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Sample Upenn Essays

UPenn is filled with driven, passionate, and entrepreneurial students. Therefore, I think the best way to communicate how you'd fit in at UPenn is to emphasize how a UPenn education could get you to your end goals. UPenn loves a practically oriented student, so be practical and clear about what UPenn will allow you to achieve.

The supplemental essay question for the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is as follows:

"The Admissions Committee would like to learn why you are a good fit for your undergraduate school choice (College of Arts and Sciences, School of Nursing, The Wharton School, or Penn Engineering). Please tell us about specific academic, service, and / or research opportunities at the University of Pennsylvania that resonate with your background, interests, and goals. (400-650 words)

Undergraduate School Choice:

UPenn has four undergraduate schools with additional specialized and cross-disciplinary programs. In order to demonstrate your interest in UPenn, make sure you're applying for the right school for what you want to study.


  1. The College of Arts and Sciences
  2. The School of Engineering
  3. The School of Nursing
  4. The Wharton School


  1. AI | Computer and Cognitive Science, Artificial Intelligence (the College and Engineering)
  2. BIO-DENT | Seven year bio-dental program (the College and the School of Dental Medicine)
  3. DMD | Digital Media Design (Engineering)
  4. Huntsman | Huntsman program in international studies and business (Wharton and the College)
  5. LSM | Roy and Diana Vagelos Program in Life Sciences and Management (Wharton and the College)
  6. M & T | Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology (Engineering and Wharton)
  7. NETS | Networked and Social Systems Engineer (Engineering)
  8. NHCM | Nursing and Health Care Management (Wharton and Nursing)
  9. VIPER | Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research (the College and Engineering)

If you want to study economics would you apply to the Wharton School of Business or to the College of Arts and Sciences? This depends entirely on whether you want a pre-professional approach (Wharton) to business and economics or want a more theoretical and academic approach (the College). Make sure you're selecting the school that's right for getting you to your end goal. If your dream is to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, an application to Wharton is much more in line with your goals , and that will shine through to the Admissions Committee.

How Can Penn Further My Goals?

A good supplement answer will clearly outline what your passions are and how Penn's opportunities will help you achieve them.

1. Look through the majors and programs at UPenn.

The list of undergraduate programs at UPenn Majors and can be found here. Each major has its own site with information and a list of the classes it offers. Look through some of the classes in the majors that look interesting. Can you see yourself rushing to sign up? If so, these are classes you'll want to reference in your essay.

2. Identify professors you'd like to work with.

After looking through the majors and classes you'll likely see some opportunities that interest you. Google the names of the professors teaching the classes you find compelling and the heads of the programs or majors you like. Is the professor published in areas of your interest? Read his or her writing and tell the admissions committee what you think! The more academic familiarity and passion you can display in your essay the better. Looking through classes, programs, and professors will help you envision yourself at Penn and more clearly portray that vision to the Admissions Committee.

3. Identify research opportunities.

While finding a professor you'd like to work with and referencing he or she is a good way to showcase your interest, not all professors are willing to take on research assistants. In order to link students with research opportunities, UPenn created the The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF). It is a great resource on campus that the school is really proud of. The Admissions Committee is sure to love it if you reference an opportunity that you find on CURF's site. The site can be found here.

4. Identify UPenn alums you admire

If you know the type of career you'd be interested in having, look at some UPenn alums that are working in those fields. What did they do with their UPenn degrees and what opportunities were they able take advantage of while at UPenn? Wikipedia has a great list of UPenn alums organized by discipline you can find here.

5. What if I don't have a specific passion?

UPenn is a great place to find yourself. If you are undecided about your future talk about some of the ways in which UPenn can help you foster your goals and learn about yourself. For example, the multidisciplinary requirements at UPenn ensure you'll get a taste of a variety of academic fields. Take a look at the advice for Freshmen written by UPenn deans about how to find their academic niche. Also, do not forget about how important it is to give back! Information about opportunities for community involvement at Penn are here.

My mother gave up a long time ago on the row of bottles occupying a sacred place atop my dresser. “They’re not trash,” I explained, ad nauseum until the message got through. “They’re art.”

