June 11, 2018

Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania MBA Essay 1

UPenn Wharton

Wharton MBA Essay 1

What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

We love using “Before and After” to tease out meaningful insights into… things. Lots. O. Things. This is another good opportunity. Let’s take ten minutes to do a little exercise and see what that looks like:

Wherever you are right now (self-employed entrepreneur, consultant, banker, marketing associate, whatever), imagine the next five years of your life WITHOUT passing through Wharton Business School. Don’t just say, “K, gotcha,” actually imagine it. Write it out even. On the left side of your “paper” draw a tiny circle that says “TODAY” then draw a long horizontal line all the way to the right of the paper and draw a second circle, “FIVE YEARS FROM NOW.”

Now let’s start filling this in with additional circles, but also, with content that can be compared. You COULD describe yourself today in terms of your WEIGHT, and then project what you think it’ll be, or want it to be, five years from now. You could also do it in terms of “marathons completed.” You could do “average number of hours slept per night.” As you can see, there are many ways to define the “Today You” versus the “5 Years From Now You”—the key thing is that to show PROGRESS, we need to measure both present and future by the same metric.

For our purposes here, we wanna focus on what are you CAPABLE of doing, professionally. Let’s start with what you HOPE TO BE CAPABLE OF five years from now, that you know you CAN’T QUITE PULL OFF today. What are the three to five bullets you wanna be capable of in FIVE YEARS? What are you aiming at? Write em down. Then do the same for who you are TODAY. List a few KEY bullets about what your skill set as it is today enables you to achieve. If you’re an entrepreneur, you can define it in a bunch of ways: “I can easily manage a team of five, I can grow my business 1.5x, I can…” If you’re a consultant at McKinsey, you’ll have a different version. So, fill in that second circle, and then the first. Hopefully much or all of that future list EXCEEDS your current skill level today, otherwise, you may be flatlining (which is fine, but not quite what business schools are looking for).

Now there’s all this SPACE in between. The intervening years. Walk us through maybe two or three nodes that might reveal key turning point moments, milestones, whatever, that propel you toward that future node. A promotion perhaps to a new role with new responsibilities that will allow you to learn new skills? A gig at a new and bigger company which then allows you to… xyz? Whatever those things are, lay them out on this timeline. Keep it simple, two to three circles and maybe one or two bullets for each explaining em.

Once you’re done, you should end up with an ARC that describes where you can go in five years (rather, what professional GROWTH you can experience)… WITHOUT attaining an MBA from Wharton. This shouldn’t be a bad arc, it should be a great one. Cuz what if you don’t get in? That shouldn’t stop you from CRUSHING your aspirations.

But now, you’re gonna do this process over. But this time you’re gonna do it LEFT TO RIGHT. Start with that left circle (the present), and DUPLICATE exactly “who you are professionally today.” And now play out the next five years, but maybe in the next circle, or perhaps two circles from now, you’re gonna include a NEW circle that’s gonna change the game completely. It’ll say “Wharton” and above it, will be the word “booya,” perhaps, or a thumbs up emoji. What does the NEXT circle look like NOW? And the next? And what does the FINAL “Five Years From Now” circle look like? If you do this correctly, that FINAL CIRCLE should look somewhat DIFFERENT from the first one you made. This is where your answer to this first Wharton prompt will be revealed… “what did you gain professionally from Wharton, that explains the DELTA between the first and second versions of this exercise?”

Once you’ve gotten a sense of what that difference is, now you can apply it to the actual essay:

  1. This is the problem I wanna solve, or the opportunity I’m gonna take advantage of. This is my ultimate vision, not so much in terms of job titles I want, but the impact it’s all gonna have. Lemme sell you here on what results FROM my success. [100-125 words]
  2. This is my track record to-date, skills I have, proof that I’m credible in attacking this stuff. But, in order to achieve ABC aspects of my goals, I’m lacking XYZ. [125-150 words]
  3. While I can get these things at any business school, here are the specific ways in which the WHARTON VERSION will help me develop professionally … in the most profound manner. [150 words]
  4. Once equipped with the Wharton MBA, here’s a sneak peek at a very thoughtful short-term plan that follows, and a recap of how this all propels me to the BEST version of my long-term vision. [75 words]
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