How To Stand Out In Your UPenn Supplemental Essays for 2021 - Crimson Education US (2023)

There's a lot to love about the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). From its cozy, historic campus and fiercely active clubs and communities to its connections with neighboring schools and career opportunities in Philadelphia, Penn is a dream school for many students. But, perhaps its most notable distinction is its world-class academic programs with professors who are leaders in their field.

UPenn has several undergraduate schools: Arts & Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Nursing, and Wharton (business). Penn also offers several interdisciplinary programs, such as the Huntsman Program for International Business, which spans several schools.

How to stand out in your UPenn Supplemental Essays for 2021

Admission officers do not gloss over your supplemental essays. They thoroughly read each one because they believe these essays reveal a lot about how you think, the things you value, and how you view the world. When they read your essays, they look for a unique voice and imagine what you might bring to their campus community.

How Crimson Can Help You Get into University of Pennsylvania

As a Crimson student, you’re treated as an individual. Our knowledgeable and approachable advisors want to hear about your unique dreams, aspirations, and goals. They get to know you on a personal level so they can help you craft supplemental essays as original and exceptional as you!

Check out the video below to follow Kartik’s journey from Crimson to University of Pennsylvania!

How Kartik Got Into UPenn Wharton to study Business

Need help with your Supplemental Essays? Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admission consulting company. Our expert admission strategist can help you narrow down your ideas and word choice to help you craft the perfect essay prompt response. Get your essay reviewed today!

What are the UPenn Supplemental Essay prompts for 2021/22?

Prompt 1

Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at The University of Pennsylvania? (300-450 words)

Prompt 2

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/1020 characters**)

How To Stand Out In Your UPenn Supplemental Essays for 2021 - Crimson Education US (1)

How to Answer Prompt 1

Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at The University of Pennsylvania? (300-450 words)

Your goal in writing this essay is to convey:

  • Your understanding of Penn and its programs
  • You thought long and hard about why you are perfect for Penn and why Penn is perfect for you. (Don’t copy and paste another essay you have already written.)

Do your research on UPenn.

In your first few sentences, you should make crystal clear:

  • Which school you are applying
  • Your intended major
  • Your intended minor / special program

Penn admissions officers are realistic. They know if you’re applying to Penn, you’re probably also applying to Harvard, Dartmouth, or maybe both. Make sure you’re clear that you have dedicated time and thought to Penn’s application specifically.

For example, avoid any lingo you copied from another school, like your intended “concentration” (Harvard) or your excitement about life in the “residential colleges” (Yale). Instead, use language specific to Penn.

Example Outline for UPenn Supplemental Essay Prompt 1

Here’s a potential essay outline will help get you started:

Demonstrate your Academic Fit

Courses: Visit the school/department’s website for whichever school and subject interests you. What specific courses do you want to take? Bonus points if there are any that Penn uniquely offers.

  • Good Example: Adam Grant, a writer for the New York Times, teaches MGMT 238: Organizational Behavior. Sure, you can take management courses at other business schools, but only at Penn can you access this famous business thinker.
  • Bad example: ECON 1 - Introduction to Microeconomics. Every economics department in the world offers this intro course - unless you have a perspective on why it’s unique at Penn, don’t list this as a reason why Penn’s economics department is unique.

Professors: Check out the department website of the subject that interests you. Read through the professor profiles and find a few that look interesting. Do they teach any classes or lead any research opportunities that are relevant to your interest? If so, list them in your essay.

Demonstrate your Campus Life Fit

Fit your interests: How does your background fit into life at Penn? Make sure you link your specific interests and activities to specific organizations at Penn. For example, let’s say you were involved in theater in high school - you can write about your interest in TAC-e at Penn (the Theater Arts Council).

If you stick to this formula, your Penn supplement will be clear, relevant, and compelling.

