How to get into the University of Pennsylvania
A private, Ivy League university that was founded in 1740, the University of Pennsylvania is a colonial school that was founded before the U.S. was established. This college is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and is steeped in history and tradition. It is a medium-sized university with an undergraduate enrollment of 10,183 students. The University of Pennsylvania is a highly selective college. If you want to attend this school, you will need to earn a top high school GPA and excellent standardized test scores. You will also need to write a very compelling essay and have engaged in extracurricular activities that demonstrate your extraordinary talents and abilities.
The University of Pennsylvania’s location in Philadelphia makes it ideal if you want to live and study in the midst of a large, vibrant city. Some of the notable graduates of this school include Noam Chomsky, Elon Musk, Sharon Stone, and Warren Buffett.
At Going Ivy, our admissions advisors answer many questions from people who are interested in attending the University of Pennsylvania. Want to know How to get into the University of Pennsylvania? To help you get the information that you need, we have answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the University of Pennsylvania below.
What GPA do I need to get into the University of Pennsylvania?
Students who dream of gaining admission to the University of Pennsylvania will need to achieve high GPAs while taking the most challenging versions of the courses offered by their high schools. According to the College Board, 90% of admitted students had high school GPAs of 3.75 or above. Only 6% had high school GPAs of 3.50 to 3.74, and 4% earned GPAs of 3.25 to 3.49. To be competitive, it is best for students to aim for an unweighted GPA of as close to 4.0 as possible or a weighted GPA of at least 4.13.
Try to get as close to a 4.0 on an unweighted scale as possible. If your high school weights GPAs for people who take IB or AP classes, take those classes and strive to get As in all of your classes. On a weighted scale, you should try to get a GPA of 4.13 or higher.
Taking the most difficult classes and earning As in them will look much better than earning straight As in easy classes. This makes it important for you to take the most rigorous curriculum of courses that you can during high school.
If you are having trouble comprehending the material in one of your classes, ask your teacher for help as soon as possible. Do not wait until later in the semester to get help, or you might get a poor grade. You can also hire an academic tutor to help you understand the material. Asking for help might allow you to save your grade and could potentially open you up to a new area of interest. A tutor’s help will only work if you are willing to follow his or her suggestions and work extra hard, however.
What SAT or ACT scores do I need to get into the University of Pennsylvania?
Achieving the highest scores you can on the ACT or SAT should be one of your goals in high school if you dream of acceptance to the University of Pennsylvania. Admissions statistics reported by the University of Pennsylvania for the Class of 2026 revealed that admitted students obtained the following scores on the ACT or SAT at the 25th and 75th percentiles:
- SAT Composite score 25th percentile – 1510
- SAT Composite score 75th percentile – 1560
- ACT Composite score 25th percentile – 34
- ACT Composite score 75th percentile – 36
The College Board provides this additional information about scores on individual subtests:
- SAT Math 25th percentile – 750
- SAT Math 75th percentile – 800
- SAT EBRW 25th percentile – 700
- SAT EBRW 75th percentile – 760
The College Board does not provide a breakdown of the individual subtest scores on the ACT. However, it does state that 91% of the admitted class who took the ACT scored from 30 to 36, and only 9% scored from 24 to 29. To put this information in perspective, the highest total score on the SAT is 1600, and the highest possible score on the ACT is 36. This demonstrates that you will need to earn a great standardized test score to improve your chances of being admitted to the University of Pennsylvania.
The University of Pennsylvania requires all undergraduate applicants to submit scores from either the ACT or SAT. It also recommends that applicants submit scores from two SAT subject tests. While the subject tests are not required, you should take and submit them.
It does not matter which test you choose since the University of Pennsylvania accepts both the ACT and the SAT. Both of these standardized tests include information that you should have learned during high school. However, there are some differences that you should be aware of when you are choosing the test to take. The ACT includes a science reasoning section, which the SAT does not. However, there are some science questions included in the reading section of the SAT. The ACT also gives you less time to answer each question than the SAT and has a shorter total testing time. You should take practice tests of both the SAT and the ACT. This can help you to decide which test might be a better choice for you. Some students perform better on one test versus the other. Other students perform equally on both tests.
