“Where did you go to school?”
“University of Pennsylvania.”
“Why did you decide to go there?”
This is a conversation I have all the time. Here’s the long version of my answer to the Why Penn? question.
In high school, I realized I had a passion for journalism, languages, and the humanities. I didn’t have a dream profession just yet, so I explored schools with communications, journalism, creative writing, English, and French programs. Academically rigorous and distinguished programs rose to the top of my list. I also checked to make sure these schools offered the extracurricular activities that were most important to me (check out this 2001 Daily Herald article featuring me and my extracurriculars).
Location-wise, I wanted to push my boundaries. You don’t get many chances to try living in another part of the country for four years with no strings attached. I would get to meet different people, experience another region’s culture, and further develop my independence. Ultimately, I considered a handful of Midwest schools but focused primarily on the East Coast.
Once I had a list of schools that were a match for me academically and geographically, I continued on the search for the best fit! My parents and I drove East during spring break of my junior year to tour several universities. Penn was not one of them. Although I remember receiving a Penn brochure in the mail that year, it didn’t click with me for some reason. However, after seeing other campuses and realizing that I preferred larger, more urban schools, my mom suggested we drive through Philadelphia on our way home. A traffic jam and pouring rain kept us from setting foot on Penn’s campus that day, but I saw enough from the backseat window to pique my interest.
Later that spring, I skipped my junior prom to accompany my dad on a business trip to Philly. When he wasn’t working, we headed over to University City to look around and take a campus tour. We both loved it. Everything about the campus just felt right; and the more I saw, the more I liked it. We brought Mom back to Penn in September to make sure it was the one for me, and we were all hooked. I came back to Illinois and started work on my Early Decision application right away.
My two application essays prove just how excited I was about the possibility of attending Penn. The first is my response to the famous “write page 217 of your 300-page autobiography” prompt, and the second discusses why I was interested in Penn.
Even years later, I am still absolutely confident that Penn was the right choice for me.