What are your chances of acceptance?

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


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

7 Strong UPenn Essay Examples

What’s Covered


The University of Pennsylvania is a highly-selective Ivy League school in the heart of Philadelphia. UPenn is known for its rigorous academics and exceptional opportunities, so it’s no easy feat to get in. To help your application stand out, it’s important to have strong essays.


In this post, we will share six strong essays real students have submitted to UPenn to give you some inspiration for your essays. We will also be going over what each essay did well and where there is room for improvement. (Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved).


Please note: Looking at examples of real essays students have submitted to colleges can be very beneficial to get inspiration for your essays. You should never copy or plagiarize from these examples when writing your own essays. Colleges can tell when an essay isn’t genuine and will not view students favorably if they plagiarized. 


Read our UPenn essay breakdown to get a comprehensive overview of this year’s supplemental prompts.


Essay Example #1: Why Major


Prompt: Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania?  For students applying to the coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer these questions in regard to your single-degree school choice; your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essay. (300-450 words)


I always loved watching the worms when it rained. I used to put my little raincoat on, sit on the doorsteps, and watch them move toward the puddles. My younger brother, forever intent on destroying the world around him, would try to stomp on the worms, and I would run after him screaming. In my imagination, the brain looked like a pile of squiggly worms. However, my neuroscience curiosity has since grown beyond a worm’s habits.


For example, my mother thought that I was insane when I wanted to watch American Murder: The Family Next Door. To her immense relief, I was interested in the psychology of the criminal rather than the crime itself. Although neuroscience is my primary interest, I also hope to learn more about the intersection between law and medicine at the UPenn College of Arts and Sciences. I’ve been able to explore this topic through various projects at school such as presentations on juvenile crime and the death penalty.


At the University of Pennsylvania, I look forward to taking classes like Forensic Neuroscience (BIBB 050) as well as Neuroscience and Society (PSYC 247) both of which directly combine my two interests. Hopefully, the Take Your Professor to Dinner program resumes as I would make sure to talk to Dr. Daniel Langleben about his research on forensic functional brain imaging over a meal of Philly cheesesteaks.


I also hope to participate in the Race, Science, and Society Program where I can discover how race biases and neuroscience go hand-in-hand and contribute to the fight against racism. The Beyond Arrests: Re-Thinking Systematic-Oppression Group immediately caught my attention while looking at Penn’s opportunities to engage in relevant dialogue. My fascination with the criminal system began with reading Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment, and Penn will both fuel that curiosity as well as introduce new questions about the world of justice reform.


As an eight-year Latin scholar and a five-time reader of the Percy Jackson franchise, I would like to take classes in the Penn Classical Studies department where I can learn more about the impact of ancient cultures on society today. Classes such as Greek and Roman Medicine (CLST 271) would intersect my interests in medicine and classical civilizations.


Although I do harbor a deep love for Philly cheesesteaks and enjoyment of running in strange places like the Woodlands Cemetery, the range of programs to support my diverse interests and unmatched opportunities to put learning into action make me confident that the University of Pennsylvania is the best university for me to succeed.


What the Essay Did Well


The real strength in the essay lies in the sheer number of details this student is able to include in a short space, without sacrificing style and flow. The first two paragraphs really have nothing to do with Penn, but the inclusion of them makes this response feel like an essay, rather than a list of offerings at Penn. Striking the balance is important, and the anecdote at the beginning ultimately humanizes the writer.


From the three unique courses to the specific professor and his research to the race and criminal justice programs, this student has clearly done their homework on Penn! The key to this essay’s success isn’t just mentioning the offerings at Penn that excite the student, but the context that explains how each opportunity fits into the student’s academic interests.


Adding book titles like Crime and Punishment and Percy Jackson to support their passion for the criminal justice system and classics are extra details that help us learn more about how this student pursues their passions outside of the classroom. Finding little ways to humanize yourself throughout the essay can take it from good to great.


What Could Be Improved


One area of improvement for this essay is the structure. It follows a very traditional “Why This College?” framework—start with an anecdote, then discuss classes, and then extracurriculars and programs—that gets old quickly for admissions officers.


