This post about the Penn supplement to the Common Application is part of a series of posts written to help you complete the 2015 Common Application supplement for Ivy League and other top schools.
The prestigious University of Pennsylvania, or Penn, is among the elite Ivy League schools. Established in 1740, Penn is one of the oldest universities in America. It is know 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 and requires an additional Penn writing supplemental. Penn wants to know more about you in order 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. Tell them more about 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 there is a higher rate of admission 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 your essay, get to know 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.
Located in the city of Philadelphia, Penn offers an exceptional education in a diverse urban setting on a primarily residential campus. Penn provides many opportunities for students to investigate assorted areas of interest. The numerous learning hubs are an example of how it fosters an active and dynamic exploration of ideas. Think about how you fit with this approach and the overall academic climate at Penn.
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.”
Penn Writing Supplement on the Common Application: “The Admissions Committee would like to learn why you are a good fit for your undergraduate school choice (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, The Wharton School, or Penn Engineering). Please tell us about specific academic, service, and/or research opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania that resonate with your background, interests, and goals.” 400-650 words
This prompt allows you to discuss how much you actually understand about how the undergraduate school of your choice and how it will help you to flourish. 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 fit for the particular dual degree or specialized program to which you seek admission.
You are up against an extremely competitive group of applicants. Penn received 35,866 undergraduate applications for the class of 2018. Only 3,718, or 10%, were offered admission and over 90% of the students admitted were in the top 10% of their high school class with average SAT scores of 720 in critical reading, 735 in math, 735 in writing and an average ACT score of 32. The best way to differentiate yourself from the crowd is by communicating the intangibles through your essays. Use your essay responses to discuss what is meaningful to you and how Penn is the ideal place for you to achieve your dreams for the future!
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 dreams. 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 put your best self forward!
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.