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Penn Admissions Blog

Opening a new application cycle with gratitude - changes to the 2022-23 Penn Supplemental Questions
Dean Whitney Soule | August 1, 2022

Opening a new application cycle is an exciting time of year for us in Penn Admissions because it marks the moment when we can share the changes we’ve made to improve the application experience for you!

This year, our admissions team has been thinking a lot about gratitude and how expressing gratitude feels good to us when we put words to those feelings, and how good it feels to receive appreciation from others.

We know this intuitively because we feel it and can describe it, but there is also research (here at Penn!) that proves it.

Your application to Penn asks you to describe your achievements and aspirations. Those who write on your behalf tell us about your accomplishments, too. That’s good information that helps us quickly learn about your skills and how you might shine in our community at Penn. But… and this is *big*… we know there is so much more to you. To how you see yourself and those around you. To those moments that inspire meaning, motivation, and maybe even some relief from the busyness of your lives.

So, this year, we’re inviting you to share an experience of thankfulness with us as part of your application. The research says that expressing it will make you feel good (!), and we get to enjoy connecting your gratitude to everything else we are learning about you.

We know you are a focused bunch that may think very carefully and ask others for advice on what kind of answer would be best in expressing gratitude. You might feel anxious about what we hope you’ll say. That’s not what we want you to do.

Don’t overthink it. There is no wrong way to respond to this prompt:

Write a short thank-you note to someone you have not yet thanked and would like to acknowledge. (We encourage you to share this note with that person, if possible, and reflect on the experience!)

What we are offering is a feel-good exercise in a process that might otherwise feel fraught with expectation and precision. We’ve framed the prompt so you can read it and answer it quickly, briefly, and freely. Authentically.

We hope you have fun with it.
Whatever you have to say will be perfect.
We can’t wait to read what you write!

About the author
Dean Whitney Soule

I’ve worked in college admissions for over 30 years, and I focus on building bridges between what ‘has been’ and what ‘can be’ so that the whole process can become less complicated yet still effective for students to find their way into college.  I especially love meeting new students when they arrive each year because it’s so fun to match them to the stories and information that we know from their applications!

I love coffee, running, snacking all day, and laughing.  I also adore dogs.  I spend a lot of time with my nutty English Bulldog, Stella, and I can be very easily distracted by silly dog memes. My favorite location on Penn's campus is the entire stretch of Locust Walk, and I love authentic Philly cheesesteaks. You can reach me at deansoule@admissions.upenn.edu.

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