3 Strong UPenn Essay Examples


The University of Pennsylvania is a highly-selective Ivy League school, so it’s important to write strong essays to help your application stand out. In this post, we’ll share essays real students have submitted to UPenn. (Names and identifying information have been changed, but all other details are preserved).


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


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Example 1


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.


Example 2


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.


Example 3


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.


More Free Essay Resources


How to Write UPenn Essays: See our in-depth guide of each supplemental essay prompt for UPenn. 


All of Our Essay Guides: Don’t miss our essay guides for all of the top schools.


How to Write the Common App Essays: Learn how to write a strong Common App essay for each of the prompts, with examples.


Free CollegeVine Peer Essay Review: Submit your essay and get feedback from another student. Editing other students’ essays will also help you improve your own writing skills!



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Our college essay experts go through a rigorous selection process that evaluates their writing skills and knowledge of college admissions. We also train them on how to interpret prompts, facilitate the brainstorming process, and provide inspiration for great essays, with curriculum culled from our years of experience helping students write essays that work.

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