The University of Pennsylvania, or Penn, was established in 1790 and is one of the oldest universities in America. Located in Philadelphia, this prestigious Ivy League school offers an exceptional education in a diverse urban setting on a primarily residential campus. Known for its top-notch research and undergraduate programs that focus on practical applications, grounded in a strong liberal arts foundation, Penn provides many opportunities for students to investigate different areas of interest. Think about how you might embrace this approach and the overall academic climate at Penn.
It should come as no surprise that Penn is steeped in tradition, although the curriculum is flexible. The four undergraduate schools (College of Arts and Science, Penn Engineering, School of Nursing, and The Wharton School) pride themselves on providing an integrated and functional education. As the school’s website says, Penn students “combine theoretical and practical thinking while developing the tools they need to innovate and lead in a world that demands an increasingly broad perspective.” Consider how these values will impact your experience at Penn.
Penn accepts the Common Application or the Coalition Application and also requires a supplemental essay, which helps Penn gain a more holistic view of you as a potential student. Penn states: “Ideal candidates are inspired to emulate our founder Benjamin Franklin by applying their knowledge in ‘service to society.’” Your Common Application offers a window to the admissions committee about your grades and test scores, as well as the level of rigor in your high school curriculum.
Penn offers a binding early decision option with a November 1st deadline. If Penn is your first choice, consider this option because the rate of admission is higher during early decision. Early decision may also be the best approach if you have family alumni ties to the school. (Alumni affiliation receives the most consideration during the early decision program.) You are allowed to apply early decision to Penn and early action to other non-binding or non-restrictive early action programs. Always check with the specific schools for guidelines.
The Penn supplemental essay
The supplemental essay provides you with the opportunity to show how you are an ideal match for Penn, and how Penn will help you to accomplish your college goals. In the essay, look for ways to illustrate the ways in which you engage with and think about the world around you. The admissions committee wants to understand what matters to you and why, so spend some time thinking about your values and perspectives, and how best to communicate them.
Before you sit down to begin writing your essay, try to also learn as much as possible about Penn’s approach to education. Exploring their website will help familiarize you with the school’s distinctive character, while also giving you a sense of the campus and academic atmosphere. If possible, plan a visit to the campus, speak with current students, read student blogs, and visualize yourself as a student at Penn. In short, identify what makes the school a good fit for you.
University of Pennsylvania 2021 – 2022 supplemental application essay prompts
Penn supplemental essay #1
Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania? (300-450 words)
For students applying to the coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer these questions in regard to your single-degree school choice; your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essay.
This prompt invites you to discuss why Penn will be the right place for you, and how you plan to flourish there, personally and academically. Here are things to ask yourself when mapping out your essay answer:
- Was there an “ah-ha!” moment that sparked your intellectual and academic interests? If so, that’s a great place to begin! Don’t be afraid to show your excitement, but ground it in specifics as they relate to the educational experience available to you at Penn. Include examples of how your personal experiences make the programs at Penn a good fit for you.
- Consider why you are a good fit for the undergraduate school of your choice (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, The Wharton School, or Penn Engineering). Include examples of how your personal experiences make the programs at Penn a good fit for you.
- What specific academic, service, and/or research opportunities might enhance your journey?
- How do you hope to contribute to the collegiate environment at Penn? How do you envision yourself positively impacting the overall Penn campus community?
- Discuss why you are driven to attend Penn and how a Penn education will help you to affect change in the world.
Penn supplemental essay #2
At Penn, learning and growth happen outside of the classrooms, too. How will you explore the community at Penn? Consider how this community will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape this community. (150-200 words)
This prompt invites you to address how you might contribute to and benefit from the extracurricular atmosphere at Penn. It’s tough to do this in only 200 words, so try to reveal your unique identity and perspective in the context of your interests outside the classroom.
- One way to address this prompt is by discussing your cultural background: how will it add to the Penn community? How will you learn and grow from interacting with those from backgrounds and cultures different from your own? How will your background add to the Penn community?
- Remember Penn’s founder, Benjamin Franklin, was a philosopher and inventor, focused on service to society. Reflect on Penn-specific opportunities to get involved and be of service in the local Philly community.
- Your response requires you to look at your identity and perspective and consider ways you mesh with the Penn community. What do you bring with you based on your life experience?
Final thoughts on applying to Penn
This is an increasingly competitive application process. Penn received 44,961 undergraduate applications for the class of 2023. Only 3,446, or 7.7%, were offered admission–a record low. Here are a few more numbers to consider. Ninety-six percent of the students admitted were in the top 10% of their high school class with median SAT scores of 740 in evidence-based reading and writing; 780 in math. Half of admitted applicants had an ACT score of 32 and 35.
The best way to differentiate yourself in this prestigious crowd is through your essays. Penn is interested in your personal stories, life experiences, hopes and aspirations. It seeks to attract and foster great thinkers and future leaders who will play constructive roles in society. Discuss what is meaningful to you, project the value you might add to the campus community, and convey how and why Penn is the ideal place for you to start transforming your dreams into your future. Take the time and invest the energy to reveal your best self!
If you’re applying to the University of Pennsylvania, you already know you’re up against tight competition. But don’t be overwhelmed: start early so you have adequate time to thoroughly research, prepare, and complete all aspects of your application. A well thought-out application will make your candidacy much more compelling.
Get the guidance of an experienced, caring admissions specialist who will help you stand out from the highly competitive applicant pool so that you can apply with confidence and get accepted! Click here to get started!
***Disclaimer: Information is subject to change. Please check with individual programs to verify the essay questions, instructions and deadlines.***Marie Todd has been involved in college admissions for over twenty years. Marie has both counseled applicants to top colleges and evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan's College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology; School of Nursing; and Taubman College of Architecture. Want Marie to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch with Marie Todd.