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Penn’s Admissions Office is taking proactive measures to make an impact in the seemingly dismal Philadelphia School District.

Admissions officers will be hosting “Ivy in Your Backyard” and will offer their expertise to high school students who come from public schools where guidance counselors continue to be laid off. The event will take place on October 26, 2013 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Irvine Auditorium.

“It’ll be meaningful and substantive and hands-on — the way we describe the Penn education,” Natalie Herring, associate dean of equity and excellence in the Admissions Office, said.

The event will also be an opportunity for the admissions office to talk to high achieving students interested in Penn, many of whom are unaware of what Penn has to offer. There will be a student panel made up of Philadelphia natives. “Not every student is going to apply or be accepted, but as a neighbor, we still have so much that we can share,” Herring said.

The event is invite-only and will target Philadelphia public high schools. About 400 invitations were sent out to students whose information was obtained through databases or community-based organizations such as nonprofits that work with college-bound students. The admissions office has also reached out to parochial schools in the Philadelphia area. Depending on the number of RSVPs, the event may become open to students from historically underrepresented groups in other schools around Philadelphia.

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The parents of current students will also be invited to the event to hear about financial aid opportunities at Penn.

The day will start with a continental breakfast and a welcome from Dean of Admissions Eric Furda. Herring will walk the students through the college admissions process, which will be followed by the student panel. While the office has chosen what Penn students they want on the panel, they have not yet sent invitations.

The focal point of the day will be working with students on their college essays so that by the end of the day, they will have their essays completed. The admissions office will be partnering with the Kelly Writers House to educate students on the importance of the college essay. “This is our first time doing this sort of activity targeted at the college application process,” Kelly Writers House Associate Director of Recruitment Jamie-Lee Josselyn said.

“Given the current situation in Philadelphia schools, it’s a great opportunity for us to reach out to the community and do something concrete to help local Philadelphia school students with college,” she said.

Students will break off into small groups and work with admissions officers and members of the Writers House on essay development. Josselyn will reach out to students affiliated with the Writers House who will serve as coaches and work through different college essay prompts. After lunch, parents will be able to speak with current students about financial services and learn about Penn’s need-blind, zero-loan policy.

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“Ivy in Your Backyard” is not a new venture for Penn Admissions, although they did not do the program last year. However, the current state of the Philadelphia public school system has motivated Penn admissions officers to take a more active stand in supporting these schools that may have several potential Penn applicants. “‘Ivy in Your Backyard’ has more to do with our commitment to an inclusive excellence pipeline,” Herring said.

The admissions office plans to brand “Ivy in Your Backyard” by making it a series of different topics geared towards preparing Philadelphia public school students for the college application process and beyond.

The admissions office is taking other measures to ensure that they uphold the University’s commitments to both the city of Philadelphia and the state of Pennsylvania. For the first time this year, every admissions officer will be visiting schools in the Philadelphia area, regardless of their regional assignments.

In the first weekend of November, Penn will also hold a seminar for under-resourced guidance counselors from across Pennsylvania to engage in professional development.

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