How to answer Prompt 2

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/1020 characters**)

Essay 2 gives you more room to be creative, but you still need to be specific. Use this as an opportunity to bridge your personal life with curricular and extracurricular opportunities at Penn. They need to know you’ve thought about this question and you’re writing a thoughtful response.

As a bonus, find a community-oriented group at UPenn that interests you and show how it’s similar to community volunteering/work you have done before. Whatever you do, be honest and sincere. Admissions committees can sense if you are exaggerating. Humility and creativity are essential here.

A Day in the Life: University of Pennsylvania Student

Example UPenn Supplemental Essay Prompt 2 Ideas to Consider

1. Neighborhood Helper

Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you help your neighbors out by babysitting for free?
  • Do you take care of your siblings?
  • What about elders in your family or community?
  • Do you work within an at-needs community?
  • Have you ever spent the summer working as a camp counselor?

Talk about the time you helped a student learn how to swim or the time you took a group of inner-city kids into the forest for the first time. Describe their look of awe and the sense of discovery they experienced at that moment. You can talk about how bringing discovery to more communities is what drives you to be an engineer since you want to engineer the next generation of infrastructure that makes carbon-free public transportation a speedy reality.

2. School Volunteer

  • Have you served as a volunteer, or consistently volunteered at a school or participated in a community project?
  • When have you felt a call to participate in your community, and how did you do that?

You could talk about your motivation to help an afterschool group that volunteers with people with special needs.

You could talk about the summer you spent with special needs students and the inspiration you felt working with those whose needs exceeded your own. Talk about how far the students had come in their accomplishments.

You can talk about how you want to continue working within these communities through technological innovation geared towards their educational needs and interests.

3. Humanitarian Worker

  • Have you ever spent a summer in Guatemala or Lagos?
  • Have you volunteered abroad?

Describe a time you helped bring vaccines, food, potable water, or something else to an at-needs community. If you were a teacher, talk about how your work helped children learn a new language and how linguistic interaction in the 21st century has a long way to go. Inspired by apps like Duo Lingo, talk about how you want to make the next generation of translation software for communities that are just beginning to participate in the global marketplace.

Each of these questions and examples illustrates the connections you should make between your volunteer experience and the world at large. In other words, even if you only help your friend get to school on time by picking them up each day, talk about why it takes a village to get something done. Show how your involvement in the community is fundamental to your academic interests at Penn through examples that creatively outline possibilities for your career.

Final Thoughts

If you’re planning on applying to Penn’s dual-degree or specialized programs, you must answer the Penn supplemental essays and the essays associated with your program of interest. For information about these program-specific prompts, click here.

Before you begin writing, research all your areas of interest. Be specific and open about your educational pursuits and career goals. Penn wants to know why you want to attend the school, if you’ll be a good fit, and how you will make a difference on and off the campus.

Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admission consulting company. Our expert admission strategist can help you narrow down your ideas and word choice to help you craft the perfect supplemental essay responses. Get your essay reviewed today!

Key Resources & Further Reading

  • Acing your College Application Essay: 5 Expert Tips to Make it Stand Out from the Rest
  • MIT Supplemental Essay 2021/22
  • Harvard Supplemental Essay 2021/22
  • Columbia Supplemental Essay 2021/22
  • Princeton Supplemental Essay 2021/22
  • Cornell Supplemental Essay 2021/22
  • Brown Supplemental Essay 2021/22
  • University of Chicago Supplemental Essay 2021/22
  • Acing your College Application Essay: 5 Expert Tips to Make it Stand Out from the Rest
  • How to Tackle Every Type of Supplemental Essay
  • 2021-22 Essay Prompts Common App Essay Prompts
  • What are the Most Unusual US College Supplemental Essay Prompts?


How do you respond to UPenn supplements? ›

Include examples of how your personal experiences make the programs at Penn a good fit for you. Consider why you are a good fit for the undergraduate school of your choice (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, The Wharton School, or Penn Engineering).

