How to Get Into UPenn: Admission Stats + Tips

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What’s Covered:

 

The University of Pennsylvania (or, more simply, UPenn) is best known as one of the eight schools in the Ivy League, a collection of elite, extremely selective schools in the Northeast. Like the other institutions of the Ivy League, UPenn is also known for its long, rich history—founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740, it is one of the oldest institutions in the country.

 

How Hard Is It to Get Into UPenn?

 

UPenn is exceedingly difficult to get into, and only getting more challenging. Only 3,202 students were offered admission from a record-setting pool of 56,333 applicants for the class of 2025—resulting in an all-time low acceptance rate of 5.68%.

 

Of the 7,962 students who applied through UPenn’s early decision program, just 1,194 were accepted, setting a record-low 15% early decision acceptance rate. Although UPenn’s early decision acceptance rate hit an all-time low, it’s still significantly higher than its overall acceptance rate.   

 

While UPenn’s acceptance rate is incredibly low, your personal chances of acceptance may actually be higher or lower, depending on the strength of your profile. CollegeVine can help you better understand how you stack up against other applicants with our free admissions calculator, which uses your grades, test scores, and extracurriculars to estimate your odds of acceptance and give you tips on improving your profile!

 

Average Academic Profile of Accepted UPenn Students

 

GPA

 

The average high school GPA of UPenn’s class of 2025 is 3.90 and 96% of students graduated high school in the top 10% of their class. 

 

SAT/ACT

 

The middle 50% SAT score is 1460-1570 for UPenn’s class of 2025, and its middle 50% ACT composite score is 33-35. Of the admitted students who submitted standardized test scores, 65% took the SAT and 35% took the ACT. 

 

Class Rank

 

UPenn doesn’t report the class rank of admitted students. However, 96% of the class of 2025 graduated in the top 10% of their high school class.  

 

What is UPenn Looking for?

 

Simply having great grades and superb standardized test scores is not enough to earn admission to a highly selective school such as UPenn, since nearly every applicant is academically qualified. In addition to excellent academics, UPenn subjects applications to a comprehensive review, looking for students who are inspired to emulate its founder Benjamin Franklin by serving society—including the university’s community, the city of Philadelphia, and the broader world.

 

What UPenn is looking for in a student and the competitiveness of admission is dependent on which program you are applying to. UPenn’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) is less academically competitive than HYPSM and places an emphasis on extracurricular activities and admitting well-rounded students. 

 

Other programs at UPenn are looking for particular attributes in a student. For example:

 

  • The Wharton School: You don’t need extensive business experience to increase your odds of admission at UPenn’s renowned Wharton business school, but demonstrated leadership is a desirable attribute.
  • Huntsman Program: A multicultural college profile and experience with other languages will help catch the eye of admissions officers for entry into UPenn’s dual-degree program for business and international relations.
  • The Jerome Fisher Program: Competitive applicants to this engineering and business dual-degree program will have MIT-level STEM experience.
  • The Vagelos Program: Applicants to this dual-degree program integrating life sciences and businesses will want to have similar patient care experiences as those applying to accelerated medical care programs. 


How UPenn Evaluates Applications

 

According to their 2020-2021 Common Data Set, UPenn considers the following factors “very important”:

 

  • Course rigor
  • GPA
  • Class rank
  • Test scores
  • Essay
  • Recommendation letters
  • Character/personal qualities 

 

These factors are “important”:

 

  • Class rank
  • Interview 
  • Talent/ability

 

These are “considered”:

 

  • First generation
  • Alumni/ae relation
  • Geographical residence
  • State residency 
  • Racial/ethnic status
  • Volunteer work
  • Work experiences 
  • Level of interest 

 

And these are “not considered”:

 

  • Religious affiliation

 

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.

 

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into UPenn 

 

1. Achieve at least a 3.9 GPA while taking the most challenging classes available

 

UPenn considers GPA, class rank, and course vigor “very important” when making admissions decisions; consequently, a competitive profile will contain all (or mostly all) As in the most challenging courses available. Applicants to an Ivy League school often have upwards of 12 AP classes on their academic resume.

 

Competitive colleges that receive an enormous amount of applications, like UPenn, often use the Academic Index (a distillation of an applicant’s academic credentials into a single number) to cull under-qualified applicants. A high GPA is a very important step to having a strong Academic Index. If your grades are low and you’re early in your high school career, check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it’s harder to increase your GPA—the easiest way to improve your Academic Index is to get higher test scores.

 

2. Aim for a 1570 SAT and 35 ACT 

 

The middle 50% SAT score at UPenn is 1460-1570 and the middle 50% ACT score is 33-35. Any score in the middle 50% is acceptable, but the higher on these ranges you score, the better your odds of admission become. 

