Adrian Russian 6 min read College Application Tips

The Ultimate Guide to Applying to the University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania, located in downtown Philadelphia, has long been a pioneer in the world of higher education. Founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, UPenn was the first university in the United States to offer both undergraduate and graduate degrees, and is also home to the nation’s first medical school, business school, and student union. 

 

For the Class of 2024, UPenn’s acceptance rate was 9%. If you’re hoping to get into UPenn, here’s everything you need to know to maximize your chances of acceptance.

 

Average Stats of Accepted UPenn Students

 

While UPenn does not report average GPAs for its accepted classes, 94% of accepted students in the Class of 2024 were ranked in the top 10% of their high school classes. For the SAT, the middle 50% of scores in the Class of 2024 fell between 1470-1550, and 34-36 for the ACT.

 

Unfortunately, at a school as competitive as UPenn, even perfect test scores don’t guarantee that you will be accepted. If your scores are in the above ranges, however, you should get past the first round of admissions, which means the rest of your application will be read.

 

On the other hand, if your scores are below these ranges, your application may be immediately disqualified unless you are a legacy student, recruited athlete, or underrepresented minority. While this may seem unfair, UPenn typically receives over 40,000 applications, and the Academic Index helps them filter out applicants who aren’t academically comparable to the average UPenn student.

 

Like many schools, UPenn has adopted a temporary test-optional policy due to the coronavirus pandemic. If you’re wondering if you should still try to submit an SAT or ACT score, we encourage you to read our post on test-optional policies. While a strong score will certainly help your application, your and your family’s health are most important.

 

Additionally, while UPenn does not report average GPAs for its accepted classes, you may still be wondering what your GPA is. If you don’t know how to calculate it, you can find it using our free GPA calculator.

 

UPenn Application Process

 

Application Overview

 

UPenn accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application, and offers both Early Decision and Regular Decision admissions. While we do not mean to suggest getting into UPenn ED is easy, the acceptance rate is slightly higher. Nineteen percent of ED applicants were accepted, compared to 7.1% of RD applicants.

 

The cost of submitting your application to UPenn is $75, although you can request a waiver if this fee is prohibitive for your family.

 

Application Components

 

  • Common App or Coalition App
  • UPenn supplement
  • School report
  • Counselor recommendation
  • 2 academic teacher recommendations
  • Mid-year report
  • Final report for matriculating students
  • Optional interview

 

Supplemental Essays

 

UPenn has two prompts that are required for all applicants.

 

 

  • How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests, and how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania? Please respond considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected. For students applying to the coordinated dual-degree and specialized programs, please answer these questions in regard to your single-degree school choice; your interest in the coordinated dual-degree or specialized program may be addressed through the program-specific essay. (300-450 words) 

 

 

 

  • At Penn, learning and growth happen outside of the classrooms, too. How will you explore the community at Penn? Consider how this community will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape this community. (150-200 words)

 

 

If you’re applying to certain programs, you may have additional supplements that will appear on your application portal. You can read these prompts, as well as advice on how to respond to all of UPenn’s supplements, in our guide to the UPenn essays.

 

If you’ve already drafted your essays, you can get free essay feedback from other students using our Peer Essay Review tool.

 

Recommendations

 

As you decide which teachers you would like to ask for recommendations, keep in mind that UPenn advises you to ask teachers who taught you in your junior or senior year in an academic subject (math, science, English, history, foreign language).

 

UPenn does not require any applicant to submit a letter from a teacher in a particular subject, although they do discourage you from asking two teachers in the same department. If you have further questions about rec letters, you can read more advice from UPenn.

 

Your high school guidance counselor will also write you a letter of recommendation. In addition to this letter, your counselor will also submit a school report. This provides UPenn with general information about your high school such as graduation rates, demographics, and course offerings, so that the admissions officers can better contextualize your academic achievements.

