Wharton Essay Tips

Wharton deadline is coming up quick on Jan 18. I would make sure to sort out recommendations first, as the holidays approach, and in parallel, set up conversations (goal and program-specific research) that will help you with the essays.


Definitely consult the class profile, https://executivemba.wharton.upenn.edu/class-profile/ taking into consideration you will likely need a higher score if you are overrepresented. You need 8 years of work experience unless you go the “fellow” option; for the new global program option you need 10 years.

Wharton admits are generally the same age as Booth and NYU, older than CBS EMBA admits, but younger than those attending programs including MIT-Sloan, Michigan-Ross, and Kellogg (incidentally all test-optional) where the average age is 40+.


First, please consult their formatting requirements which are highly specific like, down to the gnat’s ass. I am excited to see Calibri font get some representation!



What is your career objective and how will the Wharton MBA Program for Executives contribute to your attainment of this objective? (500-word limit)


Career Objective

The ideal situation here: you need more skills to adeptly navigate a new manager or director role. Or you need those skills to obtain that role, within your organization or within the same industry. They want you to apply what you learn on the weekend to your job on Monday. Even if you have a long-term (or even short-term) goal of starting up, you REALLY want to first articulate how you will benefit from the program where you are today. They are looking at the ROI of the program for you, just as you are. Wharton rewards pragmatism and analytical thinking, that is their jam. So, make sure your goals show a financial outcome that will leave you satisfied with the program.


Beware of a ready-fire-aim approach – first do the research needed. Find out if a Wharton EMBA would open the door to the job you want through informational interviews with hiring managers, and mention this in the essay. For example, based on you learned through your conversation with Mr or Ms. In The Know, you need this degree to advance. Or need the skills that come with a Wharton EMBA to break in. DO THE RESEARCH. Talk to people. When you do this the essay writes itself, you have compelling content, rather than stressing and guessing, trying to slap some crap together to fill the page. It’s important to avoid a “pitch it over the fence” mentality – meaning, you are crossing your fingers that once admitted Wharton will figure things out for you.


Wharton EMBA in attainment of objective

I feel the key to success with this whole process is to research yourself (introspection), research the school, and research your goals. Then show how those 3 circles intersect on the Venn Diagram. Research the job description(s) of your goal position – consider what you already have, and then think about where the gaps lie. Do you have financial modeling but not public speaking? Good at mentoring juniors but lack the confidence to take initiative? The adcom wants to know that your background + Wharton EMBA = post MBA goal, internally or externally.


This is usually going to be less of a pivot than full time (even part-time for some programs) because you won’t be quitting your job to do an internship. But you need to justify the cost of the program, by advancing somehow, and it starts with looking at yourself as would a recruiter for your goal job. Once you have a sense of the gaps, rinse and repeat with your long-term goal.


So, you have your gaps. Now you match things up with what Wharton has to offer. For most EMBA programs this will be comprised of the alumni network connections, the curriculum/faculty, and any special offerings. Are you a Product Manager who needs a better consumer behavior background? Speak to the marketing courses and year-end marketing simulation. Do you have a long-term goal to start-up? Maybe speak to the Israel trek GMC (Global Modular Course.) Are you shy about asserting your perspective? Speak to the teamwork and residency elements of the program.



Research has shown that there is a compelling business case for diversity, equity, and inclusion for organizations. Please respond to one of the following essay options (500-word limit):


I know a lot of candidates dread the DEI questions but think broadly about when you have brought about greater inclusivity. Hopefully that will cast a wide enough net.


What they are seeking is someone who can benefit from the MBA and be a value-add to others. If you aren’t open to looking at things differently, you aren’t coachable and so an MBA is going to have limited value. Also, your stubbornness might make your members of your learning team miserable.


2a. Provide an example of how you created or advocated for a work environment where differences are valued, encouraged, and supported. What did you do? What was the outcome?


I had one admitted candidate coach the HR manager on how to speak more respectfully about trans employees, so they feel less marginalized. I know most won’t have this kind of story. Another advocated including the front-lines employees - who were diverse in terms of ethnicity and socioeconomic class - in a committee that made strategic decisions.


2b. Describe an experience when you were part of an event/meeting/workplace that involved diverse perspectives. Include your contribution and what you learned.


This kind of broadens things beyond the work environment. One client mentored a Caribbean aspiring founder, who wanted to bring a Caribbean-specific product to market that -would help Caribbean-Americans and Caribbean immigrants feel a greater sense of belonging. He spoke about the actions he took to ramp up on her culture and target market, and how he transformed by working with her on this. And it was nice that she ended up winning an award from the city. Wharton loves outcomes that show evidence of success, as do most EMBA programs.


Optional Essay

If necessary, you may use this optional essay to explain any extenuating circumstances of which the Admissions Committee should be aware. (300-word limit)


This is mostly to give context for bad grades, low test score, lack of manager recommendation, or a gap on your resume. There is always a delicate balance here – we don’t want to draw unnecessary attention to something inconsequential, but we also don’t want a lot of unsupervised thinking when it comes to a potential weakness on your application. If you are working with a consultant, ask them – if not, you might bring up your concern on a school webinar.


One thing about optional essays. They CAN be great opportunities for the admissions committee to understand the adversity you have faced in your life, and consequently, get to know you more on a personal level. While quantifiable results and test scores matter, applicants often underestimate the importance of likeability (usually created by vulnerability and cognizance of weaknesses) and creating an emotional tie with the admissions committee. No one pounds the table for a GMAT score but they do for someone who has touched and inspired them through their essays!


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