penn state supplemental essay

Penn State Supplemental Essays 2023-24

With test-optional colleges like Penn State on the rise, mastering the Penn State supplemental essay has never been more important. Beyond seeing a strong academic record, the admissions team wants to hear directly from you. That is why including a top tier Penn State essay is so valuable in the admissions process. But, before we jump into the Penn State supplemental essays, let’s learn a little more about the university.

Penn State University, situated in the vibrant state of Pennsylvania, is one of the top public universities in the nation. With a rich history of academic excellence, Penn State draws in a diverse and dynamic community of students. Each year, thousands of aspiring scholars submit their applications yearly, eager to join Penn State’s thriving community. As a result, Penn State enrollment is currently over 80,000 students across its multiple campuses. Wondering how to get into Penn State? Keep reading.

In this guide, we’ll dive into how to get into Penn State University by focusing on the Penn State essays.

Specifically, this guide will:

  • Look at the Penn State University essay requirements
  • Explore Penn State admissions criteria
  • Dissect Penn State essay prompts
  • Offer valuable insights for crafting exceptional Penn State essays

After reading this guide, you’ll have the tools you need to craft compelling Penn State essays. So, when you apply, you can be sure your application will leave a lasting impression on the Penn State admissions committee. 

Let’s begin this exciting journey of learning about Penn State supplemental essays!

Penn State Essays: Quick Facts

Penn State Essay: Quick Facts

  • Penn State University Acceptance Rate: The acceptance rate is 55% – U.S. News notes the early acceptance rate is 65.3%.
  • Penn State University Academic Profile: Class of 2026
  • Penn State University Application Platforms:
  • Penn State University Application Deadlines:
    • Early Action: November 1st
    • Recommended Regular Decision: December 1st 
    • Please Note: First-year applications may be submitted through July 28th. However, since Penn State operates on a rolling basis, acceptances may become more limited later in the admissions cycle. For this reason, we recommend submitting your application by the Recommended Regular Decision deadline.
  • Penn State Essay Requirements:
    • Common Application Personal Statement (Optional): Choose from Common Application 2023-2024 Prompts (650 words)
    • Penn State Personal Statement (Optional): Focused on Getting to Know the Applicant (500 words) 
  • Penn State Schreyer Honors College Application:
    • Priority Application Deadline to secure Honors College Interview: November 1st
      • Students who submit applications after November 1st will not receive an invitation to interview.
    • Final Application Deadline: December 4th 
    • Supplemental Essay Requirements: 2 800-word maximum essays, 8 200-word short answer responses.

Please note that essay requirements are subject to change each admissions cycle, and portions of this article may have been written before the final publication of the most recent guidelines. For the most up-to-date information on essay requirements, check the university’s admissions website.

Does Penn State have supplemental essays?

penn state supplemental essay

Yes, Penn State has one Penn State supplemental essay. This Penn State supplemental essay is also known as the Penn State personal statement. Unlike other universities with required supplemental essays, this essay is optional. That means you only have to write a Penn State supplemental essay if you choose to.

The Penn State supplemental essay asks students to share something about themselves that would enhance their application. You can view this optional essay as an opportunity to share something not reflected elsewhere in your application.

Although optional, the Penn State supplemental essay can add irreplaceable value to your application. The Penn State supplemental essay provides you with the chance to showcase your academic interests, personal highlights, and unique qualities to the Penn State admissions committee. For these reasons, we advise you not to skip the Penn State supplemental essay just because it is not required. 

Penn State Supplemental Essay: Schreyer Honors College

The initial Penn State University application for admission does not have a mandatory Penn State supplemental essay. However, if you plan on applying to Penn State Schreyer Honors College, you will be required to submit several supplemental essays. 

Now that we have answered the question “does Penn State have supplemental essays?”, let’s take a closer look. In the following sections, we’ll explore the Penn State essay prompts for your application to Penn State and the Honors College. (We’ll also share our advice on effectively responding to the various Penn State essays, so look out for helpful tips!)

Penn State Essay Prompt #1 (Optional Essay)

penn state supplemental essay

In the writing section of the Common Application, you will be prompted with a Penn State supplemental essay. The prompt for the Penn State personal statement reads as follows:

Penn State Essay Prompt #1

Please tell us something about yourself, your experiences, or activities that you believe would reflect positively on your ability to succeed at Penn State. This is your opportunity to tell us something about yourself that is not already reflected in your application or academic records. 

