How to Get Into UPenn: Admission Requirements & Tips

students at UPenn
Updated:
December 19, 2023
10 min read
Contents

”Mary

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 12/19/23

Are you thinking of attending the University of Pennsylvania? Here’s everything you need to know about getting into UPenn, including admission requirements, interview tips, and what UPenn is looking for.

Established by founding father Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania has stood for over 250 years and is still influenced by Franklin to this day; he once noted, “well-done is better than well-said,” and Penn is still proud of its tradition of “translating knowledge into social-minded action” today.   

UPenn is one of the most prestigious colleges in the country, and U.S. News ranks it sixth in the “Best National University Rankings.” As such, it isn’t easy to be admitted to UPenn. This article will explore the application processes, deadlines, and UPenn requirements and provide tips on ensuring your application stands out.

UPenn Acceptance Rate 

The overall UPenn acceptance rate is around 4.1%. As is the case for any Ivy League school, you will need to work hard to gain acceptance. 

Here’s a breakdown of the admission pool:

Type of Application Number of Applicants Number of Enrolled Students
Early Decision Around 8,000 Undisclosed
Regular Decision Around 51,000 Undisclosed
Overall 59, 463 2,420

UPenn doesn’t disclose how many students are offered admission each year, but does share the overall enrollment statistics! 

University of Pennsylvania acceptance rate compared to how many students Quad get's into the same school!

How Hard Is It to Get Into UPenn? 

With the University of Pennsylvania admission rate in 2027 being only 4%, getting into this Ivy school is no easy feat. In each admission cycle, typically over 90% of those admitted come from the top 10% of their high school graduating class, so those getting accepted are at the top of their game.

Take our interactive quiz below to find out how likely you are to get into UPenn.

University of Pennsylvania Admission Requirements

Here are some statistics on recently admitted and current students at UPenn. 

GPA 

So, what GPA do you need for UPenn? If you want to get into UPenn, you must obtain excellent grades. The average GPA achieved by admitted students is approximately 3.9. However, before you start panicking about your scores, Penn does take your circumstances into account. During your degree, the UPenn GPA requirement is a minimum of 2.0.

SAT/ACT Scores

While the SAT/ACT is optional at UPenn, the middle 50 percent range of overall SAT scores achieved by the 2026 UPenn class was between 1510-1560. The middle 50 percent range of ACT Composite scores achieved by these students was between 34-35. 

UPenn Class Demographics 

Of the 2,420 students who matriculated into Penn in 2023, 54% are female, and 46% are male. Of these students, 57% identify as students of color, and 19% are first-generation students. 

What Is UPenn Looking For In Applicants?

UPenn’s admission requirements are clear. However, it may be unclear how much each piece of your application is valued. Here’s what UPenn looks for in applicants. 

Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Rigor of secondary school record X
Class rank X
Academic GPA X
Standardized test scores X
Application essay X
Recommendation(s) X
Non-Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Interview X
Extracurricular activities X
Talent/ability X
Character/personal qualities X
First generation X
Alumni/ae relation X
Geographical residence X
State residency X
Religious affiliation/commitment X
Racial/ethnic status X
Volunteer work X
Work experience X
Level of applicant’s interest X


UPenn Requirements 

Aim for an SAT score of around 1510-1560, an ACT score of around 34-35, and a GPA of 3.9 or higher to ensure you get admitted to UPenn. Also, try taking AP classes and participating in extracurricular activities to be a more competitive applicant! 

Penn uses a comprehensive admissions process and looks at all aspects of an applicant. UPenn’s admissions requirements include: 

  • Common Application or Coalition Application
  • Letters of recommendation 
  • Supplemental essays and personal statement 
  • Transcripts
  • School Reports (Mid-year, final)
  • Supplementary materials (Portfolio or additional LoRs if necessary)
  • $75 application fee (or fee waiver request) 
  • Meet the testing requirements (Including SAT or ACT and Language tests if necessary)
  • Interview

Each program at UPenn may require varying additional materials. Refer to the UPenn website for further clarification.

Letters of Recommendation 

Your letters of recommendation provide Penn with the “​​story behind the grade” and an indication of your “work ethic, class participation, collaboration, and interactions with classmates.” 

You are required to submit two letters of recommendation from teachers who ideally taught you in major academic subjects during your senior or junior year. 

The “best letters,” Penn notes, come from teachers who know you well, so “choose people who know you well and can speak from first-hand experience about your work and potential.” It is recommended you acquire letters from two instructors in different subjects.

Extracurricular Section 

While Penn views your academics as a crucial part of your application, Penn is also interested in what you do outside of school. The admissions committee is interested in all kinds of experiences within an educational, occupational, or community setting. 

