upenn supplemental essays

UPenn Supplemental Essays 2023-24

The UPenn supplemental essays are a key component of your UPenn application. As an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania has an extremely competitive application process. Moreover, with the UPenn acceptance rate at 6% (per U.S. News), every part of your application counts. So, it’s crucial that each UPenn supplemental essay highlights the best aspects of your application. 

This guide will detail each of the UPenn essay prompts and provide tips for your UPenn supplemental essays. For each UPenn supplemental essay, we’ll break down the best way to tackle the prompt and how to choose a topic.

Overall, the University of Pennsylvania essays are the best way to communicate directly with the UPenn admissions officers. So, it’s important that your essays speak to your individual strengths. Keep reading to learn everything you need to know about the UPenn supplemental essays!  

UPenn Supplemental Essays: Quick Facts

University of Pennsylvania Application Quick Facts

  • UPenn Acceptance Rate: 6% – U.S News ranks UPenn #7 in National Universities 
  • UPenn Application Requirements: In order to apply to UPenn, students must submit their UPenn application through either the Common App or Coalition App. Students must also provide an official high school transcript, school report, and letters of recommendation. 
  • UPenn Application Deadlines: 
    • Early Decision: November 1st
    • Regular Decision: January 5th
  • UPenn Supplemental Essay Requirements: UPenn requires three supplemental essays for every applicant. This also includes one school-specific essay that will depend on the program you are applying to. Additionally, students applying to the coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs will have an additional program-specific essay to complete. 
  • UPenn Supplemental Essay Tip: Your UPenn supplemental essays should highlight different themes/topics from your personal statement essay. The UPenn supplemental essay prompts are designed to paint a more holistic picture of your application. So, make sure your topics are unique and specific to your experience! 

Does UPenn have any supplemental essays?

Yes, UPenn has several different supplemental essays. We will detail the UPenn supplemental essay prompts later in this guide. In addition to the 2 required UPenn supplemental essays, UPenn requires a third school-specific supplemental essay.

Be aware of the UPenn essay deadline, and give yourself enough time to write and edit your UPenn supplemental essays. The UPenn essay deadline is the same as the application deadline, so be sure to start your UPenn supplemental essays early!  

How many essays does UPenn require?

Most students will be required to complete three UPenn supplemental essays. Each student will be required to complete the first two UPenn essay prompts, and then one school-specific essay prompt. Those applying to one of the coordinated dual degree and specialized programs will also need to complete an additional UPenn essay. Up next, we’ll take a look at each UPenn supplemental essay prompt. 

UPenn Essays: A Thank You Note

upenn supplemental essays

The first UPenn supplemental essay prompt is only required for first-year applicants. 

Write a short thank-you note to someone you have not yet thanked and would like to acknowledge. (We encourage you to share this note with that person, if possible, and reflect on the experience!) (150-200 words)

The thank you note prompt is designed to help UPenn Admissions learn about who you are through your relationships. So, in your essay, they want to hear about the people who have helped you become who you are today. This UPenn supplemental essay is a great chance to share something deeply personal while showing your appreciation for someone important. 

Think carefully about what story fits in the greater context of your application. You can pick a teacher, coach, mentor, community leader, friend, or family member – it’s up to you! Additionally, in this University of Pennsylvania essay, you’ll need to draw your reader in with context and details. Writing about a specific anecdote can anchor your essay and also help your reader feel the impact of this particular relationship.

There’s a lot you might be thankful for. However, try to think of people who have helped you grow as a person or learn some kind of lesson. That way, you can capture something about who you are and what you admire in others. It may take several drafts to get your UPenn supplemental essays within the word count, so be mindful of the UPenn essay deadline! 

UPenn Supplemental Essays: Community Essay

upenn supplemental essays

The second UPenn supplemental essay prompt is the closest to a why UPenn essay. 

How will you explore community at Penn? Consider how Penn will help shape your perspective, and how your experiences and perspective will help shape Penn. (150-200 words)

This why UPenn essay prompt is framed specifically around community. So, think about the community you’ve built in high school and how you’ll create a new network in college. What clubs, sports, or organizations are you interested in joining? Moreover, how do you envision your community forming at UPenn? Additionally, try to be specific to the unique opportunities at UPenn – what are you most excited about experiencing on campus?