A great way to add some spice to the format would be to use a sample schedule for the day. This essay mentions three different classes, two different groups, and a Take Your Professor to Dinner opportunity. Together, that’s the recipe for a full day at UPenn!


There are a few ways to play around with an essay that follows a typical day-in-the-life. Maybe each paragraph starts with a time and explains what they do during that hour. Maybe they narrate walking through campus on their way from one class to the next and what they just learned. However they choose to go about it, adding in a playful spin to the traditional essay structure is one of the best ways to instantly set an essay apart from the crowd. 


Essay Example #2: Why UPenn


Prompt: Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at The University of Pennsylvania? (300-450 words)


“Arnav, we want you to apply”, I received this email from Penn and DASHED to tell mum. My naïve self had forgotten I had checked the ‘Student-Search-Service’ box, and schools could send system-generated emails predicated on my SAT scores. 


This pure, childlike delight was out of my sheer obsession with Penn. When my senior at school got in here last year, I pestered him all year long trying to know HOW. Tireless researching, approaching hundreds of alumni on Reddit, watching EVERY millisecond of YouTube advice, and painting a life-size Quaker on my bedroom walls only to miss the ED deadline by falling to pneumonia: Regardless of these setbacks, I sported an impending dream.


At Penn, I intend to revitalize this dream through the College of Arts and Sciences. Classes like “Political Journalism at the Crossroads” and “Queer Theory” blend my love for English and politics which I will reflect through writing for Penn’s signature magazine- The Pennsylvania Gazette. At the Penn Institute of Urban Research and CAS, I aim to make the best use of Summer Humanities Internships (SHIP) and Global Research Internship Programs (GRIP) to finance my collaborative research in the Public Affairs domain. I’ll also sign on for the Penn Debate Society (PDS), and collaborate with TEDxPENN to hear budding speakers from different walks of life. As perhaps my country’s most accomplished debater, I vow to make this my personal goal to lead our team to total victory at the World Universities Debating Championship (WUDC) that Penn has dreamed of winning since 1981. To further my progress with the fight against child labor, I shall assist and seek assistance of a like-minded student-body via the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships.


For someone who’s obsessed with rhetoric, I totally understand the definition of an ‘agreement’. In our context, an agreement would be a two-way street where I avail facilities Penn offers while adding to its community, campus, and unwavering prestige. As I pack my bag with all essentials- my brain, my grit, and my quirky self- I complete one half of the agreement. 


Dear Penn, I now wait for you to hand me that beautiful letter as we seal our deal.


What the Essay Did Well


If there’s one thing this essay has, it’s confidence. From the first line to the last, there’s an energy and electricity running through the essay that maintains that quick, self-assured pace. Sharing the anecdotes of their long withstanding obsession with Penn strikes a balance between playfully self-deprecating and demonstrating true interest in the school. College essays shouldn’t kiss up to schools, and while this one approaches that level, using the anecdote for humor rather than fact helps avoid a sense of groveling.


This student clearly dreams big and is unapologetic about it: the mark of a true Quaker. From getting involved in internships to joining Ted talks and the Penn Debate Society, they will be an active member of the campus community, which is something admissions officers are keeping an eye out for when scanning applications. With the use of an assertive tone (“I aim”, “I vow”, “I shall”, etc) this student conveys exactly who Penn can expect to step onto their campus next fall.


What Could Be Improved


While this student’s personality shines through without a doubt, their academic interests and motivations are not as clear. The third paragraph lists a host of opportunities they are interested in, and it does connect Penn offerings back to the student, but it doesn’t reveal much about the student in the process.


They mention “Classes like ‘Political Journalism at the Crossroads’ and ‘Queer Theory’ blend my love for English and politics,” but we have no idea where that love came from or what they hope to accomplish in the future. This essay would have benefitted from mentioning two or three less opportunities and elaborating on the significance of the select programs they chose.


