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The Essay Guide Series: University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania is well known for promoting innovation, entrepreneurship, and engagement in the community. What makes them different from other universities is that they are present in a city where students can get the city experience while studying at an Ivy League university! Let’s look at how you can crack the supplementals to improve your application! Over here, the key is to remain specific with your essays because admission officers only get less than 10 minutes to review your application.

1. How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests, and how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania? Please respond considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected. (300-450 words)

There are two parts to this question and both need to be answered very carefully here. First, you need to account for your interests and this is where the course/ department you have to apply for comes in. For example, you’ve applied for a biological science degree let’s say biotechnology, how do you demonstrate your interest here? Use a unique example from your past and please remember that it is not necessary to show that you’ve been geeking out over science and that is the only thing you have been doing for years and that’s why you chose this particular course. Instead, talk about how you have come across people who are affected by cancer, etc. and always wondered if your genetics had a play in it. Upon further research, you did understand that there is something at play and we don’t have all the answers yet. YOU would like to further explore this field in the future and this is where your interest stemmed from. Notice how we correlate an already personal experience to your budding academic interests? That’s how you need to capture their attention. Make it personal because nobody wants to know that scoring a 99 in Biology is why you feel that this would be the ‘right’ thing for you. Students who have personal motivations are more likely to succeed in the future.

Now getting to the second part, how do you plan on exploring this in university? Look at what the department has to offer. Taking the same example as above, maybe a semester abroad program that allows you to either do an internship or take different modules to what UPenn offers? Maybe a research internship requirement that will help you explore the nuances of research? Or maybe they give you the opportunity to take up a minor in something seemingly unrelated to biology, such as business and this will help you understand the pharmaceutical industry? Talk about why these offerings are important to you and how taking advantage of these opportunities will help you in the future. The main point to remember is that the essay shouldn’t look like a generic essay that can be submitted elsewhere. This is where you show that you’ve put in the effort to see what you can achieve here.

2. 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)*

Here, you can discuss the various ways in which you can contribute to a community beyond academics. What kind of personal experiences and perspectives are you bringing to the table? What kind of impact do you think you will have? For example, if you’re a basketball player, you can talk about how, if you play for the official basketball team, you can help them improve their current statistics. Be specific because every student will be writing something that may or may not be appealing to the committee. Unless you show the kind of impact you can have, you might not be able to convince them of the same. Your extracurriculars and hobbies come into the picture over here and that is what you need to highlight. If you’re seeking inspiration, look at what UPenn has to offer at the moment and how you fit into the picture. Once you’re convinced, it shouldn’t be hard to convince them either.


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