Your why UPenn essay should make it clear to admissions officers that you’ve done your research. So, beyond listing specific details, you should have a clear perspective on how UPenn will help shape you over four years. Think about what you’re bringing to the UPenn community and what you hope to get out of it. Your why UPenn essay should be founded in reciprocity, so think about what you have to offer as well as what UPenn offers you. 

Be sure to hit all points of the UPenn essay prompts as well. It can be easy to focus on how you’ll build community. But, be sure to reflect on your experiences and how they will shape Penn as well. With a smaller word count, this can be a challenge. However, focusing on one aspect of the UPenn community can help. Your why UPenn essay should be unique to you and your passions. So, take the time to do your own research and find something that really excites you!

UPenn School Specific Short Answer Prompts

upenn supplemental essays

Applicants need to write one more UPenn supplemental essay, which will depend on the school or college they’re applying to. These school specific UPenn supplemental essays help UPenn understand your academic goals. So, don’t neglect them.

Here are the school specific UPenn supplemental essay prompts: 

SchoolUPenn Supplemental Essay Prompt
School of Nursing Penn Nursing intends to meet the health needs of society in a global and multicultural world by preparing its students to impact healthcare by advancing science and promoting equity. What do you think this means for the future of nursing, and how do you see yourself contributing to our mission of promoting equity in healthcare? (150-200 words)
College of Arts and Sciences The flexible structure of The College of Arts and Sciences’ curriculum is designed to inspire exploration, foster connections, and help you create a path of study through general education courses and a major. What are you curious about and how would you take advantage of opportunities in the arts and sciences? (150-200 words)
The Wharton SchoolWharton prepares its students to make an impact by applying business methods and economic theory to real-world problems, including economic, political, and social issues.  Please reflect on a current issue of importance to you and share how you hope a Wharton education would help you to explore it.  (150-200 words)
School of Engineering and Applied Science Penn Engineering prepares its students to become leaders in technology, by combining a strong foundation in the natural sciences and mathematics, exploration in the liberal arts, and depth of study in focused disciplinary majors. Please share how you hope to explore your engineering interests at Penn. (150-200 words)

Doing Research

Compared to a why UPenn essay, these UPenn supplemental essays specifically discuss your intended major. These UPenn supplemental essays resemble other why major essays you may encounter for other schools. So, if you want some inspiration, you can build off the foundation highlighted in these why major essay examples. However, it’s important that your UPenn supplemental essay highlights specific information for the UPenn program you’re applying to. 

Comprehensive research is key to these UPenn supplemental essays. So, look into the major or program you’re applying to and try to find specific details to include in your essay. Try to find individual classes, professors, or research projects you can highlight. Connect your interest in your chosen major to the specifics of your program. Then, be sure to explain how UPenn will help you achieve your academic and even future career goals. 

Choosing a Major

These UPenn supplemental essays aim to capture your passion as well as your experience within your chosen major. So, think carefully about why you’ve chosen a particular school or college. If you’re still unsure about what major to select, check out our webinar on Deciding Your College Major. Your excitement about your major will help you feel confident tackling this University of Pennsylvania essay! 

UPenn Supplemental Essay: Dual Degree/Specialized Programs

Students applying to one of UPenn’s dual degree or specialized programs also have specific UPenn application requirements. To apply, students must complete an additional University of Pennsylvania essay.

Here are the prompts for the dual degree/specialized programs UPenn supplemental essays: 

