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 8th in the “Best National University Rankings.” As such, it isn’t easy to be admitted by UPenn. This article will explore the application processes, deadlines, and Upenn requirements, and provide some tips on how to ensure your application stands out.
With an acceptance rate of 6%, getting into UPenn is no easy feat. Additionally, 93% of those admitted came from the top 10% of their high school graduating class, so those getting accepted are at the top of their game.
Here are some statistics on recently admitted and current students at UPenn.
So, what GPA do you need for UPenn? If you want to get into Penn, you are required to 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
The middle 50 percent range of overall SAT scores achieved by UPenn admitted students is between 1490-1560. The middle 50 percent range of ACT Composite scores achieved by admitted students is between 35-36.
UPenn’s regular decision acceptance rate is about 4.4%. The UPenn early decision acceptance rate is 15.6%, and the overall acceptance rate is 5.9%. As is the case for any Ivy League school, you will need to work hard to gain acceptance.
Of the 2,417 students who matriculated into Penn, 56% of students identify as female, and 44% as male. Of these students, 55% identify as students of color, and 18% of this class are first-generation students.
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.
Penn uses a comprehensive admissions process and looks at all aspects of an applicant. UPenn’s admissions requirements include:
Each program at UPenn may require varying additional materials. Refer to the UPenn website for further clarification.
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.
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.
Make sure that you include the specifics; Penn wants to know the specifics of your responsibilities and involvement, the impact you have made, and how much time you dedicate to each activity.
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.”
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 includes:
Here are our expert tips on how to get into UPenn.
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 “students’ 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.”
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:
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.
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.”
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.
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?”
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.
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.
Here is an essay example excerpt from a UPenn candidate that addresses the prompt: “How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying.”
"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 a variety of 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 computer programming or 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 the University of Pennsylvania. 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 the emphasis on interdisciplinary studies will give me at Penn."
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.
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.
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:
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:
You can prepare for your interview by using sample questions and conducting mock interviews with a partner or professional.
Here are some UPenn interview tips to help you prepare for your interview.
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!
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:
Asking well-researched questions can help engage your interviewer, making you a more memorable candidate.
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.
The deadline for Regular Action applications is Jan. 5, and you will receive Penn’s decision by April 1.
The deadline for Early Action applications is November 1st, and you will receive Penn’s decision by mid-December. Please note that Early Decision is binding - if you are accepted, you must attend.
Located in the historic city of Philadelphia, Penn’s urban campus is home to all four of its undergraduate schools. It’s also home to the world’s first collegiate business school (1881) and first double-decker college football stadium, to name a few.
UPenn’s mission is “to strengthen the quality of education, and to produce innovative research and models of healthcare delivery by fostering a vibrant inclusive environment and fully embracing diversity.”
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 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!