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Write a Strong UPenn Essay 2018-19: Why Is UPenn a Great Fit for You?

UPDATE: There are new UPenn essay prompts for 2019-20.  Get all the details here.

Admissions readers want to understand why the college you’re applying to is a good fit for you. This guide will help you write a 400-650 word UPenn essay that connects your unique interests to opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania.

Let’s take a look at the prompt!

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)

*Students applying to Digital Media Design and Computer & Cognitive Science should address both the specialized program and single-degree choice in their response. For students applying to the other coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer this question in regards to your single-degree school choice; your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essay.


Step one: Identify Your Interests

First, write a list of 2-3 interests you want to explore in college, in and out of the classroom.

This should include your intended major, but it can also include interests you want to pursue on the side. For example, maybe your main academic interest in history, but you also want to explore your interest in economics.


Step two: Why Penn?

Now it’s time to connect your interests to UPenn’s resources. Explore the website for the undergraduate school you are applying to and look for opportunities that interest you.

How will you pursue your interests in the classroom? Are there courses or concentrations that you’re excited to take? Are there any professors who you really want to take classes with? Is there an independent study opportunity that would allow you to do a “deep dive” into a unique interest?

How will you explore your interests outside of class? Are you excited about any research, internship, or study abroad opportunities? Are there clubs or student groups that you want to join? Are there on-campus events you want to attend? Maybe you want to participate in the Community Engagement Internship program, attend a writing workshop at the Kelly Writers House, or learn about environmental sustainability during the summer abroad program in Berlin.

Have you visited UPenn? If so, try to talk about this in your UPenn supplement! During your visit, what moments or conversations helped you understand that UPenn was a good match for your interests? Maybe you enjoyed visiting a certain class, talking to a student about their experiences, seeing a research lab, or talking to a professor about the curriculum.

Let’s take a look at an example student’s brainstorming list:

  • Interest: Biology
    • Ecology and Evolutionary Biology concentration for Biology majors
    • Talked to a student who enjoyed the Field Botany course
    • Study abroad – Tropical Biology program in Costa Rica
    • Independent study – explore my interest in ecological informatics
  • Interest: Spanish language and Latin American culture
    • Latin American and Latino Studies classes available to non-majors
    • I enjoyed visiting La Casa Hispanica in the Modern Languages College House
    • La Vida Magazine


Step three: Your Core Message

Finally, summarize your response to the UPenn essay prompt in a 1-2 sentence Core Message. This will help you introduce your key points.

Let’s take a look at the example student’s Core Message:

  • “The resources in the College of Arts and Sciences will add depth to my biology education and allow me to explore my interest in Spanish language and Latin American culture.”
  • Why this works: It introduces the student’s intellectual and academic interests and connects them to the undergraduate college they are applying to.

Include your Core Message near the start of your UPenn essay – somewhere in your first 3-4 sentences. Then, you can start adding more details!


Click here for our guide to writing the Common App Essay

Prompt’s Essay Specialists reviewed 13,000 admissions essays in 2018, helping thousands of students submit their applications with confidence.

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