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November 17, 2010

Joint Wharton MBA/MA–Lauder Applicant Essays for Fall 2011 Admission

If you are applying for the Joint Wharton MBA/MA-Lauder Program, you will find yourself, not only writing the Wharton essays (See my previous post), but also writing up to an additional 2000 words.  I have not worked on too many Lauder applications. Three actually, resulting in an admit for 2010 (See his testimonial here) and two that resulted in interviews and sadly in dings (Don’t cry for the applicants as they were admitted to Columbia and Chicago).  My first suggestion about Lauder is to take the whole process, including interviewing seriously.   I am confident about my essay advice on Lauder, though clearly it based on a really small pool of clients.  While Wharton’s MBA questions have changed significantly for 2011 entry, that is not the case with Lauder. The two questions you will have to integrate into your overall Wharton essay portfolio are below in bold:

1. Describe a cross-cultural experience in your adult life that was challenging to you. How did you meet this challenge and what did you learn from the experience? (1,000 words)
While a cross-cultural experience in your adult life, the key situational constraint of the question, might occur in your home country, I would advise you to write on an experience that occurred overseas, though not necessarily in the language/region you intend to focus on at Lauder.  A core function of this essay is demonstrate your ability to function well internationally and to cope with differences in culture. It is generally the case that those factors can best be measured by an international experience.
What kind of topic will work here?  A challenging situation is pretty wide open.  It might be a professional situation involving team, leadership, and/or communication issues.  It might be a complicated situation because of the location.  Whatever it is, it must involve a cross-cultural aspect: You will need to write about the meeting of two or more unique cultures and the need to resolve or at least factor in differences between those cultures in your handling of the challenge you faced and how you overcame it.
I don’t suggest writing on a topic where you negatively stereotype another nation: Martians are always argumentative, so negotiating with them proved very challenging, but based on my ability to master their language, I was able to sell them more laundry detergent than they would ever need. Instead, I suggest you find a topic where actual differences in culture are explained a carefully nuanced and culturally sensitive way.

Given the necessity to actually learn something, avoid topics where you don’t: This situation taught me the importance of human communication. Sorry, but I think that lesson should have bean learned prior to becoming an adult. Successful versions of this topic must involve real learning. This may lead to a new career decision, a new way of looking at oneself, a new way of interacting with other people, or a myriad of other possibilities.

An effective answer will consist of the following:
1.  A clear statement of what the challenge was.
2.  A clear explanation of the cross cultural aspect.
3.  A discussion of the steps you took to overcome the challenge.
4.  An analysis of what you learned, possibly including an example of how you applied what you learned to a new situation.

2. Please explain why you are currently applying to Lauder. How do you expect the Wharton/Lauder joint-degree experience to benefit you on both a professional and personal level? (1,000 words)

Unlike regular Wharton MBA applicants, Lauder applicants will still have plenty of room to write about their goals and why they want to attend Wharton.  While I have suggested that all applicants try to write Optional Essay 1 (Creating your own course), I don’t think this is necessary for Wharton/Lauder applicants as it is possible that the content of Lauder Essay 2 will really prove more than sufficient for explaining all you need to about Wharton and Lauder.  That said, I still think Optional Essay 1 is great question to write on.

An effective answer here will consist of a clear explanation of why you are applying to Lauder. This explanation should be connected to the goals you discuss in Wharton Essay 1 and to the specific nature of the Lauder program.  Don’t worry about overlap between this answer and Wharton Essay 1 because some will be necessary in order to explain the connection between Lauder and your goals.  Given the importance of the linguistic, cultural, and experience  in-country aspect of Lauder, you should certainly explain how those and other aspects of the program have motivated your application.  You should discuss both what you hope to gain professionally (goals, career opportunities, networking, etc.) and personally (academic interest, expanded perspective, improved language skills, etc.) from the program.  I highly recommend that you use this space to connect personally with the Lauder program and show your passion for it.  Don’t just recite brochure content, but show how Lauder will transform you both professionally and personally.

Questions? Write comments or contact me directly at adammarkus@gmail.com. Please see my FAQ regarding the types of questions I will respond to. Before emailing me questions about your chances for admission or personal profile, please see "Why I don't analyze profiles without consulting with the applicant." If you are interested in my graduate admission consulting services, please click here.

-Adam Markus
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