What are your chances of acceptance?

Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
Duke University
Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How Important Are Your Essays When Applying to UPenn?

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


What’s Covered:



In this article, we will discuss how the University of Pennsylvania uses essays as a tiebreaker between applicants, tips for making your essays stand out, and the role luck plays in the essay review process. For more information on University of Pennsylvania’s other supplemental essays and writing dos and don’ts, check out our posts on how to write your UPenn supplemental admissions essays.


How UPenn Uses Essays to Narrow Down Applicants


To put it bluntly, the essays in your University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) application are very important. They account for 25 to 35% of the admissions decision. To give some background as to why this is, you have to think about the type of applicants UPenn receives. A lot of students applying will have similar academic qualifications. This could be anything from a killer GPA, rigorous course load, or high standardized test scores. 


Because a lot of students applying have already met the level of academic rigor to be considered for UPenn, the next thing the admissions office will look at is the essays. This is how they narrow down the applicants further and get to know what kind of student you will be like outside of the classroom. 


The essays can almost be seen as a tiebreaker between two applicants. If both applicants have similar academic backgrounds, the essays are what UPenn uses to determine who received the acceptance. Your essays could be the determining factor in your application, so you must put a lot of effort into writing them.


How To Stand Out in Your Essays


 Show You Are a Good Fit


The essays help UPenn determine if you are a good fit for their campus. While your academic background tells UPenn if you have the ability to succeed at their school academically, your essays are how you convey your personality. This is how you can show what kind of student you will be like on campus. Your job with these essays is to make the admissions officers actively want to choose you over the other applicants. Focus on showing your interests and making these essays extremely personalized to your life. Your personality is your biggest asset in these essays.


Know Your Audience


It is important to keep your audience in mind when writing your essays. Each admissions officer will have a different personality and background, so they will read your essay completely differently. If you are writing about a niche topic or making an obscure reference in your essay, make sure to provide plenty of context so each admissions officer will understand where you’re coming from. You want to make sure your essay is easy to follow and that even someone unfamiliar with the topic you’re writing about will understand. 


One thing to keep in mind while writing is if you are including any potentially controversial topics, such as politics or religion, make sure they align with UPenn’s mission and culture. 


How Luck Plays a Factor


Unfortunately, when it comes to a school as competitive as UPenn, luck does play a factor. With so many applicants meeting the academic threshold, the admissions officer makes the final decision based on your essay. If for some reason the admissions officer had a bad day or even didn’t enjoy the essays they read before reading yours, this might impact their mood while they read yours. This is just how negative emotions work. At the end of the day, the admissions officers are human and how their day is going will make an impact on their decision. This is also known as “the human factor.”


Even if you have the most prepared application and you are really proud of the work you’ve submitted, there is still an element of luck needed. This is the case for all schools that have  low admission rates, such as the University of Pennsylvania.