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 You Should Think About Writing your UPenn Essays

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


What’s Covered:



The Supplemental Essay Prompts for UPenn


The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) requires its applicants to submit a personal essay, most frequently through the Common Application, and three supplemental essays in addition. There are additional supplemental essays that are required for some applicants, such as those for particular programs or transferring from another school. 


The three supplemental essays required for all applicants are: 


  • “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)  
  • “How will you explore community at Penn? Consider how Penn will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape Penn.” (150-200 words) 
  • “Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, describe how you intend to explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania.” (150-200 words) 


If you are looking for an overview of UPenn’s supplemental essays and advice on how to write your responses, check out this article on CollegeVine. 


What Does UPenn Look for When Evaluating Essays? 


UPenn refers to their essays as a way to learn what applicants value, how they see the world, and what their voices will bring to the school’s community. In a nutshell, the admissions officers at the University of Pennsylvania are trying to get to know you through your responses. 


The admissions office suggests that applicants review each prompt thoroughly, consider responses carefully, and double-check their writing. As such, organizing your thoughts, writing intentional responses, and proofreading your UPenn essays is key to the process. 


What You Should Write About in Your Essays


Keep in Mind Your Common App Essay


Remember that UPenn is also evaluating your 650-word personal statement, most likely submitted through the Common App. Supplemental essays are an opportunity to highlight another aspect of yourself, instead just revisiting other application materials. 


If possible, consider this when writing both your Common App essay and supplemental essays. Applicants should not focus on something that has already been covered in another part of their application. For example, because UPenn’s third prompt asks you to discuss an academic interest, writing about your intended major in your Common App essay might make finding a topic for your supplemental essays more difficult.. Writing a unique Common App essay helps applicants avoid this overlap and keep things engaging for the admissions officers reviewing your application.


Show Different Sides of Yourself


If you are unsure how to ensure each essay is distinct, start by trying to brainstorm what the fundamental elements of your personality are, the values you hold, and the experiences you have had. Then, for each supplemental essay prompt, see if you can focus on a different item in that list. Because the admissions officers are using these essays to get to know you as a person, you want to make sure that your essays touch on different aspects of who you are.


Another thing to keep in mind is that the tone of your essays should vary, as well. Submitting some essays that are more serious, while keeping others lighthearted, is more likely to keep the reader interested. It also allows you to show off different sides of your writing style and personality.