How important are supplemental essays for UPenn? ›

The essays help UPenn determine if you are a good fit for their campus. While your academic background tells UPenn if you have the ability to succeed at their school academically, your essays are how you convey your personality. This is how you can show what kind of student you will be like on campus.

How do you write a supplemental essay for UPenn? ›

How To Write the UPenn Supplemental Essays
  1. Know Yourself. Write essays that give a clear picture of who you are and how you think. ...
  2. Know the School. Just like you, UPenn also has its own identity. ...
  3. Know Your Program. Finally, it's important you have an understanding of the type of study you are pursuing.
Oct 31, 2022

Do I have a chance to get into UPenn? ›

UPenn Acceptance Rate

According to the class of 2026 profile, UPenn's regular decision acceptance rate is about 4.4% and UPenn's early decision acceptance rate is 15.6%. The overall acceptance rate in 2027 was around 4.1%. As is the case for any Ivy League school, you will need to work hard to gain acceptance.

What is a good GPA at UPenn? ›

Average GPA: 3.9

(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 3.9, University of Pennsylvania requires you to be at the top of your class. You'll need nearly straight A's in all your classes to compete with other applicants.

What does UPenn want to see in applicants? ›

What kind of student is UPenn looking for? In the University of Pennsylvania's own words, they are looking for students who “are inspired to emulate [the school's] founder Benjamin Franklin by applying their knowledge in 'service to society, to our community, the city of Philadelphia, and the wider world.”

Do colleges really look at supplemental essays? ›

Colleges think a lot about what to ask in their supplemental essay prompts, and they really want you to take time and care in these answers. Pay close attention to the prompts, and really think about how best to answer. This goes even for the tiniest of school-specific essays.

Should I answer optional supplemental essays? ›

It's not a requirement, your application will not mean any less than an applicant who did the writing. You should do the optional college essays if you feel you have the right means to create an impressive essay.

Do colleges care a lot about supplemental essays? ›

Yes, colleges care about supplemental essays. Your writing gives colleges extra insight into who you are as a person beyond your grades. Strong supplemental essays can give you an advantage in your application to many different schools.

What not to write in a supplemental essay for college? ›

As students craft their responses, here are some common missteps to avoid.
  • Being generic or superficial. ...
  • Not answering the question. ...
  • Repeating yourself. ...
  • Not answering optional questions. ...
  • Not knowing the school you are applying to. ...
  • Forgetting to talk about yourself.
Oct 15, 2021

Does UPenn have demonstrated interest? ›

Penn does not consider demonstrated interest when reviewing applications for admission.

How do you write a Penn thank you note? ›

Write the essay as if you were writing directly to the person you've picked. It's okay to mention your accomplishments and experience, but if including that information would sound weird in a thank you note, then it might not be best to include it. You want your gratitude to come off as genuine and personal.

What are the most chosen majors in UPenn? ›

The most popular majors at University of Pennsylvania include: Business, Management, Marketing, and Related Support Services; Social Sciences; Health Professions and Related Programs; Biological and Biomedical Sciences; Philosophy and Religious Studies; Multi/Interdisciplinary Studies; Mathematics and Statistics; ...

What is the easiest Ivy League school to get into? ›

Cornell is considered the "easiest" Ivy League to get into because it has the highest Ivy League acceptance rate. While it's easier, statistically speaking, to get into Cornell, it's still challenging. It's also important to remember that students apply directly to one of Cornell's eight undergraduate colleges.

Which school of UPenn has the highest acceptance rate? ›

  • College of Arts and Sciences 8.4% acceptance rate.
  • School of Engineering and Applied Science 10% acceptance rate.
  • School of Nursing 25% acceptance rate.
  • The Wharton School 9% acceptance rate.
  • Transferring between schools is difficult, and may only be done once by a student in their time at the school.

What is the average GPA of a UPenn student? ›

The average GPA at University of Pennsylvania is 3.9. This makes University of Pennsylvania Extremely Competitive for GPAs. (Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA. With a GPA of 3.9, University of Pennsylvania requires you to be at the top of your class.

