Penn has changed its supplemental essay prompts for the 2023-24 application cycle to now include school-specific questions.
The new prompt — which was added to the Penn Admissions website on July 31 — asks a question unique to the undergraduate school to which the student is applying, moving away from the single short-answer response previously used for all four schools. Penn Admissions has also added links to each prompt to provide applicants with more information on the College of Arts and Sciences, the Wharton School, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and the School of Nursing.
In a written statement to The Daily Pennsylvanian, Vice Provost and Dean of Admissions Whitney Soule wrote that Penn Admissions had moved away from its traditional single short-answer response because it did not consider the differences between each undergraduate school.
“[W]e found that having a ‘one size fits all’ approach to the academic short-answer response did not account for the unique curricular paths and opportunities that make each of the undergraduate schools unique,” Soule wrote. “In an effort to account for the curricular paths and opportunities within each undergraduate school, this year’s customized short-answer academic prompts invite students to connect in ways that better reflect the undergraduate school’s curricular attributes.”
The links in each prompt, which provide additional information on the schools’ mission and academic offerings, help students to inform their responses about their intended undergraduate school or dual-degree program, according to Soule.
Additionally, Penn Admissions has given applicants the opportunity to opt out of a conversation with an alumni volunteer.
“While these conversations have always been optional for applicants, we wanted to make it explicit for applicants that the conversation is available but not required,” Soule wrote.
The new supplemental essay prompts are one of many changes that Penn's application has undergone during Soule’s tenure as dean of admissions. For the 2022-23 admissions cycle, a new prompt — intended to be a “feel-good exercise” — was added to encourage applicants to express feelings of gratitude.
For the 2021-22 admissions cycle, Penn Admissions kept several policy changes that were originally made in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes included making SAT and ACT scores optional — which began with the Class of 2025 and continued through the 2022-23 application cycle — and allowing applicants to submit a recommendation letter from someone other than a teacher.
“We hope these in-application enhancements provide all students with access to helpful information as they complete their applications and allow [them] to better understand how their interests will be supported and encouraged at Penn,” Soule wrote.