You’ve likely heard that less is more, and in the case of this essay that’s true. The pressure to look well-researched by including as many Penn offerings as possible overwhelmed this student. In reality, choosing a few meaningful, unique opportunities and tying them back to your intellectual passions will reveal your passion for Penn far more than eight or nine disconnected resources thrown together.


Essay Example #3: Nursing


Prompt: How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying (650 words).


Sister Simone Roach, a theorist of nursing ethics, said, “caring is the human mode of being.” I have long been inspired by Sister Roach’s Five C’s of Caring: commitment, conscience, competence, compassion, and confidence. Penn both embraces and fosters these values through a rigorous, interdisciplinary curriculum and unmatched access to service and volunteer opportunities.


COMMITMENT. Reading through the activities that Penn Quakers devote their time to (in addition to academics!) felt like drinking from a firehose in the best possible way. As a prospective nursing student with interests outside of my major, I value this level of flexibility. I plan to leverage Penn’s liberal arts curriculum to gain an in-depth understanding of the challenges LGBT people face, especially regarding healthcare access. Through courses like “Interactional Processes with LGBT Individuals” and volunteering at the Mazzoni Center for outreach, I hope to learn how to better support the Penn LGBT community as well as my family and friends, including my cousin, who came out as trans last year.


CONSCIENCE. As one of the first people in my family to attend a four-year university, I wanted a school that promoted a sense of moral responsibility among its students. At Penn, professors challenge their students to question and recreate their own set of morals by sparking thought- provoking, open-minded discussions. I can imagine myself advocating for universal healthcare in courses such as “Health Care Reform & Future of American Health System” and debating its merits with my peers. Studying in an environment where students confidently voice their opinions – conservative or liberal – will push me to question and strengthen my value system.


COMPETENCE. Two aspects that drew my attention to Penn’s BSN program were its high-quality research opportunities and hands-on nursing projects. Through its Office of Nursing Research, Penn connects students to faculty members who share similar research interests. As I volunteered at a nursing home in high school, I hope to work with Dr. Carthon to improve the quality of care for senior citizens. Seniors, especially minorities, face serious barriers to healthcare that I want to resolve. Additionally, Penn’s unique use of simulations to bridge the gap between classroom learning and real-world application impressed me. Using computerized manikins that mimic human responses, classes in Penn’s nursing program allow students to apply their emergency medical skills in a mass casualty simulation and monitor their actions afterward through a video system. Participating in this activity will help me identify my strengths and areas for improvement regarding crisis management and medical care in a controlled yet realistic setting. Research opportunities and simulations will develop my skills even before I interact with patients.


COMPASSION. I value giving back through community service, and I have a particular interest in Penn’s Community Champions and Nursing Students For Sexual & Reproductive Health (NSRH). As a four-year volunteer health educator, I hope to continue this work as a Community Champions member. I am excited to collaborate with medical students to teach fourth and fifth graders in the city about cardiology or lead a chair dance class for the elders at the LIFE Center. Furthermore, as a feminist who firmly believes in women’s abortion rights, I’d like to join NSRH in order to advocate for women’s health on campus. At Penn, I can work with like-minded people to make a meaningful difference.


CONFIDENCE. All of the Quakers that I have met possess one defining trait: confidence. Each student summarized their experiences at Penn as challenging but fulfilling. Although I expect my coursework to push me, from my conversations with current Quakers I know it will help me to be far more effective in my career.


The Five C’s of Caring are important heuristics for nursing, but they also provide insight into how I want to approach my time in college. I am eager to engage with these principles both as a nurse and as a Penn Quaker, and I can’t wait to start.


What the Essay Did Well


This essay has many positive aspects, but the most impressive one is the structure. Utilizing the Five C’s of Caring to discuss Penn’s offerings was a genius way of tying in this student’s passion for nursing while also making their essay exciting and easy to read. Beginning each paragraph with the respective adjective helped focus the paragraph and allowed the student to demonstrate how they exemplify each quality without explicitly stating it. The student wasn’t afraid to think outside the box and add creativity to their essay structure, which really paid off.


