UPenn Interview: How to Prepare + Sample Questions

Handshake interview
September 13, 2023
9 min read
Expert Reviewed


Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 9/13/23

Unsure of what to expect during your UPenn interview? Read on to learn more about how to prepare for the UPenn interview and leave a lasting impression!

An interview being conducted

Aside from submitting a standout application that demonstrates your capacity to excel at the University of Pennsylvania, you can also participate in an interview to help the committee learn more about you and your standout personality!

If you feel hesitant to complete this optional application material, it might help to know UPenn’s interview is meant to be relaxed, conversational, and informative! You won’t be put on the hot spot or asked difficult questions. In fact, you’ll mainly be asked to share more about your passions and goals!

To increase your excitement for this opportunity and decrease your stress, this guide will go over how to prepare for and ace the UPenn interview and provide you with sample answers to draw inspiration from!

How to Get an Interview at UPenn

The best part of the UPenn interview is you don’t have to do anything to get one! UPenn aims to interview all of its first-year applicants, so the UPenn interview invitation rate is typically over 90%!

Understanding the UPenn Interview Process

A woman participating in a virtual interview

Once you submit your application, you may be invited to interview. A volunteer alumni member who has undergone interview training will reach out to you to schedule a virtual meeting. 

The alumni won’t have access to your application, as they’re hoping to gain deeper insight into your candidacy and learn additional information that’s not on your application. Considering there are limited volunteer alumni, you may not be invited to interview. Your application will be assessed equally regardless.

You can expect your interview to last 20 to 45 minutes. The interview is an opportunity for UPenn to learn more about you and for you to learn more about UPenn! At the end of each interview, students are given the chance to ask their alumni members questions about UPenn or their experience at UPenn. 

What Kind of Students Does UPenn Look For?

UPenn doesn’t have a blueprint for the perfect student. As a school that values excellence, diversity, and service, they seek students from all corners of the world with strong academics, unique talents, and a strong dedication to bettering the world around them! 

They expect students to demonstrate these traits through impressive academic profiles, thoughtful and telling essays, and valuable service-based principles and extracurriculars!

UPenn Interview Questions and Answers

A male student thinking

Understanding the interview process should help you feel more prepared for your interview. However, knowing the questions you can expect to be asked will be even more beneficial! Here are five common UPenn interview questions alumni members like to ask:

1. Can You Tell Me a Little About Yourself?

This first question is pretty standard and common in interviews. It's a great opening to help you feel more comfortable and to give you a chance to highlight important aspects of your past, present, and future that you think your interviewer should know. 

However, as an introductory question, your answer should be brief. While you want to share critical moments from your past, you don’t want to begin at your second birthday and work your way up.

Focus mainly on your high school experience, what your current goals are, and what you hope to achieve during your post-secondary career and beyond.

Here is a sample answer to give you some inspiration:

Currently, I’m a senior at Julia R. Masterman Secondary School. Aside from being a student, I’m an avid piano player, the head of the debate team, and will soon be interning at a local public interest law firm in the summer to assist with fundraising, content creation, and administrative tasks. 
I’ve had a passion for law since my freshman year when I took part in a protest that sought to prevent mass infrastructure building on Indigenous land near my town. 
I have since spent my time honing my analytical, critical thinking, speaking, and writing skills by taking various AP courses including English, Comparative Government and Politics, and United States History, to name a few, and participating in debate club. 
I’m excited to begin the next chapter of my career at the University of Pennsylvania by enrolling in their Political Science degree and ultimately their JD degree so that I can continue fighting for equal human rights as a lawyer. 

2. What’s Important To You?

To answer this question, consider your passions, career goals, and values. Try to tie your values with UPenn’s to demonstrate how well you’ll fit in at their school. 

Try to think of three aspects of your life or future that are the most important to you and build a narrative around them. 

