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Duke University
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Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How to Write the Community Essay for UPenn

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Vinay Bhaskara and Aja Altenhof in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) requires applicants to submit supplemental essays in addition to the main Common App essay. For the second supplemental essay, UPenn asks students to respond to the following prompt:


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


This article provides some tips to help you craft your response to this essay prompt, including strategies to avoid common topics, as well as tips to navigate the short word limit.


Writing About Diversity


When approaching this prompt, many students first think to write about diversity, equity, and inclusion. While this topic can work in some cases, it is important to note that this prompt is not inherently about diversity. It is first and foremost a space to showcase the best parts of yourself outside of the classroom that will positively impact, and thrive within, the UPenn community.


Students who have a unique or interesting approach to answering this question typically tend to be the most successful when it comes to writing about diversity for this prompt. If you are interested in writing about diversity, equity, and inclusion, but your topic is not nuanced or particularly strong, you can consider other strategies and topics for this essay.


Consider Unconventional Identities and Perspectives


One strategic way to choose a topic for this prompt is by being unconventional in how you define your perspective or identity, especially when you consider your mindset and elements of your personality. 


As you consider your perspective, it can be helpful to explore how that perspective has been defined through your experiences. For example, depending on your background, you could consider what it is like to go through life as an athlete, as a journalist, or as a debater. 


Keep in mind that you will ultimately have to consider how that perspective impacts your engagement with the community around you, and the personality and values that you bring to the table.


Navigating the Word Count


In truth, this supplemental essay may be the trickiest of the three UPenn essays to write. This is because you have to address both parts of the prompt, how UPenn is going to shape your perspective or identity, and how your identity and perspective will shape UPenn, all within just 200 words. There are a few useful tactics that you can employ to help navigate this essay’s short word count.


One trick you can use to help you navigate this essay is by using a “call and response structure.” In this structure, you describe a trait that you have and then, within the same sentence, articulate a behavior or an outcome that this trait will cause on campus. You can also use this structure in the opposite way, to highlight an aspect of Penn’s campus experience and the way in which it will impact your own identity or perspective.


Furthermore, because this essay is on the shorter side, it can be difficult to tell a full story within it. That said, you certainly can hint at an anecdote or an experience that relates to the value, unique perspective, and opportunities and experiences that you will bring with you to UPenn.


For more information on writing UPenn’s supplemental essays, check out our post on How to Write the UPenn Supplemental Essays 2022-2023.