If there's one thing I learned, it's to let your personality shine through your essays. Marks are important, but they only get you so far. To truly stand out, you must show why you as a person, would be a great fit for Penn.
I was really worried about my research and lack of super sparkling extracurriculars. I did have high stats, but I think my essays helped me get into M&T. I tried to show my eagerness and personality, and they may not have been wildly original but were honest and decently written.
So I say don't let selectivity scare you! Apply and be honest and hope for the best
I can tell you that having great essays and showing your personality is CRUCIAL to getting into Penn. I have much lower test scores than most applicants (2100 SAT), average ECs and no hooks, but I really worked hard on being as honest as I could about myself in my essays and not just putting what I thought they wanted to hear.
When everyone has extremely impressive stats, you really need to highlight you who are and what makes you different from other applicants. There are plenty of people that have lots of awards, high SATs, have their own small businesses or are leaders in clubs. You really need to show them what you can bring to Penn that others can't.
Here are my final admission results:
Accepted - Penn, Rice, CWRU
Waitlisted - Cornell, Wash U, Vanderbilt
Rejected - Princeton, Harvard, MIT, Northwestern
No matter what your guidance counselor tells you, apply to a lot of schools, and really put effort into each application. If I hadn't gotten lucky with Penn and Rice, I would probably be quite disappointed. I expected to get into Wash U, Northwestern, Cornell, and Vanderbilt, but none of those turned out.
i'd say if you're in the top 5% of your school, apply to all the ivys and see where you get in.
also, learn to love all the schools you apply to, except maybe the safeties. i knew if i got into any of the ivys, i'd have to visit before making my decision.
also, reflect on your life as a whole and focus on one or two main trends that you've noticed. i wrote about my struggle finding myself as an asian american - might sounds cliche, but i wrote about one instance in which my two cultures clashed and i felt mighty woozy. i think showcasing my weakness and how i learned from it is one of the main reasons i got in, because otherwise i would have looked like the average asian applicant sans super-intense SAT scores (2200).
start writing those essays quick! you'll need many revisions and good luck!
Thank you for all the wonderful advice. It would be my dream to join you at Penn in 2013!
The impression I'm getting is that essays are critical; did any of you use professional essay-proofing/editing services or guidebooks to help you write your essays?
I'm a Barnes & Nobles enthusiast and recently noticed a whole stack of books on how to write the college admissions essay. Would buying such these books be worthwhile? Do you have any personal recommendations?
I didn't read anything of the sort. To be honest, I feel like those books don't help. Definitely peruse them I guess to see what topics you probably shouldn't write about, but ultimately, I think that the adcoms would appreciate reading an essay that was written "from the heart".
Be specific in your supplement essays. When they ask "why penn?" you need to come up with things that occur only at Penn and nowhere else. You should also include things that aren't extremely generic. Apparently, way too many people write about the "toast to dear old penn". While it's a great and hilarious tradition, and it's unique to penn, it's also extremely generic simply because so many people write about it.
I just wanted to say that I consider myself an absolutely horrendous writer. At least, it's one of my weakest areas. I was really scared about applying to college since so much of the process seemed to rely on essays. So, while I tried to write a "good" essay (interesting, memorable, grammatically-correct, etc.), I really focused on making sure the essay represented ME well. And I got into Penn Just make sure whatever essay you write, you let your personality and character come through.