“Take time to be thoughtful and be yourself. We want to really get to know you through these essays,” advised Admissions Director Barbara Craft.

“I have already made this paper too long, for which I must crave pardon, not having now time to make it shorter.”

Applicants to Wharton’s EMBA program can probably relate to this famous Ben Franklin quote. After all, we are asking you to be thoughtful and condense a lot of important information about yourself into three short essays.

The key is taking the time to reflect on the questions. Don’t miss the opportunity to think about how you want to frame your personal and professional experience and how this program can help your future career.

 Philadelphia Admissions Director Diane Sharp advises applicants to start the essay writing process early. “The questions are posted in advance to give you plenty of time to draft and rework answers before submitting your application. We want to see thoughtful essays, and it takes time to figure out what you want to say and how to convey that in the framework of the essays.”

Just as important as giving yourself time is ensuring that the essays reflect the real you. “Being honest in your responses and staying true to who you are as a candidate is essential,” said San Francisco Admissions Director Barbara Craft.

This is when asking a colleague or friend for help is useful. “Have someone who knows you well read your essays and then ask them if the essays sound like you,” she advised.

And ask that same person – or perhaps another friend or colleague – to help proofread your final drafts. “There is no excuse for essays with grammar errors and typos,” said Barbara.

Diane noted that another pitfall to avoid is plagiarism. “The number one reason to deny an application based on an essay is plagiarism,” noted Diane. “We run plagiarism checks on all essays and expect professionalism.”

If you are ready to start your application, here are tips for tackling each specific essay, including one that is new this year.

The First Essay

The first question asks about your career objectives and how this program will help you achieve your goals.

“We want to see that you have thought about your career and how this program will add value. We want to make sure you have done your due diligence both on our program and why it is the right fit for you and your goals,” said Diane.

She added that applicants should focus on where they currently are in their career and what they would do with an MBA. “Your plans may change, but we want to make sure you have been thoughtful about this program and why you want to come here now.”

The Second Essay

The second essay is new to the application this year and relates to diversity and inclusion. Applicants are asked what intentional steps they have taken or would recommend to support an equitable and inclusive environment at work or elsewhere. The prompt suggests that applicants take a moment to learn how the University of Pennsylvania endeavors to make everyone feel welcome: Diversity at Wharton.

Diane said, “Not everyone has the same experiences in this area. Some applicants may choose to write about a personal situation or professional experience. Others may opt to describe a more general way they have made an impact or been an ally in diversity and inclusion. Our students come from a variety of backgrounds and everyone’s perspective adds value and enhances the learning environment.”

Barbara noted, “What is most important is to be authentic and thoughtful about how you embrace diversity and inclusion in your life. There is no perfect answer, and it’s OK if the question makes you realize that you’d like to do more in this area.”

The Third Essay

The final required essay asks applicants to explain how this program will fit into their lives. Applicants need to describe their plan for handling the additional demands on their time, as EMBA students spend approximately 20 hours per week outside of the program studying for class.

“We want to see that you’ve been mindfully planning for this program. That you have talked to your stakeholders and are really thinking about how you will carve out time to dedicate to this program and your personal and professional growth,” said Barbara.

Diane added, “Being enrolled in the program means candidates will need to realign responsibilities, as it requires a substantial commitment of your time and resources.”

The Optional Essay

The optional essay is an opportunity to share information that may be missing in other parts of the application.

Diane explained, “This essay is truly optional. Don’t feel compelled to use this space unless you have something to share that can’t be conveyed in another part of the application, such as circumstances that impacted your undergraduate academic performance.”

The Bottom Line

“The biggest piece of advice for all of the essays is to take time to be thoughtful and be yourself,” said Barbara. “We want to really get to know you through these essays. So, make sure they are in your voice, give strong examples, and tell us about you instead of what you think we want to hear.”

— By Meghan Laska


Posted: October 18, 2021

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