The University of Pennsylvania accepted 40% of applicants back in 1980—by 2021, that figure had plummeted to 5.68%. Those wanting to join the Quaker campus a generation ago could gain acceptance simply through producing strong grades and test scores. Today, applicants find themselves in a hyper-competitive admissions process. In 2022-23, 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 for 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. Those who generate responses that are authentic, honest, and compelling can truly capture the attention of a Penn admissions reader.

Below are UPenn’s three general essay prompts for the 2022-23 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 is new for 2022-23 and we feel it could be a nice 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.

UPenn Supplemental Essays – Prompt #3

3) Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, describe how you intend to explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania. (150-200 words)

In this essay, admissions officers want to see evidence of your drive, passion, and intellectual ambition as well as 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, I was captain of my robotics team in high school and, at Penn, I will join the UPennalizers, Penn’s student-run robotic soccer team.

Program Specific Prompts

The following programs also have program-specific essays and the prompts are listed below. Note, the vast majority of Penn applicants only answer the two questions already covered. The entries that follow are all for highly-specific majors/dual-degree programs.

1) DMD: Digital Media Design Program

Why are you interested in the Digital Media Design (DMD) program at the University of Pennsylvania? (400-650 words / 3575 characters**)

2) 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)

3) 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)

4) 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)

5) 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 / 3575 characters**)

6) 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)

7) 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 that led you to your decision to enter dentistry.
  • List any activities which demonstrate your ability to work with your hands.
  • What activities have you performed that demonstrate your ability to work cooperatively with people?
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Please note that there is a 250 word limit for the Bio-Dental Program supplemental essays.

8) 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 as “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, GPA, standardized test scores, recommendations, and character/personal qualities.

Want Personalized Essay Assistance?

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.