Updated: Aug 30, 2021
We had the opportunity of interviewing Nicholas Anderson, a student at University of Pennsylvania, about: Essays
Nick is a first-generation college student at the University of Pennsylvania majoring in Mechanical Engineering with a minor in Engineering Entrepreneurship. In high school, Nick was involved and held leadership positions in NHS, student government, American Red Cross, varsity soccer, jazz band, and founded the Youth-In-Action chapter. His collegiate involvements/leadership positions can be found on his LinkedIn or Website: nickjanderson.com | https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-j-anderson1/
Key points Nicholas shares:
"When it came to my personal essay, I tried to think of the one thing that had the largest impact on my high school life. I talked about the effect that it had, how it motivated me, and how it turned me into the person that I was when I was applying."
"...the Penn application was one of the last ones I submitted. I was in Amsterdam at the time (about 4AM there, 11PM EST - one hour before submission deadline), and I was so tired that I just thought to myself, “let’s just write this from the heart and see where it takes me.”
Q: What was the inspiration behind your college application essays?
A: When it came to my personal essay, I tried to think of the one thing that had the largest impact on my high school life. I talked about the effect that it had, how it motivated me, and how it turned me into the person that I was when I was applying. For the school-based essays, I found programs, departments, and clubs that I was interested in and I incorporated them. I looked into the cities that the schools were in and the history behind each university, and I found ideas and connections that hit home. I tried my best to find my place in each university and its community, and expand on that.
Q: What’s the biggest difficulty you came across when writing your essays?
A: Being me! It’s funny looking back, the Penn application was one of the last ones I submitted. I was in Amsterdam at the time (about 4AM there, 11PM EST - one hour before submission deadline), and I was so tired that I just thought to myself, “let’s just write this from the heart and see where it takes me.” It only took an hour, and I firmly believe that this is the reason why I was admitted. Be yourself, write your own essay, and do it from the heart!
Q: What did you avoid when writing your essays?
A: Outside influence. A lot of people talk about hiring or consulting an admissions specialist - I chose not to. Be careful and make sure all of your ideas are your own. You know better than anyone what has influenced you, what you’re passionate about, and what you want to convey. THERE IS NO RIGHT ANSWER, just be yourself.
Q: What was the process you went through to make time for and write your application essays?
A: Because of how early I started and consequently the amount of time I had to prepare them, writing college essays was third on the list of priorities during my senior year of high school. First was soccer and winning a district championship, and second was club life and making sure that there was a good group of younger students ready to take over my extracurriculars when I left. So after school I would work with my executive boards and advisors about recruitment, club constitutions, and elections, and then I would head straight to practice and the gym, spending anywhere from 2 to 4 hours a day working on my body and improving my game. Only after I got home around 6PM would I sit down and focus on essay writing. I think it’s also important to stress here that it is possible to spend too much time writing a college essay. Usually your gut instinct and the first thing that comes to mind is what you should write about and really dive into. I’ve also seen essays that are simply too polished and really don’t give any insight into the character or personality of the person writing them. Be careful of this!
Q: What did you try to convey to college admissions officers through your essay?
A: Of course I tried to convey who I was as a person. Specifically, I focused on showing my passion for helping others, my desire to make a difference in the lives around me, and my dedication to excelling in my priorities. The right college will choose you, and I am sure that you will end up where you are meant to be. I’m an engineer who applied to UF, Georgia Tech, Stanford, Columbia, and Cornell, yet I ended up at primarily a business school in UPenn. I have never been happier with that decision. So as long as you convey yourself, you can’t go wrong.
Thanks for reading!
While you’re here, connect and learn more about Nicholas on his LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/nicholas-j-anderson1/
If you were interested in this article, read more about Essay Tips here: https://www.alumnianswers.org/articles/categories/essay-tips
If you want to learn more from our interviewees about attending a school like UPenn, read more here: https://www.alumnianswers.org/articles/tags/upenn
Have more questions based on what you’ve read or any you would like us to ask alumni? Submit them here!