Another positive is how specific and specialized the Penn resources and opportunities the student mentions are. This essay did not fall into the trap of name-dropping professors or programs. In every paragraph, there was a connection to something the student wants to do at Penn to further themselves in the respective characteristic they were describing.


Not only did this student mention a resource at Penn—whether it was a professor, a class, or a club—in every paragraph, but they elaborated on what that resource was and how it would help them achieve their goal of becoming a nurse. The what and how is what sets this essay apart from other supplements that just name-drop resources for the sake of it. The amount of detail this essay went into about some of these resources makes it clear to the admissions officers reading the essay that this student has seriously looked into Penn and has a strong desire to come to campus and use these resources.


What Could Be Improved


One thing this essay could do to make it stronger is improve the first paragraph. The student does a good job of setting up Sister Roach and the Five C’s, but they don’t mention anything about their desire to study or pursue nursing. The first paragraph mentions both Sister Roach and Penn, but left out the student. This could be fixed by simply adding something along the lines of “I can’t wait to embody these values as a nursing student at Penn” to the paragraph.


Essay Example #4: Library Love


Prompt: How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests, and how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania? Please respond considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected (300-450 words).


“This book again?” My mother sighed as she cracked open the punctuation picture book I’d picked out for the fifth time. At the age of four, I had little knowledge of punctuation, so the words “exclamation” and “comma” remained elusive; I grew obsessed with puzzling out its meaning. Growing up in the Hewlett-Woodmere Public Library surrounded by the scent of old books, comforting silence, and librarian friends made it easy to forget about the world outside, yet my thirst for answers always pushed me out of literary comfort zones and into the unknown. Even as I moved on from Magic Tree House to Harry Potter, my inquisitive nature and determination to understand the literature around me only evolved. Foreign concepts and obstacles sparked my ambition as I tackled the intimidating Les Misérables sophomore year, Crime and Punishment junior year, and Jane Eyre senior year. I found a relatability in Joy Luck Club characters that I incorporated into my writing and an emotional outlet in the depths of the poetry aisle and writer communities at literary magazines like Polyphony Lit. I can find similar communities at Penn by curating pieces for Penn Review or spending days soaking in knowledge at the Van Pelt Library, poring over Macbeth or the Iliad. Although libraries may provide sanctuaries, they also open infinite worlds and viewpoints. I realized that stories (no matter what form they take) always manage to capture the intrinsic connection between humans that I seek in every interaction I have. 


I’ve learned that life beyond the library teems with complex characters and lessons of its own–especially at Penn, where students are determined to grapple with difficult questions involving cultural differences or the declining value of art in an increasingly STEM-focused world. I am eager to challenge my boundaries as a reader, writer, and human being by applying the relational lessons of a Fiction and Connectivity seminar to real life, reading to younger generations during Children’s Story Hour at Penn Bookstore, and hosting Open Mic Nights with Kelly Writers House. I can see myself initiating change in society by researching the effects of Western society’s harmful misconceptions of Asian and African-American culture in literature with Professor Josephine Park. Penn will not only satisfy some of my curiosities–it will provoke even more daunting and thrilling questions for me to pursue.


What the Essay Did Well


This essay does a really nice job of showing the student’s interest in reading and literature. The language they used to describe their library as “comforting“, and finding an “emotional outlet” in reading creates a clear picture for the reader that this student loves to read. Not only do we learn about this student’s passion, but we learn through them showing us. The essay shows us how the student felt in the library and takes us on a journey as they tackle more and more advanced books, as opposed to telling us they are passionate about reading.


The use of book titles was another positive aspect of this essay. Citing actual books and explaining how they affected the student helps display to the admissions officers reading the essay that literature has impacted this student in a multitude of ways. We see the student grow from being young and curious to tackling challenging concepts, embracing new cultures, and engaging in self-reflection all through reading. 


What Could Be Improved


The main part of this essay that could use improving was the second paragraph that discussed how Penn will allow this student to continue exploring their passion. Although the student did provide some explanation as to how these resources at Penn will help them grow their interest in reading and writing, the elaboration was pretty weak. 