In the UPenn extracurricular activities section of your application, make sure that you include the specifics; Penn wants to know your exact responsibilities and involvement in each extracurricular, the impact you have made, and how much time you dedicate to each activity. Include all summer activities, school clubs, and non-academic pursuits. 

Crucially, Penn “does not weight or rank activities and does not prefer one type over another” and advises that you should “pursue activities that are meaningful to you.” 

Additional information section 

Penn does warn students that while some students may benefit from submitting additional materials with their application, “in many cases, too many extra documents can take away from the strength of your application.”

Some kinds of supplementary materials that Penn may consider include: 

  • Additional letter of recommendation, not from another teacher
  • Art or music sample 
  • Portfolio 
  • Expanded resume or research abstract 

Below we'll cover how to increase your chances of getting into UPenn.

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into UPenn

Here are our expert tips on how to get into UPenn.

1. Volunteering/Community Service

Penn’s admissions committee states that their ideal candidates “are inspired to emulate our founder Benjamin Franklin by applying their knowledge in ‘service to society’ to our community, the city of Philadelphia, and the wider world.” 

What really matters is that a “student’s contribution or service is authentic and meaningful to them and to others, whether that contribution is writing regular notes to frontline workers or checking in with neighbors who are isolated.” 

2. Do Your Research 

Choosing the perfect college for you is difficult as there are so many factors to consider. However, Furda notes when choosing a college, you should consider the four C’s: 

  • Culture 
  • Community 
  • Curriculum 
  • Conclusions

Community and culture are all about looking at how you will fit into the college - evaluate the people, space, and social impact of the institution you will be attending. Will you be a good fit? Are there clubs and organizations that match your interests? 

When looking at a school’s curriculum, Furda emphasizes that you should consider the practicalities, “design[,] and aim of the courses you will take over four years.” Think about what aspects of the course excite you - if you can highlight this in your application, it will show the admissions committee that you have done your research. 

If you can show how and why Penn fulfills each of your four C’s, you will be tailoring your application to the school and providing a clear roadmap on how this school will be a perfect fit for you, and why it will be the ideal stepping-stone to achieve your ambitions. 

3. Trust the Experts

If you're still uncertain about how to ensure your application leaves a lasting impression on the admissions committee, it's worth considering the expertise of our UPenn admissions counselors.

They possess invaluable insider knowledge about the committee's expectations and can help you demonstrate that you're the ideal candidate!

How to Write the UPenn Supplemental Essays

A crucial part of your application to UPenn is your essays. You will need to submit two Penn-specific essays as well as a personal statement (PS). These essays are used as a way for the admissions committee to gain an insight into “how you think, what you value, and how you see the world.”

UPenn Supplemental Essay Prompts 

The PS is the 650-word Common Application Essay that is specifically designed to allow you to show the aspects of yourself that your grades can’t - your personality, character traits, and experiences. As such, the prompts that you can choose between for this essay are purposefully vague.

UPenn’s essay prompts are different depending on which department you are applying to. All Penn applicants have to answer the following prompts on the UPenn website:

1. Write a short thank-you note to someone you have not yet thanked and would like to acknowledge. (We encourage you to share this note with that person, if possible, and reflect on the experience!) (150-200 words, only required for first year applicants)
2. How will you explore community at Penn? Consider how Penn will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape Penn. (150-200 words)
3. Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, describe how you intend to explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania. (150-200 words)

How to Answer the UPenn Supplemental Essay Prompts

Your personal statement is the ideal place to show Penn’s admissions committee who you are; Penn notes that it’s “a vehicle for your voice.”

Mia Carpiniello, the Associate Director of Graduate School Advising at Penn’s Career Services, notes that a great way to be concise and straightforward is to “share one or two of your personal qualities, abilities, or characteristics by focusing on a meaningful experience you had.”

An important part of writing a compelling personal statement is to show what you have learned from your experiences and what you can do for Penn's community. Indeed, Penn’s admissions committee asks you: “what do you want to say to an admissions committee that you feel represents what you care about, or that has shaped you?”

Address the Prompt’s Question 

Sounds obvious, right? You don’t have many words to play with, so making sure that your writing is concise and straightforward will give you more room to talk about your experiences. Penn’s admissions officers read thousands of application essays so “they won’t have the patience for rhetorical flourishes,” Carpiniello notes. 

Illustrate How Penn is Your Ideal College 

Eileen Cunningham Feikens, director of college counseling at the Dwight-Englewood School, a high school in New Jersey, notes that when schools ask “Why us?,” writing that “oh, you’re a really top school and I’m very interested in applying” won’t cut it. 

