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in focus: locust walk, love sign, the button, convocation chairs, the compass, dueling tampons Credit: Priscilla des Gachons , Priscilla des Gachons

The Office of Admissions reinforced Penn's commitment to creating a diverse community earlier this summer by instating the Penn Early Exploration Program.

PEEP launched its first application earlier this month with the goal of having talented high school seniors from historically underrepresented populations learn about Penn and its application process. The initiative's definition of “historically underrepresented” populations includes first-generation and LGBTQ students in addition to cultural and racial minority groups.

“This year we reached out directly to prospective students in our database and community-based organizations like QuestBridge, KIPP and the National Hispanic Institute to promote the program to their students,” Vice Dean of  Admissions Yvonne Romero Da Silva said in an email. The Office of Admissions received 426 student applications and expects to select about 100 students for the program.

The Admissions Office has had previous programs similar to PEEP, but the new program approaches students more directly. Rather than rely  on counselor nominations,  as past programs have done, PEEP is mostly invitation-based — nearly 3,000 students were  invited to apply this year.

The three-day overnight program for prospective students includes a campus tour, workshops on strengthening college applications, a financial aid session and social and activities with Penn's cultural resource centers.

“We can’t admit a diverse student body unless we encourage diverse students to apply,” College junior and UMOJA admissions representative Abel McDaniels, a former Daily Pennsylvanian staff member,  said.

In fall 2011, when he was applying to college as a high school senior, McDaniels participated in the Penn Early Preview Program, the open house event that preceded PEEP. He said the program was a great introduction to the University. “It actually made me consider applying to Penn,” he said. 

Other selective colleges have similar programs that encourage applications from underrepresented populations. Amherst College hosts two Diversity Open Houses over during weekends in October, providing for  roughly 100 selected students to experience life at Amherst.

Williams College also offers the Windows on Williams program, inviting students from “low-income, first-generation or traditionally underrepresented background[s]" to campus. 

“Our hope is that students participating in the Penn Early Exploration Program will apply to Penn and that they will ultimately choose to enroll,” Romero Da Silva said.

The first PEEP will take place from Oct. 12 to 14.

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