Wharton Essay 1 – 2010-2011

Wharton did what Greg Maddux used to do so well in his sleep: change it up. A fairly radical change of tack in their essay questions this year.

Awesome, let’s dig shall we?

Required question: What are your professional objectives? (300 words)

Okay. For those of you brand new to Wharton’s ways, Wharton USED to be famous for giving applicants MORE space than most other schools. Typically a career goals question elsewhere allows for roughly 500-750 words, and Wharton was almost always in at around 1000. Well, they are NO longer interested in dinner, a movie, and a nightcap. They want the main event, and they want it… quick.

300 words is incredibly tight. And it means you CAN’T just copy and paste that other PERFECT essay you wrote for HBS or Stanford and marble it with some fat just because they give you the space. Don’t even think about a copy/paste job here, you will be ruined.

Here’s a great starting point for how to answer this question. Rather than 300 words, try to answer it in three. That’s right: three. Could be:

Banking, villages, India.
Social networking, reinvented.
McKinsey, Startup, CEO.

The point is, just identify (however you need to) the CORE things you wanna achieve. Tune out the noise about the why and the how you got there and your love for Wharton and all that twaddle.

Here’s another way of looking at it. Imagine you’re being interviewed and are asked the question THIS way:

Inteviewer: Do you have professional objectives?

You: Yes

Interviewer: What are they?

You: [NOW, answer the question.]

Watch what happens. The result will likely be a much better start than trying to game it by overthinking the thing.

Structurally, let’s first think about what the reader needs to be LEFT with, and then work backwards. At the end of reading these 300 words, the reader needs to be able to project your potential career arc. Imagine two potential chefs sitting in front of you. Chef A says “I want to be the best chef in the world.” Chef B says “I would like to win the James Beard Award within 10 years.”

No brainer, Chef B any day of the week and twice on Sunday. Why? Homeboy has a plan. And seems determined (and destined) to achieve it. What’s the real difference between those two responses? Specificity. Milestone. Clarity. Achievability. Definition.

Leave your reader with a VERY clear sense of things you can actually achieve. It may feel as though you are SHRINKING the grandeur of a master plan, but in many ways, you’re blowing it wide open by suggesting a likeliness to achieve something imaginable. Ends up being more impressive.

Start-ups? That’s soooo 1998!