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How to Respond to the UPenn Supplemental Essay Prompts
Most students who apply to schools as prestigious as UPenn have impressive academic and extracurricular records. If you want your application to shine above the rest, the UPenn supplemental essays are your opportunity!
UPenn has two required prompts. Both ask students to share how UPenn will fulfill their goals, in and out of the classroom. The challenge is crafting a sincere yet differentiated answer to these “Why UPenn” essays. Let’s discuss how to ace each prompt. Our tips include questions that will help you draw upon the best examples from your own experiences.
Also see: How to answer the Common App essay prompts
Note: The following prompts are from the 2021-2022 UPenn application. 2022-2023 prompts coming soon!
“Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania? 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. (300-450 words)”
This prompt asks about what intellectually drives you. Did you attend a poetry camp when you were in elementary school that ignited your love for creative writing? Did watching your father work on cars growing up introduce you to the world of engineering? Have current events inspired you to pursue a degree in social justice? These are the kinds of anecdotes you should incorporate when introducing your academic interests. Beginning with a short personal story makes your passions and curiosities seem more genuine. It will also help your distinct voice shine through!
Once you have laid the groundwork for why you are academically stimulated by your chosen area of study, link it to UPenn. How can your chosen undergraduate school at UPenn help you achieve your goals? Look at the different majors and minors offered in the College of Arts and Sciences. Is there an interdisciplinary minor that fuses your favorite subjects in a way you had never thought possible? Try to hone in on an interest you have, how you formed it, and how UPenn can help you further it. Convey that you have conviction in what you’d like to pursue!
Questions to consider:
- What current activity allows continued engagement through UPenn studies?
- Is there a unique class offering in the course catalog that embodies what you’d like to investigate academically?
- What about its School of Nursing or Wharton for business school helps you achieve your goals more than other universities’ programs?
Don’t miss: How to write an essay about yourself
“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 acknowledges the personal development that happens during college apart from your studies. At its core, it asks: How will Upenn help you grow as a person, and how will you enrich UPenn? Utilize campus communities that you envision yourself belonging to make this connection. Focus your answer on one passion, key belief, or essential part of who you are.
Here are some questions you could ask yourself:
- Does the city of Philadelphia energize you, hailing from a small town?
- Are there clubs on campus where you can meet others who share your love for chess, or cultural background?
- Did traveling growing up make you want to take advantage of UPenn’s abroad programs?
- Does UPenn share values that align with your own?
- As someone with a physical disability, does UPenn’s accessibility mean a lot to you?
You could also use this space to propose initiatives on what you’d like to help implement. For example, maybe you have ideas on how to foster a more supportive campus for the LGBTQ+ community. There are many directions to take this question.
Above all, choose something that is important to you and paint a picture of how you can cultivate it at Upenn.
Questions to consider:
- Do you have a unique hobby through which you can connect with other UPenn students?
- Do you identify with a group that is marginalized or misunderstood? If so, why do you feel like UPenn is a place where you can feel accepted and advocated for?
- Do you envision yourself serving on student government or starting initiatives that would leave a positive impact on UPenn?
Specialized and dual degree program prompts
Upenn offers seven special (and particularly competitive) programs. They each require a separate essay, with a bit longer word limit of 400-650. If you are interested in one of these tracks, be sure to get very specific in your answers. Make a list of concrete examples for how your chosen program satisfies your academic and personal aspirations. Given that these are such unique paths, showcase what you have been exposed to that has led you to develop this niche interest. Outline exactly how you envision this program setting you up for professional success. This is not the time to downplay your enthusiasm for the subject matter and confidence that you are a great candidate!
Also see: How to write a 250 word essay
After reading the above pointers, you should be ready to tackle the UPenn supplemental essays! Don’t shy away from injecting your personality into the prompts. Also know that you can never do too much research in finding examples to reference. Because these prompts are pretty open-ended, trimming your answers to 250 words is sometimes the trickiest part. Get all of your initial thoughts down, and then revise. You got this!
As you complete the UPenn supplemental essays, you’ve probably got a lot on your plate. Luckily, we can help you navigate it. Check out our guides on when to apply to college, how many colleges to apply to, and how to plan a college tour. We can also provide you with vetted, custom-matched scholarship opportunities which automatically update every day – make sure to try out our scholarship search tool. Best of luck with your admissions process!