Every high school student has to go through the tough process of filling out college applications. The dreaded exams, essays, and details required make the admissions process a grueling one. And there’s always one question that students find is the hardest: “Why us?” We asked some students from UPenn to tell us their best strategies to tackle that difficult question:
penn120: “Everyone applying to a liberal arts college is going to be thinking the same, relatively broad thing: I like the balance of courses and I don’t know what I want to do yet so I want to take a variety of classes. You have to make the essay school-specific. What can you say about the school (that isn’t cliche) that really applies to you? Think about why you are applying to the school in the first place, and brainstorm, choosing a few ideas that you can elaborate on in an essay. Your essay should not be about why the college is a “good school,” but why it would be a good fit for you, and moreover, why you would be a good fit for it. Say what you are going to bring to the community, whether it be through activities, study abroad programs, research, etc. Do your research on the school and point out specific programs that interest you.”
Mizo: “For many “Why” essays, I had a template that greatly simplified the college application process. Basically, the first two paragraphs of my essay discussed my passion and how I, in and out of school, took initiative to explore my passion. My last paragraph tied back to the college I was applying for, as I discussed what offerings the college had that would allow me to delve deeper into my passions—which classes I would take, which professors I would love to learn from, which clubs I would participate in, etc. This template allowed me to answer the question, demonstrate specific knowledge on the school, and show parts of myself I may not have had the opportunity to address in the rest of the application.”
whartonschool19: “Penn is a very diverse campus, both in regards to the student body and the offered academic programs. When writing about Penn, many prospective students tend to generalize what interests about them; they focus too much space on describing the city of Philadelphia, the actual location and setting of the campus, the types of students that attend the college, and how “the great academic standing of Penn will help me be successful in the future.” Try to avoid using these types of topics to discuss your interest. To successfully write the “Why Penn” essay, look your intended major and look back at your high school career to see what types of activities, classes, and extracurriculars you were involved. Try to see how these aspects highlight your interests and goals and look for specific programs and opportunities Penn offers that will help you further explore these these interests and help you develop them.”
PennBen: “Research your chosen school (SAS, SEAS, Wharton, or Nursing) or program in detail in order to gain a sense of the opportunities that the school/program offers. Show that you’re driven and organized by communicating your genuine passion and connecting it to your personal experience and well-thought-out future plans. “Genuine” is the key word in this instance, since most of the people reading your essay will have read hundreds if not thousands of other essays and will be extremely adept at sniffing out anything that doesn’t “sound right.” Penn students are generally ambitious and innovative, so it helps if your reasons for applying relate to your experiences or future plans.”
lilk16sen: “Unique research about a school, if you can mention something the school prides themselves on and feels it’s part of what separates themselves from other schools it will help you dramatically. It isn’t too hard to find as it is usually featured prominently on all websites and pamphlets the school will use.”
GoQuakers: “There are tons of clubs and organizations at UPenn that you can mention in your essay. I personally wrote about my interest in the Wharton Undergraduate Media and Entertainment Club and Wharton Women. I know that a fantastic campus organization to target if you’re a writer is the Kelly Writers House. You can also discuss the amazing faculty and diversity of the student body. Whatever the case, DON’T be general. Paint the admissions officers a picture of how you will fit in at UPenn.”
Applying to UPenn? See essays, scores, and advice from real students who were accepted. Our UPenn packages feature some of our favorite essays that got accepted to this iconic Ivy League school.
UPenn is filled with driven, passionate, and entrepreneurial students. Therefore, I think the best way to communicate how you'd fit in at UPenn is to emphasize how a UPenn education could get you to your end goals. UPenn loves a practically oriented student, so be practical and clear about what UPenn will allow you to achieve.
The supplemental essay question for the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is as follows:
"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)
Undergraduate School Choice:
UPenn has four undergraduate schools with additional specialized and cross-disciplinary programs. In order to demonstrate your interest in UPenn, make sure you're applying for the right school for what you want to study.
- The College of Arts and Sciences
- The School of Engineering
- The School of Nursing
- The Wharton School
- AI | Computer and Cognitive Science, Artificial Intelligence (the College and Engineering)
- BIO-DENT | Seven year bio-dental program (the College and the School of Dental Medicine)
- DMD | Digital Media Design (Engineering)
- Huntsman | Huntsman program in international studies and business (Wharton and the College)
- LSM | Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management (Wharton and the College)
- M & T | Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology (Engineering and Wharton)
- NETS | Networked and Social Systems Engineer (Engineering)
- NHCM | Nursing and Health Care Management (Wharton and Nursing)
- VIPER | Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (the College and Engineering)
If you want to study economics would you apply to the Wharton School of Business or to the College of Arts and Sciences? This depends entirely on whether you want a pre-professional approach (Wharton) to business and economics or want a more theoretical and academic approach (the College). Make sure you're selecting the school that's right for getting you to your end goal. If your dream is to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, an application to Wharton is much more in line with your goals , and that will shine through to the Admissions Committee.
How Can Penn Further My Goals?
A good supplement answer will clearly outline what your passions are and how Penn's opportunities will help you achieve them.
1. Look through the majors and programs at UPenn.
The list of undergraduate programs at UPenn Majors and can be found here. Each major has its own site with information and a list of the classes it offers. Look through some of the classes in the majors that look interesting. Can you see yourself rushing to sign up? If so, these are classes you'll want to reference in your essay.
2. Identify professors you'd like to work with.
After looking through the majors and classes you'll likely see some opportunities that interest you. Google the names of the professors teaching the classes you find compelling and the heads of the programs or majors you like. Is the professor published in areas of your interest? Read his or her writing and tell the admissions committee what you think! The more academic familiarity and passion you can display in your essay the better. Looking through classes, programs, and professors will help you envision yourself at Penn and more clearly portray that vision to the Admissions Committee.
3. Identify research opportunities.
While finding a professor you'd like to work with and referencing he or she is a good way to showcase your interest, not all professors are willing to take on research assistants. In order to link students with research opportunities, UPenn created the The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF). It is a great resource on campus that the school is really proud of. The Admissions Committee is sure to love it if you reference an opportunity that you find on CURF's site. The site can be found here.
4. Identify UPenn alums you admire
If you know the type of career you'd be interested in having, look at some UPenn alums that are working in those fields. What did they do with their UPenn degrees and what opportunities were they able take advantage of while at UPenn? Wikipedia has a great list of UPenn alums organized by discipline you can find here.
5. What if I don't have a specific passion?
UPenn is a great place to find yourself. If you are undecided about your future talk about some of the ways in which UPenn can help you foster your goals and learn about yourself. For example, the multidisciplinary requirements at UPenn ensure you'll get a taste of a variety of academic fields. Take a look at the advice for Freshmen written by UPenn deans about how to find their academic niche. Also, do not forget about how important it is to give back! Information about opportunities for community involvement at Penn are here.