In your Penn State personal statement, you should aim to provide additional insights into your character or experiences. Specifically, you’ll want to connect how those experiences will aid in your success at Penn State.

Just like your Common App personal statement, your Penn State personal statement should share something personal. Consider a unique aspect of your life or experiences that sets you apart from other students. It could be a personal passion, a formative experience, or an activity that has had a significant impact on your development. Aim to share something new in your Penn State personal statement, rather than something already mentioned in your Penn State application.

However, you’ll need to do more than just summarize an experience. The Penn State personal statement asks you to reflect on how this experience has helped shape your character. Consider how this experience impacted your personal growth, resilience, or adaptability. Explain how it aligns with Penn State’s values and your intended field of study.

Should I respond to the optional Penn State essay?

penn state supplemental essay

The Penn State personal statement is optional. So, you may be asking yourself whether or not you should choose to respond to the Penn State essay. Well, the short answer is – yes, you should respond to the optional Penn State essay, and this is why. 

While the Penn State essay isn’t required, it offers a valuable chance to enhance your college application. By responding to the Penn State supplemental essay, you can present a more compelling portrait of yourself to admissions officials. The Penn State supplemental essay allows you the chance to convey your enthusiasm and what is important to you. And, you can clearly demonstrate your alignment with Penn State University’s values and academic or extracurricular opportunities.

If these reasons don’t convince you to write your optional Penn State essay, maybe this will. Each year, Penn State University admissions release their application review process. This review highlights how the university evaluates applicants for acceptance. Currently, they highlight students’ academic performance, geographic and cultural background, and various roles as a student, sibling, volunteer, etc. Penn State uses these factors to determine how an applicant might contribute to a diverse student body. So, these are key topics you might want to touch on in your Penn State essays.

Considering the review process mentioned above, the Penn State essay allows you to go beyond academic excellence. The Penn State supplemental essay offers you the chance to highlight your various passions and roles, even non-academic ones. Take this opportunity to showcase how you’ll contribute to Penn State University’s mission of having a diverse student body!

Applying to Schreyer Honors College

Attending Penn State University is an incredible opportunity for students. However, you may choose to further your academic opportunities by applying to Penn State Schreyer Honors College. Students applying to Penn State Schreyer should embody their values of academic excellence, leadership, and community engagement. 

The Penn State Enrollment in 2022 was 88,116. While Penn State enrollment is high amongst general education collegiate students, Penn State enrollment at Penn State Schreyer is only about 1,200 students. So, it shouldn’t be surprising that the honors college program is incredibly competitive.

When applying be sure to follow these steps: 

Schreyer Honors College application steps:

  1. Begin the application process early, ensuring you meet Penn State’s general admission requirements. 
  2. Choose a major aligned with your interests and career goals. 
  3. Use your Penn State supplemental essays to showcase your academic achievements, extracurricular activities, and volunteer work, emphasizing leadership roles and community service. Be yourself in your Penn State essays and application, as authenticity matters. 
  4. Always meet deadlines and be prepared in the event you are selected for an interview. 

How many essays are required for my Schreyer Honors College application?

penn state supplemental essay

In comparison to writing just one Penn State supplemental essay, Penn State Schreyer distinguishes itself with multiple required application essays. To gain acceptance to Penn State Schreyer Honors College, applicants are tasked with two types of essays. Students must complete two 800-word maximum Penn State essays and respond to eight 200-word short answer questions.

The combination of longer Penn State essays with shorter responses fosters a holistic evaluation of applicants. These prompts allow the Penn State admissions committee to assess many qualities of your character. Everything from academic accomplishments, character, and potential contributions to the university community.

In the next section, we’ll briefly break down each of the prompts for the Penn State Honors College supplemental essays.

Penn State Honors College Supplemental Essays

penn state supplemental essay

As previously stated, Penn State Schreyer Honors College has multiple Penn State essays. These Penn State Honors College supplemental essays are diverse and allow prospective students to present a comprehensive picture of themselves. For success, you must know the differences between the various Schreyer Honors College prompts and how to respond best. 

This section will dive deep into each of the Penn State essay prompts for Penn State Schreyer. Let’s get started. 

The first two Penn State Honors College supplemental essays are 800-words maximum. They ask two questions using two distinct Penn State essay prompts.

