Log In
Get Started

How to write the 2020-2021 UPenn supplemental essays

by Rebecca Acree, on Oct 1, 2020 8:00:00 AM

With its extensive and varied undergraduate programs, the University of Pennsylvania requires additional supplemental essays depending on which program you’re applying for. All applicants must respond to two general prompts, in addition to one to five program-specific prompts. 

Jump to the UPenn General Prompt #1

Jump to the UPenn General Prompt #2

Jump to the UPenn DMD Program Prompt

Jump to the UPenn Huntsman Program Prompt

Jump to the UPenn LSM Program Prompt #1

Jump to the UPenn LSM Program Prompt #2

Jump to the UPenn M&T Program Prompt #1

Jump to the UPenn M&T Program Prompt #2

Jump to the UPenn NETS Program Prompt

Jump to the UPenn NHCM Program Prompt

Jump to the UPenn Bio-Dental Program Prompt #1

Jump to the UPenn Bio-Dental Program Prompt #2

Jump to the UPenn Bio-Dental Program Prompt #3

Jump to the UPenn Bio-Dental Program Prompt #4

Jump to the UPenn Bio-Dental Program Prompt #5

Jump to the UPenn VIPER Program Prompt

Read on for our guide to responding to the 2020-2021 UPenn supplemental 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)

This prompt is a version of the “why this major?” question, and it offers a chance to dig into your academic interests and how they match up with the programs available at UPenn. In answering “why this major?” questions, you don’t need to be 100% committed to the major you’re discussing, and you don’t need to have already studied it in-depth. All readers want to know in asking this question is that you’ve given your prospective major some serious thought, and that you’re academically curious and excited about the programs UPenn has to offer. So put aside any notions about what readers might want you to choose, because there’s no right answer! Choose whatever area you’re most passionate about right now. Tell readers the story of a moment that sparked this passion, and connect it to the offerings at UPenn. Remember: the strongest “why this college?” essays are personal, unique, and specific! 

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 classic community question, and it’s designed to give UPenn admissions readers insight into what you’ll be like as a UPenn student and what you’ll contribute to the community. You’re already a part of many different communities, including school, family, neighborhood, friends, work, religion, or any other group affiliation. In answering this prompt, think about the role you play in these communities. How have you shaped them, and how have they shaped you? Tell the story of how you’ve participated in these communities with a moment that shows the perspective you will bring to UPenn. Remember: many other students might have a background similar to yours, with the same set of experiences. However, the moments that make up those experiences are always unique to you! 

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

This is another version of the “why this major?” question, so make sure that you don’t repeat your answers from the first general prompt! Dive deeper into why you’re interested in digital media design, and why UPenn is the right place for you to pursue this interest. 

Huntsman Program: 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)

Again, be careful not to repeat yourself from the first general prompt! Use this chance to dive into the specifics of why you want to pursue both business and international studies, and what you plan to do with this degree. 

LSM Program #1: 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)

This is your chance to look forward and help readers understand what you’ll do with a degree from the LSM program. What do you hope to learn during the program, and what do you hope to achieve after completing it? Describe your ideal future! 

LSM Program #2: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal; it is the courage to continue that counts” (attributed to Winston Churchill). Tell us about the failure from which you’ve learned the most. (200-250 words)

Readers want to know that you learn from your mistakes and are able to move forward. Choose a specific moment of failure and describe, in detail, what you learned and how it helped you grow. Remember to choose a real failure from your life — it doesn’t need to be large-scale, but it shouldn’t be a success in disguise, either! 

M&T Program #1: 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)

Use this prompt to dive more deeply into your future plans for business and engineering. Rather than repeating what you wrote in response to the first general prompt, be more specific and show how this program is the right fit for you. 

M&T Program #2: Describe a problem that you solved that showed leadership and creativity. (250 words)

This is a great opportunity to use a real moment from your life! Instead of just saying “I solved X problem and showed leadership and creativity in X ways,” show readers what action you took and allow them to draw their own conclusions about the leadership and creativity you demonstrated in that moment. 

NETS Program: 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)

When choosing a particular system or technology to focus on, think back to your own experiences — as a “user, developer, or student of technology.” What stories can you tell from your set of experiences interacting with different networked information systems or tech? Then, connect your story to your future as a NETS program graduate.

NHCM Program: 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)

Remember, instead of just describing your goals, you need to connect them to the specifics of the NHCM program at UPenn. Why is it the best fit for your longer-term dreams and aspirations?

Bio-Dental Program: Please list pre-dental or pre-medical 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 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.

Readers will have your activities on hand, so you can just provide a very straightforward list of your relevant experience, if you have any. If you don’t have any, that’s okay! Just briefly describe your interest in dentistry and show readers that you’re committed to this career path even without relevant experience.

Bio-Dental Program: List any activities which demonstrate your ability to work with your hands.

Readers want to know that you have fine motor skills and manual dexterity, as this will be tested rigorously in dental school admissions. List any of your hobbies that involve working with your hands — think painting or drawing, woodworking, car repair, model building, knot-tying, knitting or embroidery, jewelry-making, or musical instruments like the piano, violin, or guitar. 

Bio-Dental Program: What activities have you performed that demonstrate your ability to work cooperatively with people?

This is a great chance to discuss the ways you’re involved in your community — whether that’s your school community, your neighborhood, a religious group, or anything else. How can you help readers understand that you’re a team player who works well with others?

Bio-Dental Program: 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.

When answering this question, don’t worry about what readers want you to say — just be honest! But you also need to go deeper than “I’m interested in dentistry because it’s a prestigious, well-paying profession,” or “What interests me least is the fact people’s mouths can be gross.” Besides the more obvious factors, why does dentistry appeal to you? And what about dentistry isn't as appealing to you?

Bio-Dental Program: 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.

Don’t stress if you don’t know any dentists! But if you do, simply list their names and the required info.

VIPER Program: 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)

This prompt is asking quite a few questions, so make sure to break it down so you answer each one. 

  • First, describe your interests in energy science and technology while drawing on your previous experience related to energy and sustainability
  • Second, if you do have previous research experience, describe the project. If not, move onto the next part.
  • Third, describe how your experiences have shaped your research and interests.
  • Fourth, identify how the VIPER program will help you achieve your goals.
  • Finally, indicate which VIPER majors are most interesting to you.

You don’t need to answer these questions in order, but you do need to answer all of them! The best way to do so is by telling a comprehensive story that captures moments from your experience with energy science — this will help readers understand your interest and envision what you might do with a degree from the VIPER program. What moments from your past sparked your interest in energy science? Then, connect those moments to your future by describing your goals, and show how the VIPER program will help you accomplish them. 

Ready to take your essays to the next level? Sign up for a Story2 College essay bootcamp today!

Topics:college admissions