Timothy Peck 6 min read 11th Grade, 12th Grade, School Spotlight

What is UPenn Known For?

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What is UPenn known for? For starters, it’s an Ivy League school that was founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin (who also served as the college’s president). The school ranks consistently in the top 10 universities in the country, and its rigorous admissions reflects this.

 

Here are the unique aspects of UPenn and what it takes to get in.

 

Overview of UPenn

 

Location: Philadelphia, PA 

Undergrad Enrollment: 11,800 

Acceptance Rate: 9%

Middle 50% SAT: 1470-1550

Middle 50% ACT: 34-36

 

UPenn’s admissions is highly-selective, but students applying to the UPenn College of Arts & Science (CAS) will find it less academically competitive than schools like Harvard, Yale, Princeton, and Stanford (although exceptional academics are still a must). UPenn values well-rounded students with excellent extracurricular profiles. 

 

Those applying to UPenn’s prestigious business school, the Wharton School, will need significant achievement outside of the classroom and ample leadership experience. Of course, to get accepted into the Wharton School, a student will also need outstanding academics. 

 

Unique Aspects of UPenn

 

What is UPenn known for? It’s often called the “Social Ivy”—students have active lives outside the classroom, and a “work hard, play hard” attitude permeates the campus. Don’t let the fun vibe fool you though, the school’s academics are rigorous.  

 

UPenn has 12 schools, four of which offer undergraduate studies: the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Nursing, and the Wharton School. The Wharton School is one of the best business schools in the world. In fact, we’ve ranked in #1 on our list of best colleges for business.

 

Wharton is known for its interdisciplinary education—at least one-third of Wharton students’ classes are in UPenn’s other undergraduate schools. Wharton prides itself on its flexible curriculum that allows undergraduates to pursue passions outside of the business world, whether it’s an interest in literature or political science. This educational approach prepares students for successful post-college careers in almost any field.  

 

What major is UPenn known for? The question is better phrased as “what majors are UPenn known for?”—30% of Wharton students pursue two undergraduate degrees from two UPenn schools, which are earned over the course of four to five years. Notable dual-degree programs at Wharton include: 

 

  • The Huntsman Program: The Wharton School and the College of Arts & Sciences provide this program that allows students to study business and international relations—preparing them to engage in a global world.
  • The Jerome Fisher Program: The Wharton School and the School of Engineering and Applied Science combine to offer this competitive dual-degree program in business and engineering—students will need MIT-level STEM skills to successfully complete this course of study.
  • The Vagelos Program: Another collaboration between Wharton the CAS, students in this program pursue coursework in both business and bioscience, making it an ideal choice for students who want a career in the life science and healthcare sector.

 

UPenn’s School of Engineering and Applied Science is often overshadowed by the Wharton School, but it shouldn’t be overlooked. Also known for its interdisciplinary approach, UPenn engineering offers several special programs in partnership with other schools, including disciplines such as management (M&T), energy research (VIPER), digital media & design (DMD), and information systems (NETS).

 

UPenn is also part of the Quaker Consortium, with other members Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Swarthmore. This partnership allows students at any of these schools to take courses and participate in extracurriculars at their partner colleges. 

 

Extracurriculars

 

Greek life has played a role in UPenn’s history for more than a century and a half (arriving in 1849) and is a contributor to the school’s reputation for being “social.” Roughly a quarter of undergraduates participate in the school’s 48 fraternities and sororities, which are a hub of UPenn’s party scene. 

 

The Daily Pennsylvanian is the student-run newspaper of UPenn. The DP was introduced in 1885 (under the name The Pennsylvanian) and has been published daily since 1894, with the exception of a disruption during World War II. More than 250 students work for the DP under the supervision of three professional staff members. 

 

The Social Planning and Events Committee (SPEC) is a popular student group on campus. A branch of student government, SPEC develops, plans, and organizes campus events, including Spring Fling and bringing famous speakers to campus. Trevor Noah, host of the Daily Show recently came to UPenn for a conversation thanks to SPEC. 

 

Founded in 2001, the Excelano Project—UPenn’s first and premier spoken word group—is a favorite among students. In 2007 and 2009, the Excelano Project won the College Union’s Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI) title. Excelano Project poets have been featured everywhere from the White House to Broadway to HBO. 

