You’re wandering down Locust Walk between classes or drifting through the open stacks of the University of Pennsylvania’s Van Pelt Library. Soon you’ll be back in your room in the Quad—but wait. Rewind. You’re back in the present. How do you get from where you are now to your place as a freshman in your chosen school?
The admissions section of University of Pennsylvania’s website contains a quote from Ben Franklin, who founded Penn over 200 years ago: “Hide not your talents.” This was the theme of the conversation when we met with one of the university’s admissions representatives for a University of Pennsylvania information session before the Thanksgiving holiday.
November is a busy time in the admissions offices at 1 College Hall, yet the staff took the time to talk with A+ Test Prep and Tutoring.
“We want to hear the genuine voice of the student,” explained the representative. “We’re interested in your passion and voice. We want to get a sense of the student as a whole person.” He directed me to a portion of Penn’s website that states: “We look beyond GPAs and test scores to capture the intangible qualities each candidate will bring to our campus community.” The holistic approach—prioritizing the whole over the components—is a key concept for the university’s Admissions Selection Committee.
The representative went on to note that students today spend a lot of time and enlist a lot of support to put together their applications. They may be trying so hard to create a “professional” look—glowing evaluations, stellar test scores, knock 'em dead essays, lists of extracurricular activities—that they sometimes neglect to transmit a sense of their own individuality. He shared with us advice to keep in mind when putting your application together:
Be yourself—a common suggestion, yet this simple direction is often overlooked. Don’t worry so much about standing out. “Own” the work that you do and be proud of it.
Of course, universities are interested in your academic excellence in a demanding area of study. However, resist the urge to focus solely on accomplishments. Students can unintentionally inflate these accomplishments, thinking that they are all the school is interested in. In fact, colleges are interested in the work that the student has done in the context of his or her background and life. In other words, they want to know why you have achieved, not just what you have achieved.
Penn wants to see critical and creative thinking (especially on the essay). Can you think logically, infer and draw conclusions, as well as memorize facts? The University of Pennsylvania is looking for well-balanced students. The school strives for an interdisciplinary atmosphere—synergy in a liberal arts environment. The focus today at Penn is on integration—between disciplines and into campus life as a whole. A look at Penn’s website demonstrates a few examples of this philosophy. Dual-degree programs are encouraged. The university encourages an “open and endless exchange of ideas” with innovative programs such as PIK (Penn Integrates Knowledge), where students and professors blend subjects such as anthropology and filmmaking.
Finally, we asked what he considered University of Pennsylvania’s “best kept secret.” His answer was immediate: “In addition to the world-famous Wharton School of Business, Penn boasts the largest art museum on any American campus and an impressive archeology program.” He emphasized yet again Penn’s commitment to a liberal arts experience and to a sense of community for all its students.
One thing that you can do during the hectic application process, no matter which schools you are considering, is to let A+ take some of the pressure off. First of all, your A+ tutor helps you do your best on the ACT or SAT. He or she also teaches you the content and strategies needed to help make the testing process easier and less stressful. Knowing someone is in your corner makes a big difference! When you feel more relaxed and confident about testing, it frees you up to concentrate on presenting what you uniquely have to offer to the college of your choice.
Secondly, A+ has experienced professional writers and editors on its team who can help you craft a college essay that communicates how much you can contribute to a school’s community.
Third, A+ boasts extensive connections with local college admissions consultants and financial planners. While you are still the one who knows you best (and can present yourself best!), speaking with knowledgeable admissions experts can make the college admissions experience less intimidating and much more positive.
We invite you to call A+ Test Prep and Tutoring at 215-886-9188. Consult with one of our Client Service Directors. Nathan Rudolph, Anne Stanley, and Susan Ware are available to answer questions, provide solutions, and assist you in achieving your educational goals!
Photo courtesy of: Stephen M. Scott