This post about the Penn supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2012 Common Application supplement for Ivy League schools.
As an application reviewer and a college counselor, I struggle with the “why us?” question. The question from the University of Pennsylvania supplement is no different.
The opportunities, both academic and extracurricular, at Penn are broad and appealing. The admissions committee has a reputation for seeking students who are especially committed to their interest in the school and this question clearly seeks to find the essence of that interest.
Considering both the specific undergraduate school or program to which you are applying and the broader University of Pennsylvania community, what academic, research, and/or extracurricular paths do you see yourself exploring at Penn?
The trick with this question is to write an essay that addresses the question without sounding like you’ve swallowed the viewbook and at the same time providing personal insight, personality and voice to you answer. Penn offers you up to 500 words in answering the question. Consider the following:
- With its emphasis on research and interdisciplinary study, if this is an area that interests you, or you have a research background, mention it. If your interests are well defined, and based upon previous experience, even if it is only in-depth reading about a particular topic, demonstrate your intellectual engagement within the context of this essay.
- If you are academically undecided, consider how Penn will help you explore areas of interest. Draw a parallel to another time in which you have been able to explore something new.
- What is appealing about Penn’s urban campus? How is it similar to or different from other places that you have lived?
- If you have visited Penn, attended an information session about Penn either in your community or high school, draw upon your reactions to what you’ve learned. If you know students at Penn, ask them what they like most about the college.
- What does it mean to be part of the larger Penn community as an alumnus/a?
Spend some time picturing yourself on the campus and use the essay as an opportunity to expand upon some of the things you find most appealing about college while sharing more about your background and goals. You can also draw briefly on some of your past experiences to highlight how they might transition onto the Penn campus.
By Whitney Bruce, who has worked in college admissions since 1996. She has served as a Senior Assistant Director of Admissions (Washington U), Application Reader (University of Michigan), Assistant Director of College Counseling (private prep school in St. Louis), and an independent college counselor. She is happy to advise you as you apply to college.