Is a 3.8 unweighted GPA good for UPenn? ›

On average, students admitted to UPenn have a GPA of 3.9 on a 4.0 scale. This means you should look at your unweighted GPA when considering your chances of acceptance. It also means you will need straight “A's” (or very close) to have a competitive GPA for UPenn.

Does Penn recalculate GPA? ›

You will be expected to provide the cumulative GPA 9 through 11 as recorded on your transcript, but will not need to recalculate to a 4.0 scale. Enter the GPA as it appears on your transcript.

What types of students does UPenn look for? ›

According to UPenn's Common Data Set for 21/22, 88% of admitted students had a GPA of 3.75 and above, and 52% had a GPA of 4.0. To increase your chances, we recommend aiming for a GPA of 3.75-4.0. The high school profile is also reviewed to understand the school's grading policies and available classes.

Where do most UPenn students come from? ›

Where do most UPenn students come from?
New York29713.72%
New Jersey25211.65%
6 more rows
Jan 1, 2023

Why is UPenn so prestigious? ›

The University of Pennsylvania, commonly referred to as UPenn, is a prestigious university known for having a strong tradition of academic rigor and cutting-edge research. Because of this, UPenn is highly selective, receiving a large number of applications each year and accepting only a fraction of those who apply.

Do admissions officers actually read essays? ›

Yes, admissions officers do actually read essays, but they might have already screened candidates first in a preliminary round.

Can a bad essay ruin your college application? ›

If a student's essay isn't great OR good, the admission officer will probably just skim past the essay and move right on to your transcript and your test scores to evaluate your candidacy for admission. Bad essays don't get read.

Do college admissions officers read your whole essay? ›

Yes, every college essay is read if the college has asked for it (and often even if they did not ask for it). The number of readers depends on the college's review process. It will be anywhere from one reader to four readers.

What should you not do in a supplemental essay? ›

Supplemental Essay Mistakes: Common Errors to Avoid
  • Not Conducting Enough School-Specific Research.
  • Don't Forget to Write About You.
  • Repeating Your Personal Statement or Activities List.
  • Not Answering What the Question Has Asked For—And Wasting Words in the Process.
  • Not Leaving Enough Time to Work on Them.
Oct 5, 2021

Should I write a personal statement if it is optional? ›

You should write the optional essay if you actually have something substantial to say about it. If you're just doing it because “you think you should,” “everyone else is doing it,” “they say it's optional, but I think it's mandatory,” or “I'm sure I can come up with something to say,” then don't write it.

How long should I spend on each supplemental essay? ›

Write Your Essays Efficiently

But generally speaking, the Common App essay or the personal statement itself really takes at least five hours of work, while supplemental essays each take around 2-4 hours per school, factoring in research and writing. Remember that each essay must be written for the individual college.

What 3 things should never be included in a college essay? ›

College Essay Topics to Avoid
  • Controversial Topics. Controversial topics, such as current political hot buttons, should be avoided at all costs. ...
  • Highly Personal Topics. ...
  • Personal Achievements and Accomplishments. ...
  • Most Important Place or a Role Model. ...
  • Creative Writing. ...
  • Athletic Topics. ...
  • Humorous Topics or Jokes. ...
  • Tragic Events.
Sep 3, 2020

Is the personal statement more important than supplemental essays? ›

Often, these essays are more important than the Personal Essay. Colleges ask these questions for a reason — and it's usually to make sure they learn more about you and the HUMAN you are (not a test-taking, grade-making, EC doing machine) and how you will bring that human (you) to THEIR specific campus.

Do colleges care more about supplementals or Common App? ›

Colleges often want to know more specific information than is requested on the Common Application, especially as it relates to their particular school. Supplement questions may ask you to think about why you want to attend the colleges, why you think you'd be a good fit, or what you can bring to the campus.

