Prospective students’ paths to campus will now be a couple hundred words longer.
For this admissions cycle, the Office of Admissions has added a second required essay to its Common Application supplement.
The new question will force applicants to draw on their creative side, referencing a quote from Benjamin Franklin: “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” The essay then asks applicants, “Which are you?”
“In my mind it created a conflict because I found myself being more than one of the three classifications,” said Ninad Singh, a student from Dubai who is planning to apply early decision to the College of Arts Sciences this fall. “It requires a lot of introspection.”
The Admissions Office also slightly modified its first required essay, which now asks applicants how they plan to engage academically at Penn.
Students are asked to write 300 words for the first essay, and 300-500 for the second.
“They’re not writing it for any [other school],” Dean of Admissions Eric Furda said about the second essay prompt. “This is not a one size fits all essay question.”
Because the essays will mean additional work for applicants, some experts believe Penn’s application volume could decrease from last year’s total of more than 31,000.
“I think the University, given the number of kids it’s getting, probably developed a great question like this to kind of weed out who the real stars are, or who spent enough time to really focus on it and write something that’s really thoughtful,” said Maria Morales-Kent, a former Penn admissions officer and director of college counseling at the Thatcher School in Ojai, Calif. “I don’t think this is something a kid will be able to whip up during Christmas.”
Others agreed that while the sheer number of applications may decrease, the students who are most dedicated to Penn — and who the school is most likely to accept — are the ones who will be willing to write an additional essay.
“I personally like when colleges ask for extra essays because it makes kids think twice before just throwing in a Common Application,” President of Hernandez College Consulting Michele Hernandez said. “It gets kids who are applying to Penn on purpose, not just kids who are tossing in an application, saying ‘I’ll see what happens.’”
This does not mark the first time Penn has ever had two essays, but for the last two years students have been limited to one required prompt. The addition of a second outlet to communicate students’ interests could benefit applicants, Singh said.
“It reveals different parts of your personality to the admissions officer,” he said. “On the one hand there’s a fun essay about the Franklin quote, and on the other there’s a more serious one about academic engagement. It can only be beneficial to us if the admissions officer knows more about us and who we are.”
Furda agreed that admissions officers are looking forward to reading the new essay, since “there’s not a right or wrong answer.”
To help students in crafting their essays, he published advice to applicants written by former admissions officer and current director of the Penn Alumni Interview Program Patrick Bredehoft on his blog, Page 217.
“What we’re looking forward to is the unknown,” Furda said. “We’re not quite sure what the responses will be, but we hope that it is going to open up a range of opportunities for students.”