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Upenn Essay Movable

As he did last week, Patrick Bredehoft, former Admissions Officer and current Director of the Penn Alumni Interview Program, offers his insight into the Penn Supplement. Here, we will go over the second question on the supplement.

Ben Franklin once said, “All mankind is divided into three classes: those that are immovable, those that are movable, and those that move.” Which are you? (Please answer in 300-500 words.)

Patrick Bredehoft: “This is a great essay that allows us to think about why schools ask the questions they do.  With this essay, Penn is trying to communicate a number of things.  First, this question is a nod to Penn’s past and founder, Benjamin Franklin.  It communicates how relevant his perspective and legacy is to the 21st century.  It also asks students to think about their role in the world; we, as an institution, are interested in knowing what type of people our applicants are.  The notion of engagement and the question of how our students will engage–although there is no one way–is important to us as an institution.

As with the first question on the supplement, there is absolutely no right answer but lots of compelling opportunities.  In fact, when we asked current Penn students to answer this question, they all came up with different answers, taking the question in unique and novel directions.

When drafting this essay, we ask students to sit with the question and see where they are reflected in it.  There are no positive or negative values attached to any of the three choices nor are there any definitive answers (individuals cannot be compartmentalized).  Ultimately, we are more interested in what applicants say about the option they choose rather than the option itself.  We want applicants to have the space in this text to tell us where they are from, what they hope to become, and to delve into any significant events in their lives.  Student answers might transcend time and space, allude to moments in the past, present and future, and span involvement in local, national, or global events.

We also want to be surprised at what students do with this text.  To surprise us you don’t need to reject all options, think of a fourth option, or merge them.  This is not to say that you shouldn’t challenge the premise of the question but, again, we ask you to look for yourself in some part of it.

At Penn we ask hard questions and we know that this question is difficult.  Our hope with this prompt is that applicants are willing to think about themselves and their relationship to something larger.  If mankind seems too big, we hope that they think about the role they play in their family, school, town, or after-school activity.  We believe that we will get answers that are each surprising and enlightening.  This is a question to define for us, how you see yourself. If the answer is from a perspective of honesty and self-reflection, it will be successful.”

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Meredith Kline and Brent Shulman didn’t come to Penn searching for a relationship. Three years later, however, the Orange County, CA, natives can’t quite imagine what it would be like if they weren’t in one. “We’re not attached at the hip or anything like that, but we have definitely been pretty integral to each others’ happiness and success at Penn. We are a unit in a lot of ways.” Brent says. The two hold the title of Penn’s cutest couple senior superlative, yet modestly share they are unsure how this happened. It takes just a few minutes for the answer to reveal itself.

Meredith and Brent sit shyly beside each other at a table outside of Houston Hall. The sun is setting on a 50–degree evening, bright, warm and unseasonably pleasant. The two steal glances at each other and smile like they are sharing an amusing inside joke. Brent is talkative right off the bat, light–heartedly offering up answers with ease. Meredith on the other hand, is contemplative, a perfectionist of sorts.

When asked how they first met, Brent’s answer is immediate, as though he remembers it perfectly. The two tell people they met the summer before college as counselors at the local Jewish Community Center camp, yet this was not actually their first encounter. “The first time I saw Meredith was at a Penn meet–up at someone’s house in L.A,” Brent starts out. “I was standing outside the bathroom because I really had to go, and all of a sudden Meredith comes out and is super friendly, like hi, how are you doing, what are you studying?” 

“He said math,” Meredith interjects with a laugh. 

“When I got to camp the first day at CPR training, I saw her and knew I recognized her. Meredith has an incredible memory and immediately knew. She was really friendly and boisterous, with a great personality,” he adds.

“When he walked in late for the CPR class, he asked for the clipboard to sign in. I passed it over and checked to see if I remembered correctly, and I did. I was trying to decide when I should talk to him. Guess I nailed it,” Meredith says.  

Meredith served as the president of Kite and Key, one of Penn's largest service organizations, which provides formal tours to prospective students. She is involved in Seniors for the Penn Fund, senior peer advising and the Penn Israel Public Affairs Committee (PIPAC). She is also a Jewish Renaissance Project intern, SDT exec member, Maimonides member and a part of both Sphinx and Omega senior societies. “I’m the kind of person who likes to get involved wherever I am, whatever I do.” Meredith says, “Freshman year I went to the club fair and started signing up for a million things. Some of my friends at the time, including Brent, thought it was funny to sign me up for a bunch of random things.” Brent chuckles at the memory. “Basically anything: bagpipe club, Penn Latin ball room dance—honestly, shout–out to them, they are very consistent with their emails.” Brent works at Weiss Tech House and is a member of Maimonides, ZBT and Hexagon senior society. 

