How to Tackle the Wharton MBA Essay

(Updated for 2020-2021 admissions cycle)

The tips below help you tackle the Wharton essay questions while keeping these values in mind.

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

1. Describe your path: This essay asks you to bridge your past experiences to your future career. It is an opportunity to communicate what you hope to accomplish and how, the career and academic decisions you’ve made up until now and why, as well as why you need an MBA now from Wharton to realise your goals. Look for examples in your past experiences or in your goals that showcase Wharton’s core values. Include interests outside of career and academics as well so the admissions committee gets a complete picture of who you are.

2. Be authentic: Don’t try to imagine what admissions wants to hear. Your passion will show in an authentic essay. Trying to write about someone else’s dream isn’t going to help Wharton know the real you or to find that diverse incoming class. Don’t be afraid to write about something if it defines you or your goals—or admit that you still have decisions to make about your future. The important part is that you have a plan—and Wharton fits into it.

3. Show your research: Wharton is a data-driven and research-focused school, and your essay should reflect this. This doesn’t mean you should rattle off the school’s rankings, mean student age, or average GMAT, but you should do enough research to show you know which resources the school offers and how they will help you reach your goals. Think about classes, extracurricular activities, and even the local community to answer “Why Wharton?” over any other MBA program.

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)

Wharton’s Director of Admissions, Blair Mannix, said when discussing the new essay for 2020-2021: “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 life.”

This prompt is similar to those from recent years. Wharton is interested in students who will contribute to, and be actively engaged in the community, both while on campus and also as an alum. Wharton wants candidates who lead and make an impact, whether at work, or in other areas of their lives.


As you think about the topic, consider experiences and accomplishments that reveal additional information about you not focused on elsewhere in your application and that further illuminates your unique traits. Think about stories you have that demonstrate these strengths. More important than selecting the “right” example, is focusing on the lessons learned and how that will help you contribute. Given Wharton’s collaborative student culture, a good antidote will involve working successfully with others. So, consider leadership experiences and examples when you demonstrated a collaborative approach. How did your collaborative approach lead to the impact you had? Also make sure you can connect this example to how you would benefit Wharton. How will the experience that you chose make the admissions office believe that you will contribute to the Wharton community?


Wharton seeks impactful leaders. When thinking about the impact you had, consider what you learned from this experience. How did it change you as an individual? How did it change your team (or colleague, family, etc)? Sharing what you learned will also allow you to highlight your self-awareness and show that you are able respond to, grow from, and enhance situations.


Connect your experience to how you will contribute to, and add value at, Wharton. Identify 2-3 specific areas where you will contribute on campus and be specific with how you will be involved and the impact you would like to have. Try to avoid just listing resources, clubs, and classes as Wharton wants to see that you have thought through how you would like to spend your time on campus and enhance the experience of you and your classmates. Prioritize how you will create impact through various leadership roles. Next, make sure it’s clear ‘why’ you selected these specific areas in which you look to contribute. Why does this specific area matter to you? Why can your leadership create impact at Wharton in ways that are not currently being done on campus?

In addition to tying the story you selected to areas of impact at Wharton, also think of your personal talents and/or passions as additional areas where you can create impact by sharing with the Wharton community. Admissions readers should logically understand why you selected the ways in which you’ll be involved at Wharton.

As with all essays, make sure you stay within the word count.

Check out our Essay Blog for best practices on how to get writing.