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Traditions

 

Spring Fling has changed in recent years but remains a steadfast tradition at UPenn. Started in the 1970s, Spring Fling was a weekend-long party held at the Quad featuring a concert (usually featuring a big-name musical act), games, and a variety of activities. Today, Spring Fling is held in Penn Park and is a single-day affair. 

 

Hey Day is a distinctly UPenn tradition dating back to 1916. On Hey Day, juniors put on custom-made red shirts and saunter down Locust Walk while carrying walking canes, and biting into flat-brimmed hats. There’s some debate over the origin of this tradition’s name, but some speculate that it’s because moving up from juniors to seniors represents the heyday of college life. 

 

UPenn’s Franklin Field is the oldest football stadium in the country (it was built in 1895) and home to one of the school’s strangest traditions. Between the third and fourth quarter of football games, UPenn supporters throw toast on the field. The tradition dates back to the 1970s when alcohol was banned and is an homage to the tradition of fans toasting and downing their drinks at the end of the third quarter. In a good season, as many as 30,000 pieces of toast are thrown!  

 

Dorms

 

About 5,500 undergraduates live on UPenn’s campus, the majority of which are housed in one of the school’s 12 college houses along with graduate students and professors. Each residential community is unique and has its own personality, activities, and traditions. 

 

In addition to college houses, UPenn also gives students the option to live in a program community. Program communities allow students to live with students and faculty who share a passion. Program communities include:

 

  • Arts and Well Being
  • Benjamin Franklin Scholars Residential Community
  • Biosphere: The Active Experience
  • Casa Hispanica: Spanish House
  • Creative Minds, Creative Souls: Music and Arts Community
  • Deutsches Haus: German House
  • Film Culture
  • First Generation, First Step
  • FYI: First Year Innovation Community
  • Goldberg Media and Communications Program
  • Huntsman Program for International Studies and Business
  • Living Cultures Program Community
  • Maison Française: French House
  • Mentors Program
  • Music and Social Change
  • Penn Women in Leadership
  • Perspectives in Humanities
  • Policy, Politics and Social Change
  • Research, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship
  • Science and Technology Wing (STWing)
  • Scientific Adventures
  • Study of Infectious Diseases
  • Women in Computer Science
  • Women in Science
  • Chinese House

 

Financial Aid

 

UPenn has a very generous financial aid policy. The school practices need-blind admissions for students from the U.S., Canada, and Mexico—that means a student’s financial circumstances are not factored into admissions decisions. The school will meet 100% of a student’s demonstrated need with grants and work-study, which do not require repayment and allow students to graduate unburdened by debt. 

 

Admission for international students is not done on a need-blind basis, although the university will meet 100% of the demonstrated need of accepted international students with grants, rather than loans, helping them graduate debt-free. 

 

Location

 

UPenn’s campus provides students with a unique opportunity. The campus itself is beautiful, historic, and at times feels like its own place. The “Penn bubble” is a real phenomenon. However, the neighborhood surrounding campus is filled with restaurants, bars, and shops and downtown is easily accessible for those who want to explore more of the city. 

 

An argument can be made that Philadelphia is the ultimate college town. It’s the sixth-largest city in the U.S. and offers everything a student desires about living in a major metropolis—it has great restaurants, fantastic museums, pro sports teams, and an international airport. For students looking for even more action, New York City is just a few hours away by car. Philly is also home to an abundance of colleges, including Temple, Drexel, La Salle University, and St. Joseph’s. Other schools like Haverford, Bryn Mawr, and Villanova are located just outside the city.

What are Your Chances of Acceptance at UPenn?

 

Like other highly selective schools, admissions at UPenn are extremely competitive, and while UPenn emphasizes extracurriculars more than other Ivy League schools like Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, you’ll still need a stellar academic profile for consideration. 

 

CollegeVine’s free chancing engine can add clarity to the admissions process. Our admissions calculator uses a variety of factors like GPA, SAT/ACT score, extracurricular activities, and demographics to determine your chance of admission at over 600 colleges. Our chancing engine also provides tips on how to improve your profile and boost your probability of acceptance.

 

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Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
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.