Consider this example of a student hoping to join the healthcare field:

While family is important to everyone, I didn’t realize just how important it was to me until I lost my grandmother to cancer two years ago. 
Living in a rural area, we have limited access to healthcare. So, while neighboring towns had the newest chemotherapy and radiation treatments, my town had limited access to these treatments, which was part of why my grandmother passed away within just six months of her diagnosis.
Without the financial means to travel to a larger city weekly for her treatments, my grandmother received inadequate treatment for her cancer. I think UPenn says it best, the way things are isn’t the way things have to be, which is the lesson I learned first-hand with my grandma.
Ever since it has become extremely important for me to join the medical field and change rural healthcare so that equal and comprehensive healthcare is provided to everyone and fewer families have to go through what mine did. I hope to begin this journey at UPenn by majoring in Biomedical Sciences. 

3. What Are Your Current Academic/Extracurricular Interests?

This question is pretty straightforward. Remember, your alumni interviewer doesn’t have access to your application, so this isn’t meant to trick or test you. Just answer this question honestly! Talk about your extracurriculars and academics and why you chose them.

Your answer could look like this:

Throughout high school I was an avid reader and writer, a passion that started in my freshman year when my English teacher suggested I read the novel God of Small Things over the summer. I fell in love with the author’s language and ability to evoke so much emotion through only a few words.
I’ve taken AP English classes to develop my writing and analytical skills and joined my school’s reading club. I participated in several poetry slams both inside and outside of my school, making it to the state-wide championship in my senior year. I also volunteer at my local library to help teach ESL students how to read, which allows me to share my passion with others and contribute to my community.

4. What Led You to UPenn?

You’ll spend a large part of your interview talking about your accomplishments, interests, and experiences. For this question, you should focus on UPenn and its unique offerings.

You should conduct thorough research to answer this question and tailor it to your specific career goals. Think about the type of college experience you hope to receive at UPenn, why you applied to it in the first place, and what you’re looking forward to the most. 

Here’s how a student interested in attending UPenn’s prestigious nursing school might answer this question:

UPenn’s extraordinary nursing program is the major factor that drew me to apply to this school. Not only is it the top nursing program in the nation, but it offers unique clinical experiences that I know will advance my training and help me become the most well-rounded nurse I can be. 
I am particularly interested in gaining experience at Chester County Hospital, as I plan on becoming a cardiac nurse and know Chester is a top-rated hospital for this specialty. 
I also know UPenn’s nursing community is tight-knit, supportive, and connected by the collective drive to do more for patients and improve healthcare, which I would love to be a part of and contribute to. 

5. What Plans Do You Have For the Future?

As a college applicant, you obviously have career aspirations for the future. Use this question to share these aspirations and how UPenn will help you achieve them!

Here’s a sample answer to help you brainstorm your response:

In the near future, I plan on becoming a productive UPenn student who can make meaningful contributions to the school community. After joining UPenn’s undergraduate Neuroscience program, I hope to aid in their research efforts, specifically in its Center for Neuroscience.
Once I’ve completed my undergraduate, I hope to join UPenn’s prestigious medical school to gain the skills and experience necessary to become a leader in healthcare and an outstanding neurosurgeon. 

These responses answer the question at hand in a concise way while still highlighting crucial details about the students’ lives, skills, and aspirations!

UPenn Alumni Interview. Is It Important?

The UPenn alumni interview is important for three reasons: it allows the admissions committee to learn more about you, it allows you to learn more about UPenn, and it demonstrates your commitment and interest in UPenn.

Since the UPenn interview is optional, it won’t necessarily make or break your admissions chances. However, it can serve as a useful tool to impress the admissions committee and make a good impression on them! 

Your application should already do this, but putting a face to the application can help humanize it and let the admissions officers connect with it better! Since getting into the Ivy League is already so challenging, why not take advantage of this opportunity to boost your application?

How to Prepare for a UPenn Interview

An applicant preparing for her interview

After going over UPenn’s common interview questions, you should feel less nervous about your interview! To ensure you have the most enjoyable experience, consider also following these tips:

Do Not Research Your Interviewer

While this tip may seem counterproductive, UPenn strongly urges its prospective students not to research their alumni members. 

The interview is meant to be a fresh conversation between two previously unknown individuals! Just as your interviewer will have no background information on you, it’s expected you don’t have any on them either.

Dress Appropriately

UPenn suggests students dress for their interview as they would for a school photograph or class presentation. You should let your personal style through so you feel comfortable and can present your best self to your interviewer.