As seniors, Meredith and Brent reminisce on the changes they’ve seen in each other since freshmen year. “I’m having a hard time thinking about a personality change, but I think a good outward change is how many people we know. Meredith especially knows so many people,” says Brent, “She literally said hi to five people walking from VP to Houston—I said hi to no one." Upon hearing this Meredith buries her smile in her sleeve. “Well,” she responds, “freshman year, all of our friends would be going out Thursdays, and we would all be like, "Brent, come on," and he would tell us ‘I’m not a Thursday night kind of guy.’ Now, he’s the one who’s like, let’s go out Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, every day.” 

The question had to be asked. What’s the key to staying together for so long? “Laugh a lot?” Meredith says. The two certainly do this. “We’ve stayed together so long because I am happy with Meredith, and she is happy with me. Let’s not kid ourselves: We have been together for three years, fights happen—but at the end of the day, whatever we are arguing about is inconsequential in comparison to how much we enjoy being with each other,” Brent adds.

“Brent has made me a more focused person. Sometimes I can get carried away or stuck on things because I care or feel a certain way about something. He’s very focused and stays on task, stays in line with his goals. That’s something I’ve always strived for, and I am constantly inspired by him,” Meredith says. 

“I learned to be much more empathetic from Meredith. Meredith loves so many things so much so that sometimes I think it is to her detriment, that she cares so much. That is not necessarily who I am, but Meredith has made me a much more understanding person, which I am not by design," says Brent. 

Meredith and Brent in their own words:

Can you describe each other in three words?

Brent: Loving, devoted and intellectual.

Meredith: I want to get this right. Passionate, interested, fun–loving.

What’s the best date you have been on?

Meredith: This is really random. One time we went biking at the beach, and it was super beautiful. We have a lot of really special memories together, but one thing I would say about our relationship is that we also have a lot of the same friends. A lot of the memories that stand out involve them. When the pope came last year, we’re pretty spontaneous, we were all just walking around and we decided to rent those Indego bikes. There were three of them and seven of us, so we just got on E.T. style and rode around Philly. It was super safe because there were no cars.

Brent: It’s kind of scary because it’s hard to balance.

Meredith: We really like being adventurous—the beach, camping, etc. For my birthday one time, Brent surprised me, and we went to the beach and had a picnic.

There are two types of people at Penn?

Meredith: There are actually three. Those who are immovable, those who are movable and those who move. It's really only going to make sense to seniors because it was our Penn essay question.

If you could plan a Valentine's date with no limitations, what would you do?

Meredith: We would wake up in the mountains, camping. Then we are able to walk around and find a basketball hoop where we play. We hike for a long time, meandering around, then we go to the beach and play volleyball and play in the water. Then we get to a nice dinner, and in our tent there is a projector, and we watch some movie that we decide on immediately, which never happens.

Brent: We wake up in the morning, and there’s a bagels and lox spread, but also food that I’m going to eat. I don’t like lox. Then we go skiing for a couple hours, and she convinces me to not be scared of skiing. Then we go have lunch with her grandparents in Florida. After that we go on a big hike up in the mountains near the beach so you can see the water. It’s not too hot that you get sweaty all the time, but you can still feel it on your skin. Then we go play with her baby cousins in Irvine for a little bit. Her whole family is there. Then we go to a nice restaurant but it's not too expensive, kind of reasonable, and nice. Then after dinner, Meredith and I hang out with our friends for a bit, then we break away and walk around the city, sort of talking, not knowing where we are going. We were already in California and Florida on this trip, so fuck it, we’re in Paris. All of a sudden, we are by our apartment, and we go to bed, but instead of going to bed, we actually talk for a while about whatever random things till we fall asleep.

What fictional relationship do you guy relate to?

Brent: I kind of consider myself Aladdinesque.

Meredith: That’s my favorite song, “A Whole New World!” I really kind of resonate with a little John Travolta, Olivia Newton–John action. They are always excited to see each other. Our relationship has serious aspects, but we make each other more fun. Plus we met in the summer, so it's summer loving!

Brent: I also look great in a leather jacket. 

I would do anything for love but I wont do…

Brent: I would do anything for love, but I won’t kill an innocent person.

Meredith: I would do anything for love, but I wouldn’t throw away the toothpaste before it's done!

What did we forget to ask you?

Brent: Is there anyone I would like to give a shout–out to? Shout–out to our fans, that we didn’t know we had, but apparently do. We appreciate all the things that you do; without you we couldn’t do all that we do.


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