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    How to Respond to the 2023-2024 Penn State Supplemental Essay Prompts

    By Varonika Ware

    Varonika Ware is a content writer at Scholarships360. Varonika earned her undergraduate degree in Mass Communications at Louisiana State University. During her time at LSU, she worked with the Center of Academic Success to create the weekly Success Sunday newsletter. Varonika also interned at the Louisiana Department of Insurance in the Public Affairs office with some of her graphics appearing in local news articles.

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    Reviewed by Cari Shultz

    Cari Schultz is an Educational Review Board Advisor at Scholarships360, where she reviews content featured on the site. For over 20 years, Cari has worked in college admissions (Baldwin Wallace University, The Ohio State University, University of Kentucky) and as a college counselor (Columbus School for Girls).

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    Updated: February 6th, 2024
    How to Respond to the 2023-2024 Penn State Supplemental Essay Prompts

    Pennsylvania State University, commonly known as Penn State, is a public land-grant research university located in State College, Pennsylvania. It is widely known for its high ranking athletics and undergraduate degree programs. We are here to help you respond to the Penn State supplemental essays, so keep reading!

    The Penn State prompts

    The Penn State supplemental essays might be optional for all applicants, but going the extra mile shows your interest in the university and showcases your talents. Your story is important, and Penn State wants to hear about it. This is why they also include a supplemental essay for potential students that have taken time off before applying to college. 

    Prompt #1

    Optional: Please tell us something about yourself, your experiences, or activities that you believe would reflect positively on your ability to succeed at Penn State. This is your opportunity to tell us something about yourself that is not already reflected in your application or academic records. We suggest a limit of 500 words or fewer.”

    This prompt is the classic “who are you beyond academics?” question. Penn State and many other colleges want to get to know their applicants to determine if it’s the right fit. It’s important for your personality to shine through in this essay, and being authentic is a necessary component.

    Make your Penn State supplemental essay specific to you and your journey. Start by figuring out a main topic for your essay that isn’t so general that it could apply to any of the other applicants.

    However, the story you share with the admissions office should relate to what you hope to accomplish or contribute to the Penn State community. This includes hobbies that might have inspired you to choose your major as well as ways you contributed to your current community in a way that you hope to make a similar impact at Penn State. You might also want to mention a course that Penn State exclusively offers that relates to an interest you have. 

    Questions to consider

    • What is the story I want to tell Penn State?
    • What are some notable experiences, interests, or hobbies that I have?
    • Why did I choose to apply to Penn State?

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    Prompt #2

    Remember: This prompt is only for applicants who are sending in their application sometime other than their senior year of high school.

    Please use this space to explain any time that has elapsed between your high school graduation and your anticipated enrollment at Penn State. Please provide a summary of why that gap occurred. If you attended another college or university during that time, please note it below and ensure that you have entered the information in the Academic History section of this application. (500 words)

    Everyone’s college journey is different, with some not enrolling in college the fall after graduating high school. Whether you took a gap period to travel or to prepare for university, this is your opportunity to share your experience with Penn State. 

    You might’ve taken the time to travel, recoup from years in school, or start an entirely new adventure. You might have taken the time to seek experience and save money by working. Whatever your reasons, this supplemental essay prompt allows you to emphasize the importance of your gap period and how it has shaped you.

    When writing your essay, try to include why you want to attend Penn State after your time off. Make them a part of your story, and explain how you hope to further develop once you attend. 

    Be aware of the word count, it’s a bit more fixed than the other supplemental essay prompt. It might be hard to hit the exact limit, so go back and proofread before adding any additional sentences. A couple words here and there are quick to stack up!

    Also see: What is a gap year? Everything you need to know

    Questions to consider

    • Why did I want to take a gap year?
    • What did I accomplish during my gap year?
    • How did taking this time shape me as a person?
    • In what ways do I feel more prepared to start college now (specifically at Penn State)?

    Don’t miss: Top reasons to take a break from college

    Next steps for students

    As you go through the college application process, mark your calendar with important deadlines! By doing this, you can accurately plan and get things done in advance. You could circle the date for admission notifications or schedule a campus tour.

    Penn State has multiple campuses for applicants to choose from, and they also offer virtual tours, so you can get a quick look before visiting in person. The website even gives brief overviews of each location in Pennsylvania along with degrees, housing, and extracurriculars offered there. 

    Remember to check Penn State’s social media pages to stay updated on important events and dates. You’ll also be able to get a glimpse of what Penn State is like and how you might fit in there. Good luck on your path toward success!

    Additional resources 

    Now you know how to ace the Penn State supplemental essays. But the work is not done! You can never be too prepared for college, so here’s a couple resources to make the transition smoother: 

    Other colleges to consider

    Frequently asked questions about the Penn State supplemental essays

    Can I apply to Penn state through the Common App?

    Yes, applicants have the option to apply through the Common App or directly through the MyPennState App.

    Is the Penn State optional supplemental essay worth writing?

    Yes! On the Penn State undergraduate admissions website, they encourage applicants to complete the personal statement essay. Listen to them if Penn State if a top choice school for you!

    How long should the Penn State supplemental personal essay be?

    The essay should be no more than 500 words, which is about two pages double-spaced.

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