upenn supplemental essays

Dual Degree /Specialized ProgramUPenn Supplemental Essay Prompt
DMD: Digital Media Design Program Why are you interested in the Digital Media Design (DMD) program at the University of Pennsylvania? (400-650 words / 3575 characters**)
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 contribute to a global issue where business and international affairs intersect? (400-650 words)
LSM: The Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Managements The LSM program aims to provide students with a fundamental understanding of the life sciences and their management with an eye to identifying, advancing, and implementing innovations. What issues would you want to address using the understanding gained from such a program? Note that this essay should be distinct from your single degree essay. (400-650 words)
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)Describe a problem that you solved that showed leadership and creativity. (250 words)
NETS: The Rajendra and Neera Singh Program in Networked and Social Systems EngineeringDescribe 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 / 3575 characters**)
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)
Seven-Year Bio-Dental ProgramPlease list any predental or premedical experience. This experience can include but is not limited to observation in a private practice, dental clinic, or hospital setting; dental assisting; dental laboratory work; dental or medical research; etc. Please include time allotted to each activity, dates of attendance, location, and a description of your experience. If you do not have any predental or premedical experience, please indicate what you have done or plan to do in order to explore dentistry as a career. 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. Describe any activities which demonstrate your ability to work with your hands. What activities have you performed that demonstrate your ability to work effectively with people? Please explain your reasons for selecting dentistry. Please include what interests you the most about dentistry as well as what interests you least.
VIPER: The Roy and Diana Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research How do you envision your participation in the Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (VIPER) furthering your interests in energy science and technology? Please include any past experiences (ex. academic, research, or extracurricular) that have led to your interest in the program. Additionally, please indicate why you are interested in pursuing dual degrees in science and engineering and which VIPER majors are most interesting to you at this time. (400-650 words)
**Character count that only applies to transfer students applying through Common App.

Understanding the University of Pennsylvania essay prompts

Overall, each of these University of Pennsylvania essay prompts is extremely specific. So, just like with the why UPenn essay and the program-specific UPenn supplemental essays, research is key.

With the competitive UPenn acceptance rate and its highly-ranked programs, admission is selective to these dual-degree programs. These UPenn supplemental essays help the UPenn admissions team understand your interest in these programs. Dual degree/specialized programs can be extremely demanding. So, you’ll want your University of Pennsylvania essay to communicate your passion and dedication to that specific program and field.

Identifying which UPenn Supplemental Essays to answer

upenn supplemental essays

The UPenn supplemental essays you complete will depend on which school you’re applying to. Your UPenn supplemental essay requirements will populate based on your school/college selection via the Common App or Coalition App. So, you will easily see which University of Pennsylvania essay prompts are required.

The first two UPenn supplemental essay prompts, including the why UPenn essay, are required for all applicants. The third prompt will depend on which school you are applying to, but all applicants will complete a school-specific essay. Students who are applying to a dual degree or specialized program will also write a fourth UPenn supplemental essay.

To find out which UPenn supplemental essays you will need to complete, explore UPenn’s majors. Then, you can check to see which school or college your intended major is housed in.

Does UPenn care about essays?

Yes, UPenn cares about essays – they are a key element of the school’s comprehensive review process. The UPenn supplemental essays are the best way for UPenn to get to know you better. The UPenn essay prompts are designed to help your readers understand your interest in UPenn as well as your academic goals. This is your chance to tell your story, so it’s important to spend adequate time and energy on each UPenn essay. Since all of the UPenn essays are required, it’s fair to say that your UPenn supplemental essays matter!

The UPenn supplemental essays are also a great chance to explain certain aspects of your application in greater detail. So, be sure to highlight what you find most compelling about your experiences within each UPenn supplemental essay.

The University of Pennsylvania essay is a crucial part of meeting the UPenn application requirements and crafting a strong application. So, be sure to take writing your essays seriously!

Five tips on how to write your UPenn Supplemental Essays

If you’re still feeling stuck starting or drafting your essays, don’t worry. Here are five tips to keep in mind while writing your UPenn supplemental essays: 

1. Be original

Your UPenn supplemental essays should reflect your academic goals and specific interest in UPenn. So, think carefully about what interests you about UPenn and make sure your why UPenn essay highlights this. The UPenn essay prompts aim to showcase your unique talents and experiences, so take advantage!

2. Read UPenn supplemental essay examples 

It can be hard to jump into writing your UPenn supplemental essays without knowing what a successful essay looks like. Before you get started, read our UPenn supplemental essay examples here. Even if the UPenn supplemental essay prompts differ, you can get inspiration from the writing style and content. 

3. Do your research

Your UPenn supplemental essays should also reflect the research you’ve done and communicate what about UPenn specially interests you. So, researching UPenn’s academics, student experience, and campus can help your UPenn supplemental essays highlight why you’re excited to attend UPenn. 

