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4 Tips for Writing the Supplemental Essays for UPenn

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 University of Pennsylvania’s (UPenn) three supplemental short answer prompts are significantly important to their admissions decisions. Below are some tips that will help you make the most of your 200 word count per prompt. 

 

For more information on UPenn’s supplemental prompts, essays, and writing dos and don’ts, check out our post on how to write UPenn’s supplemental essays.

 

Write an Attention-Grabbing Introduction 

 

Your essay’s introduction has to work very quickly at grabbing the reader’s attention. You want to get right into the action quickly and immediately be thought provoking. 

 

These essays are very short; as a result, you cannot spend as much time developing a hook as you would in the Common App essay, or a more narrative structured essay. Check out this article for more information on how to start a college essay to hook your reader.

 

Be Mindful of the Word Count

 

Try and be as close to the word count as possible. Generally 190-195 words can suffice, but 175 is too few words and, in most cases, can be a missed opportunity. 25 words equates to two additional sentences that you could be using to expand on your answer, tell the reader more about yourself, or add more information in your application. 

 

As you attempt to get as close to the word count as possible, be sure that you don’t include so much information that you go over the word count. Exceeding the word count is a major error when writing any college essay.

 

Writing Quality: Formal vs Informal 

 

While you should remember not to include large amounts of information in your essay, also be sure not to sacrifice writing quality in your shorter answers. Reviewers will still be using these prompts to assess your writing ability. You want to be clear and concise, but that doesn’t mean your writing has to be short or similar to your Common App essay. 

 

Provide a mix of formal and informal answers to your essays. You want to find a balance between conciseness and keeping a style that reflects who you are, what you think, and why by making your writing engaging and interesting to read. Doing this will allow you to express different sides of your personality in different tones in your writing, allowing you to create a really complete picture of who you are as a person and as a prospective UPenn student. This will show what you will bring to their community through your voice and your creativity.

 

Reread, Proofread, and Reread Again

 

The final tip is to reread your 200 word essays and edit them down to be more concise. You’ve got to accomplish a lot in your 200 words, so the emphasis when proofreading should be on clarity in your writing. You want to make sure that your 200 words are effective and address the prompt in a way that’s going to really grab the reader’s attention. 

 

Proofreading your essay is important, but when rereading for answer quality, you must be very precise in the context of your answer. It can also help to get a second pair of eyes reviewing your essay, such as those of a parent, teacher, or guidance counselor. The experts on  CollegeVine are also available for Essay Reviews to help lend that competitive advantage. 


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At CollegeVine, experts host weekly livestreams on college admissions topics, including application advice, essay writing tips, and college information sessions. To register or check out more livestreams, visit www.collegevine.com/livestreams.