As he did last week, Patrick Bredehoft, former Admissions Officer and current Director of the Penn Alumni Interview Program, offers his insight into the Penn Supplement. Here, we will go over the second question on the supplement.
Ben Franklin once said, “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” Which are you? (Please answer in 300-500 words.)
Patrick Bredehoft: “This is a great essay that allows us to think about why schools ask the questions they do. With this essay, Penn is trying to communicate a number of things. First, this question is a nod to Penn’s past and founder, Benjamin Franklin. It communicates how relevant his perspective and legacy is to the 21st century. It also asks students to think about their role in the world; we, as an institution, are interested in knowing what type of people our applicants are. The notion of engagement and the question of how our students will engage–although there is no one way–is important to us as an institution.
As with the first question on the supplement, there is absolutely no right answer but lots of compelling opportunities. In fact, when we asked current Penn students to answer this question, they all came up with different answers, taking the question in unique and novel directions.
When drafting this essay, we ask students to sit with the question and see where they are reflected in it. There are no positive or negative values attached to any of the three choices nor are there any definitive answers (individuals cannot be compartmentalized). Ultimately, we are more interested in what applicants say about the option they choose rather than the option itself. We want applicants to have the space in this text to tell us where they are from, what they hope to become, and to delve into any significant events in their lives. Student answers might transcend time and space, allude to moments in the past, present and future, and span involvement in local, national, or global events.
We also want to be surprised at what students do with this text. To surprise us you don’t need to reject all options, think of a fourth option, or merge them. This is not to say that you shouldn’t challenge the premise of the question but, again, we ask you to look for yourself in some part of it.
At Penn we ask hard questions and we know that this question is difficult. Our hope with this prompt is that applicants are willing to think about themselves and their relationship to something larger. If mankind seems too big, we hope that they think about the role they play in their family, school, town, or after-school activity. We believe that we will get answers that are each surprising and enlightening. This is a question to define for us, how you see yourself. If the answer is from a perspective of honesty and self-reflection, it will be successful.”