 

Mid-year Report

 

If you apply ED and are deferred, you must submit this update on your academic performance by February 15th. If you are an RD applicant, submit this as soon as your mid-year grades are available.

 

Final Report

 

If you are accepted to UPenn and decide to attend, you must submit your final senior year grades by June.

 

Optional Alumni Interview

 

UPenn is typically able to offer an interview to over 90% of applicants, but if you are not contacted by an alum, don’t worry—it doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of your application, but with the availability of UPenn’s interviewers.

 

If you are offered an interview, however, you should absolutely take advantage of this opportunity to elaborate on and add to your application. Interviews are also a chance for you to ask a UPenn alum any questions you have about the school.

 

Due to COVID-19, all interviews will be conducted virtually this year. If you have further questions about interviews, you can read more about the process on UPenn’s website.

 

When Will You Hear Back?

 

ED applicants will get a decision by mid-December, and RD applicants will hear back by April 1st, 2021. Keep in mind that if you apply early, you could get one of three replies: you may be accepted or denied outright, but you may also be deferred, which means your application will be moved to the Regular Decision pool and reevaluated during that cycle. While getting in after a deferral is difficult, it does happen.

 

There are also three replies you may get as an RD applicant: acceptance, denial, or the waitlist. You may be accepted off the waitlist at any time before the start of UPenn’s fall term, but if you are waitlisted you should still put down a deposit at another school, as getting off the waitlist is difficult. For the Class of 2024, 2,051 students accepted their spot on the waitlist, and only 101 were eventually accepted, so you don’t want to rely on this possibility.

Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.

UPenn Financial Aid

 

For a student living on campus during the 2020-2021 academic year, the full cost of attendance at UPenn is $79,635. However, almost half of UPenn undergraduates receive financial aid, with an average package of $54,314. 

 

Even better, UPenn commits to meeting 100% of a student’s demonstrated need, and to meeting that need without loans. UPenn is also need-blind during admissions for citizens or undocumented permanent residents of the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

 

If you have more questions about affording UPenn, we encourage you to check out our post on what it really costs to attend UPenn.

 

How to Apply for Financial Aid

 

For US citizens, UPenn requires four forms to apply for financial aid:

 

  1. The Free Application for Federal Student AID (FAFSA)
  2. The CSS Profile
  3. The UPenn Financial Aid Supplement (PFAS)
  4. Federal Tax Returns

 

For undocumented US residents and DACA recipients, UPenn requires the CSS Profile, PFAS, and your family’s federal tax returns. For Canadian applicants, UPenn requires the CSS profile, your family’s federal tax returns, and the Financial Aid Application for Canadian Citizens. For other international students, you must submit the CSS Profile, PFAS, and a tax return or income statement from your country.

 

If you have further questions about any of these forms, you can learn more about them by selecting which type of applicant you are on UPenn’s financial aid page

 

For ED applicants, you must submit your forms by November 2nd, and for RD applicants the deadline is February 1st. You will receive your aid package the same day you get your decision from UPenn (mid-December for ED applicants, April 1st for RD applicants).

 

What Are Your Chances of Acceptance?

 

Although UPenn is one of the most selective schools in the country, some students have a much better chance of being accepted than others. If you would like to know your personal odds, based on your own academic and extracurricular achievements, we refer you to our chancing engine, which will let you know your chance of acceptance and what you can do to improve it.

 

If you would like to know more about UPenn generally, you can check out our UPenn school profile page, which has information about demographics, most popular majors, and more detailed admissions statistics. We hope you find our resources helpful as you work on your application to UPenn, and wish you the best of luck!

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Adrian Russian
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
Adrian is a current senior at Dartmouth College, originally from Seattle, WA. At Dartmouth, she studies philosophy and neuroscience, and has been involved with research in the philosophy department, sexual assault prevention on campus, and mentorship programs for first year students. She spent her junior fall studying abroad at the University of Edinburgh in Scotland.