Tell Your Story

You shouldn’t bring a resume or a portfolio to your interview. Your passions, experiences, and personal story should be shared through your answers. If you’re an international student, share your unique story of coming to study in a new country and the challenges that came with it. 

Or, if you’re an avid piano player, mention it in your interview! Let them get to know the real you! Have a good understanding of the points you want to highlight before your interview.

Prepare Insightful Questions

Along with preparing responses for common interview questions, you should also prepare a couple of questions to ask your interviewer at the end of the interview. UPenn suggests the following questions:

  • 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?

Your interviewer’s answers can offer you a useful perspective on what you can expect as a UPenn student!

FAQs: UPenn Interview

We’ve spent the majority of this guide going over UPenn interview questions. For any other questions you have about this interview, read on to find your answers!

1. Do All UPenn Applicants Get Interviewed?

While UPenn attempts to interview every applicant, due to the limited availability of their alumni members, not all applicants are invited to interview. 

2. What Percent of UPenn Applicants Get an Interview?

Over 90% of UPenn applicants get an interview. UPenn aims to interview all of their candidates!

3. Is It Good to Get an Interview From UPenn?

If you get an interview from UPenn it simply means there is an alumni member within your geographical region available to interview you. While you should absolutely accept the invitation and complete an interview, the invitation itself does not mean anything in terms of how your application was received.

Alumni interviewers will not have access to your application. They are simply trying to learn more about your interest in UPenn, your values, and your goals.

4. How Long Is the UPenn Interview?

The exact length of the interview will depend on your interviewer, but they typically last around 20 to 45 minutes.

5. How Long Should I Answer Each Question?

You shouldn’t focus on the length of each of your questions. There aren’t strict parameters your answers should fall under, since each question will require a different type of response. Generally, more straightforward questions only take one to two minutes to respond to, and more complex questions take two to three. 

Feel free to use more time to fully answer the questions but avoid rambling! If your interviewer wants to inquire further about your answer, they will!

6. How Important Is the UPenn Interview?

The UPenn interview is not part of the application process. Students who opt out of their interview or are not offered one will not be disadvantaged. 

However, completing one can further demonstrate your interest in UPenn and allow you to make an excellent first impression, both of which can increase your chances of admission at this highly selective Ivy school!

7. How Should I Prepare For My UPenn Interview?

Fortunately, UPenn expects its students to go into their interviews without any knowledge of their interviewers, meaning you don’t have to take the time to research your alumni members! This isn’t your typical job or scholarship interview where you have to provide prepared and formal answers.

You also shouldn’t prepare a resume, as the conversation is meant to flow more naturally and casually. Instead, you should brainstorm key traits, abilities, accomplishments, and goals that you believe your interviewer should know and prepare response outlines for the listed questions in this guide. 

Ensure you also come up with a few questions to ask your interviewer at the end of the interview.

8. Where Do UPenn Interviews Take Place?

Currently, the UPenn interviews are hosted virtually through Zoom, Google Hangout, other similar software, or over the phone.

9. What Should I Prepare for The Virtual Meeting?

There isn’t much you’ll need to prepare for your virtual meeting. Simply choose a quiet, clutter-free, and distraction-free room as your University of Pennsylvania Zoom interview background. Additionally, dress professionally to make a positive impression!

10. What Questions to Ask at the UPenn Interview?

Near the end of the interview, you’ll be asked if you have any questions for your alumni member. Some common questions students ask include:

  • 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?
  • Could you describe the UPenn campus community?
  • What advice would you give to incoming students about making the most of their UPenn experience?
  • What are some unique opportunities you participated in that truly set UPenn apart for you?
  • What advice do you have about making the most out of my time at UPenn and the opportunities available?

Asking your interviewer thoughtful questions that tap into their unique perspective and experiences can create a meaningful and memorable conversation for you both!

Final Thoughts

Completing your UPenn interview may seem like an additional, unnecessary step in your application. However, this interview can offer you valuable information on your dream school and help bring life and color to your application!

Keep the tips shared in this guide in mind and remember to let your personality shine through!

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