Penn State Schreyer Honors College Supplemental Essays: Prompt One

Schreyer Honors College Supplemental Essay Prompt #1

Describe a problem you’ve solved or a problem you’d like to solve. It can be an intellectual challenge, a research query, an ethical dilemma – anything that is of personal importance, no matter the scale. Explain its significance to you and what steps you took or could take to identify a solution.

To respond to this Penn State essay prompt effectively, select a problem that resonates with you. It might be an academic challenge, a societal issue, or a moral dilemma. In your response, you’ll want to:

  • Describe the problem clearly
  • Emphasize its significance
  • Highlight your emotional connection
  • Explain how it aligns with your values or interests.

Next, delve into the steps you have already taken or envision taking to address this issue. Discuss:

  • Your thought process
  • Research you conducted
  • People you consulted
  • Any actions you’ve initiated

Reflect on what you’ve learned from this problem-solving experience and how it has influenced your growth or aspirations.

Penn State Schreyer Honors College Supplemental Essays: Prompt Two

Schreyer Honors College Supplemental Essay Prompt #2

Isaac Asimov wrote: “Any book worth banning is a book worth reading.” Do you agree? Is such censorship ever justified? If not, explain why. If so, who or what should determine which books are read and which books are forbidden.

When tackling this Penn State essay prompt, start by expressing your stance on Asimov’s statement, either agreeing or disagreeing. Be sure to provide thoughtful arguments to support your viewpoint.

If you agree with Asimov, discuss the value of engaging with challenging or controversial literature. What benefits can it bring to society? What moral, legal, or ethical issues does censorship raise? If you disagree, explain the circumstances under which censorship might be justified, such as protecting public safety or vulnerable populations. Be sure to consider who should have the authority to make decisions regarding banned books. 

Ultimately, your response should convey a deep understanding of censorship’s complexities and a clear stance on the matter. Whether you agree or disagree, be sure to back up your answer with specific details and reasonable justification.

Penn State Schreyer Honors College Supplemental Essays: Short Answer Prompts

In addition to the longer Penn State essays, Penn State Schreyer requires applicants to respond to 8 short-response questions. These questions have a 200-word limit and are designed to provide quick glimpses into your interests. The eight Penn State essay prompts are as follows: 

Schreyer Honors College Supplemental Essays Short Answer Prompts

1. What do you hope to get at Penn State as a Schreyer Scholar to help you accomplish your future goals and aspirations?

2. If you were able to go anywhere in the world, outside of the country you currently reside, where would you go and why?

3. Tell us about your leadership experiences (community roles, family contributions, research, clubs, organizations, etc.) and why leadership is important to you. Describe the challenges and/or successes you’ve faced in these roles.

4. List awards or other recognitions you have received in or outside of school over the last 4 years. Which award or recognition means the most to you and why?

5. Tell us about a book or other media that has made you think about something in a new way.

6. Consider a time when you had to collaborate with individuals from diverse backgrounds or with different perspectives. How did this experience contribute to your personal growth and understanding of others?

7. Everyone belongs to many different communities and/or groups, including: shared geography, faith, ethnicity, income, cuisine, interest, race, or intellectual heritage. Choose one of the communities or groups to which you belong and describe how it has influenced your life over the last four years.

8. Please use this space to share information you would like us to consider that has not been discussed elsewhere in your Schreyer Honors College application. This could include obstacles you’ve overcome, something you’re proud of that is not discussed elsewhere, or anything else you choose.

These short answer prompts are specific, so be sure to respond to the questions accordingly. With a smaller word limit, you’ll need to stay focused on a clear topic and relevant connected ideas. Rather than worrying about how you think a Schreyer Scholar might answer, be honest in your Penn State essays. Picking topics you’re passionate about is a surefire way to capture your authentic self, even in these shorter essays.

Up next, we’ll discuss how to respond to all Penn State essay prompts in order to enhance your overall application.

How to write Penn State supplemental essays

penn state supplemental essay

When writing Penn State essays, it’s crucial to ensure they enhance and strengthen your Penn State application. Below are our suggestions to help make your Penn State supplemental essays stand out:

1. Embrace authenticity and personal voice in each Penn State Essay

Infuse your Penn State supplemental essays with your genuine self. Share personal anecdotes and experiences that have shaped your values, passions, and aspirations. Avoid generic responses and instead focus on the distinctive aspects of your life journey.

