The University of Pennsylvania, or Penn, was established in 1790 and is one of the oldest universities in America. This prestigious Ivy League school is known for its top-notch research as well as its undergraduate programs that focus on practical applications grounded in a strong liberal arts foundation. It accepts the Common Application or the Coalition Application and requires a Penn writing supplemental in addition to the general Common/Coalition Application essay. Your supplemental essay helps Penn to gain a more holistic view of you as a potential student. It states: “ideal candidates are inspired to emulate our founder Benjamin Franklin by applying their knowledge in ‘service to society.’” Through your Common Application, the admissions committee is aware of your grades and test scores, and understands the level of rigor in your curriculum within the context of your high school environment. Use the supplemental essay as an opportunity to demonstrate how you are an ideal match for Penn and how Penn will help you to accomplish your life goals. Illustrate how you engage with and think about the world around you. Communicate your thoughts, values and perspectives so they can understand what is important to you!
Penn offers a binding early decision option with a November 1st deadline. Consider this option if Penn is your first choice because the rate of admission is higher during early decision. In addition, if you have family alumni ties to Penn early decision may be the best approach. 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.
Before you sit down to begin writing your essay, do your research to learn as much as possible about Penn’s approach to education. Familiarize yourself with the unique character of the school, go through the website, get a sense of the campus and academic atmosphere, if possible visit the campus, speak with current students, and imagine yourself as a student at Penn. In short, identify what makes the school a good fit for you.
Penn is located in the city of Philadelphia and offers an exceptional education in a diverse urban setting on a primarily residential campus. Penn provides many opportunities for students to investigate various areas of interest. The availability of various learning hubs is an example of how it fosters an active and dynamic exploration of ideas. 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 at Penn is flexible, it is grounded in a high quality liberal arts and science foundation. 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. “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 Writing Supplement:
How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying. (400-650 words)
Begin by discussing your intellectual and academic interests. Don’t be afraid to show your excitement but ground it in specifics as they relate to the education at Penn. This prompt allows you to discuss how you hope the undergraduate options at Penn can help you explore your interests and how an education at Penn will help you to flourish. 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). What specific academic, service, and/or research opportunities might enhance your journey? Include examples of how your experiences make the programs at Penn a good fit for you. How will the opportunities at Penn expand, nurture, and support your interests and aspirations? How do you hope to contribute to the collegiate environment at Penn? Consider how you might positively impact the overall Penn campus community. You need to address why you are driven to attend Penn and how a Penn education will help you to affect change in the world.
Note that additional essays are required if you are applying to one of the Coordinated Dual Degree and Specialized Programs offered at Penn (Huntsman: The Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, LSM: The Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management, M&T: The Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology, NHCM: Nursing and Healthcare Management, VIPER: The Roy and Diana Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research, NETS: The Rajendra and Neera Singh Program in Networked and Social Systems Engineering, and The Seven-Year Bio-Dental Program). These responses have limits that range from 400 to 650 words. Although these individual prompts are not addressed in detail here, keep in mind that each one asks you to share specific examples and experiences that demonstrate your potential for success along with your enthusiasm for and attraction to the particular program. These programs are a significant commitment and you need to convey your genuine dedication. The admissions committee uses your essays to determine whether you will be a good match for the particular dual degree or specialized program to which you seek admission.
This is a competitive application process and you are up against an increasingly competitive group of applicants. Penn received 38,918 undergraduate applications for the class of 2020. Only 3,674, or 9%, were offered admission (5,762 applied early decision and 1,336, or 23.2% were admitted). Over 90% of the students admitted were in the top 10% of their high school class with average SAT scores of 740 in evidence based reading and writing, 755 in math, and an average ACT score of 33.5. Effectively communicating the intangibles through your essays is the best way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Use your essay responses to discuss what is meaningful to you, project the value you might add to the campus community and convey how Penn is the ideal place for you to achieve your dreams for the future.
Take a deep breath and try not to be intimidated by this process. Start early to allow yourself enough time to thoroughly research, prepare, and complete all aspects of your application. All these factors must come together in a compelling way to present you as a highly competitive applicant. 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 a constructive role in society. Take the time and invest the energy to reveal your best self!
If you’re applying to Penn, you already know you’re up against tight competition. Don’t be overwhelmed. Get the guidance of an experienced admissions specialist who will help you stand out from the highly competitive applicant pool so you can apply with confidence, and get accepted! Click here to get started!By Marie Todd, Accepted's college admissions specialist. Marie has worked in college admissions for over twenty years. She has both counseled applicants and evaluated applications. Most recently she evaluated 5000+ applications for the University of Michigan’s College of Literature, Science and the Arts; College of Engineering; School of Kinesiology. She is available to assist you (or your child) with your applications. Want Marie to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch!