One of the supplemental essay prompts for Penn’s application asks about a student’s interest in ideas organized around the curricular opportunities available at the university:
How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests, and how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania? Please respond considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected. (300-450 words)
This piece is not about writing the essay, for that purpose some tips can be found here, which is most appropriate for current seniors considering applying to Penn. However for all students, this prompt can help guide your own thinking as you discover your own academic interests and the topics which inspire you intellectually.
As a high school student, you are taking a range of classes broadly grouped in the humanities, social sciences, mathematics, natural sciences and language study. You also have elective choices which may include a particular genre of literature, arts electives, computer coding, economics, civics, and many others. At this stage of your education, we encourage you to broadly explore a range of subjects and topics through the high school curriculum and your own further research. This time is not about trying to choose a major or a career. That will inevitably follow (and change!) over time. Rather, use your time in high school to explore your academic interests and follow wherever the path may lead you.
As you begin to contemplate particular colleges and universities on your list of potential choices, you should dive into one of the 4 C’s, curriculum, to gain an understanding of how the faculty of those schools prioritize areas of learning as a foundation for your academic exploration and growth. For example, review the curriculum at Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences to understand the purpose and design of Foundational Courses, Sector Requirements, the Major and Free Electives, and how these areas intersect with each other over the four years of study.
As always, keep an open mind as you explore different subject areas through the daily routine of your high school classes. You never know when you will encounter a subject or idea which will make you reflect and think about yourself and the world around you differently.