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)

What is UPenn Looking for in the Supplemental 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:



In this post, we will discuss what the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is looking for in your answers to its supplemental essay questions. It covers the importance of being authentic and tailoring your answers to show how you will be a good fit for their school. 


For more information on writing UPenn’s supplemental essays, check out our post on How to Write the UPenn Supplemental Essays.


Are You a Good Fit for UPenn? 


Contribution to UPenn’s Campus Community 


So, what is UPenn looking for in these essays? One thing that they are extremely interested in is whether or not you are the right fit. Being a fit for an institution is about much more than academics. Schools are actually the most interested in how you plan on being a positive addition to their campus community through the unique perspective or identity that you will bring. This information is something that UPenn explicitly asks its applicants to cover in the second community prompt, which highlights the value they place in your “fit” with the campus. 


Attributes Similar to Ben Franklin


Benjamin Franklin, the founder of UPenn, possessed personal qualities such as determination and resilience. Ben Franklin then instilled those values into UPenn, which has shaped its culture and its overall institutional approach to success. 


Admissions at UPenn love seeing prospective students embodyFranklin’s, and the school’s, values in their essays. Not only does it show that you have done your research about the school, but it also emphasizes that your personal values align with UPenn’s.


However, try not to directly quote Ben Franklin in your essays. Do not run to your computer and look up Franklin’s most famous quotes, as that is not the best way to show your character and may remove authenticity from your answers. 


Why UPenn?


UPenn wants to see authentic reasons for wanting to enroll at their institution as opposed to any other elite private institution. Many schools offer interdisciplinary study and gorgeous old campuses, so you must emphasize what makes UPenn stand out to you. 


In order to leave a more lasting impact on the admissions committee, use your essays to articulate why you want to study at UPenn specifically and not any of the other schools especially if they have relatively similar course offerings. You must also be specific when doing so to make sure that you come off in a genuine light.


Major and Career Goals


Finally, you must provide authentic reasons for why you are planning to study your specific Major. Choosing a major can be difficult, however there are many people who are attempting admission to the same programs. Therefore, not having detailed responses as to what led you to choose your major and future career goals could cost you admission. 


Keep in mind, however, that it is fine if you are still undecided about your major when applying. Colleges know that students often change their minds throughout their academic careers. It is simply key that you are able to convey your academic and personal passions through your essays and reflect on how they may impact your future goals.


Are Your UPenn Essays Strong Enough?


At top schools like the University of Pennsylvania, your essays account for around 25% or more of your admissions decision. That’s more than grades and test scores and almost as much as extracurriculars. Your essays are your chance to stand out and humanize your application.


That’s why it’s vital that your essays are engaging and present you as someone who’d be a strong addition to the UPenn community.


After reading your essays over and over, it can be difficult to judge your writing objectively. Your friends, family, and teachers may also be biased. That’s why we created our Peer Essay Review tool, where you can get a free review of your essay from another student. Since they don’t know you personally, they can be a better judge of whether your personality shines through, and whether you’ve fully answered the prompt. 


You can also improve your own writing skills by reviewing other students’ essays. We highly recommend giving this tool a try!