Supplemental Components of the Application Process at UPenn
This article was written based on the information and opinions presented by Aja Altenhof in a CollegeVine livestream. You can watch the full livestream for more info.
Are you interested in the University of Pennsylvania? Commonly referred to as UPenn, this Ivy League university provides incredible opportunities to its students. Many things go into the application for UPenn, and you might be wondering how they all play into your admissions chances at the school. This article takes you through the supplemental components to the UPenn application and discusses how everything factors into your admissions decision.
High School Profile
Colleges like the University of Pennsylvania usually try to hit a target number of incoming students from specific regions. A regional admissions officer oversees each particular area and knows the basic details about the different high schools there.
Some high schools don’t have many applicants to UPenn. In this case, the admissions officer will rely on a school report or profile sent in by your counselor. This report will have details about the size of your high school, the academics and extracurricular opportunities offered, and more. It will help the college see how you’ve taken advantage of what was available to you.
If many people from your high school apply to UPenn, the admissions officer will already understand its profile and reputation. They might hold your application to a higher or lower standard, depending on different factors. If few people from your high school who are accepted end up choosing to go to UPenn, your application will face tougher scrutiny. Colleges care about matriculation rates, which refers to how many accepted students select their university over others they’ve been accepted to.
You don’t have much control over this component of your application, so you shouldn’t stress about it. It’s much more important that you’ve taken rigorous courses and have challenged yourself throughout high school. That’s what will impress a college admissions committee.
Demographic information is another element that you don’t have much control over. Like your high school profile, it doesn’t play a major role in admissions, but it’s still taken into consideration.
Race and gender factor in here, along with whether you’re a first-generation college student or a first-generation American. About 18% of UPenn’s Class of 2026 are first-generation college students, which is a pretty good amount.
Gender identity, sexuality, and certain special circumstances also play a role. If you don’t identify as cisgender or heterosexual, admissions committees take note of this. If you are low-income or come from a single-parent household, this can impact your application. The goal is diversity; admissions officers want to find a class of students who come from all kinds of backgrounds.
Essays are your biggest chance to make up for any imperfect components of your application. This is where you’re going to show UPenn why you belong at the school and why you’d be excited to attend.
The prompt for the personal essay seems like a classic “why this college?” essay. But UPenn also wants you to write supplemental short answers about your choice of undergraduate college and how the resources they offer fit in with your educational and career goals.
You want to be as specific as possible. Show who you are and what your journey leading you to apply to UPenn has been like. Then, you can bring up all the different things that UPenn offers and how you think that they’ll be able to help you pursue your goals. Make sure to specifically mention the particular resources they offer that you want to take advantage of. This will give the admissions committee a better understanding of what you’ll do when you arrive on campus.
You shouldn’t go too deep into your plans for the different activities that you’ll want to participate in, though. The next supplemental short answer prompt wants you to describe how you’ll explore the community at UPenn and how your perspective and identity will shape what you bring to the college. Outline a clear picture of yourself, and connect your past actions to what you’ll be doing in the future. Write about how you’ve supported your high school community, and then draw a line between those activities and what you want to participate in when you’re at UPenn.
Since colleges want as many accepted students to enroll as possible, they’ll be looking to see that you’re truly interested in their school. Applying for Early Decision (ED) and attending any University of Pennsylvania events in your area can help prove your interest.
If you know that UPenn is your first choice, applying for Early Decision will greatly help your application. The ED acceptance rate is 15%—much higher than the Regular Decision rate of 6%. College admissions officers look more favorably on ED candidates because they’re showing that they’ll commit to the university and boost their general enrollment rates. ED candidates are generally a bit stronger than those who apply during the Regular Decision cycle, so it’s slightly self-selecting. But it still helps your case to apply Early Decision if you know that UPenn is the college for you.
UPenn also hosts regional and local events. Your admissions officer will likely attend these. They’re going to be reading your application, so putting a face to the name will help you. You could also attend the Penn Early Exploration Program, which gives high school students a look into the academic and cultural life at UPenn.
Once you’ve attended these programs, you can use your supplemental essays to talk about what you experienced there. All of this will help show admissions officers how serious your interest is in UPenn.
There are final elements of your application at UPenn that can play a sizable role in your admissions decision.
About 90% of UPenn applicants get an interview. If you get the opportunity to interview, you should take it. You’ll probably be talking to an alumnus, so you can find out more about the university from someone who experienced it all firsthand. You also should use the interview as a chance to show your personality and why you’d be a great fit at the school.
You also have to send in letters of recommendation. These should come from junior- or senior-year teachers who know you well and can speak to your strengths and successes. You should seek out teachers from core classes and find at least one teacher from the field of study that you’re looking to pursue. They shouldn’t all teach the same subject, however. You want to show that you’ve done well across multiple subjects.
There’s always an element of luck in college admissions. But when you know how to take on all parts of your application to UPenn, you’ll have a better chance of succeeding at each component and getting your acceptance letter.