The student mentions they want to grow as “reader, writer, and human being by applying the relational lessons of a Fiction and Connectivity seminar to real life, reading to younger generations during Children’s Story Hour at Penn Bookstore, and hosting Open Mic Nights with Kelly Writers House.” These are all great, but nothing mentioned here is specific to Penn. This student could host an open mic night at any college they go to, so they either need to pick something more unique or provide detailed elaboration on how participating in this will help them in the long run.


If this student had focused more on the research they want to do with the professor, they could have had a stronger response to the second part of the prompt. Sometimes, going into detail about one resource that you have a strong connection to is far more powerful than cramming in a bunch of opportunities that relate to your desired field—which is what the essay is currently doing. For example, discussing how they want to research cultural representation in literature with this professor to understand and reverse harmful misconceptions in their own writing and have more cultural diversity in libraries for future generations to enjoy, would have provided a lot more detail about the student and their goals than saying they want to read to kids when they get to Penn.


Essay Example #5: Tug of War


Prompt: At Penn, learning and growth happen outside of the classrooms, too. How will you explore the community at Penn? Consider how this community will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape this community (150-200 words).


I used to face two paths: one flocked with taxis, people, and the smell of pizza, and the other a wet street laced with cicada symphonies and the aroma of beef noodle soup. It always felt easier to walk the streets of Taiwan (where people speak meekly and tiptoe around confrontation) rather than New York (where people argue, think, and exist fearlessly). PBS created a documentary titled Tug of War: The Story of Taiwan (1998), and I believed that I embodied the little potato island, since balancing between two cultures resulted in a “Tug of War” within me. Although I am proud to be Taiwanese, New York has cultivated an unbridled emotion and passion within me, molding me into a bold author, shameless poet, and strong-willed advocate for Asian-American youth. I am excited by the similar passion and confidence of Penn students, and the vibrant conversations I might have at a Campaign for Community event about racial justice or with Professor David Eng about Asian literature influences upon American society. I can support peers struggling with their own “Tug of Wars” by sharing my story through the Penn Taiwanese Society, and learn their stories as a writer for Robinson Press.


What the Essay Did Well


This essay does a great job of establishing this student’s background and the distinction between their two cultures. There is a great use of imagery, especially at the beginning, which displays this student’s strength as a writer and highlights the internal “Tug of War” they experience. It is evident how their past community has shaped their perspective and identity. Knowing how their background shaped these things makes it easy for admissions officers to see what type of student they would be adding to their campus.


While the prompt doesn’t ask the student to reflect on their community, explaining their background helped this student describe how they will shape their Penn community. A big part of what this student hopes to bring to Penn is helping other students who feel a similar “Tug of War”, so understanding how this student has coped with their internal struggle is important to understand what they will bring to Penn. 


What Could Be Improved


Unfortunately, by spending so much space discussing their “Tug of War”, this student didn’t have the strongest answer to the main question in the prompt: how will you explore the community at Penn? This essay should have been far more focused on opportunities and resources at Penn that will shape this student’s identity. The last few sentences mentioned resources the student wants to take advantage of, but there wasn’t a lot of elaboration on how engaging with these resources will influence their identity.


This doesn’t mean the student must completely forgo discussing the internal struggle they feel coming from two separate cultures, but they could have continued with the “Tug of War” idea to discuss how they will pursue opportunities at Penn that allow them to engage both aspects of their culture. Describing how participating in a certain club would allow them to embrace their emboldened New Yorker while working with a professor on their research about Asian literature might spark their interest in writing a novel about Taiwan, for example, would have been an effective way to continue the “Tug of War” metaphor and fully answer the prompt.


One other thing that could improve the essay is splitting it into two paragraphs. Reading one large block of text gets tiring for admissions officers who spend all day reading. Dividing the essay into paragraphs provides clear delineations for where new information is being presented, thus helping admissions officers stay focused on your essay.


Essay Example #6: Internet Networks


Prompt: 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)


In 9th grade, I made my most astonishing work of art.


