UPenn Supplemental Essays 2023-24 – Prompts and Advice

August 11, 2023

upenn supplemental essays

The University of Pennsylvania accepted 40% of applicants back in 1980—as of 2023, that figure had plummeted to 7.4%. Those wanting to join the Quaker campus a generation ago could gain acceptance simply by producing strong grades and test scores. Today, applicants find themselves in a hyper-competitive admissions process. In 2023-24, they need to find ways to separate themselves from tens of thousands of similarly-accomplished peers. This brings us to the topic of this blog: the UPenn supplemental essays.

(Want to learn more about How to Get Into UPenn? Visit our blog entitled: How to Get Into Penn/Wharton: Admissions Data and Strategies. Here, you’ll find all of the most recent admissions data as well as tips for gaining acceptance.)

The UPenn supplemental essays present applicants with just the opportunity they need to showcase their unique personality, writing ability, passions, and talents. Further, those who generate responses that are authentic, honest, and compelling can truly capture the attention of a Penn admissions reader.

Below are UPenn’s two general essay prompts for the 2023-24 admissions cycle. The College Transitions team also offers accompanying advice about how to tackle each one.

UPenn Supplemental Essays – Prompt #1

1) 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)  

In essence, this one is about how you express gratitude. A mature young person realizes that their success was not achieved in a vacuum. Rather, it was likely aided by many adults and peers. The target of your letter could be a parent, other relative, teacher, coach, spiritual leader, friend, classmate, fellow team member, or boss. This prompt, which debuted last year, is an excellent opportunity for highly-decorated applicants to display their appreciative and humble side. We recommend taking their advice and actually sharing the letter in real life. This will likely make the essay more authentic and from the heart. The more sincere your essay turns out, the better it will likely be received by UPenn (and its intended IRL target!).

UPenn Supplemental Essays – Prompt #2

2) 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)  

Keep in mind that Penn has already seen the President’s Volunteer Service Award and the impressive number of hours you volunteered at multiple nonprofit organizations. They know that you have been an active member of your high school/local community. The admissions committee now desires to understand precisely how you will contribute to their community of almost 10,000 undergraduate students. Highlighting the link between your past efforts and future aims is critical here. For example, if you dedicated many hours working with people with Alzheimer’s Disease throughout high school, it will be more impactful when you now express your commitment to joining Penn’s Alzheimer’s Buddies organization.

The strongest Penn community essays show evidence of meaningful school-specific research. This research process will actually give you a better idea of how you would sincerely like to become engaged at each prospective school on your list. Admissions officers will appreciate a Penn-centric answer far more than a generic (often recycled from app to app) response. Moreover, given the word count, you’ll be able to produce the strongest response if you focus on just one or two specific aspects of your identity and perspective.

UPenn Supplemental Essays – School & Program-Specific Prompts

In addition to the above, you’ll also need to write an essay that is specific to the undergraduate school or coordinated dual-degree program you’re applying to. Below, we’ve covered how to approach the most popular choices:

1) The College of Arts and Sciences

The flexible structure of The College of Arts and Sciences’ curriculum is designed to inspire exploration, foster connections, and help you create a path of study through general education courses and a major. What are you curious about and how would you take advantage of opportunities in the arts and sciences? (150-200 words) 

To help inform your response, applicants are encouraged to learn more about academic offerings within the College of Arts and Sciences at college.upenn.edu/prospective. This information will help you develop a stronger understanding of how the study of the liberal arts aligns with your own goals and aspirations.

UPenn Supplemental Essays (Continued)

In this essay, admissions officers want to see evidence of your drive, passion, and intellectual ambition. Further, they want to learn your specific plans for continuing to be academically engaged while at the University of Pennsylvania. Great things to highlight here include:

In addition to Penn-specific offerings that you are dying to take advantage of, you can also cite past experiences which will ideally be tied into future ventures. For example, if you were captain of the robotics team in high school—and hope to continue robotics in college—you might note why you’re interested in joining the UPennalizers, Penn’s student-run robotic soccer team.

2) School of Engineering and Applied Science

Penn Engineering prepares its students to become leaders in technology, by combining a strong foundation in the natural sciences and mathematics, exploration in the liberal arts, and depth of study in focused disciplinary majors. Please share how you hope to explore your engineering interests at Penn. (150-200 words) 

To help inform your response, applicants are encouraged to learn more about Penn Engineering and its mission to prepare students for global leadership in technology here. This information will help you develop a stronger understanding of academic pathways within Penn Engineering and how they align with your goals and interests.

UPenn Supplemental Essays (Continued)

Similar to the prompt for the College of Arts and Sciences, you’ll want to research Penn’s engineering offerings. You’ll want to pay particularl attention to those related to your primary major of interest. You can discuss several that you find most compelling. Great things to highlight here include:

3) School of Nursing

Penn Nursing intends to meet the health needs of society in a global and multicultural world by preparing its students to impact healthcare by advancing science and promoting equity. What do you think this means for the future of nursing, and how do you see yourself contributing to our mission of promoting equity in healthcare? (150-200 words)   

To help inform your response, applicants are encouraged to learn more about Penn Nursing’s mission and how we promote equity in healthcare here.  This information will help you develop a stronger understanding of our values and how they align with your own goals and aspirations.

