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The Ultimate Guide to Acing the University of Pennsylvania Supplemental Essays 2021/22

11 NOV 2021

There's a lot to love about the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). From its cozy, historic campus and fiercely active clubs and communities to its connections with neighboring schools and career opportunities in Philadelphia, Penn is a dream school for many students. But, perhaps its most notable distinction is its world-class academic programs with professors who are leaders in their field.

UPenn has several undergraduate schools: Arts & Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Nursing, and Wharton (business). Penn also offers several interdisciplinary programs, such as the Huntsman Program for International Business, which spans several schools.

How to stand out in your UPenn Supplemental Essays for 2021

Admission officers do not gloss over your supplemental essays. They thoroughly read each one because they believe these essays reveal a lot about how you think, the things you value, and how you view the world. When they read your essays, they look for a unique voice and imagine what you might bring to their campus community.

How Crimson Can Help You Get into University of Pennsylvania

As a Crimson student, you’re treated as an individual. Our knowledgeable and approachable advisors want to hear about your unique dreams, aspirations, and goals. They get to know you on a personal level so they can help you craft supplemental essays as original and exceptional as you!

Check out the video below to follow Kartik’s journey from Crimson to University of Pennsylvania!

How Kartik Got Into UPenn Wharton to study Business

Need help with your Supplemental Essays? Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admission consulting company. Our expert admission strategist can help you narrow down your ideas and word choice to help you craft the perfect essay prompt response. Get your essay reviewed today!

What are the UPenn Supplemental Essay prompts for 2021/22?

Prompt 1

Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at The University of Pennsylvania? (300-450 words)

Prompt 2

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/1020 characters**)

Us Supplemental Essay Ebook

How to Answer Prompt 1

Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at The University of Pennsylvania? (300-450 words)

Your goal in writing this essay is to convey:

  • Your understanding of Penn and its programs
  • You thought long and hard about why you are perfect for Penn and why Penn is perfect for you. (Don’t copy and paste another essay you have already written.)

Do your research on UPenn.

In your first few sentences, you should make crystal clear:

  • Which school you are applying
  • Your intended major
  • Your intended minor / special program

Penn admissions officers are realistic. They know if you’re applying to Penn, you’re probably also applying to Harvard, Dartmouth, or maybe both. Make sure you’re clear that you have dedicated time and thought to Penn’s application specifically.

For example, avoid any lingo you copied from another school, like your intended “concentration” (Harvard) or your excitement about life in the “residential colleges” (Yale). Instead, use language specific to Penn.

Example Outline for UPenn Supplemental Essay Prompt 1

Here’s a potential essay outline will help get you started:

Demonstrate your Academic Fit

Courses: Visit the school/department’s website for whichever school and subject interests you. What specific courses do you want to take? Bonus points if there are any that Penn uniquely offers.

  • Good Example: Adam Grant, a writer for the New York Times, teaches MGMT 238: Organizational Behavior. Sure, you can take management courses at other business schools, but only at Penn can you access this famous business thinker.
  • Bad example: ECON 1 - Introduction to Microeconomics. Every economics department in the world offers this intro course - unless you have a perspective on why it’s unique at Penn, don’t list this as a reason why Penn’s economics department is unique.

Professors: Check out the department website of the subject that interests you. Read through the professor profiles and find a few that look interesting. Do they teach any classes or lead any research opportunities that are relevant to your interest? If so, list them in your essay.

Demonstrate your Campus Life Fit

Fit your interests: How does your background fit into life at Penn? Make sure you link your specific interests and activities to specific organizations at Penn. For example, let’s say you were involved in theater in high school - you can write about your interest in TAC-e at Penn (the Theater Arts Council).

If you stick to this formula, your Penn supplement will be clear, relevant, and compelling.

How to answer Prompt 2

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/1020 characters**)

Essay 2 gives you more room to be creative, but you still need to be specific. Use this as an opportunity to bridge your personal life with curricular and extracurricular opportunities at Penn. They need to know you’ve thought about this question and you’re writing a thoughtful response.

As a bonus, find a community-oriented group at UPenn that interests you and show how it’s similar to community volunteering/work you have done before. Whatever you do, be honest and sincere. Admissions committees can sense if you are exaggerating. Humility and creativity are essential here.

A Day in the Life: University of Pennsylvania Student

Example UPenn Supplemental Essay Prompt 2 Ideas to Consider

1. Neighborhood Helper

Ask yourself the following:

  • Do you help your neighbors out by babysitting for free?
  • Do you take care of your siblings?
  • What about elders in your family or community?
  • Do you work within an at-needs community?
  • Have you ever spent the summer working as a camp counselor?

Talk about the time you helped a student learn how to swim or the time you took a group of inner-city kids into the forest for the first time. Describe their look of awe and the sense of discovery they experienced at that moment. You can talk about how bringing discovery to more communities is what drives you to be an engineer since you want to engineer the next generation of infrastructure that makes carbon-free public transportation a speedy reality.

2. School Volunteer

  • Have you served as a volunteer, or consistently volunteered at a school or participated in a community project?
  • When have you felt a call to participate in your community, and how did you do that?

You could talk about your motivation to help an afterschool group that volunteers with people with special needs.

You could talk about the summer you spent with special needs students and the inspiration you felt working with those whose needs exceeded your own. Talk about how far the students had come in their accomplishments.

You can talk about how you want to continue working within these communities through technological innovation geared towards their educational needs and interests.

3. Humanitarian Worker

  • Have you ever spent a summer in Guatemala or Lagos?
  • Have you volunteered abroad?

Describe a time you helped bring vaccines, food, potable water, or something else to an at-needs community. If you were a teacher, talk about how your work helped children learn a new language and how linguistic interaction in the 21st century has a long way to go. Inspired by apps like Duo Lingo, talk about how you want to make the next generation of translation software for communities that are just beginning to participate in the global marketplace.


Each of these questions and examples illustrates the connections you should make between your volunteer experience and the world at large. In other words, even if you only help your friend get to school on time by picking them up each day, talk about why it takes a village to get something done. Show how your involvement in the community is fundamental to your academic interests at Penn through examples that creatively outline possibilities for your career.

Final Thoughts

If you’re planning on applying to Penn’s dual-degree or specialized programs, you must answer the Penn supplemental essays and the essays associated with your program of interest. For information about these program-specific prompts, click here.

Before you begin writing, research all your areas of interest. Be specific and open about your educational pursuits and career goals. Penn wants to know why you want to attend the school, if you’ll be a good fit, and how you will make a difference on and off the campus.

Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admission consulting company. Our expert admission strategist can help you narrow down your ideas and word choice to help you craft the perfect supplemental essay responses. Get your essay reviewed today!

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