Taking into consideration your background – personal, professional, and/or academic – how do you plan to make specific, meaningful contributions to the Wharton community? (400 words)
The crux of the question is understanding (truly understanding) what makes a “specific, meaningful contribution.” Let’s break this down:
- Specific: We’re not talking about character traits or general business skills here, folks. “I will bring to campus my ability to lead teams” is not going to cut it. The adcom wants to know exactly how you plan to contribute—specific events, organizations and projects where you can make an impact. Show the adcom that you’ve done your research on the Wharton community, have identified a niche where you can help, and have an actionable plan for what you’re going to do when you arrive on campus.
- Meaningful: The worst thing you can do with a prompt like this is boldly declare that you are going to contribute something which every single student in the school is expected to have. “I will contribute my leadership skills.” Cool, so will every single other person in the class! A meaningful contribution is one that stands out and adds value that only a handful of other applicants might be able to provide. The value added should also align with Wharton’s values, and the goals of whatever specific part of the Wharton community you are planning to contribute to.
Start by doing your research. Look around the Wharton website, identifying classes, projects or organizations you’re interested in. Then—and this is CRUCIAL—leave the Wharton website and never go back! The adcom helped write that website, and we don’t want to just parrot their words back at them. Look for student blogs, the websites of student organizations and other outside sources of information. Better yet, talk to current students and alumni about the contributions you’re hoping to make. See what they think of your idea! You may find that something you thought Wharton really needs actually already exists.
Next, write down a few contributions which you feel meet the “specific” and “meaningful” criteria. List more than you’ll need to write the essay—a half dozen plus. Then flesh them out. How will your proposed contribution positively affect another individual, a group of individuals, and eventually… the Wharton community? Sell us on it. Show us in a way we can picture. We need to be able to imagine a few years at Wharton WITHOUT YOU, and then those same few years WITH YOU. And we should be able to see clearly (in our minds) that the version WITH YOU is somehow better. THAT’s your challenge here, to make that case apparent. Once you’ve done that for each of your potential contributions, identify 2-4 where the delta between “Wharton with this contribution” and “Wharton without this contribution” is largest. Those the contributions around which you should write this essay.
A few other tips:
- Back up your promises with examples. Let’s say you plan to contribute by leading a Wharton intramural soccer team. Great! Prove that you’re the person for the job by explaining how you did a similar thing at your prior employer, leading the company team to five straight championships.
- Aim for a bit of variety. The adcom wants us to take into consideration your “personal, professional and/or academic” background. You don’t need to have one example each or anything like that, but try not to have every single one of your contributions fit into the same category.
- Add some fun. Show the adcom that your being on campus will be a positive for your classmates’ social lives, not just the academic environment. A lot of the value of an MBA comes from networking, and friendly, outgoing, entertaining people make networking a lot easier.
Rock and roll, comrades. Curious to see what y’all churn out.