Saturday, December 8, 2007

Wharton's Outsider Essay

Wharton has a new essay this year that has given a lot of people trouble:

Tell us about a situation in which you were an outsider. What did you learn from the experience? (500 words)

I think the best way to approach this question is not to try to think of a situation that is profound, like a crazy culture shock situation or a time when you stood up to a murderous gang, etc. Use it as another chance to tell the admissions committee something you want them to know about you. For instance, I used a story that wasn't really monumental, but was a good segue into a discussion of my volunteer work and why I do it.

This question reminds me of a day back in high school. It was AP English, and we had our first Blue Book essay exam on The Odyssey. Our teacher wrote the question on the board: "Explain the role of dramatic humanism in the Odyssey". Well, "dramatic humanism" isn't something we'd ever discussed and no one know what it meant. Everyone in the class raised their hands, but all she would do was write one word on the board. COPE. So I did what I could. I made up a reasonable definition for the term and went with it. I got an A.

I think the admissions committee may be going for a similar angle with this question. It's a little oddball, not something any other school asks. Applicants aren't going to have a model to go by. Therefore, they are going to have to come up with something on their own, and maybe it will give the adcom a chance to really see how the applicant thinks. So I guess that's my advice for Round 2 applicants ... COPE!

Of course, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe they are just looking for insight into how you deal with uncomfortable situations or your attitudes about diversity. What do I know, I don't even know if I got in yet! ;)


sbose6uf said...

I have been following your blog. First of all, congratulations on getting accepted to Wharton and Kellogg.
I am applying to both the programs in Jan. I really liked your advice on the Outsider Essay for Wharton. I had a quick questions. Do you think following situation qualifies as an appropriate response:
Situation where I observed someone overcome adverse circumstances. I learnt what he did to excel and then implemented them in my life when I faced similar circumstances.

Your feedback will be appreciated. Thanks.

tinydancer said...

sbose6uf - I'm so sorry, I did not see this until today! Obviously, the round 2 deadline has come and gone.

But on the off chance you are aiming for round 3, here are my thoughts. I think your situation is a little risky because you are not starting with a scenario that focuses on you or even happened to you. However, if you have very good examples of how your observation of this situation changed you, then it could work. But I would make both your connection to the other person and the situations that followed very compelling. You want the adcom to say "Ah, yes. I see where he/she is going with this."
Bottom line: you want them to learn something important about you from the essay. If you can do that, I say go for it!

Hope that helps. I'm off to add an email notification for myself so I see these comments when they are posted!!

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