Note: this blog post has been updated for the 2015-2016 application cycle. To view the most recent version, click here.

We hope you found Part 1 of How to Tackle the University of Pennsylvania Essays helpful in determining how to respond to the prompts for the 7 Year Bio-Dental Program, Huntsman Program, and Vagelos Program.  In Part 2 of this series, we will be tackling how to answer the Jerome Fisher, NETS, Nursing and Healthcare Management, and VIPER prompts.

Management & Technology

 How will the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology help you pursue your specific interests in both engineering and business? Please address in depth specific engineering fields, areas of business, and their potential integration that you plan on pursuing through this Penn program. (400-650 words)

This essay is relatively straightforward.  As opposed to the other Penn specialized programs that require you to analyze the field through some specific lens, this essay literally just inquires about your interest in the intersection of business and technology, which megatrend-wise is paramount to the modern economy.  A good strategy for this essay is focus; you don’t want to attempt to synthesize all of engineering with management in a general way.  Instead, start with an area of engineering and highlight how progression in the management aspect of that field is important to solve some specific problem in the field.

For example, you could analyze specific environmental challenges with respect to offshore drilling and explain how revolutionizing the supply chain of the industry would lead to substantial increases in margins as well as improvements in environmental sustainability.  The focus of the essay would be on how the Jerome Fisher’s intersection of business and technology would provide the necessary breadth to tackle such a challenge.  Be sure to be specific here too; it can help to mention specific classes or other programs at Penn that would allow you to pursue this intersection of interests.

Please describe a time in which you displayed leadership. (250 words maximum)

This essay is also relatively straightforward.  Because Jerome Fisher heavily emphasizes leadership abilities, it is attempting to gauge applicants’ experiences working with and leading others.  It’s hard to really mess up this essay; you just need to provide an example of some leadership experience you have had.  However, you want to be careful that the leadership you choose to highlight is legitimate leadership – and not solely from a resume perspective.  For example, there is a difference between leadership by position and leadership by action.  Simply writing about how you were the President of FBLA and managed the club is not necessarily a display of leadership – in fact (as with almost all high school EC elections), you’re just showing that you won a popularity contest.  What’s more important to convey is what you did with that role.  Focusing on how you used your authority as FBLA President to organize a business workshop for small businesses in your community and provide them with marketing/sales tips developed by your club members is a much more legitimate display of leadership – you physically invested your power to bring about a positive change.

Keep in mind for this question that your display of leadership also does not need to be tied to a specific position.  If you have relatively little leadership on your resume, you can definitely write about a time when you (as a regular club member) went beyond your regular role and took some initiative to help the club.  For example, perhaps during one Model United Nations meeting, the entire board failed to show up.  Writing about how you were the one to step up and run the meeting anyway (without having a board position) can be an even more powerful display of de facto leadership.

NETS – Networked and Social Systems Engineering

Describe your interests in modern networked information systems and technologies, such as the Internet, and their impact on society, whether in terms of economics, communication, or the creation of beneficial content for society. Feel free to draw on examples from your own experiences as a user, developer, or student of technology. (400-650 words)

This essay is relatively open-ended and attempts to assess your awareness of networked systems as they relate to society.  You can attack this topic from multiple lenses.  For example, you can take a business/entrepreneurship focus and speak to how networked systems provide exciting opportunities for various new ventures (think healthcare, for example).  Alternatively, you can write this essay from a political perspective, highlighting the implications of a digitally ubiquitous government. Finally, you could use this essay to provide more of a social commentary of the larger role networked systems play in our lives – perhaps you hope to use the NETS education coupled with a Penn liberal arts education to explore and prescribe solutions to potential consequences of the sheer amount of time our generation spends plugged in.

When physically writing the essay, you definitely can be creative in terms of how you structure it.  This topic heavily overlaps with social media, so employing an interesting technique (such as writing the essay as if through a Facebook chat) could be successful – make sure, however, that you don’t distract from the core content of your essay with whatever vehicle you choose to employ.

Nursing and Health Care Management

 Discuss your interest in nursing and health care management. How might Penn’s coordinated dual-degree program in nursing and business help you meet your goals? (400-650 words)

 You can frame the answer to this question much in the same way as the answer to the Vagelos prompt.  A good way to frame this essay is to acknowledge a challenge facing healthcare that can be resolved though better facilitation through management.  You may heavily want to emphasize the problems facing patient care and how better coordination within hospitals is a area in which you are really passionate.  Alternatively, you could focus on the cost-disease of healthcare and discuss how better management could help keep costs lower for patients.  No matter what issue you choose to use as the catalyst to your interest in the program, make sure you really focus on how Penn’s program will allow you to explore that interest. 

VIPER – Vagelos

Describe your interests in energy science and technology and your previous experiences (academic, research, and extracurricular activities) that have helped you to appreciate the scientific or engineering challenges related to energy and sustainability. If you have previous experience with research, consider describing your research project at a level appropriate for an educated non-expert, outlining the goals, hypotheses, approach, results, and conclusions. Describe how your experiences have shaped your research and interests, and how the VIPER program will help you achieve your goals. (400-650 words)

 If you have conducted research in some sort of energy-related field, you definitely want to use this essay to speak to that experience. Be sure to not solely list what you did, but rather explain the thought processes and obstacles you faced and how they (1) broadened your perspectives on the energy field and its intersections with other fields (environmentalism, government policy, etc.), and (2) challenged you intellectually and further solidified your interest in the field.  Trust Penn when they say to write this for a non-expert; you will not impress anyone with an illegible treatise on energy policy.  Rather, you want to communicate effectively to an average reader your passion for what you did and the field itself, which ultimately prompted you to pursue the VIPER program.

If you have not conducted research in the past, this again becomes a very basic “Why VIPER” question.  It is crucial that you properly develop your interests in a believable manner.  You can tackle an energy policy issue that you are passionate about, prescribing an innovative solution developed through the foundation given by VIPER.  You could also use an extended anecdote to track the development of your interest in the energy field.  For example, perhaps your first car was a hybrid. Developing your interests in sustainable energy policy through the lens of that hybrid could be an effective way of communicating your interest in the field.

Zack Perkins

Zack Perkins

Zack was an economics major at Harvard before going on indefinite leave to pursue CollegeVine full-time as a founder. In his spare time, he enjoys closely following politics and binge-watching horror movies. To see Zack's full bio, visit the Team page.
Zack Perkins