You can use the optional essay not just to explain a problem (low GMAT, employment gap) but also to present new material that you think will enhance your application. However, if you are making the adcom read more than is required, there had better be a darn good reason — not just that something is nice to know. First, succinctly explain any points that need explaining. Then, if there is something you feel is important that you haven’t had a chance to discuss elsewhere, write about it, noting why it’s important for the adcom to know.
I suggest a relatively recent experience if possible – if it’s beyond a few years in the past, it must be a truly life-changing experience to work for this essay. Hopefully you haven’t had so many recent crises that you have a hard time choosing among them, but if there are some different options, choose one that strategically works to your advantage by showcasing something desirable and/or interesting and/or impressive about your background or work life.
• Essay question 3 seeks confirmation that you understand in practical terms what a commitment to attending the program involves.
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• Essay question 1 focuses on your goals and Wharton’s role in helping you achieve them.
This question clearly expresses certain qualities that Wharton seeks: ethics, resolve, fortitude, courage, self-awareness, clear-sightedness, ability to grow. Showing through an appropriate experience that you possess some of these qualities (one to three will suffice; trying to address all of them would just create a blur) will convey fit with the program. Given the gravity of the words in the quote, discuss a true crisis, not a mere problem or disappointment. Since you cover work in essay 1, you can select a topic for this essay either from or outside work.
• Essay question 2 invites you to share your understanding of qualities that Wharton values.
Round 1: December 2, 2014; decision release date if application is complete by December 2 – January 16, 2015
3. Given your already demanding job and the desire to remain committed to important family and personal obligations, how do you plan to handle this additional demand on your time once you enroll? (500 word limit)
Round 2: February 10, 2015; decision release date if application is complete by March 31 – March 31, 2015
My tips for answering Wharton’s EMBA essay questions are in blue below.
In writing the essay, keep it simple. Tell the story, then briefly reflect on it considering the factors mentioned in the question.
1. What is your career objective and how will the Wharton MBA Program for Executives contribute to your attainment of these objectives? (750 word limit)
In discussing how the program will benefit you, be specific: describe what skills and knowledge you need, and how the program meets those needs. Also refer to the structure and special features of the program, detailing how they will support you and your goals.
This straightforward question deserves a straightforward answer. Discuss the accommodations you will make at work, such as delegating more, adjusting travel schedules, etc. You don’t have to tell them every single thing you can think of – focus on the most significant two or three adjustments.
Wharton 2015 Application Deadlines:
2. In his book, Winners Never Cheat: Even in Difficult Times, Jon M. Huntsman, Sr. (W’59), writes: “A crisis creates the opportunity to dip deep into the reservoirs of our very being, to rise to levels of confidence, strength, and resolve that otherwise we didn’t think we possessed.” Describe a time when you were faced with a challenge and how you responded. (500 word limit)
The Wharton EMBA adcom, through its three required questions, expresses its values and its interest in a relationship with students who share those values. Each of the questions highlights a different facet of this relationship. Respecting, recognizing, and responding to that vision through your essays will be the key to a successful application.
You may want to start by discussing your current career situation to set the context, and clarify how the MBA education will enable you to achieve your immediate goals in your current role. You can then naturally move on to your future goals. In describing your goals at any given point, indicate why you are taking that step or pursuing that role. Put more detail on the roles you plan immediately post-MBA and the several years following; longer-term goals need less detail, but they still should present a clear direction.
Please explain any extenuating circumstances you feel the Admissions Committee should be aware of (e.g., unexplained gaps in your work experience, choice of recommenders, inconsistent academic performance). You may also take this opportunity to share other aspects of your life that you feel have shaped you that the Admissions Committee would not otherwise have learned from your application or resume. (500 word limit)
Also address your personal responsibilities and how you will meet them with this additional significant demand on your time and energy; even acknowledging that you’ll have less time at the playground with your toddler or mentioning the support of your significant other will show that you’re facing this issue squarely. If you’ve already successfully balanced school and working full time, by all means mention it.