Penn Admissions hosts workshops for Phila. high schoolers
Over 150 local high schoolers attended Ivy in Your Backyard
October 30, 2013, 6:00 pm · Updated October 30, 2013, 7:27 pm·
Tell us one interesting thing about yourself. Penn students revisited this typical college application question this weekend as they helped high school seniors draft their college essays.
Ivy in Your Backyard, an event hosted by the Penn Admission’s Office, brought Philadelphia high schoolers to campus and put them to work, while their parents attended financial aid workshops.
According to Admissions Officer Danielle Branch, approximately 60 parents and 150 to 175 students were in attendance. The admissions office had planned for 400 students but Branch said the smaller numbers created intimate groups of 10 for the workshops.
A large number of students present were from Masterman and Central High Schools who, according to Branch, historically have always had an interest in Penn. Students from other schools such as the Academy at Palumbo and the Girard Academic Music Program were also present.
Community-based organizations such as the Cambodian Association of Philadelphia and Philadelphia Futures brought many students to the program as well. “The first student registered was from West Philadelphia High School and we’re always excited to see that…it was a refreshing mix,” said Branch.
After a welcome from Dean of Admissons Eric Furda and an introduction from the Associate Dean of Admissions Natalie Herring, the day transitioned to the Kelly Writers House. “The goal was not to get the essay done,” said Writers House Associate Director of Recruitment Jaime-Lee Josselyn. “Our goal was to help them start to find their voice in terms of telling their own story.”
Josselyn prepared prompts based upon typical Common Application questions, and the student volunteers provided ideas and pointers on how to write dynamic essays. She commented that the students were nervous, but overall, focused and excited to start on their college essays. Some students also came to the event with essays already drafted.
“I thought it was a great first step by Penn, because it was a way of welcoming these students into our academically rigorous community and showing them that we’re accessible college students and here to help them get to college like us,” said College sophomore Gina DeCagna.
The students ate lunch at 1920 Commons and Hill College House with student volunteers from the Community Student School Partnership and the Kite and Key Society.
At the end of the day, there was a student panel of current Penn undergraduates who hail from Philadelphia public and charter high schools, who spoke about their transitions from their high schools to Penn.
Although Penn’s financial aid opportunities such as need-blind and zero loan policies were presented, Branch stressed the overall goal of the day. “The presentation was not focused solely on Penn, but on the application process as a whole,” Branch said.
“I think the event was effective in its ability to empower students. If I were a student right now in a high school with no money and no guidance counselors, and I had to apply to college next year, I’d feel powerless,” said College junior and student panelist Melanie Young. “[Ivy in Your Backyard] empowered both students and parents to get through this process.”