The Ultimate Guide to Writing the UPenn Supplemental Essays

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

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The Ultimate Guide to Writing the UPenn Supplemental Essays

The UPenn supplemental essays are an understandable cause of stress for many high school students who are eager to attend this esteemed university. While much of the application will focus on test scores, course grades, and some extracurricular activities, the UPenn supplemental essays are really the best chance you have for standing out amongst the crowd of tens of thousands of applicants. If you’re not sure where to start, don’t worry! The experts at AdmissionSight are here to help. We’ve helped several students just like you get into the university of their dreams by mastering the admissions process. Here, we’ll offer you some specific tips for dominating the UPenn supplemental essays.

UPenn Campus

General Application Essays

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)

No matter which undergraduate school you hope to attend, this will be the first UPenn supplemental essay you have to answer. Admission officers want to learn more about how you came to be interested in your academic pursuits. However, they want you to keep your answer relevant to the area of study which you’ve chosen. You don’t have to go in major detail, but you shouldn’t be talking about intellectual interests that aren’t related to your undergraduate school of choice. For example, if you’ve decided on the Digital Media Design program, talk about how you developed a fascination with designing things on your computer with varying programs over the years. Following this explanation, you’ll have to pinpoint courses, programs, research opportunities, projects, and other offerings at the university that will help you explore your aforementioned academic interests.

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)

This is a decent amount of information to fit into just 200 words. In it’s distilled form, this prompt is asking you what you can bring to the UPenn community and what you think it could offer you. While the previous question had an academic focus, this prompt is all about what happens outside of the classroom. You’ll want to do some research to see what UPenn offers its students outside of the academic sphere. Highlight some of your favorites in this piece and explain why. You’ll then need to talk about what you can bring to the university. Think about what your current classmates, teachers, and even colleagues like about you and expand on these ideas in your response.

Computer and Cognitive Science: Artificial Intelligence Essays

Why are you interested in Computer & Cognitive Science: Artificial Intelligence program at the University of Pennsylvania? (400-650 words)

The Computer & Cognitive Science: Artificial Intelligence program at UPenn is one of the university’s more unique and specialized programs. It’s modern, challenging, and selective. For these reasons, admission officers want to ensure that only the most eager, dedicated, and invested students gain admittance. Instead of generally talking about your interest in computers and AI, you’ll want to go into greater detail about the personal experiences that led you into this area of interest. Be as specific as possible in not only recounting these meaningful experiences but also when describing which areas of AI and the cognitive sciences you find most interesting. This greater detail will secure you as a well-informed and invested applicant.

Digital Media Design Program

DMD: Digital Media Design Program

Why are you interested in the Digital Media Design (DMD) program at the University of Pennsylvania? (400-650 words)

Digital Media Design is still a small program at UPenn, but it’s not particularly unique to the university. There are countless colleges and Ivy League Universities that offer some form of the digital design program. Start off by explaining your interest in the field and try your best to tie in some personal experiences that inspired this academic trajectory. However, you should also dedicate a large chunk of your response to this UPenn supplemental essay to explaining your interest in the university’s DMD program in specific. In other words, why do you want to attend UPenn’s DMD program instead of another school’s? Make direct references to programs, majors, courses, and projects that are unique to the program in order to highlight your specific interest in UPenn’s program.

The Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business

Huntsman: The Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business

The Huntsman Program supports the development of globally-minded scholars who become engaged citizens, creative innovators, and ethical leaders in the public, private, and non-profit sectors in the United States and internationally. What draws you to a dual-degree program in business and international studies, and how would you use what you learn to make a contribution to a global issue where business and international affairs intersect? (400-650 words)

This is one of the more in-depth prompts in the UPenn supplemental essays. You’re essentially being asked to answer two different questions. For the first part, you must explain why you’re interested in earning a degree both in international studies and business. The Hunstman Program is interdisciplinary in nature, and admission officers want to know why you’re interested in pursuing both subject areas. Like previous questions, talking about a personal experience that pointed you in this direction is the best approach to take. The second portion of the question requires you to pick a current global issue where international affairs and business interact and talk about how your education through the program will help you contribute to the cause. Be sure to name specific courses and opportunities offered by the program when answering this second part.

LSM: The Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management

LSM seeks students who are enthusiastic about combining science with management. What excites you about this combination? What advantages and opportunities does the combination provide, and what issues could it address? Be as specific and original as possible in addressing these questions. It is important that you share your thoughts written in your own words because that is what we are interested in reading. (400-650 words)

Notice that there are some instructions already built-in to this question. Like we mentioned earlier, being as specific as possible in your responses will result in a stronger application overall. UPenn also made an extra note to tell applicants to write in their own words. It’s not necessarily that they’re worried about people plagiarizing. Rather, they’re warning you that many of the responses they receive are generic. In order to stand out amongst the crowd of applicants, you’ll have to really write something unique. Instead of reading examples, head to the program’s homepage and familiarize yourself with the LSM offerings. Think about your own personal, professional, and academic goals in the life sciences and management field and how these offerings will help you achieve those goals. Expanding on these ideas is bound to help you write a response that is unique to you while still being relevant to the program itself.

college students in a study group

M&T: The Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology

  • Explain how you will use the M&T program to explore your interest in business, engineering, and the intersection of the two. (400-650 words)

At this point, you’ve probably noticed a repeating pattern in these UPenn supplemental essays that goes something like this. First, tell us about your interests in this field (management and technology in this case). Two, explain how this program will help you pursue these academic interests and goals. Naturally, the strategy to answer the questions won’t change much. The only challenge with the M&T program is properly displaying your interest in both engineering and business simultaneously. A quick browse of the program’s offerings should be enough to kickstart your brainstorming.

