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"Keep it simple but significant." | A Wharton School Student's Advice on Application Essays

We had the opportunity of interviewing SN, a student at the University of Pennsylvania about: Application Essays


Here are some of his qualifications:

  • A sophomore at UPenn, Wharton School of Business

  • Maintained a 4.4 GPA in high school

  • Previously involved in Model United Nations, Varsity Soccer, Varsity Tennis, Wind Orchestra, Marching Band, Mu Alpha Theta, National Honor Society

Here are some important words SN shares:

  • "I would say just find someone you really trust to give you real criticism, that person may be different for everyone."

  • "Brainstorming is the hardest part."

  • "Keep it simple, but not too simple."




Q: Who did you ask to review your essays, and who would you recommend to give the most honest advice?

A: I had a few teachers at my high school that I really trusted and I looked to them for guidance on the essays. My world history and English teachers were a great resource for me. I would say just find someone you really trust to give you real criticism, that person may be different for everyone.




Q: How much time do you spend on each part of writing the essay (thinking of a prompt, creating a draft, writing, editing & revising, peer checking, etc)?

A: Brainstorming is the hardest part. It took me a while to think of an idea that would really set me apart, but once I did things started really rolling. My first draft took me probably two hours, but the process of revising is an ongoing and fluid thing that can last for months.




Q: What did you avoid when writing essays?

A: Being formal is a good thing, but you want the essay to be personal. If the admissions officer feels like they are reading a biography from a history textbook, they are going to lose interest. Be creative in how you illustrate your thinking and use it as an opportunity to really say something about yourself. That being said, don’t be fake or cheesy.




Q: How did you get inspiration when writing your essay?

A: I really just narrowed down what is really important to my identity. It’s a lot of introspection, so it is difficult to describe really.




Q: How are you able to talk about something so important and so life changing but condense it and write it clearly?

A: Leave out unnecessary details. I have read other people’s essays where they really try to embellish and make it sound like it's from an encyclopedia. No one is going to want to read that. Keep it simple, but not too simple. Don’t sacrifice creativity for simplicity, but there is often a lot you can cut out without sacrificing creativity.




Q: Did the schools you applied to require certain types of essays?

A: I only had one other real essay and it was just “why do you want to go to UPenn”. For inspiration on that, I read examples I found online and then used them as guidelines to describe why the university interested me personally. Obviously don’t take anything from online examples, but they can give you a good idea of what the essay is supposed to look like so you can create your own.




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