What should you not mention in a college essay? ›

Many essays included things that you should not do in your college admissions essay including: Never rehash your academic and extracurricular accomplishments. Never write about a "topic" Never start with a preamble.

Should I write about trauma in my college essay? ›

Sometimes you need to be able to explain the circumstances in your life — and colleges want to know about any hardships you've had. They want to understand the context of your application, so don't worry about thinking you're asking the colleges to feel sorry for you (we hear kids say that all the time).

How do you make a college essay stand out? ›

A standout college essay has several key ingredients:
  1. A unique, personally meaningful topic.
  2. A memorable introduction with vivid imagery or an intriguing hook.
  3. Specific stories and language that show instead of telling.
  4. Vulnerability that's authentic but not aimed at soliciting sympathy.
Oct 25, 2021

Do Ivy Leagues look at attendance? ›

In the admissions process, colleges do not care about high school attendance and whether it's perfect or not. Instead, they place a higher priority on things like the difficulty of classes and one's GPA.

Do any of the Ivy Leagues track demonstrated interest? ›


Although the Ivies do not care about the mechanical demonstrated interest, they certainly do care about an applicant's genuine, deep, convincing interest in their schools.

Is UPenn very competitive? ›

Founded in 1740, Penn is one of the oldest universities in the United States and has a long history of academic excellence. Over the years, Penn has become one of the most prestigious universities in the world, with a highly competitive admission process.

How do you write the best thank you note ever? ›

The ideal note is brief and to the point. Start by thanking the person, with specificity, for their gift or kind act. Write about how you plan to use their gift or how their actions made you feel. And then reiterate your thanks and mention the next time you'll see the person.

What is an example of wording for a thank you note? ›

Examples: Thank you again, I really appreciate working with you. Even though I may not say it all the time, I appreciate all you do. Thank you again for your support, it made a real difference for me.

What is the least competitive major at UPenn? ›

While all the different undergraduate schools are competitive, some are more so than others. Wharton (9% acceptance rate) is the most competitive school, while the UPenn School of Nursing (25% acceptance rate) is the least competitive of the four.

Who is a famous graduate from UPenn? ›

University of Pennsylvania (PENN) – Notable UPenn Alumni

Famous PENN State Alumni include Anil Ambani; Donald Trump; Elizabeth Banks; Elon Musk; Ivanka Trump; John Legend; Noam Chomsky; Sachin Pilot; Sundar Pichai; Tory Burch and many others.

What are the chances of getting into UPenn? ›

What is the happiest Ivy League? ›

Campus happiness: Brown is widely known as the happiest Ivy, perhaps because of students' freedom to choose courses with almost complete autonomy. Students report feeling less competition amongst themselves and an overall sense of campus community.

Will one C ruin my chances of Ivy League? ›

Just one bad grade in an advanced level course is not going to ruin your chances at an Ivy League. However, consistently underperforming in advanced classes in your area-of-interest classes will penalize you in the applications process.

What is the hardest Ivy academically? ›

Harvard University

The most challenging Ivy League school to get into is Harvard, established in 1636 and based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. According to Harvard Admissions, only 2,008 out of 43,330 candidates were accepted to the college.

Is Cornell or UPenn easier to get into? ›

Acceptance Rate8.7%5.9%
Enrolled %63.5%73.2%
Avg High School GPA3.93.95
Typical High School GradesA-A-
9 more rows

What is the lowest GPA UPenn will accept? ›

You should also have a 3.9 GPA or higher. If your GPA is lower than this, you need to compensate with a higher SAT/ACT score. For a school as selective as University of Pennsylvania, you'll also need to impress them with the rest of your application. We'll cover those details next.

What do I write for the Penn State Supplement? ›

Please tell us something about yourself, your experiences, or activities that you believe would reflect positively on your ability to succeed at Penn State. This is your opportunity to tell us something about yourself that is not already reflected in your application or academic records.