 

UPenn instituted a test-optional policy for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle due to the disruption caused by COVID-19 and has extended that policy for 2021-2022. It’s recommended that you take either the SAT or ACT if you can do so safely. Students who submit test scores have higher acceptance rates than those that don’t. Wondering if your score is UPenn worthy? CollegeVine suggests submitting a score if it’s above the 25th percentile for accepted students. Students can get recommendations on whether or not they should apply test-optional using our free chancing engine. 

 

UPenn will combine your highest Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing SAT score with your highest Math SAT score across multiple tests to calculate a super score. For the ACT, they will use your highest individual English, Math, Reading, and Science scores across multiple tests to calculate a super score composite. Taking either test multiple times is an excellent way to improve your score and odds at UPenn. 

 

To improve your SAT/ACT score, check out these free CollegeVine resources:

 

 

3. Write engaging essays

 

UPenn considers both application essays and character/personal qualities “very important” when making admissions decisions. The two factors are easily linked, as essays provide the perfect platform for highlighting your unique traits and how they’ll benefit UPenn’s campus. 

 

In addition to a personal essay, UPenn applicants are prompted to answer two UPenn-specific essays: 

 

  • Considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected, how will you explore your academic and intellectual interests at The University of Pennsylvania? (300-450 words)
  • At Penn, learning and growth happen outside of the classroom, 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)

 

The UPenn essay is a place to separate yourself from the competition. In general, make sure you write in an authentic voice and highlight how you’ll fit in on campus when writing your essays. For more UPenn-specific essay advice, check out our article, “How to Write the UPenn Supplemental Essays 2021-2022.”

 

4. Get great recommendations

 

Recommendations are an integral part of the UPenn application and are considered “very important.” UPenn requires that you submit a high school counselor/advisor letter as well as two letters of recommendation from your teachers—ideally, they’re instructors you know well, from your junior or senior year, in core academic subjects. 

 

UPenn also accepts an optional recommendation letter from someone other than a teacher, such as an athletic coach, internship or research supervisor, boss at a part-time job, or local clergy member. These letters are only impactful if the writer knows you personally, can write specifically about you, and can offer insight about you not found in teacher recommendations. 

 

Asking a teacher to write a recommendation letter is a big request; teachers don’t get paid to write them and likely have been asked by more than one student. Ensure you get a compelling letter by following the nine rules for requesting a letter of recommendation.

 

5. Apply Early Decision

 

The overall acceptance at UPenn is just 5.68%, which is substantially lower than the 15% acceptance rate for students applying through the school’s early decision program. Simply applying early decision at UPenn provides a big boost to your odds of admission. 

 

Applicants are accepted at a higher rate through the early decision (ED) program at UPenn, but early decision isn’t without its challenges. Early decision is binding, and students accepted via ED are committed to attending. If you’re considering applying for ED at UPenn, make sure you’re certain it’s the school you want to attend and that it’s within your budget—because of ED’s binding nature, you’re unable to compare financial offers from other schools. 

 

6. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)

 

UPenn only considers extracurricular activities and talent/ability as “important” to admissions decisions, but they’re great ways to differentiate yourself from other applicants. Not all extracurriculars are equal in the admissions process and the best way to understand the differences between them is through the 4 Tiers of Extracurriculars.

 

  • Tier 1 are super-rare activities that demonstrate enormous talent or achievement. Examples include winning a prestigious competition like Microsoft Imagine Cup or attending a distinguished summer program such as PROMYS.  
  • Tier 2 activities demonstrate high levels of talent or achievement but are more common than Tier 1 extracurriculars. Tier 2 activities include playing a sport or instrument at an all-state level or serving as president of a well-known club, like Model UN. 
  • Tier 3 extracurriculars are less distinguished activities than those found in the higher tiers. Examples include playing a varsity sport or holding a leadership position in a club. 
  • Tier 4 are the most common (and least impressive) extracurricular activities. These include taking part in a club but not holding a leadership position or playing a sport or instrument but without distinction.  

 

 A competitive application to an Ivy League school like UPenn will feature at least one or two activities that fall into the top two tiers of extracurriculars. The idea of colleges looking for well-rounded students is a myth—the most competitive applicants have a highly-developed interest, known as a “spike,” rather than a collection of unrelated interests. 

 

How to Apply to UPenn 

 

Deadlines

 

Application Timeline

Deadline

Notification Date 

Early Action

November 1

December 15

Regular Decision

January 1

April 1

 

Application Requirements

 

UPenn accepts both the Common Application and the Coalition Application—and both applications also require the applicant to submit UPenn’s two supplemental essays. Other requirements include:

 

  • Official high school transcript
  • School report 
  • Counselor recommendation 
  • Teacher evaluations (2)
  • Mid-year report
  • Final report 

 

Optional and additional materials:

 

  • SAT/ACT scores
  • Additional letter of recommendation
  • Art/music supplement

 

Learn more about UPenn

 

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Short Bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.

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