How to Get Into Penn State: Admissions Stats + Tips
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- How Hard Is It to Get Into Penn State?
- Average Academic Profile of Accepted Penn State Students
- What is Penn State Looking for?
- How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Penn State
Known particularly for its flagship University Park campus, Pennsylvania State University is home to 24 campuses in total, scattered throughout the state. It was founded in 1855, originally as Farmers’ High School of Pennsylvania, and it is widely known as a prestigious public research university today.
So, how do you get into this “Public Ivy”?
How Hard Is It to Get Into Penn State?
In the 2020–2021 admissions cycle, 73,861 applied students applied to Penn State, and 40,031 were admitted, for an admissions rate of 54.2%.
Penn State is selective — one of the more competitive public universities — but your personal chances of admission vary according to your profile strength. To find out your real chances of admission, try our free admissions calculator. Not only will you find out your odds of acceptance, but you’ll also receive tips on how to improve your profile.
Average Academic Profile of Accepted Penn State Students
The average middle 50% GPA ranges for enrolled students are as follow:
- University Park: 3.56-3.91 (unweighted)
- All other campuses: 3.06-3.65
The average middle 50% standardized test scores for enrolled students are as follow:
- University Park: 1280-1450
- All other campuses: 1090-1300
- University Park: 29-33
- All other campuses: 23-30
What is Penn State Looking for?
At Penn State, selectivity varies according to campus, with University Park being the most competitive campus for admission. Some special programs are also more difficult to get into.
Your academic record is the most important part of your application, especially since Penn State does not consider factors like your application essay, recommendations, and extracurricular activities, unlike many other universities.
Also, pay attention to the requirements for high school coursework. These vary according to the individual college or school to which you’re applying.
How Penn State Evaluates Applications
According to Penn State’s 2020–21 Common Data Set, this factor “very important” in the admissions process:
- Academic GPA
This is “important”:
- Rigor of secondary school record
These are “considered”:
- Standardized test scores
- Alumni/ae relation
- Geographical residence
- State residency
- Racial/ethnic status
- Application essay (pre-med only)
These are “not considered”:
- Class rank
- Application essay
- Extracurricular activities
- Character/personal qualities
- First generation
- Religious affiliation/commitment
- Volunteer work
- Work experience
- Level of applicant’s interest
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Penn State
1. Achieve at least a 3.91 while taking the most challenging classes available
Many schools, especially large ones like Penn State, use the Academic Index, a metric combining academic factors, to evaluate applicants before considering other factors. Ensure you meet the minimum qualifications by attaining a high GPA.
Moreover, you should also challenge yourself by participating in the most rigorous curriculum available to you. If you have access to them, take several AP and honors courses each year. (Here’s some advice on how many APs students should aim for).
If your GPA is lower, and you’re earlier on in your high school career, check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it will be harder to increase your GPA, so the easiest way to increase your Academic Index is to get a higher test score.
2. Aim for a 1450 SAT and 33 ACT
Try to aim for the upper end of the middle 50% standardized test range — 1450 SAT and 33 ACT (University Park). It’s fine if you fall within the accepted average range, though, especially in light of COVID-19 test-optional policies. If you do have the ability to take the tests safely, we recommend doing so and submitting your scores if they fall at or above the 25th percentile.
Get recommendations on applying test-optional using our free Chancing Engine.
To improve your SAT/ACT score, check out these free CollegeVine resources:
- How to Get a Perfect 1600 Score on the SAT
- How to Get a Perfect 36 Score on the ACT
- More SAT Info and Tips
- More ACT Info and Tips
3. Apply Early Action
Early Action at Penn State is a non-binding plan that will allow you to find out whether you’ve been admitted before Regular Decision applicants. “If you tend to stress out more than most and have been dreading the college admissions process, applying early action may be the best way to make your senior year of high school as enjoyable as possible,” Penn State says.
While EA plans usually don’t offer the same advantage as Early Decision plans, they often do give you a slight bump.
4. Understand that different campuses and schools are more competitive than others
University Park is the most selective campus, and some special programs are more competitive than others. Review the requirements for individual programs and campuses, and consider alternatives, which may provide an alternate path for admission.
5. Consider Summer Session
If you are set on University Park, you can increase your chances of admission by indicating that you’re willing to start during summer session. Penn State will review your application and consider you for your first-choice semester initially, and if they are unable to offer you admission and you’ve indicated interest in summer session, they will consider you for this alternate start time.
How to Apply to Penn State
Rolling (apply by December 1 to hear back by January 31)
- Penn State application, Common App, or Coalition Application
- Self-Reported Academic Record
- Standardized test scores (currently optional)
Learn more about Penn State