Posted on July 15, 2020

Wharton MBA Essay Tips & Deadlines: 2020-21



The University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School once again asks applicants to submit two essays for the 2020-21 application season. This year, the school has tweaked the second essay prompt. The applicants can also submit an optional essay to provide additional information and explain extenuating circumstances. The reapplicants have to write an additional required essay. The word limit for all the essays remains unchanged. The candidates have 900 words to present their candidacy for the Wharton MBA program.

From Wharton Blog: 'Our main goal is to get to know you the best that we can, and the change to our second prompt was largely motivated by that desire. We hope to give applicants room to reflect on their unique backgrounds and think about what their value-add will be to the Wharton community. Applicants should remember that the Admissions Committee is looking for candidates who will contribute to all aspects of Wharton's life.'

Application Deadlines:

Round Application Deadline Interview Invitations Decisions
Round 1 September 15, 2020 October 28, 2020 December 16, 2020
Round 2 January 5, 2021 February 11, 2021 March 25, 2021
Round 3 March 31, 2021 April 15, 2021 May 11, 2021

Applications are due by 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time (ET) on the day of the deadline.

Applications submitted after the deadline for Round 1 or 2 will get rolled into the next round. Wharton will not accept applications submitted after the Round 3 deadline.

For more information about applying for the Wharton MBA, visit the Wharton admission website.

The 2020-2021 application will open in July.

Wharton's Essays:

The two required essay questions expect you to explain how Wharton can help you achieve your goals and what you can contribute to the Wharton community. 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."

Here is MER's analysis of

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

Although this essay is a classic career goals essay, the expectation of the admission committee sets it apart. You have to think of a bigger picture and where you see yourself in the next 15-20 years. That is, you have to explain your short term goals, long term vision, and the broad impact you made on your industry, community, or country. Also, you have to illustrate how the skill set and experience acquired at Wharton will help you fill the gap between your present career and your long term goals. The focus of this essay should not be on your professional history and key accomplishments, but on your career objectives and your 'fit' with the program.

Though the essay does not ask about your professional history, I suggest providing a brief account of your vital professional experiences that have kindled your ambitions and given you the clarity regarding your goals. Explain what you hope to achieve professionally both in the short term and then in the long term. Then share your present mindset and explain why an MBA at this stage in your career will bring you closer to your goals. You need to do a self-critique of your weak points and highlight how the MBA experience can help cement them. The thought here is to demonstrate self-awareness and resolve to look for solutions. Try to showcase how Wharton business school can abet you in overcoming your weaknesses and filling the gaps in your skillset.

Then go ahead and explain how an MBA from Wharton will help you fill those knowledge gaps and how the resources and offerings at Wharton will support your goals. You can do this by conveying to the admission committee that you understand the Wharton community and what the school offers. Outline how you fit into the diverse Wharton community. Be specific about how your professional goals are in line with various resources and offerings at Wharton. Including specific information from your Wharton research and linking it to your goals and values is the key here. For instance, you could talk about how unique educational opportunities, culture, activities, student clubs and organizations, rich and flexible curriculum, and the accomplished faculty at Wharton can be a pathway to your goals. The bottom line is making a case for Wharton.

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)

Last year's question asked about a single impactful experience and how the candidates intended to contribute to Wharton using learnings from that particular experience. This new question provides them the flexibility to choose experiences from their personal, professional, and academic life. The admission committee is looking for candidates who can make an impact while being at Wharton and later as alumni.

You can pick 2-3 most significant experiences from the past where you made an impact on your organization or community, and then explain how these experiences have prepared you to contribute to the Wharton community. Throw light on what challenges you faced and how you dealt with those challenges, eventually making an impact. You must also share the learnings you gleaned from the experience and then elucidate how the Wharton community can benefit from your experience. Your contribution should directly stem from your experience. You can contribute in many different ways: in the classroom, within the group project, or any clubs or student organizations.

Wharton values teamwork and diversity and wants a student group that can support each other.  For instance, you overcame stress at work by learning meditation or yoga, and now you can use that experience in taking yoga classes and help fellow students to overcome stress. To answer this question, you must familiarize yourself with Wharton's resources and offerings and the school's culture. Also, your impact should extend beyond your two years at Wharton. So you need to show to the admission committee that you will enrich the Wharton community not only as a student but also as a valuable alumnus.

Required Essay for all Reapplicants

Please use this space to share with the Admissions Committee how you have reflected and grown since your previous application and discuss any relevant updates to your candidacy (e.g., changes in your professional life, additional coursework, and extracurricular/volunteer engagements). (250 words)

Wharton is inviting reapplicants to reflect on their candidacy. If you are a reapplicant, you need to illustrate here that you have grown and evolved since the last time you applied. Discuss your enhanced professional qualifications, improved records, the actions you took to familiarize yourself with the culture at Wharton, or the efforts you have made to strengthen your candidature. For example, if you have improved your GMAT, received promotions, gained more clarity on your goals this time, or if you have taken new quantitative classes or certifications, share that information in this essay. Since the word limit is 250 words, it is advisable to give a crisp, straight jacket account of areas you have improved upon.

Optional Essay

Please use this space to share any additional information about yourself that cannot be found elsewhere in your application and that you would like to share with the Admissions Committee. This space can also be used to address any extenuating circumstances (e.g., unexplained gaps in work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent or questionable academic performance, areas of weakness, etc.) that you would like the Admissions Committee to consider.

An optional essay is an opportunity for you to give relevant information to the Ad Com that you could not provide in other parts of your application. The optional essay is a great place to address extenuating circumstances, which means that you should explain any weaknesses in your profile. For example, if you have lower than average GMAT score, any grades below a C on your transcript, academic probation, or a significant employment or education gap, you can explain it in this essay. To provide context for a weakness in your profile, make sure your reason is genuine to convince the Ad Com that your low grades or employment gap occurred due to unforeseen circumstances beyond your control. Your response should be positive, straightforward, and fact-focused and should not sound like you are making excuses for a weakness in your profile. Also, if you cannot get your recommendation letter from your current supervisor, please explain that in the optional statement. Your weakness may also bring out a positive aspect of your personality. For example, if you are discussing your employment gap, you may explain that you did something productive during that period, such as traveling, volunteering, or handling a family medical emergency.

If you do not have any weakness in your profile, but think that you did not get a chance to present every vital aspect of your candidacy, you can do that in an optional essay. For example, you can throw a spotlight on a significant professional accomplishment, extracurricular accomplishments, or community involvement. If you have done a whole lot of community work and you could just touch upon it in the second essay, you can elaborate on it here. Perhaps you have a stellar leadership story or entrepreneurial experience that you did not get a chance to share elsewhere, feel free to use this space for that.

To meet the stringent word limits, you need to be extremely precise in presenting your case and make every word count.

For additional essay writing resources, see the essay tips article on Wharton website

Want to learn more about what it takes to get into Wharton, check out Wharton admit Mansi's video interview.

Free Resources:

10 Key Essay Tips with Examples

Essay Analysis of Other Top Programs-2020-21

 MER Students Share their success Stories

Since 2011, MER (myEssayReview) has helped many applicants get accepted into the top 20 MBA programs. (Poonam is one of the top 5 most reviewed consultants on the GMAT Club.)

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