How do you answer the why us supplement? ›

Follow the five tips below to help your "why this school" essay leave a memorable impression on admissions officers.
  1. Treat Each "Why Us" Essay Individually. ...
  2. Spend Time Researching Your Schools. ...
  3. Focus on Your Fit With the School. ...
  4. Provide Specific Details and Examples. ...
  5. Demonstrate a Sense of Enthusiasm.

How to submit supplemental letters of recommendation to UPenn? ›

If you choose to submit an optional additional letter of recommendation, please submit it directly through the Coalition or Common App. If you have exceptional and recognized talents in visual arts or music, you may submit samples of work for review by department faculty.

How to answer Yale Supplements 2023? ›

When answering this prompt in the Yale supplemental essays 2022-2023, think about a group or place that has impacted you—it could be your ethnic or religious community or it could be a club at school, or an organization outside of school that matters to you.

Does Penn State look at personal statement? ›

College admissions typically use an applicant's personal statement to better understand who the applicant is as a person and what strengths they will bring to the university. In other words, the Penn State Essay response is an applicant's chance to show what makes them unique in the admissions process.

What does Penn State look at? ›

We take a hard look at the many roles you serve as a student, sibling, athlete, son or daughter, volunteer, and/or employee. Assembling a class of students with diverse interests and experiences is a task that we take seriously. Penn State does not have a minimum GPA or standardized test score used for admission.

Should I submit a personal statement for Penn State? ›

We do strongly encourage applicants to complete the personal statement as part of their application submission. When can students begin applying to Penn State as test-optional?

What not to do in supplemental essays? ›

Supplemental Essay Mistakes: Common Errors to Avoid
  • Not Conducting Enough School-Specific Research.
  • Don't Forget to Write About You.
  • Repeating Your Personal Statement or Activities List.
  • Not Answering What the Question Has Asked For—And Wasting Words in the Process.
  • Not Leaving Enough Time to Work on Them.
Oct 5, 2021

How should you answer supplemental questions? ›

A supplemental question response should include the following: Describe the knowledge, skill, or ability (competency) we are seeking. Tell us how you gained the competency. Tell us where you gained the competency.

How do you answer short supplemental questions? ›

Here are some tips to help you ace your short answers:
  1. Don't repeat the question.
  2. Don't use unnecessarily large words. ...
  3. Answer honestly. ...
  4. Supplement your résumé. ...
  5. Always use details to bring even a short story to life.
  6. Don't be afraid of the word limit. ...
  7. Describe your personal growth. ...
  8. Be specific about each institution.

Does UPenn send secondaries to everyone? ›

We do not screen the secondary applications, so anyone who is verified as an eligible candidate through the AMCAS system is sent the link to our secondary application.

Does UPenn require 2 recommendation letters? ›

In addition to the required counselor recommendation, all Penn applicants are required to submit two recommendations. We also allow students to submit 1 optional supplemental letter if they desire.

Should I submit two letters of recommendation? ›

Most colleges will ask for up to three letters of recommendation, so keep that in mind and don't overdo it. If a school wants two recommendation letters, only submit two.

How to answer what is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application? ›

4) What is something about you that is not included anywhere else in your application?
  • What moves your spirit? ...
  • Your role in your family.
  • Your role in your social group.
  • The funniest things you've even done.
  • The strangest things you've ever done.
  • Commitment, passion, and enthusiasm.
  • Core values and beliefs.
Jul 21, 2022

How do I get a dean's excuse Yale? ›

Dean's Extensions
  1. Incapacitating illness or incapacitating condition of any kind.
  2. Death of a family member.
  3. A comparable emergency.
  4. Observance of religious holy days.
  5. Participation in varsity intercollegiate athletic events.

Does Yale EA increase chances? ›

Applying Single-Choice Early Action does not increase the likelihood of being admitted to Yale. Historically, the rate of admission among early applicants has been higher than the overall admission rate because many of our strongest candidates, from a wide range of backgrounds and interests, apply early.


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