Good “Why X” Essay
Penn Law no longer offers a straightforward "Why X" prompt, but the following essay is still a good example of the form.
Growing up in Philadelphia, the truism that Penn is an institution of nearly unparalleled academic excellence is about as common as (and consistently more accurate than) the idea that the Eagles will win it all this year. Academics – though paramount – have universal and obvious appeal. Instead, where Penn distinguishes itself for me is through its dedication to the public interest that it practically pioneered, and through its affirming LGBT-inclusive experience. As I wrote in my personal statement, past experiences and current engagements have cemented my desire to become a legal advocate for the LGBT community. In addition to being a superb educational environment, Penn is uniquely positioned to enable me to achieve this goal.
Penn’s location in a city marked by LGBT density but situated in a state devoid of most types of relationship recognition or employment discrimination protections will give me exposure to the types of issues plaguing LGBT individuals throughout the country. I am excited and encouraged by the opportunity to spearhead projects like the one designed by recent graduate Mike Nasaki (’17), who works with low-income LGBT people facing employment discrimination. That Penn has established connections with places like the Mazzoni Center and facilitates the type of work that I dream of being involved with indicates that I will be supported in my efforts and satisfied with their impact. Academically, Penn’s curriculum of LGBT-oriented courses and retention of faculty such as Tobias Wolff will expose me to the most current debates and scholarship concerning where issues of sexual orientation, gender, and the law intersect.
While these hands-on and scholastic opportunities will form the basis for a superlative education, it is Penn’s well-established support of students wishing to work for the public interest that will allow my plan to become a reality. Whether through its uncommonly generous (Tol)LRAP program or its multiple public interest scholarships, it is reassuring to know that the stellar education that I receive and the impact I have will not be limited by financial barriers.
Most "Why X" essays read like Mad Libs in which the applicant plugs various classes and clinics into a template. This one feels like it was written for Penn from the ground up. It's also on-brand, underlining the author's interest in LGBT-rights, and it does a masterful job of arguing that Penn Law will help him turn that brand into a fulfilling career.
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