Scott Edinburgh
June 22, 2017

Wharton Application Updates (LOR Changes!) & Personal MBA Coach’s Analysis

2017-2018 Deadlines

Round 1: September 19, 2017

Round 2: January 3, 2018

Round 3: March 27, 2018

Yesterday, at the 2017 AIGAC conference, Wharton shared details on the 2017-2018 application. While the essays will remain the same this year, Wharton announced a major change to its letters of recommendation process.

LOR Changes:

As Maryellen Reilly, Deputy Vice Dean, MBA Admissions, Financial Aid & Career Management recently shared in a blog:

We surveyed over 1,200 Letter of Recommendation writers about their experience with the process.  Utilizing their valuable feedback, in conjunction with conversations with writers at a variety of companies and Wharton stakeholders, we have revised and improved how recommenders provide information on who a candidate is both personally and within an organization.

The new Letter of Recommendation component of our application will be broken into two sections:

A selection of positive personality characteristics. Recommenders will be asked to choose three characteristics from a list of ten that best describe the candidate they are recommending.

Two free-form questions:

Question 1: Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success in the Wharton MBA classroom. (Word count: 300)

Question 2: Please provide example(s) that illustrate why you believe this candidate will find success throughout their career. (Word count: 300)

Wharton shared that there will be two different lists of 10 characteristics for recommenders to choose from. Asking recommenders to select specific traits will provide a more concrete framework and an easier assessment of consistency across the application.

Personal MBA Coach’s Take: This change reinforces how important it is that you share the highlights and key themes from your application with your recommenders to ensure consistency in your profile.

With the free-form questions, your recommenders will be able to share specific stories in support of your candidacy. Let your recommenders know the stories that are already included in your essays so that these additional stories are complementary and provide the reader with another view of your background. Given the additional information sharing afforded by this new format, I encourage candidates to carefully plan for this section of your application.

Essay Questions:

With the introduction of the essay questions last year, Maryellen gave candidates some specific advice: “By asking these two questions, our hope is to give applicants ample space to more fully explain their aspirations, goals, and how Wharton fits into those.  We want to be able to view applicants from both sides of their world – one where they are professionals developing skills and seeking career advancement, but also the personal growth side where they are seeking out enriching experiences to become better, stronger, wiser, and a more robust person. Take these two questions as an important opportunity to express who you are and what and who you want to be.  It is important for us to know the real you and be able to envision you as part of the Wharton community.”

As a Wharton Graduate myself, I am intimately familiar with the MBA program and culture at Wharton and advise candidates to think about each question differently and ensure answers complement each other while showing readers multiple aspects of their candidacy.

Essay 1: What do you hope to gain professionally from the Wharton MBA? (500 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Take: With this first question, you should discuss your specific short-term goals, but also think broader. This question allows you to reflect at a higher level on your aspirations. Where do you see yourself in 10, 20 or even 30 years? How will you get there? It would also be reasonable, and expected, to touch upon your past successes, explaining how they are relevant to your future objectives. This question does not require you to walk through your entire resume, and candidates are advised not to do so. Instead, focus only on your past to establish what your key skills are as well as how they will enable you to succeed in the future.

As you think about your future, think also about what your skills gaps are and how a Wharton MBA, specifically, will help you to close these gaps. It is important that you allow adequate time to research all that Wharton has to offer. I suggest being very specific in detailing what opportunities you plan to take advantage of on campus, what classes you plan to take, and how they will help you. Rather than including a laundry list, carefully think through how each area will help you fill in the necessary pieces of the puzzle and explain how you will improve. Be sure you show an understanding of Wharton’s culture here. Avoid vague statement and copy and pasting from other essays.

Essay 2: Teamwork is at the core of the Wharton MBA experience with each student contributing unique elements to our collaborative culture. How will you contribute to the Wharton community? (400 words)

Personal MBA Coach’s Take: Your answer to this second question should complement, but not repeat, your first essay. In order to demonstrate how you will be a team player, think about how you have been one in the past. Think about your personality and your specific strengths. Think about what you have to offer and how you have demonstrated team work throughout your past educational and professional career. Reflect on your specific contributions at work and in your communities. By including details on your past contributes, you will not only provide concrete evidence of what you can contribute to Wharton, but also show the reader more about you personally. Again, avoid vague statements and be specific. Wharton wants to learn what you will offer on campus and how you will uniquely contribute to the school’s culture.

If you would like individual and personal support while applying to Wharton, please find information about Personal MBA Coach’s comprehensive packages or contact me to discuss your profile as well as how I can help! As a Wharton graduate, I regularly help many applicants navigate Wharton’s application each year.  Email me at: or call +1 617-645-2424 today.