Of course, Penn is a fantastic school. However, you should interrogate why you want to apply to Penn, as it will make it easier to get your thoughts down on paper: Why are you interested in Penn? What services or aspects of Penn am I going to take advantage of? Focus on the message, not the story. 

UPenn Essay Example

Here is an essay example excerpt from a UPenn candidate that addresses the prompt: 

“Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, describe how you intend to explore your academic and intellectual interests at the University of Pennsylvania.”
One of the first things I noticed when I began to research Penn was their emphasis on interdisciplinary studies. This appealed to me because I have never been interested in only one subject. The fact that a third of my classes would be taken outside of the Wharton School tells me that I will be able to explore diverse classes in virtually any subject. For example, although I do not want to major in it, I have always been interested in computer coding. Hopefully, I will be able to take some introductory-level coding classes at Penn even though it is not directly related to finance, my potential concentration.
I am also excited about the availability of foreign languages at UPenn. I started learning French in eighth grade, and since my school only offers four years of French, I wasn’t able to take it my senior year, and I really miss it. I also started learning Portuguese during high school because I want to travel to Brazil one day. I want to continue learning both of these languages at the University of Pennsylvania. I am very excited about the opportunities that UPenn’s emphasis on interdisciplinary studies will give me.

Why this is a good example: It is clear that the candidate has done their research. By illustrating this in your essays, you are showing UPenn’s admissions committee that you have taken the time to look at the specifics of it. Additionally, showing how you will fit into the program’s culture will only make your application stronger.

How to Prepare for the UPenn Interview

If you are offered an interview, you will likely be contacted by email, although some alumni interviewers may contact you via the phone number you included in your application. Make sure that you give a good first impression and respond promptly to any messages.  

How Important is the UPenn Interview?

UPenn typically offers an interview to more than 90% of its applicants. Your UPenn interview is an important opportunity for Penn to get to know you and your personality and for you to learn about the school. 

In terms of the contact timeline: 

Application type Contact timeline
Early Decision Mid-October - last week of November
Regular Decision December - February

Source: UPenn 

UPenn Interview Questions 

Your interview “isn’t a test.” Instead, it’s an opportunity for you to share information about yourself and your journey. UPenn’s website notes that your interviewer may ask the following questions:

1. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
2. What’s important to you?
3. What are your current academic and/or extracurricular interests?
4. What led you to apply to Penn?
5. What classes, programs, and activities on Penn’s campus are exciting to you?
6. What plans do you have for your future?

You can prepare for your interview by using sample questions and conducting mock interviews with a partner or professional.

UPenn Interview Tips

Here are some UPenn interview tips to help you prepare for your interview. 

1. Be Yourself

Don’t stress about preparing for these questions too much. Penn notes that “your passions, personal story, and questions will bring the conversation to life.” So, just be yourself! 

2. Ask Questions

Penn does recommend, however, that you make the most of the opportunity by asking your interviewer some questions. So, prepare some insightful questions that show you have done your research. Penn gives some examples: 

  • Can you tell me about the most influential parts of your Penn experience?
  • What is one of your favorite Penn traditions?
  • In what ways are you still connected to campus and your Penn peers?
  • What are the advantages of the Penn alumni network?”

Asking well-researched questions can help engage your interviewer, making you a more memorable candidate.

3. Send a Thank-You Note

Finally, it is always best practice to send a brief thank-you note afterward to your interviewer. Send your note the same day or the day after your interview, and remind your interviewer of the date and time of your interview. Be as specific as you can to help jog their memory.

UPenn Application Process, Deadlines, and How to Apply

To get started, you will need to head to Penn’s application portal. Penn accepts the Common Application, Coalition Application, and QuestBridge Application

UPenn Regular Decision Deadlines

The deadline for Regular Action applications is January 5, and you will receive Penn’s decision by April 1. 

UPenn Early Decision Deadlines

The deadline for Early Action applications is November 1, and you will receive Penn’s decision by mid-December. Please note that Early Decision is binding - if you are accepted, you must attend.

Get Admitted to UPenn With Us

UPenn is one of the most prestigious universities in the country and thus draws some of the finest minds. To strengthen your application, consider speaking to an experienced UPenn admissions advisor. As noted above, Penn only admits 9% of its applicants, so you have to make sure your application stands out. 

By obtaining solid test scores and pursuing meaningful extracurricular activities, you will be putting yourself in the best position possible to succeed. Go above and beyond the UPenn requirements for admission. If you can, try to engage in impactful work within your community, as this is a crucial part of Penn’s mission and culture. 

Good luck with your application!



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