: In 2014 Wharton went along with the party and had the same questions as Stanford and Harvard had. We’ve since seen more and more schools diverge from that. Having sort of standard questions is actually WORSE than having completely non-standard ones! What are your recommenders supposed to do with THAT!?

Here’s what the 2016 situation was:

  • Two recommendations, one of which should be from your current supervisor if possible
  • Three questions for your recommenders to answer which are slightly different from the “standard” questions that other schools ask – (review them here )

Other schools had two questions or four questions but no, Wharton had to have three!!

Lots of resources for choosing your recommenders available here on the blahg; if you want more help, our Letters of Recommendation App Accelerator walks through the specifics and lets you submit your recommenders’ strategy for feedback from EssaySnark. All of this will be updated once we know firm facts on requirements.

[End 2016 question section.]

Click to view 2015 questions

2015 Wharton MBA Essay Questions


The Wharton app has some gotchas

We had hoped (especially now that we’re further into the new dean’s tenure) that Wharton admissions would make changes to their not-totally-amazing essay questions. But no! Same single-essay app, with an optional opportunity to submit other stuff. They actually made more changes to the recommender’s questions (see below and our blahg rant on the topic). More and more schools claiming to have “standardized” the recommendations are straying further and further from a “standard.” Oh well.

UPDATE: We did a last-minute essay critique on the Wharton “what do you hope to gain?” main essay.

Really?!?? They kept the same questions? THESE questions?

We explained why we’re not total fans of this in our Wharton app changes post on June 16, 2015.

These are really not the easiest to deal with. A full pitch in just 500 words? Whatever. Wharton isn’t doing you any favors with what they’re asking here.

  • What do you hope to gain personally and professionally through the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)
  • (optional) Please highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words maximum)

They are also keeping the traditional “optional essay” – which is NOT the second question above – where they allow 250 words to discuss gaps in the profile – but boy their website does not make this easy to understand. It’s included under the so-called “Additional Question for Reapplicants” section. They say you can use the reapp essay for “extenuating circumstances” – anyone can. Not just reapplicants.

Say wha’? Wharton, why can’t you make your instructions clear??? Why use that header on the page saying it’s for “Reapplicants” when ALL APPLICANTS can use that space?


Anyway, having two “optional” questions was definitely confusing last year, particularly when most schools say, “Don’t answer the optional question unless you have a situation that warrants it!” So what are people to do with Wharton Essay 2 (optional) – answer it or not?

They also have offered no instructions whatsoever whether a reapplicant needs to answer the “required” essay – which is exactly the same from last year – or not. Or, what is a reapplicant supposed to do when they need to answer the reapplicant question AND they have “extenuating circumstances” – it’s only 250 words! That’s hardly enough for just one of those topics.

WHARTON!! You confound us. Why not HELP your peeps in applying!??

[End 2015 question section.]

Click to view 2014 questions

2014 Wharton MBA Essay Questions

They switched to just one required essay!

  • What do you hope to gain personally and professionally through the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)

The “achieve” -> “gain” verb change is the only difference from the prior year’s question (besides deleting a couple of commas; they also changed the word “aspire” to “hope” sometime after first publishing the essay prompt, which was a little odd to us). We discuss the implications for that main verb change with this year’s question and how you should focus your writing in the Wharton MBA essay guide.

Wharton also has two optional essays – the first question, which maybe should be answered, is:

  • Please highlight any additional information that you would like the Admissions Committee to know about your candidacy. (400 words maximum)

We recommend being exceedingly strategic in using this essay.

And, they have the traditional “optional essay” where they allow 250 words to discuss gaps in the profile.

Should you submit something there? Hmmm… That’s definitely a case-by-case assessment. Most people should not need to use that space. Our Comprehensive Profile Review can help you out if you need insight into the places where an optional essay (or optional info like this) is warranted, and the Wharton essay guide also covers both of these essays.

See section below for what Wharton asked in 2013 – the changes may seem subtle but they’re significant. You may want to study them.

The recommendation questions have also been streamlined. Here’s a post from the Wharton blog (6/2/14) that provides a bit of context on the changes.

6/3/14 We discussed the changes to the Wharton essays when they were first released.

[End 2014 question section.]

Click to view 2013 questions

2013 Wharton MBA Essay Questions

This is what we said when two-years-ago questions came out… remember this analysis is old.

Here’s the Wharton essay questions – as we predicted, there’s fewer of them, and they’re more straightforward this year (Thanks ! Ankur left; Maryellen is now in charge of admissions at Wharton)

Two essays:

  1. What do you aspire to achieve, personally and professionally, through the Wharton MBA? (500 words maximum)
  2. Academic engagement is an important element of the Wharton MBA experience. How do you see yourself contributing to our learning community? (500 words maximum)

We did a post about these essays: You lucked out: Wharton’s essays are sooooo easy this year.

[End 2013 question section.]

Click to view 2012 questions

2012 questions – these are REALLY OLD
Three essays:

One required question

  • How will Wharton MBA help you achieve your professional objectives?

Choose two more:

  • Select a Wharton MBA course, co-curricular opportunity or extra-curricular engagement that you are interested in. Tell us why you chose this activity and how it connects to your interests. (
  • Imagine your work obligations for the afternoon were cancelled and you found yourself “work free” for three hours, what would you do?
  • “Knowledge for Action draws upon the great qualities that have always been evident at Wharton: rigorous research, dynamic thinking, and thoughtful leadership.” – Thomas S. Robertson, Dean, The Wharton School. Tell us about a time when you put knowledge into action.

[End 2012 question section.]


[Index of essay questions by bschool]


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