In the mouths of other teenagers, this would be a rather ingenious way to skirt carrying a week’s supply of used water bottles down to the recycling bin. But I have no false pretenses: to me, these bottles are art, and I am their curator. From the classic verdant green of the San Pellegrino bottle to the hip black and white photographs (taken by actual consumers) that adorn Jones sodas, I know and love them all. That said, my current favorite art piece is a bottle of Voss, an intimidatingly professional cylinder of artesian water resembling a hydraulic messengering system canister. Utilitarian art. I’ve always paid close attention to these objects, in the way a passionate fashion student might study up on Vogue and GQ. Not entirely coincidentally, I’m a fiend for such magazines too. Branding, which permeates the life of a teenager, is nowhere more obvious than within these volumes.

Having gone through the period where I merely glutted myself on ads, I’ve progressed to the level of critiquing them, judging my own reactions to their images and how they work to provoke certain feelings within me. My senior research project is a study on fonts (Serif versus Sans Serif typefaces and their effectiveness in evoking moods and communicating beyond text), applicable to the branding and slogans of ads. In addition to fonts, I have begun analyzing other qualities of ads, discerning the artistic choices that make a Chloe or a Marc Jacobs ad instantly recognizable (the former: romantic vibrancy; the latter: striking minimalism) and, more generally, what aesthetics mean to business.

Attending Camp Impact at LeBow College of Business expanded my understanding of marketing choices to include production, distribution, and pricing. By altering simple variables and numbers in the PharmaSim market simulation–adding more coupons, offering a wholesale discount–I saw how the net profits and stock prices were influenced by issues outside of aesthetic design. But instead of discovering that marketing was less aesthetic than I’d initially thought at Camp Impact, where my groupmates and I stayed up till 1am one night to collaborate on our presentation, I learned to love marketing more, for its other aspects: the teamwork it involved, the math in calculating proportions, the overlooked variables of pricing and distribution, the prospect of discovering new ways to find an audience for an overlooked product. While my interest in advertising and product packaging, the aesthetics of business, still stands, I know there is more for me to explore as a marketing major at Penn’s Wharton School of Business.

What I like about Penn is the practical, learn-by-doing approach promoted by founder Ben Franklin, having initially applied it in my self study of liquid containers and ads. I look forward to classes like MGMT100, which seem daunting at first — a team of 18 year olds organizing an entire community event sans adult directives?! — and what they will teach me about making executive decisions, delegating authority, and turning the abstract into the tangible. MGMT100 is just one class of many at Wharton that develops teamwork and leadership skills in knowledgeable students, skills necessary for future business leaders. Penn also offers me, through research opportunities like CURF and the Weiss Tech House, the chance to explore the full interdisciplinary implications of my interest in typefaces, Serif and Sans Serif, or the impact of ad design on buying decisions and branding. This environment at Penn, that emphasizes real world applications and interaction among peers, while promoting individual responsibility and initiative, fits my learning approach.

At Penn, I hope to explore beyond my initial aesthetic interest, beyond what marketing encompasses, to other realms of business and other areas of study. My family’s background from China has highlighted for me, fluent in Chinese, the increasing globalization in business, evident on Sino-TV and in stories of lead contamination in toys. The chance to study abroad places these tensions of globalization in a more tangible context. Learning alongside international business students, we can build our knowledge on top of each other, to create solutions for future arising problems. A Latin student for six years, I’ve also gained an interest in the languages of other nations, and at Penn, I can supplement my business education with the studies of these languages at the School of Arts and Sciences. In this way, I can further contribute to the diversity that Penn offers, in my ambitions to develop myself as a well-rounded, multilingual leader.

Marketing is a field that encompasses everything from economics and art to politics and psychology, and Penn, where a liberal arts education is juxtaposed with experience-based training in business, is the perfect place to study just how much of an impact a sleek container, a slight change in price, a different distribution channel can really make on the world economy. I have always been interested in aesthetics because of my desire to see beauty, whether in an attractive Polo ad that instantly connotes class, or on the novel labels on Jones Soda bottles that give the hipster consumer the illusion of participation, or simply in the combination of rigid and flexible lines in Helvetica font. At Wharton, I can nurture this interest in marketing and expand it to areas within and beyond business. Here, I can become part of a community that grows through teamwork. Here, I can become a business leader. And here, I can proudly display my amateur exhibition of fine water bottles, without worrying about their disposal.

Check out another example of how to answer Why Pennhere.

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