  • Describe a problem that you solved that showed leadership and creativity. (250 words)

This follow-up question is asking you to provide a real-life example of problem-solving skills. Think back to a time when you were faced with a dilemma and had to use creativity and leadership to solve the problem. Ideally, you’d choose something related to engineering and business in order to keep it relevant, but any example will do. Just make sure to find a way to tie it back with your interest in the field and the program.

NETS: The Rajendra and Neera Singh Program in Networked and Social Systems Engineering

Describe your interests in modern networked information systems and technologies, such as the internet, and their impact on society, whether in terms of economics, communication, or the creation of beneficial content for society. Feel free to draw on examples from your own experiences as a user, developer, or student of technology. (400-650 words)

This prompt is a little more open than previous UPenn supplemental essays since it opens up your response to experiences as a user and developer instead of just as a student of technology. This gives you more to work with than if you were stuck with writing only about your academic relationship with technology. Through this response, make sure you illustrate knowledge in the field. It’s important to also show genuine interest through personal stories and a clear explanation of your goals within the field, but admission officers will also want to be able to glean your prowess just by reading your answer.

NHCM: Nursing and Healthcare Management

Discuss your interest in nursing and health care management. How might Penn’s coordinated dual-degree program in nursing and business help you meet your goals? (400-650 words)

We’re met with the classic UPenn supplement essays setup once again. When dealing with an interdisciplinary program like the NHCM program, you can opt to talk about how you developed an interest in both nursing and healthcare separately or in tandem. Regardless, it’s important to tie them both together at some point either by mentioning related activities you’re invested in now or future goals you have that pertain to both fields. Again, you’ll then be tasked with explaining how the NHCM program will help you achieve those goals you mentioned. Hint: check the program’s homepage again and include some specific references to its offerings.

Seven-Year Bio-Dental Program

  • Please list pre-dental or pre-medical experience. This experience can include but is not limited to observation in private practice, dental clinic, or hospital setting; dental assisting; dental laboratory work; dental or medical research, etc. Please include the time allotted to each activity, dates of attendance, location, and description of your experience. If you do not have any pre-dental or pre-medical experience, please indicate what you have done that led you to your decision to enter dentistry.

This prompt is very straightforward. UPenn simply wants to know of any previous medical or dental experience you’ve had. You can easily extract this information from a resume if you’ve made one already. If you have no experience, then you’re required to explain your interest in the field.

  • List any activities which demonstrate your ability to work with your hands.

Another simple prompt that just requires you to list out any activities that demonstrate an ability to work skillfully with your hands. This could be anything from real pre-medical experience such as working with cadavers to something entirely unrelated like sports, as long as it demonstrates your dexterity.

  • What activities have you performed that demonstrate your ability to work cooperatively with people?

UPenn admission officers want to know about your interpersonal skills in this piece. Like the question before, your examples don’t necessarily have to be related to medical settings, although it’s preferred.

  • Please explain your reasons for selecting a career in dentistry. Please include what interests you the most in dentistry as well as what interests you the least.

Dentistry is a challenging field and you’re encouraged to explain both what interests you and what doesn’t interest you about the field. First, talk about how you developed a passion for it and then describe your favorite and least favorite thing about it. When discussing what interests you the least, feel free to talk about how you plan to overcome that aspect in school.

  • Do you have relatives who are dentists or are in dental school? If so, indicate the name of each relative, his/her relationship to you, the school attended, and the dates attended.

Here’s another straightforward, simple prompt. All you have to do is list (if you have any) relatives that are currently working as dentists or attending a dentistry program.

students walking on campus grounds

VIPER: The Roy and Diana Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research

Describe your interests in energy science and technology drawing on your previous academic, research, and extracurricular experiences that allow you to appreciate the scientific or engineering challenges related to energy and sustainability. If you have previous experience with research, describe your research project (outlining the goals, hypotheses, approach, results, and conclusions). Describe how your experiences have shaped your research and interests, and identify how the VIPER program will help you achieve your goals. Also, please indicate which VIPER majors in both science and engineering are most interesting to you at this time. (400-650 words)

Don’t let this prompt scare you. It might seem jampacked with questions, but it can be boiled down to the same sort of responses required in the last prompts. Admission counselors want to know about the genesis of your interest in technology and energy science. Be sure to mention any extracurricular, research, or academic experiences that contributed to that interest. If you participated in a research program during the school year or summer, you’re asked to go into detail about the project overall to illustrate your experience with the subject matter. Next, you’ll need to mention some specific offerings of the VIPER program and explain how those will help you accomplish your goals in the field. Don’t forget to mentioned specific majors within the program that are of most interest to you both in the engineering and science fields.

AdmissionSight is here for you

AdmissionSight has developed a solid reputation for helping students gain admittance into the college of their dreams. We’ve worked with hundreds of students from around the country to help them perfect their applications and increase their chances of getting admitted to some of the most prestigious universities, including UPenn. Our admission specialists know what it takes to turn the heads of admission officers and get your application at the top of the accepted pile. Reach out to an AdmissionSight representative today to learn how we can help.


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