Funnily enough, it wasn’t for any class related to the arts. It was for my statistics class. I created it to answer a simple question: are people happier when they have more friends? To answer that question, my group and I surveyed 240 students. That month, the ink from my printer was running as dry as my body was soaked with sweat from running around the school collecting questionnaires. We compiled all results into a spreadsheet with hundreds of thousands of cells. It was the largest amount of data I had ever handled. I started analyzing it, cell by cell. The method of analysis? A node network graph. It was something new to me at the time and I didn’t know what to expect. The final result was an intensely vivid web of color composed of 240 nodes connected by thousands upon thousands of lines. It was magnificent to behold. It was intensely surreal as I witnessed the abstract concept of friendship manifested in something tangible and visual. This chaotic and hypnotizing mess of dots and lines was a snapshot of the relationships between an entire batch of students! From the graph, I could immediately discern that people aren’t automatically happier if they have more friends. It’s the quality of your friendships that matter. Ever since that project, I have been constantly seeking new ways to make the invisible structures around us visible.


Over the years, this interest has driven me to study the effects of the internet in greater depth. This is because the internet, for the past few decades, has been the biggest black box that our society has ever created. It has been credited for both promoting democracy and blamed for destroying it. It has been praised for spreading information, and decried for spreading misinformation. All of the confusion surrounding what the internet actually is stems mostly from the fact that it’s very hard to see the full extent of how it actually works and how it affects people. Media coverage of Google’s use of data or Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, services I use every day, have left me wondering how we can improve the internet and make it more transparent for the people who use it.


As a policy-minded thinker and problem solver, I have done a lot of research and contemplation on the current problems and benefits of these platforms and services. I read about how Youtube has served as a platform for populist strongmen. I read about how Facebook enabled the Arab Spring. So far, all that I have learned is that the problem is an incredibly complex and nuanced one, with a lot of different actors and moving parts. It involves multinational companies, governments, and billions of individual users. In order to maximize the potential of these networks and minimize their harms, we have to be tactical in our approach. From figuring out data privacy to figuring out whether these companies are platforms or basic services, almost all aspects of the role of these networks fascinate me. It is also a topic that I have debated competitively in the past. I have participated in motions ranging from “This house would ban Google from retaining search data” to “This house believes news media outlets should use AI for the production and presentation of its news content”. I am highly invested in the role of social networks in today’s society; rather than their complexity pushing me away, it is what draws me in. 


The costs of not understanding social networks in this era is incredibly high. This is why I am willing to dedicate myself to studying it and uncovering the ways of how to deal with it. 


What the Essay Did Well


This student crafts a narrative that exudes the elusive show-not-tell quality that separates good essays from great ones. In order to generate this, the applicant employs phrases packed with vivid imagery like “the ink from my printer was running as dry as my body was soaked with sweat” and “an intensely vivid web of color composed of 240 nodes connected by thousands upon thousands of lines.” They also vary their sentence structure and include rhetorical questions to make the reader interact more with their essay content. 


Their passion for technology is well-expressed through the current examples they sprinkle throughout the essay like Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal and Google retaining search data. The NETS program values innovation and out-of-the-box thinking, so demonstrating they are keeping up with current events in the field and have opinions on ongoing debates shows UPenn that this student has a unique perspective to offer.


The student mentions debating topics related to the Interest in a structured manner; this shows, rather than tells admissions officers that they have strong research skills and communication abilities. By showing how their varied interests combine to produce an interdisciplinary passion, it makes their application unique and memorable to admissions officers. Not only that, but speaking about past experiences in detail allows them to establish credibility and demonstrate to admissions officers that they would be a good fit for this program.


As a whole, the essay is strong. It shares the student’s background, is well-written, and thinks about nuanced issues relating to technology.


What Could Be Improved


Something that could have helped this essay would be to break up the long paragraphs into smaller, more digestible chunks. Because of the long paragraphs, it can be a little difficult to read the essay. There are many points where a new paragraph would’ve been logical, and flowed better.


