House Life

Application Tips and Essay Prompts

Tips from the House Deans:

  1. Read carefully as deadlines count. Follow all important timeline information as instructed by the individual programs and Residential Services.
  2. Meet Criteria. Pick programs where you meet the stated criteria for the program. For example, if you need a background in music and you are a novice, then you don't meet the criteria for that particular program. 
  3. Plan with Roommates. Make sure all of your roommates apply for the same program(s). Remember, you get a first and second choice. All roommates need to match up.
  4. Be authentic. Be honest and pick programs that interest you. Don't apply if you're only interested in a room type or House.
  5. Showcase interest with your essay. Focus on the program of choice in your essay, what you would bring to the program, and do not make it about the House. If listing two choices, write completely different essays for each choice. For example, Arts House in Harnwell is different than The Rodin Arts Collective (TRAC).

Speaking of the Application Essay:

Some of the programs require an essay. Some have additional requirements. Incoming first-year students should review the first-year menu below; upperclass students returning to campus should review the upperclass menu below.

Essay Tip #1: The general essay prompt for all first-year Program Community applicants is as follows:

Explain your interest and activities related to the program, the contributions you expect to make to the community, and the benefits you hope to derive from membership.

Essay Tip #2: Be sure to visit the pages for the following Communities who have additional requirements to apply:

  • Fisher Hassenfeld/Scientific AdventuresInstead of essay prompt, describe your experience in science, your long-term plans, and your motivation for joining the program community.
  • Gregory/Film Culture: No essay required; type "Film Culture" in the essay box.
  • Gregory/Modern Languages Program: Submit the standard room preference form online at​, identifying MLP as one of your top choices. Submit an essay specifying which language house(s) you are interested in, and give us a short amount of information about your background, fluency level, and specific interests related to the program. Please write your essay in English. 
  • Kings Court English/Huntsman Program: No essay required; type "Huntsman Program" in the essay box.
  • Riepe/Integrated Studies Program: No essay required; type "Integrated Studies Program" in the essay box.

If not listed, then there are no requirements other than the general essay prompt. For a complete list of available Program Communities, visit our list here.

Essay Tip #1: The general essay prompt for all Program Community applicants is as follows:

Please address the following questions (maximum is 500 words): 1.) Why are you interested in joining this Program Community?; 2.) What would your involvement bring to this program’s overall experience?; 3.) How have you participated in your current House community?; and 4.) If you have a specific bedroom, roommate pairing, or neighbor preferences, please list them.

Essay Tip #2: Be sure to visit the pages for the following communities which have additional requirements to apply:

  • Harnwell/Arts House: As part of the selection process, Arts House requires an audition/interview. Participation will result in preference to the program and requested room type (when applicable). It is a short, 5-minute performance (singing, dancing, reading, etc.), or portfolio (visual and digital media), or presentation (topics about your interest in art). These will take place during January. These auditions/interviews are a chance for Arts House to gauge interest, dedication, and appreciation of the arts – this is not a talent contest.
  • Harrison/Integrated Living Program: Interested students must write an essay and describe in specific terms how they will be an asset to the ILP community and what they hope to gain from the experience. All Penn students are eligible to apply. 
  • Harrison/Front Row Theatre and the Arts: Students are asked to write a brief essay explaining their participation to date in the activities of the Front Row Theater company, or other theater groups on campus. First preference will be given to students who have participated specifically with Front Row Theater or art initiatives undertaken within Harrison College House (Harrison Art-Ins, Harrison Saturday Night Events, Cinema 180, or PCI).
  • Kings Court English/KCECH Leadership: Address the essay prompt and also cover what role you would take as an upperclass leader in a First-Year College House?
  • New/2XP: Applicants need to address the following: Imagine yourself as a Penn senior. Imagine that you were an inaugural member of the 2XP Community. Two years later, you have been invited to give a keynote speech for the current community's Welcome Dinner. Write the speech you would give. Consider the following in your remarks: - what have you learned? -what will the community members gain from their participation? - how can you encourage them as a community- what advice would you provide to help them make the most of their opportunity? Feel free to be creative in the way you imagine your experiences.

If not listed, then there are no requirements other than the general essay prompt. For a complete list of available Program Communities, visit our list here.