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How to Respond to the 2023-2024 UPenn Supplemental Essay Prompts

Most students who apply to schools as prestigious as the University of Pennsylvania 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 three required prompts. Each 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

Prompt #1

“Write a short thank-you note to someone you have not yet thanked and would like to acknowledge. (We encourage you to share this note with that person, if possible, and reflect on the experience!) (150-200 words)”

This prompt asks you something that many colleges do not– they want to know about your relationships. This is great because it shows the admissions committee a glimpse into what type of person you are, and what you care about. Gratitude tells a lot about a person, so whoever you decide to write to, make sure that it is sincere and truthful. 

This prompt is to be written with between 150 and 200 words. Depending on how you feel about writing, this can be seen as a whole lot of writing or not enough space to say how you really feel. Either way, if you just write from your heart with this prompt, you can always go back and edit it to get the word count correct. 

Questions to consider: 

  • Who has helped you the most in your life?
  • What are you grateful for?
  • Have you experienced something big that a family member or friend helped you through?

Prompt #2

“How will you explore community at Penn? Consider how Penn will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape Penn. (150-200 words)”

This prompt acknowledges the social aspect of attending a college or university. One of the big things that many higher education institutions look for in a student is that they are more than just their academics. Penn is big on community, so this prompt is asking you how you will benefit from the community that the school offers, and also how the community will benefit from your involvement. 

For many students, the most difficult part about writing college supplemental essays is writing about themselves. For this prompt, UPenn wants to know about your positive attributes. It is okay to hype yourself up– actually, that is what they want to hear! So although it may seem awkward at first to talk about what you have to offer in their community, it is important that you start to get comfortable writing in that way about yourself. 

Here are some questions you could ask yourself: 

  • Are you a part of a community at home?
  • What are you looking for in a college when it comes to community?
  • What do you feel are the most important parts of your identity that you can see in the community around you?

Prompt #3

“Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, describe how you intend to explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania. (150-200 words)”

For this prompt, you do not want to just repeat what is already on your transcript, resume, or application. This is a place that you can deep dive into the parts of your academics, where you may not have been able to elaborate in your application. It will be important to connect your previous academic experiences to what you want your future academics to look like at UPenn.

In addition to your previous academics, you will want to talk about your goals and aspirations academically and intellectually in college. This does not necessarily have to be specific to UPenn, but it can be. If you want to catch the reader’s attention, you can connect it to things that are specific to UPenn, such as specific professors you are looking forward to working with, research opportunities that UPenn offers that other schools don’t, or classes that you are excited about. 

Here are some questions you could ask yourself: 

  • What major are you interested in?
  • Do you plan to study abroad?
  • What topics are you interested in researching?
  • What excites you academically?

See Also: How to write an essay about yourself

Transfer Essay

“Please explain your reasons for transferring from your current institution and what you hope to gain by transferring to another institution. (4150 characters) ”

Also see: How to transfer colleges

This prompt is specifically for students who are wanting to transfer to UPenn from another institution. Although 4150 characters may seem like a great deal of words, remember that this is your opportunity to share your story and tell the university about who you are as a student, as a person, as a community member, and as a friend. 

It is a great idea to lean in on the second half of this prompt. What do you hope to gain from transferring to another college? Usually, when a person transfers to another university, it is because they were not getting everything they wanted out of the college that they started at. One thing that you need to remember is that you do not want to speak badly about your previous institution– this can be a bad look, depending on who is reading the essay. Be sure that you are focusing on yourself, and try to remain positive.

Here are some questions you could ask yourself: 

  • If you had a bad experience at your previous institution, how can you turn that around to be positive?
  • What are you looking forward to academically with UPenn?
  • What are you looking forward to in the community with 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 500 word essay

Final thoughts

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! 

Additional resources

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!

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