2. Demonstrate knowledge and alignment with Penn State University

Research Penn State University thoroughly. Understand the university’s values, mission, academic programs, campus culture, and initiatives. Integrate this knowledge into your Penn State essays to demonstrate your sincere interest and alignment with Penn State.

3. Prioritize proofreading and refinement in your Penn State Essays

Pay meticulous attention to proofreading and editing your Penn State essays. Ensure impeccable grammar, punctuation, and sentence structure. Verify the clarity and coherence of your ideas. Given the limited word count, every word must be chosen wisely and redundancy should be eliminated.

Try incorporating these strategies into each Penn State supplemental essay. For each prompt, showcase your unique qualities and underscore the valuable contributions you can bring to the Penn State community. Remember, Penn State supplemental essays are your opportunity to shine. And, moreover, convince the admissions committee that you are an excellent fit for Penn State University.

Does Penn State care about essays?

penn state supplemental essay

Historically, admissions officials at Penn State University have placed significant weight on a student’s academic performance. But, times are shifting, and each Penn State supplemental essay is becoming more important than ever. 

Currently, Penn State University has a test-optional policy for those applying for Fall 2024 admission. This shift shows that Penn State recognizes the limitations of standardized test scores. While still valuable, they can’t always accurately or completely assess a student’s potential, capabilities, and alignment with their academic community. As a test-optional school, Penn State places increased emphasis on other components of the Penn State application process. This primarily includes Penn State supplemental essays.

Each Penn State supplemental essay gives you unique opportunities to illuminate your distinct perspectives, life experiences, and personal attributes. The university gains a more comprehensive and holistic understanding of you through your Penn State supplemental essays. Ultimately, these Penn State essays offer a deeper insight into applicants’ character, intellectual curiosity, and alignment with Penn State’s core values. 

More Essay Resources from CollegeAdvisor

CollegeAdvisor offers a range of valuable resources to help guide you through the post-secondary admissions process. Our goal is always to help students maximize their admissions odds, especially by crafting compelling college essays. So, here are a few of our favorite essay resources:

  • College Essay Topics Guide: This is a comprehensive guide to help you choose compelling and relevant essay topics for your college applications. This resource provides valuable insights into crafting essays that highlight your personal experiences, interests, and aspirations.
  • How to Write Better Essays: Our guide on writing better essays equips students with valuable tips, strategies, and techniques to enhance their essay-writing skills. You can apply any of these tips to your Penn State supplemental essays.
  • Common App Essay Examples: The Common App essay is crucial to many college applications, including Penn State. CollegeAdvisor offers a collection of real Common App essay examples to inspire and guide students in creating compelling narratives.

Penn State Supplemental Essays – Takeaways

Navigating the college application process can be exciting and challenging. Knowing what to say and how to say it is an increasingly valuable skill. Here are seven takeaways to keep in mind when considering the Penn State supplemental essays:

7 Key Takeaways for Penn State Supplemental Essays

  • Penn State University highly values its Penn State supplemental essays in its admissions process. They provide a holistic view of applicants that would otherwise be less dimensional.
  • Penn State’s application offers one optional Penn State supplemental essay, in addition to the Common Application personal statement. The optional Penn State supplemental essay is called the Penn State personal statement.
  • The Penn State personal statement asks applicants to share a life experience or activity that will contribute to their success at Penn State.
  • Responding to these optional Penn State essays can help applicants showcase their uniqueness, enthusiasm, and alignment with Penn State’s values.
  • The Penn State Schreyer Honors College application also has Penn State supplemental essays. These Penn State supplemental essays are mandatory for honors college applicants.
  • Penn State Schreyer Honors College application essays include two 800-word maximum essays and eight 200-word short answer responses. These Penn State essays allow applicants to present a comprehensive picture of themselves.
  • To excel at these Penn State supplemental essays, craft your responses authentically, align them with Penn State’s values, and demonstrate knowledge about the university. Also, proofread and refine your Penn State essays to ensure clarity and engagement!

Understanding the role of Penn State University supplemental essays and adhering to these tips can undoubtedly enhance your application. Still have questions about how to get into Penn State? Speak with one of our admissions experts today!

penn state supplemental essay

This article was written by senior advisor, Ashley Hollins. Are you looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. Our team will discuss your profile during your meeting and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how can support you in the college application process.