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Have you ever dreamt about joining the ranks of Quakers? If so, you’re in the right place. *Note: “Quaker” is the nickname for students and alumni of the University of Pennsylvania.

Founded by Benjamin Franklin, UPenn has stood for over 250 years and is still influenced by Franklin, who once noted, “Well done is better than well said. ” UPenn is still very proud of its tradition of “translating knowledge into social-minded action” today.

The University of Pennsylvania, or UPenn as some call it, is a historic Ivy League research university with notable graduates, including Noam Chomsky, John Legend, Elon Musk, and Warren Buffett.

In this post, we’ll explore UPenn’s ranking, the level of competition for admissions, what the University looks for in applicants, essential application components, key deadlines, and tips to maximise your chances of success.

What is the ranking of the University of Pennsylvania? 

According to U.S. News & World Report, UPenn’s 2024 ranking places it as the #6 best institution among national universities, #13 best value schools, and #1 in business programs.

On the Times Higher Education 2024 World University Ranking, UPenn ranks 16th, slightly lower than its 13th and 14th positions in 2022 and 2023, respectively. 

On the QS World University Rankings, it’s currently ranked as the 12th best tertiary institution globally. Its 2024 rank is one place above its 2023 ranking of 13th and four places above its 2021 ranking of 16th. 

UPenn provides its 10,000+ undergraduates and 13,000+ graduate students with cutting-edge business, law, and medicine education.

How hard is it to get into the University of Pennsylvania?

As one of the top Ivy League schools in the U.S. and one of the best schools in the world, UPenn takes a lot of work to get into. Its acceptance rate is often between 5% and 7%, meaning it only accepts about 5 to 7 applicants for every 100 people who apply. 

Of the 59,465 applications Penn received for admission to the Class of 2027, only 3,489, or 6 percent, were offered admission. 

UPenn’s acceptance rate is already in the single-digit percentage, the number of applicants is expected to increase by about 33% from 2022 to 2027. This means that your application needs to be exceptional in order to get into UPenn.

Nevertheless, you shouldn’t give up hope. You can strengthen your chances by working on your profile. We will discuss more on how to improve your profile shortly.

Is it hard for international students to get into the University of Pennsylvania?

In 2023, 13,309 international students sought admission to the University of Pennsylvania’s graduate schools, with 419 (3.1 percent) receiving acceptance offers. 

In Fall 2023, Penn had 6,887 international students enrolled across all levels. This means that, despite the 6% selective acceptance rate, foreign learners have a reasonable chance of admission.

Among the international students at UPenn, students from south Asia account for around 35% of the international student population, particularly from China, South Korea, and India. 

UPenn’s diversity and inclusion will allow foreign aspirants to interact with people from across the globe, and the comprehensive programmes will assist them in building the skills and knowledge required to achieve both in their personal lives and professionally.

What is UPenn looking for? 

UPenn’s admissions office selection process ensures that applicants and the school complement each other. To determine whether you and UPenn fit together, explore which of the four undergraduate schools you intend to apply to. 

UPenn undergraduate schools consist of the College of Art and Sciences, Penn Engineering, the School of Nursing, and The Wharton School.

To stand a chance, UPenn recommends having a solid foundation in the following core academic areas:

  • English
  • Social studies
  • Maths
  • Science
  • Foreign language

Having a solid foundation in the above subjects is great, but like we said, beyond academic excellence, the University wants to know if you will both make a great team. 

Therefore, they favour students who aspire to develop and refine their talents and abilities within Penn’s liberal arts-based, practical, and interdisciplinary learning environment.

They want to work with students who emulate their founder, Benjamin Franklin, by applying their knowledge in “service to society.” Hence, ask yourself if you align with this mission and these values. 

As mentioned above, UPenn’s undergraduate schools consist of the College of Art and Sciences, the School of Nursing, Penn Engineering, and The Wharton School. 

For those seeking admission into specific programs, below are Program-specific attributes for students applying: 

  • The Wharton School: You don’t need substantial commercial experience to improve your chances of admission to UPenn’s prestigious Wharton Business School, but demonstrated leadership is preferred.
  • Huntsman Program: A multicultural college profile and foreign language background can help you stand out to admissions officers for UPenn’s dual-degree business and international affairs program.
  • The Jerome Fisher Program: Competitive applicants for this dual-degree program in engineering and business should have STEM experience equivalent to MIT’s.
  • The Vagelos Program: Applicants to this dual-degree program that combines life sciences and business should consider having similar patient care experiences as those applying to accelerated medical care programs.

