Navigating the College Supplement
July 24, 2012
5 I’s
August 6, 2012

The Penn Supplement: Part I

Penn is introducing two new questions on the Penn Supplement for the 2012-2013 admissions cycle.  I’m going to turn the stage over to Patrick Bredehoft, former Penn Admissions Officer and current Director of the Penn Alumni Interview Program, to speak about the first of the two prompts.  We will discuss the second question next week.

A Penn education provides a liberal arts and sciences foundation across multiple disciplines with a practical emphasis in one of four undergraduate schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Nursing, or the Wharton School. Given the undergraduate school to which you are applying, please discuss how you will engage academically at Penn.
(Please answer in 300 words or less.)

Patrick Bredehoft: “The lead-in to the question is ‘given the particular undergrad school to which you are applying…’  This means that in order to answer the question correctly, you must think about the school you are applying to and why.  It might be that you love the idea of being on the frontlines of healthcare reform and hope to pursue a Health and Society major in the College of Arts and Sciences or it might be that you want to work with Philadelphia nonprofits through the Wharton School.  It’s also not unusual for students to be most sure about the combination of possibilities available in their undergraduate school of choice.

This is also the space where you should explain your projected academic interests.  Why did you choose Electrical Engineering, Fine Arts, or Biological Basis of Behavior, a Penn-specific discipline, as your major?  Checking the undecided box is also an appropriate answer.  However, please note the difference between being ‘apathetically undecided’ and ‘ravenously undecided.’  If you are an undecided applicant, tell us about the depth of your different interests and the ways that you would like to become intellectually involved on campus across majors.  You can also use this space to discuss the range of intellectual opportunities, such as a lab experience, learning hub, or internship program, that speak to passions outside of your major.

The key here is to remember that the words, ‘at Penn,’ are integral to your answer; we are looking for concrete examples of those academic opportunities that you are most excited about.  Why do you, specifically, want to pursue your passions at Penn?  Whether it’s the major, Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE), the Kelly Writers House, or the GRASP lab that is of interest to you, try to articulate that fit to us in this essay.

Remember, this is not a contract or promise but a projection of your current interests onto your future ones.  There is no right answer.  As an institution, we are interested in creating a community where students pursuing different fields and professions are exchanging ideas and thereby creating an incredibly exciting and innovative academic environment.  Ready to get started?  We know that there isn’t much space to answer this question and suggest that you begin by writing down everything that you are interested in then distilling this to a small window of what will be a much larger academic experience.”

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