There are two prongs to this prompt. First, the admissions committee wants to understand how you think scientific advancements and increased equity will impact nursing as a profession. Since you’re applying to this program, it’s likely that you believe in the benefit of both objectives. Therefore, you don’t need to spend time convincing the admissions committee that you’re on board. Instead, and based on what you understand about the nursing field consider discussing what types of positive impact nurses who are prepared for the profession in such a way can have on patient outcomes and/or healthcare in general. Lastly, if you don’t know much about the current landscape, be sure to do some research,

Second, Penn wants to understand how you—as a nursing student—will contribute to the mission of promoting equity in particular. Based on what you know about Penn’s nursing programs and initiatives (which, again, will require some research) how do you see yourself getting involved?

4) The Wharton School

Wharton prepares its students to make an impact by applying business methods and economic theory to real-world problems, including economic, political, and social issues. Please reflect on a current issue of importance to you and share how you hope a Wharton education would help you to explore it. (150-200 words)  

To help inform your response, applicants are encouraged to learn more about the foundations of a Wharton education here. This information will help you better understand what you could learn by studying at Wharton and what you could do afterward.

UPenn Supplemental Essays (Continued)

To craft a strong response to this prompt, you’ll first need to choose an issue that is important to you. The issue can be on either a global, regional, or community scale. If you pick something general (and popular), like climate change or AI, consider choosing a specific angle that relates to you personally. For example, while “climate change” in general is an absolutely massive undertaking that will be difficult to differentiate, discussing the impact of flooding on your city’s downtown businesses could be far more specific and accessible.

After choosing an issue and sharing why it’s important to you, you’ll then need to discuss how Wharton’s specific offerings will help you explore it. Excellent possibilities include:

5) DMD: Digital Media Design Program

Why are you interested in the Digital Media Design (DMD) program at the University of Pennsylvania? (400-650 words)

UPenn Supplemental Essays (Continued)

6) Huntsman: The Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business

The Huntsman Program supports the development of globally-minded scholars who become engaged citizens, creative innovators, and ethical leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors in the United States and internationally. What draws you to a dual-degree program in business and international studies, and how would you use what you learn to make a contribution to a global issue where business and international affairs intersect? (400-650 words)

7) LSM: The Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management

The LSM program aims to provide students with a fundamental understanding of the life sciences and their management with an eye to identifying, advancing and implementing innovations. What issues would you want to address using the understanding gained from such a program? Note that this essay should be distinct from your single degree essay. (400-650 words)

8) M&T: The Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology

  • Explain how you will use the M&T program to explore your interest in business, engineering, and the intersection of the two. (400-650 words)
  • Describe a problem that you solved that showed leadership and creativity. (250 words)

UPenn Supplemental Essays (Continued)

9) NETS: The Rajendra and Neera Singh Program in Networked and Social Systems Engineering

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)

10) NHCM: Nursing and Healthcare Management

Discuss your interest in nursing and health care management. How might Penn’s coordinated dual-degree program in nursing and business help you meet your goals? (400-650 words)

11) BIO-DENT: Seven-Year Bio-Dental Program

  • Please list pre-dental or pre-medical experience. This experience can include but is not limited to observation in a private practice, dental clinic, or hospital setting; dental assisting; dental laboratory work; dental or medical research, etc. Please include time allotted to each activity, dates of attendance, location, and description of your experience. If you do not have any pre-dental or pre-medical experience, please indicate what you have done or plan to do in order to explore dentistry as a career. (250 words)
  • Describe any activities which demonstrate your ability to work with your hands. (250 words)
  • What activities have you performed that demonstrate your ability to work effectively with people? (250 words)
  • Please explain your reasons for selecting a career in dentistry. Please include what interests you the most in dentistry as well as what interests you the least. (250 words)
  • Do you have relatives who are dentists or are in dental school? If so, indicate the name of each relative, his/her relationship to you, the school attended, and the dates attended.(250 words)

UPenn Supplemental Essays (Continued)

12) VIPER: The Roy and Diana Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research

How do you envision your participation in the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER) furthering your interests in energy science and technology? Please include any past experiences (ex. academic, research, or extracurricular) that have led to your interest in the program. Additionally, please indicate why you are interested in pursuing dual degrees in science and engineering and which VIPER majors are most interesting to you at this time. (400-650 words)

How important are the UPenn supplemental essays?

There are six factors that UPenn considers “very important” in evaluating a candidate and the essays are among them. In addition to the essays, UPenn gives the greatest consideration to the rigor of an applicant’s secondary school record. Of equal consideration are GPA, standardized test scores, recommendations, and character/personal qualities.

UPenn Supplemental Essays – Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

In conclusion, if you are interested in working with one of College Transitions’ experienced and knowledgeable essay coaches as you craft your UPenn supplemental essays, we encourage you to get a quote today.