How to Write the University of Pennsylvania Supplemental Essays 2023-2024

Noel Kim

When you sit down to craft your University of Pennsylvania supplemental essays, consider how your passion for UPenn sets you apart. Perhaps you're captivated by the opportunity to integrate your chosen major with your volunteer work through Penn's exceptional community engagement programs. Or maybe it was the charm of Philadelphia's historic buildings and cobblestone streets that stole your heart during your campus visit. Regardless, if you truly believe that Penn could be your home for the next four years, now is the time to articulate your reasons and aspirations on paper. To assist you in tackling this year's essay questions, I have meticulously analyzed each prompt, provided various approaches to addressing them, and shared additional tips to ensure you can excel in your University of Pennsylvania supplemental essays for the 2023-2024 application cycle.

Penn-Specific Essays for All Applicants

Regardless of which school or dual-degree program within Penn you’re applying to, all students have to answer the two required questions. Considering that 93% of applicants got rejected this year, your goal in writing the University of Pennsylvania supplemental essays 2023-2024 should be to stand out in demonstrating an unprecedented commitment to the home of the Quakers. 

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)  

To become a valuable community member of any college, developing strong relationships and getting along with your peers is essential. The University of Pennsylvania recognizes the importance of these qualities, which is why they have introduced the prompt asking applicants to write a thank-you note to someone they have not yet thanked. This prompt aims to assess how applicants value others' presence in their lives, how they express gratitude, and what they truly value.

When considering who to thank and for what, think beyond the obvious choices. While thanking a parent or guardian for their hard work and dedication in raising you is a valid option, you can also take an unexpected route. Consider thanking the person who supports your theater troupe, the staff member at your school who goes above and beyond their duties, or a friend who consistently gives you rides to and from activities. By choosing someone unexpected, you can showcase your ability to recognize and appreciate the individuals who have made a significant impact on your life.

Additionally, instead of just stating what you did or why you are thankful, take the opportunity to convey your emotions and the impact the person has had on you. Your tone should be directed towards the person you are thanking, rather than the admissions officer who will be reading your essay. 

Remember, the purpose of this essay is not just to showcase your writing skills, but also to provide insights into your character and values. Use this opportunity to highlight your ability to appreciate others, demonstrate empathy and kindness, and showcase the qualities that make you a valuable member of any community. By expressing your gratitude and acknowledging the impact others have had on your life, you will undoubtedly stand out in the University of Pennsylvania supplemental essays for the 2023-2024 application cycle.

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

This prompt serves as an opportunity for the admissions officers to understand what makes you a unique person and which parts of campus you will contribute to the most. They want to see your passion and dedication to making a positive impact within the Penn community. Whether it is through student government, community service organizations, or cultural clubs, Penn is seeking individuals who will actively engage in and enhance the campus community.

While you can definitely mention which student organizations you hope to participate in at UPenn, focus on 1-2 of your most meaningful extracurricular experiences and highlight how your experiences can help shape Penn’s community. This is a chance for you to showcase your ability to connect your personal experiences to the larger Penn community. How will your unique perspective and background contribute to the diversity and inclusivity of the campus? How will your involvement in specific organizations or activities enrich your own growth and development? These are the types of questions you should consider when crafting your response.

Remember, Penn is looking for students who not only excel academically but also demonstrate a genuine commitment to being active and engaged members of the campus community. Use this prompt to showcase your leadership abilities, your passion for making a difference, and your desire to contribute to the vibrant and diverse community at Penn.

Dual-Degree Specific Questions

The school-specific prompt will now be unique to the school to which a student is applying. Considering the undergraduate school you have selected, please respond to your school-specific prompt below.For students applying to the coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer this question 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.

If you’re applying to one of UPenn’s dual-degree programs, you’ll have to write additional essays. To answer the University of Pennsylvania supplemental essays 2023-2024 for each of these highly competitive programs, you have to convey how you’ve pursued the intersection of the respective fields, as well as why you’re choosing Penn’s very specific programs over schools that are already specialized. 

In your response, dive into details about discovering your love for your prospective field, whether it’s engineering, business, or biology. Was there one instance that catalyzed your passion and goals? How have you explored the subject of your interest since? How has your curiosity about the topic grown? The majority of your essay should be dedicated to tying your interest in what the specific Penn school has to offer. Admissions officers must have no doubt that you have done thorough research on both the college and what Penn looks for as a whole. 

For example, Penn Engineering values students who are able to apply their distinguished background in physics and math into innovation, design, and scientific discoveries. You can talk about some ways that you’re excited to elevate your passion for engineering and entrepreneurship through Penn’s Clarks Scholars Program for leadership in engineering. Or you might dedicate your essay to your plans to advocate for minority representation in engineering through the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation (LSAMP) Undergraduate Research Program.

An easy mistake to make in this essay would be to write about Penn in a broad and general sense when the prompt clearly asks you to write about the specific college you’re applying to. Think about that school, what makes it unique, and how it can help you reach your aspirations. If you could recycle this response for another school’s supplemental essays, it’s time to start a new draft.

Additional Tips for Writing the UPenn Supplemental Essays 2023-2024

Here are some final tips to get you on the right track for your University of Pennsylvania supplemental essays 2023-2024.

  • Don’t underestimate the power of your extracurriculars: Admissions officers want to know what makes you tick outside the classroom. Don’t just shrug off this essay and repeat information you’ve already included in your activities list. They want to know about your perspective and identity. Your activities could have shifted your views in a way that you might not have even realized before sitting down to write the essay. And you won’t be able to analyze their impact properly if you don’t look at them from a more nuanced angle.
  • If you’re pursuing a dual-degree, don’t write about it in the first two questions: Your response should only talk about the main school within Penn you’re applying to. For example, if you’re applying to the Life Sciences and Management program, which falls under both Wharton and the College of Arts and Science, you must pick either Wharton or the College of Arts and Sciences as your main school of choice. You’ll get a chance to elaborate on your interest in the specific program later.

The supplemental essays for the University of Pennsylvania are specifically designed to assess whether you would be a good fit for one of the colleges within UPenn. By thoroughly researching and understanding the distinct characteristics of each college, you can craft compelling responses that will persuade admissions officers that they are making the right decision, bringing you one step closer to becoming a proud Quaker. You've got this!

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