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Wharton Essay Option 4 of 4 – 2010-2011

September 28, 2010 :: Admissionado Team

Discuss a time when you navigated a challenging experience in either a personal or professional relationship. (600 words)

There’s one word here that of serious note. “Navigated.” Let me pose this question. Is it possible to navigate a straight line? Not really. You… travel a straight line because the path is laid out for you and there isn’t a wrong move by definition. It’s a decision-less route. A to B. There’s no navigation required. GPS is irrelevant in a world where origins and destinations are connected by straight paths.

But introduce some intersecting roads. Or throw in an ocean where you now have TWO axes of movement: a sea of options (pun somewhat intended). Throw in obstacles, like a boulder in the middle of the road where you’re thrown OFF that straight line. Throw in a situation where your choices of movement increase from one… to MORE than one.

Now we’re forced to navigate.

What’s a challenging experience in either a personal or professional relationship? Well, let’s BACK into the answer having just explored the concept of navigation. The answer is any relationship where the choices you made along the way… weren’t always clear. A person breaks into your home at night and you call 911. Looked at in a simple way, you might want to describe that as a challenging experience, but really, it isn’t. It’s pretty straightforward. Or, you’re in the jungle and a wild boar starts charging at you. So you “flee.” Challenging? Again, sort of. But the choice in that situation isn’t particularly complex. These aren’t truly challenging situations.

Let’s marble this with some fat though. A person breaks into your home. You have a gun. And you’re pointing the thing at the guy’s back, he can’t see you. Now you call 911. Aha. That’s a challenging situation. There was a choice there. Pull the trigger (self defense? cold-blooded murder?) versus call the police (risky? what if the guy turns and pulls a gun on you?). That is a situation that requires navigation. See the difference?

When you’re think about personal or professional relationships, think about moments where there were forks in the road. Times when you didn’t know what to do. If you always knew what to do, it ceases to be challenging. Cool?

So okay, you’ve found a challenging relationship. Now what? Well, the key to a compelling story is to bring us to that fork in the road. Leave the questions… unanswered. For as long as you can possibly get away with it. This will INVOLVE your reader. And an involved reader is an INTERESTED reader.

Once you’ve laid out all the stuff that made the relationship a challenging one, NOW you’re ready to walk us through what YOU did to navigate that relationship. We will be riveted. We will have opinions. We will have questions. We will have… interest.

The key to this essay is watching you (1) understand the dilemma, (2) weigh your choices, and then (3) choose your choices. It has little, if anything, to do with the relationship itself. This one, not unlike the Wizard of Oz, is not about the destination but rather the journey.