This summer looks and feels very different than we all imagined. For the past six months, our world has been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, necessitating changes to daily life on a global scale. For students, we know these changes have greatly impacted your spring semester, as many of you adjusted to an abrupt transition to remote education. This summer, schools around the world are making complex decisions about what this upcoming year will involve. As we write this in late July, we know that many questions remain unanswered about what the future will hold.
At the same time, we can count on many important values that will remain the same, despite the uncertainty of this moment. Educational institutions – whether in-person or remote – will continue to spark curiosity, nurture exploration, and support self-reflection and growth among their students. While in-person classrooms, activities, and school traditions have shifted this year, that educational mission has not. At Penn, we continue to uphold the importance of, as Ben Franklin put it, using one’s education “in service to society.” The innovation, collaboration and creativity fostered in Penn’s classrooms is ever more important to address the many challenges facing our world today.
To that end, we are sharing the Penn supplemental essay questions for the 2020-2021 application cycle. While many aspects of the application process will feel different this year (including our updated testing policy), you will see that these essay questions are the same as last year. We hope this consistency will aid in your planning for this upcoming year. We also hope that these essays will continue to deliver on their original intention: to allow applicants to share both their academic interests and their aspirations for life outside the classroom. Ever more this year, we affirm the importance of caring for each other, living in a community of trust and honesty, and honoring each other’s identities. We hope these essay questions will allow you to explore those themes as you complete your application to Penn.
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)
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)
As we wrote last year, we invite you to explore the 5I and 4C framework for assessing yourself and assessing colleges. Keep the following in mind as you connect your ideas to Penn’s academic and community ecosystem:
Carefully read the questions.
We are asking you to explore your academic interests and potential intellectual path at the University of Pennsylvania. We expect that you will discuss the undergraduate school to which you are applying, potential majors or minors, classes of interest, lab opportunities, or professors of note, among other academic resources. And we hope you’ll use the second question to share something about your life experiences, your identity, and your interests beyond academics: how do you see yourself bringing these to your Penn experience?
Use the helpful tools on our website.
This essay should be specific to Penn. We offer a variety of opportunities to visit us virtually, including live information sessions, tours, and workshops. Not sure what clubs or classes are available? We share a lot of student stories on our website that can help you get a sense of what happens here at Penn. Our Explore Interests tool can help, too, so that you can see how what you like is reflected at Penn. And don’t forget to check us out on Instagram @PreviewingPenn.
These pieces should read as essays, not lists. Balance your understanding of the academic offerings at Penn with information about your interests and ideas. What are you curious about? How do you explore your passions in your school and community? What might you want to do in the future and how will Penn get you there?
Don’t be afraid to explore possibilities.
You should feel comfortable writing about majors, classes, and research opportunities that pique your curiosity even if you do not have formal experience within these academic areas. Tell us why these disciplines stand out and how they inform your future goals.
But remember, we do ask you to apply to a specific undergraduate school at Penn: the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Nursing, the Wharton School, or the School of Engineering and Applied Science. In your application, you will need to decide which undergraduate school is the best fit for your potential academic path, and you’ll share with us your reason for that choice.
However, whichever undergraduate school you apply to, you might still opt to apply to that school without a clear decision about an intended major. That’s ok! A substantial portion of our applicants apply as undecided. Once you’ve narrowed in on a school and a general area of interest, discuss the potential majors, minors, or class choices that feel right for you right now.
If you apply to a dual degree program, there will be an additional essay to demonstrate your fit for that specific program. In the Penn-specific essay prompt be sure to speak to your single-degree choice.
From all of us at Penn Admissions, we wish you health and safety for the remainder of this summer and the upcoming school year. We are cheering for you, and we are here for you.