What do you need on your application to get into Upenn?

With a single-digit acceptance rate and a rise in the number of applicants year by year, it’s clear that getting into UPenn is getting tougher. 

UPenn’s admissions officers meticulously review each application, looking for academically smart students who are also involved in service-focused extracurricular activities.

To get into UPenn, Here’s what you’ll need on your application:

High school GPA

You need a strong GPA to gain admission into any University. The minimum requirement for UPenn is 3.25. However, meeting the minimum requirement may not be enough. 

According to UPenn’s Common Data Set for 22/23, 36% of admitted students had a GPA of 3.75 and above, and 54% had a GPA of 4.0. To improve your chances, we recommend aiming for a GPA of 3.75-4.0.

The profile of the high school you attended is also reviewed to understand your school’s grading policies and available classes.

Standardised test scores

While the University of Pennsylvania remains test optional for the 2024-25 application cycle, your SAT and ACT scores are considered. They can make your application stand out if you have high scores.

UPenn evaluates applicants’ test scores in the following ways: 

  • UPenn combines your top Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing score for the SAT with your highest Math score across several tests.
  • UPenn considers your top individual English, Math, Reading, and Science scores across several tests to calculate your top ACT score.

We encourage you to provide your test scores if you have fantastic SAT or ACT scores within the following ranges:

25th Percentile50th Percentile75th Percentile
SAT Evidence-Based Reading + Writing730750770
SAT Math770790800
ACT Composite343535
ACT Math333536
ACT English353536
ACT Science333535
ACT Reading343536

Source: UPenn’s Common Data Set 22/23

Extracurricular activities

Extracurricular activities form a crucial part of a UPenn application. Besides listing all your activities, admission officers also want to know how much time you spend on each activity and your responsibilities in the club.

This means choosing varied and coherent extracurricular activities rather than a single interest throughout your high school career is vital.

Leadership activities are always a good choice, especially if Wharton is your goal. 

Recommendation letters

To get into UPenn, you should obtain three letters of recommendation: one from a counsellor, one from a teacher, and a third letter that could be a teacher recommendation or a non-academic reference.

These letters of recommendation give the University selection officers a deeper personal picture of you as a student, allowing them to get insights that cannot be obtained solely from your grades or test scores.

Essays

The UPenn application requires three essays—one personal essay and two supplemental essays. These essays are critical as they showcase your identity beyond your grades and extracurricular activities. 

The admission office sees what you might bring to their community through your writing.

Successful essays can take numerous forms, including personal narratives, academic writing, and creative writing. The best essays uncover a student’s voice and unique perspective.

There is no correct way to write a college essay, but honesty is important. When writing an essay, you should also consider what you want to express about yourself and how you want to be remembered by the admissions committee. 

Read also: How To Write an Academic Essay? 9 Amazing Tips.

Transcript

UPenn requires an official highschool transcript as part of the admission process. Your counsellor should submit this on your behalf, but make sure to double-check it for errors or ambiguous course titles that do not accurately reflect the difficulty of your work.

For example, if you’re applying to the School of Nursing, you’ll want to let admissions authorities know you did AP Chemistry rather than simply “Science.”

Application deadline for the University of Pennsylvania

Applications for UPenn typically open in August. The Early Decision deadline is often in early November, while admission decision notifications are sent out around December. Students are expected to confirm their enrollment by January.

Regular decision applications also open in August generally and become due by January. Students can expect to get an admissions decision by April and are expected to enrol by May.

Note that the deadlines for UPenn’s graduate school programs vary widely, so always check the University’s official website for the most accurate and up-to-date information.

Tips on how to increase your chances of getting into Upenn

Want to get admitted into UPenn? Consider the following tips: 

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

UPenn considers GPA, class rank, and course vigour “very important” when making admissions decisions; thus, a competitive profile will include all (or almost all) A’s in the most challenging courses available. 

Applicants to Ivy League schools frequently have more than 12 AP classes on their academic resume.

Competitive colleges like UPenn often use the Academic Index (a distillation of an applicant’s academic credentials into a single number) to screen out under qualified applicants; therefore, having a high GPA is critical to having a strong academic index. 