For example, the first paragraph discusses both the process of collecting data and building the model and the student’s reflection on the results. A break after “The final result was an intensely vivid web of color composed of 240 nodes connected by thousands upon thousands of lines” would have been a natural switch from the physical aspects of the model to the introspection it spurred.


Another place for a new paragraph is when the student switches from discussing their research to their debate experience in the third paragraph. While they were trying to keep their extracurricular encounters with these topics together in one paragraph, it is far too dense as it’s written, and ideas gets lost in the sheer amount of information presented. Breaking it up would provide relief to the reader and help emphasize each point better by giving it its own space.


Essay Example #7: Thank You


Prompt: 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)


Dear Mrs. Peterson,


After finishing my drawing of Timothée Chalamet this semester, I was stunned by its beauty—it was one of the first pieces that I was proud of. Because of the debacle with the charcoal drawing of my sister last year, I avoided drawing another human. Yet, you persisted in encouraging me to tackle this challenge; from achieving Timothée’s chiseled cheekbones to highlighting his curls, you always stood by my side—even when I wanted to quit.


Honing my artistic abilities was only a portion of what you taught me. You always encouraged me to be vulnerable, and I am gratified by our insightful conversations. From consoling me through the stress of finals to supporting my aspirations of becoming a lawyer, you never wavered in listening to my stories. You weren’t just my art teacher, but my shoulder.


I am inspired by how you lead your life with compassion and authenticity. Watching you build a community through dialogue furthered my own love of interaction as an instrument to foster connection. Thank you for being my guidepost. You made a home for me in your class, and it saddens me that I will be leaving it soon.



Future Empathetic Lawyer


What the Essay Did Well


A strong hook is an essential part of any essay, to really draw a reader into the story. This writer does an excellent job immediately grabbing our attention by describing a tangible object that represents why they are thankful to their art teacher, which is a far more powerful technique than just saying something general like “You have made me a much better artist.”


The drawing of Timothée Chalamet also serves as an anchor for the traits the writer wants to highlight about themselves, such as risk-taking (taking on the challenge of drawing “his chiseled cheekbones…[and] curls”) and perseverance (“you always stood by my side”). Remember that showing your reader something about yourself, through a tangible example like an art project, makes your points far more convincing than just telling them you are a certain way, as then you’re just leaving them to take your word for it.


The writer also seamlessly transitions from talking about their drawing to talking about how their art teacher has helped them in general, with the line “Honing my artistic abilities was only a portion of what you taught me.” This line provides the perfect jumping-off point for the writer to show us how their teacher has supported them in non-art contexts as well.


Finally, in a big-picture sense, the writer strikes a great balance between highlighting their art teacher’s virtues, and how those virtues have helped them grow and develop their own personality. With this prompt, there’s a risk that you end up talking too much about the person you’re thanking, and not enough about yourself–remember, you’re the one admissions officers are trying to make a decision about! But this writer avoids that pitfall by always connecting the things they admire in their art teacher to qualities they have developed themselves.


What Could Be Improved


There is not much room for improvement in this essay. The author directly connects the values they have learned from their art teacher to tangible experiences, which ensures their essay will stand out even from other essays written about teachers.


The only point in the essay that reads a little strangely is the inclusion of the word “empathetic” in the student’s signature. Although we can read between the lines that they learned empathy from their teacher, that actually isn’t a value they name outright. They do highlight vulnerability, compassion, authenticity, and connection, so to make the end of the essay feel more cohesive, they could either replace “empathetic” with something like “compassionate,” or just make sure they do explicitly include empathy in the body of the essay.


If you want more examples of strong UPenn “Thank You” essays, check out our post dedicated exclusively to this new supplement!


Where to Get Your UPenn Essays Edited


Do you want feedback on your UPenn essays? After rereading your essays countless times, it can be difficult to evaluate your writing objectively. That’s why we created our free Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. 


If you want a college admissions expert to review your essay, advisors on CollegeVine have helped students refine their writing and submit successful applications to top schools. Find the right advisor for you to improve your chances of getting into your dream school!


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