ACING UPenn with Adi Lankipalle (’23) | Acing Admissions Advice


Tejasvini Ramesh

Adi Lankipalle (’23) was recently accepted to UPenn’s Huntsman Program, which combines the Wharton School of Business and international studies. He shares his high school journey and gives key insights for students entering the college application process.

Responses were edited for length and clarity. 

Why did you choose to apply to this college?

UPenn was my first choice because I have an interest in the areas of economics, history, and politics and I want to be a politician. I want to be a politician via the business pathway and I think that because UPenn has the Wharton School of Business, and since it’s the number one school for business, it was a natural choice for me to want to go there, to springboard my career in the best way possible.

I think the real reason why I decided to apply to Penn is because of a special program that UPenn has and it’s called the Huntsman program. That’s the program that I got into at UPenn, and it’s a dual degree between the Wharton School of Business and international studies. It also includes studying a language in depth during those four years as a part of your international studies degree. I think that’s that perfect fit, and everything you need to be a politician. 

What are your stats? – SAT/ACT, number of AP tests, GPA? 

For my SAT, I took it once in sophomore year and got 1540. For the APs I’m taking, by the end of senior year, 11 APs and 13 exams. I’ve taken 6 APs through junior year: AP Computer Science, AP World, AP Music Theory, AP Spanish, APUSH, and AP Calculus BC and I’ve gotten 5s on all of them. My unweighted GPA is a 3.99, and my weighted GPA is around 4.3.

Did you submit your test scores? 

I did submit my test scores. I would advise people who are trying to get into the college of their dreams to take a standardized test and submit it. Even though it’s optional, they do consider it and it’ll only help you if you do well on it and set you apart. It’s a baseline standard of measuring how capable a candidate is.

What are two of your most memorable or significant extracurricular activities? 

My biggest extracurricular activity is music. Playing music is fulfilling. It’s like an expression of creativity. It’s also one of the strongest communities I know and it’s a very good way to build relationships. I’m in the school band here at Amador and I play the french horn. I also am involved in the school marching band and I’m also in an out-of-school orchestra called California Youth Symphony, which is a symphony orchestra. I’m also in the California State Honor bands, so those are the things I got into.

The other biggest extracurricular that I did was Boy Scouts. It has some of my best memories, because it gives you opportunities to learn, develop, and mature. It also gives you a community of friends and people who have very similar goals to you and you can have many fun trips and experiences with them. I earned my Eagle Scout, and I’ve gotten 45 merit badges. I’ve also served in many different leadership positions as well, and I think those are some of my biggest accomplishments.

Which teacher(s) did you ask for your letters of recommendation? 

I asked my AP Spanish teacher Mrs. Eyewe, I asked my AP Calculus teacher, Mr. Snyder, and I asked my APUSH teacher, Mrs. Wohlgemuth. I also got one more letter of recommendation from my orchestra director, who is my extracurricular orchestra director.

When did you start planning or writing your college essays?

I started planning and writing them in the summer and I pretty much finished them in August and September. A piece of advice I would give to others is to avoid procrastinating. Many people are procrastinating way too much on their college essays. If you start your essays when school starts, you’re already way behind and you may be under a lot of stress and pressure and might not even complete your applications on time. I started in the summer and finished most of the essays in the summer itself, making it an easier senior year for me. I was able to be considerate and careful with my applications and essays and submit them in a good way. 

Can you explain your essay-writing process and how you brainstormed ideas? 

My favorite essay I wrote was the first UPenn essay they gave, which was to write a thank-you letter to someone you appreciated. I wrote my thank you letter to my dad. I thought of fond memories that impacted me in a way that were significant to me and have still impacted me to this day. I thought about how my dad used to tell me bedtime stories every day and how that profoundly influenced my identity and who I am and what I want to do in life.

A lot of other colleges, including UPenn, also asked ‘why do you want to go to this school/community’ and for me, I had a very thorough story and background for what I wanted to do with my life and I was very deliberate with my path. I already thought out what I wanted to do with my life and because of that, I think that it was really easy for me to streamline that and say that this school can provide me with those opportunities and so on.

What was the hardest essay prompt for you? 

I wrote every single essay before school started and didn’t wait for my early decision, so the hardest essay for me was probably the one from UChicago because it’s pretty well known to be an extremely hard prompt. After all, it forces you to be creative, and sometimes you can come up with your prompt but sometimes they ask unique/weird questions. My prompt for UChicago was: ‘what wisdom would a wisdom tooth give?’ You could pick from a bunch of prompts, but I felt as though I could go somewhere with the wisdom tooth prompt. it was still very hard to come up with a creative, funny yet profound way to answer the question. If I look back on it now, I think I did a really good job, but didn’t submit it because I got into UPenn.

How did you react or feel when you saw your acceptance? 

It was surreal. I didn’t expect it and it was like the best possible thing that could’ve happened and it happened to me. I could’ve gotten into Huntsman or I could’ve only gotten into Wharton if I wasn’t qualified enough for Huntsman and I could’ve not gotten into Penn at all, but I got into the best possible option. I was expecting I would be somewhat successful at least in my college application but I didn’t know that I would get into THE place that I wanted, so it was a surreal experience. My family and I opened it together and we caught it on video and everything; it was a very sincere and emotional life-changing experience. It was profound.

What advice would you give to future students applying for this college? 

The biggest advice is that you should write your essays ahead and think about them very clearly. I also think that you should do things you like especially for your major and extracurriculars because a lot of people get influenced by society and their friends, and get pressured to do one certain major. That doesn’t help you because your thoughts aren’t organic and you don’t have a good enough reason for why you want to go into a career in that field. What I’ve learned is that if you want to get into an Ivy League or an extremely competitive school, you need to have a really good reason why you want to get there and how the resources that are provided by the school are going to help you.

You do need to think out your life and even if you don’t know exactly what you want to do, you should still be able to come up with a compelling story, and this is personal advice, even outside of college, that you should have a purpose or goal in life that you should be moving towards and college should help you get there. People should do a lot of self-examination and think about what they want to do because I was very clear. I wanted to become a businessman, then become a politician afterward. I told Penn exactly that, which is why I’m here.

I also think that you should be genuine about your extracurriculars because you need to pursue what you like and the same goes for essays–you should do what makes you a person. If you do the same thing as everybody else, there’s very little chance that you will have a different perspective or be different from anybody else. The biggest thing is that you do what you want because you don’t have to do an internship, or a research paper, or get a job. I haven’t done any of those and I still got what I wanted out of the college application process. Take your interests to the next level and you will be successful.