Aim for a 1570 SAT and 35 ACT 

Taking the SAT or ACT exams is recommended because students who submit their test scores have higher acceptance rates than those who don’t. 

Remember this:

  • UPenn combines your top Evidenced-Based Reading and Writing SAT score with your highest Maths score across several tests to calculate a top score. 
  • For the ACT, UPenn considers your top individual English, Math, Reading, and Science scores across several tests to calculate your top ACT score.

Taking either test multiple times is an excellent way to improve your score and odds at UPenn. 

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

Are you curious to know if your SAT score is UPenn-worthy? We suggest submitting a score if it’s above the 25th percentile for accepted students (please refer to the table above). 

Write engaging essays

Your UPenn essay perfectly highlights your unique traits and how they’ll benefit UPenn’s campus. Address the application’s questions and be honest in your essays. You want to convince the admissions team at UPenn that you deserve a spot.

Your essay should: 

  • Provide insight into your personality
  • Demonstrate your writing skills
  • Highlight your unique qualities
  • Show your commitment to UPenn

Writing an essay can feel daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. A course like the Creative Writing Summer School by Immerse Education can help you hone your writing and research skills.

You can start an early practice using these Creative Writing Prompts For High School Students.

Get great recommendations

Letters of recommendation give UPenn a more intimate view of you as a student. They provide viewpoints that can’t be learned through grades and scores. 

Your teacher recommendation should be from someone who taught you recently in major academic subjects. 

Rather than just choosing a teacher who taught you in a course you did well in, find one who knows you well and can speak to your engagement in the classroom. 

In addition to your teacher’s letter, your other recommendation can be academic or non-academic (such as an athletic coach, intern, or research supervisor), but it must be from someone who knows you well and whose perspective can offer insight about you, not found in teacher recommendations.

Apply for early decision

The overall acceptance rate at UPenn is a single digit (6- 7%), which is considerably lower than the 15% acceptance rate for applicants applying via the school’s Early Decision program. 

Simply applying for Early Decision (ED) admission at UPenn increases your odds of admission. 

However, note that Early Decision is binding, and students accepted via ED must accept admission. If you’re considering applying for ED at UPenn, ensure you’re confident it’s the school you want to attend and that it’s within your budget. 

Choose the right extracurricular activities

Not all extracurriculars are equal in the admissions process, and the best way to understand their differences is through the 4 Tiers of extracurriculars. Let’s explore them in detail.

  • Tier 1 is super-rare activities that demonstrate enormous talent or achievement. Examples include winning a prestigious competition like the Microsoft Imagine Cup, learning a foreign language, attending a summer school, and more.  
  • 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 is the most common (and least impressive) extracurricular activity. These include participating in a club but not holding a leadership position or playing a sport or instrument without distinction.  

An ambitious application to a prestigious Ivy League institution like UPenn will feature at least one or two activities that fall into the top two tiers of extracurriculars.  

Is UPenn the right choice for you?

UPenn is a fantastic choice with many resources to ensure your future success; nonetheless, this top-tier school is not for everyone.

If you’re seeking a challenging and stimulating academic environment that values diversity, creativity, and excellence, UPenn may be a good fit. 

If you’re interested in business, law, medicine, engineering, social sciences, or the humanities, UPenn can help you gain cutting-edge knowledge and practical skills.

Ultimately, whether UPenn is the appropriate fit for you is determined by your individual goals, aspirations, and personality. Ask yourself what distinguishes UPenn from other universities and whether your goals correspond with its mission. 

If you believe another university would better fit your goals, consider applying to one of the other Ivy League schools.

Takeaway: Utilise these practical tips to gain admission to UPenn 

Getting into the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is highly competitive, but that doesn’t mean you should give up hope of gaining a seat in your dream Ivy League school.

Whatever your desired course of study, it’s vital to understand UPenn’s ethos and demonstrate a commitment to positively impacting society.

Working on your application profile can greatly improve your odds of admission. 

Start by having a high GPA, engaging in extracurriculars that highlight your interests, applying early, crafting a compelling essay, and securing genuine recommendation letters that showcase your commitment and character.

As you navigate this exciting phase, remember that Immerse Education supports you. 

Enrol in a pre-university summer program to acquire invaluable academic experiences, collaborate with peers, and benefit from experienced educators to stand out in the competitive pool of applicants.

If you are interested in joining a summer programme in Pennsylvania, register your interest here and start your journey towards academic excellence. 

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