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Posted by Chioma Isiadinso
The Wharton School of Management will only require one essay for the 2015-2016 admissions cycle, and it features the same question as the previous MBA cycle.
It is a pretty straightforward question, but not one that cannot be tackled without doing some substantial planning and research on your part.
Because the school only requires one essay – although there is an optional, more open-ended essay – it is important that your essay be memorable.
If you want to truly stand out from the intense competition and leave an impression on the admissions board, here is where you need to succinctly deliver an overview of your personal brand.
Before you embark on the essay, it is critical to spend a good deal of time on introspection, assessing who you are – your values, goals, skills and passion.
You should review your strengths and weaknesses, your past achievements and failures, your perception of yourself and how other people perceive you.
As you start to distill your key values, goals, interests and achievement, you should begin to identify key personal brand themes. These are not job titles, but the intrinsic and motivating elements of what you stand for and your identity.
Your brand themes should be specific. Below are some examples of effective brand themes from successful applicants:
– Empowerer of women
– Global citizen
– Risk taker
– Bridge builder
– Diplomatic rebel
– Unrelenting value seeker
While you don’t have to mention your brand theme in your essay, you can use it to identify the compelling stories that will effectively depict your personal brand.
For example, a candidate who identifies herself as a global citizen can leverageone or two stories to convey her comfort level in international settings, such as a key project she managed with a team that spanned multiple continents.
Or, she may identify a personal story about the study abroad program she did in a remote region of the world that prompted her “aha” cultural moment.
She could also choose to write about her involvement with nonprofit groups that help immigrants adjust to their new lives in America.
With only one essay, you have to decide which of your brand themes are the most compelling to share. You may want to focus on the strongest brand theme and share it with multiple stories across the different parts off your life – personal, community and professional.
Or, you could choose to be broad and highlight two or three brand themes with one example or anecdote for each.
The goal is to ensure that the admissions board walks away with a strong sense of who you are. This is at the heart of what the essays are about.
Most of all, you want to use your themes to explain why you have more to gain from Wharton than from any other school.
Under each point, list stories or examples from your past experience that you could bring in to illustrate that point.
Then, list attributes about Wharton that will be helpful to you. With these lists completed, you should have a fairly comprehensive outline of what you hope to gain and how Wharton can help you get there.
Here are some tips for planning your essay
Is there one event or memory that captures your brand and your goals particularly well? Or maybe one moment that truly clarified your ambitions? If so, start by retelling that moment.
If you have a particularly well-shaped plan for your future, you could begin by describing how you see that future. Sharing a compelling vision up front can quickly pull the reader into your perspective.
Trace influences of your early life and show how they have shaped your goals. Then, show how Wharton can help you further those goals.
However you decide to approach it, remember one mantra:
Show, don’t tell.
Stories and examples are so much more powerful than simple statements.
Instead of simply saying, “I hope to improve my leadership skills,” tell a story about when you found your leadership skills challenged.
Instead of just telling the committee that you want to start your own business, share your vision for that business.
Stories, not statements, will help you convey the passion and interest that you need to show.
In addition, you need to convey a compelling reason for why you want an MBA and how you will use it to create substantial impact.
These are some of the questions to admissions board will be looking to answer from reading your essay:
– Is your career goal realistic and achievable?
– What skills do you have, and do they fit with your professional goals
– With regard to your career decisions, is there a logical connection to where you are currently and where you want to go?
– Are you a good fit for the program?
– Are your career ambitions transformative, and will an MBA help you achieve those goals?
The school does provide the opportunity for an optional essay within the application.
Regarding the optional essay, it is always a good idea to take advantage of it, especially if there was something you felt strongly about that you didn’t get a chance to cover in your story. This could be gaps in your application such as GMAT/GRE below-average score, academic issues with GPA, work history (gaps in job history or you changed jobs too frequently).
You could use the optional essay to address something positive as well, such as an exceptional circumstance that you overcame that is a big part of who you are today or an unusual life experience that is part of your story.
But make sure that whatever you offer hasn’t been adequately covered elsewhere in your application.
You now have a few good tips for your Wharton b-school essays.
Remember that unearthing your personal brand, choosing the right story and illustrating impact are keys to creating a successful Wharton MBA essay.
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