Essay Scoop: University of Pennsylvania Essays 2021

old museum of art near sculptures and lawn in philadelphia
Julia de Raadt
Julia de Raadt

Julia has dedicated much of her career to education. Since commencing with Empowerly, Julia has looked after the research team which handles student questions on different topics about college admission.

Founded by Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania boasts many “firsts.” For instance, the university pioneered the first medical school, first business school, and first student union in North America.  With a long history of excellence, the university—affectionately known as Penn—is therefore a highly selective college. Are you ready to get started on your application? Great! We have advice for how to knock your University of Pennsylvania essays out of the park.

Did you know that Penn accepted only nine percent of the graduating class of 2020? With so few open spots, Penn carefully reviews the essay component of the the application. Thankfully, the application also clarifies one important point:

For students applying to the coordinated dual-degree programs, please answer this question in regards to your single-degree school choice. Interest in coordinated dual-degree programs will be addressed through those program-specific essays.

So, you don’t have to cover absolutely everything. In years past, they posed only one question; but that’s not a lot of space! Instead, with the additional question, you can save some of your important detail for the short-answer. Below are some tips to responding to the two main University of Pennsylvania essays!


The Prompts

At Penn, learning and growth happen outside of the classroom, 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)

Well, according to their own website, this is what admissions officers are looking for:

  1. how well you write,
  2. how you think,
  3. what you value,
  4. and how you see the world.

No pressure! It seems like a lot to accomplish in so few words, doesn’t it? While each of these four topics might be plenty inspiring, keeping it under the word count can be difficult. We recommend checking out this student story, which shows you how to maximize your effect. And of course, this comprehensive guide includes useful exercises to brainstorm topics and more.

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.

(400-650 words)

UPenn understands that you’ll likely change your course of study at some point. So, they concern themselves instead with your personal motivation, and vision for the opportunities on campus. Start by providing the reader context in a reflective manner that loosely traces the way in which you came to certain conclusions.

For example, you might be particularly interested in psychology. A string of important questions to answer is:

  • Why do you like to learn about people?
  • What examples back this up?
  • Which professors, research labs, research programs classes, clubs, or other resources will aid your study?
  • What specific skills/lessons will these resources provide you?

Be prepared to spend a couple paragraphs explaining the backstory while you utilize the rest to elaborate on specific resources.

You’ve Got This!

Now, all that’s left is to write. If you are still struggling, or simply need another pair of eyes to check your work is okay, then reach out to Empowerly. We are a welcoming community of counselors and experts working to help students realize their college dreams. So, let’s get you started on your future!

Questions? Let us know!