UPenn’s Dean Furda and His Five I’s


Eric Furda, dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, often writes in his Page 217 blog and on his Twitter feed @DeanFurda about how college discovery needs to be a mindful process where students aren’t only thinking about getting in, but about what is important to them.

Furda has devised a simple self-assessment method to help you identify your values, interests, and dreams—the Five I’s. It makes no difference if you are applying to Penn or not—the Five I’s is a valuable tool for all applicants. As you work on your essays and think about who you are and the value you can add to the schools on your list this summer, keep the Five I’s in mind:

Identity. “How do you see yourself and how do others see you? Be reflective about how you see yourself and how you want others to see you, in a genuine or authentic way. In this area, you could start thinking about teacher recommendations. How will a teacher talk about me? How will two different teachers put together a picture of me because they see me in a different light or because of how strong I am in an academic subject?”

Intellect. “How do you think and approach the acquisition of knowledge? I’m not [referring to your IQ], or talking about testing. I’m talking about how you process information and how you approach different subjects and subject matter. And how you then communicate that information to your teachers and to your peers.”

Ideas. “What do you think and why? We all have opinions out there, and particularly our children. So, what really makes you frame your reference? Where are these ideas coming from? What is the context? What do you think? Why are you thinking that? Then, how do you share that again within your community?”

Interests. “What do you choose to do when you have the time and flexibility? I would like to use this as an opportunity to say that this is not filling out an extracurricular list. This isn’t trying to fill the lines on an application so you look a certain way. I really want a perspective on how students are genuinely interested in what they are involved in — in the classroom, co-curricularly and extra-curricularly.”

Inspiration. “What really motivates you? I don’t think we need to feel that we have to have these moments every day. We’re not inspired every single day, and I think high school students may feel that we’re looking for those types of stories. It really isn’t the case. But when your heart is beating a little faster, when you’re feeling that something really is resonating with you, how does that come out?”

To learn even more, check out this episode of The Process. The Process is a special quarterly program airing on Sirius XM Channel 111, Business Radio powered by The Wharton School, offering guidance and insight into the college admissions process. In this four-part podcast series that began airing in the summer of 2016, Eric J. Furda, the dean of admissions at the University of Pennsylvania, invites guests and experts to explore all aspects of the admissions process, from discovery and decision-making to enrollment and transition. KWHS will be running these four podcasts throughout the summer in preparation for new segments of The Process that will begin airing this September. Give it listen!


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