4. Edit thoroughly 

With such a selective admissions process, it’s important that your UPenn supplemental essays are polished. So, they must be free of grammatical errors, spelling mistakes, or any other distractions. It can also help to share each UPenn supplemental essay with a teacher or mentor to help in the editing process. Additionally, you’ll likely end up writing multiple drafts for each UPenn supplemental essay prompt – and that’s a good thing! Editing, revising, and trying new approaches can help you write your best University of Pennsylvania essay. 

5. Have fun! 

Overall, the UPenn supplemental essays are a great chance to be creative in the admissions process. Try to write a UPenn supplemental essay in a different writing style, or experiment with your topics. The UPenn supplemental essay prompts help the school gain insight into who you are, so take advantage of the opportunity! 

How to make your UPenn essays stand out

upenn supplemental essays

Your University of Pennsylvania essay is a crucial part of your overall application. The UPenn supplemental essays help admissions officers understand your goals and ambitions. The best UPenn supplemental essays work together to paint a holistic picture of an applicant. So, to help your UPenn supplemental essay stand out, take a step back and think about your larger narrative

Each UPenn supplemental essay should also reinforce central themes present in your application. If you hope to become a doctor, your UPenn supplemental essays should illustrate your path towards medicine. For example, your why UPenn essay might explain how UPenn’s pre-med program will help prepare you for medical school. Then, your school-specific essay might explain why you want to be a doctor.

Ask yourself, what different stories can you tell? Additionally, which stories fit better for different prompts? The most effective UPenn supplemental essay will help your reader view you as a complete individual. That means highlighting the values and passions of the person behind the grades and test scores.

More UPenn Resources from CollegeAdvisor and Beyond

CollegeAdvisor has a number of resources to help you through the entire college application process. You can read our guides on How to Get Into UPenn, and Ivy League Essay Examples. If you’re still feeling stuck on the University of Pennsylvania essay, try reading our essay guides. You’ll find more helpful tips regarding College Essay Topics and How to Write Better Essays

For more information on the University of Pennsylvania, be sure to check our Forbes and the College Board. We also recommend visiting UPenn’s website to find the most up-to-date details about the application process, and academic programs. You can also read the Daily Pennsylvanian, UPenn’s student newspaper, to get a better sense of student life.

UPenn Supplemental Essays – 5 Takeaways

upenn supplemental essays

Each UPenn supplemental essay is a major component to your overall application. Here are 5 takeaways on how to write each of your UPenn supplemental essays.

Start early 

The University of Pennsylvania essay can take many different drafts, edits, and attempts to complete. So, it’s crucial to start your UPenn supplemental essay early to give yourself enough time to write the best version possible. Essay prompts are typically released in late summer, so be sure to monitor UPenn’s website for any updates. 

Do your research 

The UPenn supplemental essay is meant to demonstrate your interest in attending UPenn vs other universities. You should be able to pinpoint why UPenn is the best fit for you as well as how UPenn will help you achieve your goals. Spend time researching academic programs, student activities, and special programs for your UPenn supplemental essay. 

Be specific 

Your University of Pennsylvania essay will be one of hundreds submitted for consideration. So, it’s important that your essay captures your specific and unique narrative. The more details you can include, the better. It’s important that your voice comes through – but it may take multiple drafts for this to happen!

Write multiple drafts

The first draft of your University of Pennsylvania essay should look very different from your final draft. The only way to ensure that you submit the best versions of your UPenn supplemental essays is to undergo multiple drafts and edits. Even if you don’t think you need to, take some time away from your drafts and read them with fresh eyes. Additionally, you might be surprised what new ideas come to mind or spelling mistakes you didn’t notice on a first read!

Consult with others 

Even if you write multiple drafts, it can be hard to imagine how your ideas land on an outside reader. So, try to get your University of Pennsylvania essay read by another person before submission. Reach out to your teachers, mentors, or family members to provide feedback on your essays. Then you can choose what feedback to incorporate into your final draft.

upenn supplemental essays

This essay guide was written by Senior Advisor Jess Klein. Looking for more admissions support? Click here to schedule a free meeting with one of our Admissions Specialists. During your meeting, our team will discuss your profile and help you find targeted ways to increase your admissions odds at top schools. We’ll also answer any questions and discuss how CollegeAdvisor.com can support you in the college application process.