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


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

How To Write the Penn State All Applicants Essay

This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by admissions counselor Robert Crystal in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.


What’s Covered:



What Is Penn State’s All Applicants Essay Prompt?


Penn State asks all applicants to answer the following:

Please tell us something about yourself, your experiences, or activities that you believe would reflect positively on your ability to succeed at Penn State. This is your opportunity to tell us something about yourself that is not already reflected in your application or academic records. We suggest a limit of 500 words or fewer.


Are you looking for advice on other Penn State Essays? Read CollegeVine’s guide on How to Write the Penn State Supplemental Essays.


How to Approach the Penn State All Applicants Essay


One of the main objectives in all college essays, including the Penn State All Applicants Supplemental Essay, is to depict yourself as a strong addition to a specific college’s campus community. To write a good essay, you will need to include significant reflection on particular experiences and demonstrate how your specific personal qualities would benefit you as a member of the community. 


The first part of the prompt is where you are asked to tell the reader something about yourself and your experiences that is reflective of your values, talents, and strengths. The second part is about your ability to succeed at Penn State. Considering what you need to succeed at the university and how your personal strengths will be an asset to you is helpful when starting to brainstorm.


Then, and perhaps most importantly, you need to link the two parts and create a bridge between you and the school. Talking about yourself in a vacuum is ineffective. Rather, describe how and why you will impact this community positively and contribute to this university.


How to Make Your Admissions Essay Specific to Penn State


As part of the prompt, Penn State specifies that they want you to write about something not already reflected in your application or academic records. You should take that advice seriously, as they’ve found it important enough to emphasize.


This is an opportunity to write an essay that complements your other application materials, reveals new parts of you, and presents the reader with unexpected information.


Instead of saying that you participated in an extracurricular already listed on your application, for instance, try to “show, not tell” through a specific anecdote.


Things to Avoid in Your Penn State All Applicants Essay


Don’t Be Too General


First, avoid being too broad. Specificity is key. Almost any poor topic can be strengthened if you make it more specific.


If a student wants to write about friendships they’ve formed, for example, they could consider specific questions to ensure it’s detailed adequately:


  • What specific settings have allowed you to form friendships? 
  • What is meaningful about the friendships you’re describing? 
  • How did you meet those in the friend group you’re describing, and what was challenging in developing those relationships? 
  • How have you learned to thrive in new social communities?
  • How do you anticipate forming a social network at Penn State?


These kinds of questions exist for any topic, and thinking about what questions to pose about your own topic can help develop your essay.


Don’t Be Overly Cliche


Second, avoid talking about experiences that virtually any applicant will, can, or would share. Persevering through and graduating high school, for example, is something all applicants already have in common.


Topics that may be frequently discussed, though, can be improved through specificity and unique stories. If a student wants to discuss an illness, for example, they could explain how they developed time management skills and sense of perseverance.