After you choose which test to take, schedule regular practice sessions and increase the number of practice sessions as your standardized test date draws closer. You can get practice tests online from the testing companies or purchase test preparation books from major bookstores. Each time that you take a practice test, time yourself and take it in a room where you will not be disturbed. Review the questions that you miss to identify your areas of weakness. You can then concentrate on improving your weaker areas while building on your stronger areas.
A test preparation tutor can help you if your scores are not where they need to be. Test prep tutors are people who received top scores on the tests when they took them, and they can offer strategies and tips for improving your scores. You should also start practicing on the SAT or ACT as early in high school as possible so that you will have more time to increase your scores.
Sit for the SAT or ACT at the start of your junior year of high school. This will give you more time to prepare and retake the test if you need to improve your scores. If you achieve the score that you need during the first test, you will have finished an important part of your application to the University of Pennsylvania early so that you can concentrate on your grades and the other application components.
Another test that you should take is the PSAT/NMSQT. This test is used to select national merit scholars from among the pool of juniors in the U.S. who take it. If you are named as a national merit scholar, you will be awarded a scholarship. Since the process is very selective, it will also be a great accomplishment to report on your application to the University of Pennsylvania.
Is the University of Pennsylvania test-optional?
The University of Pennsylvania implemented a test-optional policy during the 2020 and 2021 admissions cycles in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. On Jan. 9, 2023, the school announced that it will extend its test-optional policy through the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. The school states that students who do not have the opportunity to take the SAT or ACT and/or who choose not to submit scores will not be at a disadvantage during the application review process. instead, the admissions office will consider other factors in their application files to determine whether applicants are a good fit for Penn.
What classes do I need to take in high school to get into the University of Pennsylvania?
The University of Pennsylvania wants applicants to have consistently taken classes in the core academic subject areas throughout high school, including English, math, social studies, science, and a single foreign language. You should also take the most difficult versions of the classes that you take.
The University of Pennsylvania understands that some high schools do not offer some of the required classes or AP classes. The admissions officials will review your school’s curricular offerings to evaluate the classes that you have taken. Try to take four years of English, math, and a foreign language. At a minimum, you should also take three years of social studies or history and three years of laboratory science classes. If you plan to pursue a STEM degree, you should take four years of laboratory sciences, including physics and chemistry. Your math classes in high school should also include calculus.
The admissions office will want to see that you have worked your way through a progressively difficult curriculum of classes during all four years of high school. Get help from your guidance counselor to choose the right courses so that you will be prepared to apply to the University of Pennsylvania.
If your school doesn’t offer some of the recommended courses, you might want to take courses through your local college. For example, if your school only offers two years of a foreign language, take additional classes in that foreign language at your local university or college.
Do I need to take AP courses to get into the University of Pennsylvania?
AP classes are not required by the University of Pennsylvania since not all high schools offer them. However, if your school offers AP classes, you should take them instead of the regular versions of the same courses. It will look much better if you have taken AP physics and earned an A in it than if you took regular physics at your high school, for example. If your school doesn’t offer AP classes or offers very few, it will not be held against you. The admissions officials will review your school’s profile and curriculum to see whether you have taken advantage of the most difficult classes available to you.
If AP classes are not offered at your high school, talk to your guidance counselor for help choosing the hardest courses that you can. You can also take courses at your local university or college to demonstrate your preparedness for college. Some schools also offer dual enrollment programs that allow you to earn high school and college credit at the same time. If your school offers those but does not offer AP classes, take them.
Does University of Pennsylvania accept AP credit?
The University of Pennsylvania may grant credit for AP exams, IB exams, and A-levels that you earned during high school. Your AP or IB exam scores must be sent directly to the University of Pennsylvania during the application process for evaluation. Any credit that you earn will be used to place you in more advanced classes. The school will not grant credit for college courses that you completed during high school or in the summer after you graduate. This is considered to be a part of your preparation for attending Penn.
Under the school’s current policies, you will receive the following course waivers or credits for specific AP exam scores:
- Art History – A 5 might waive the requirement for ARTH 101 or 102
- Chemistry – A 5 will provide one credit unit for EAS 091 for engineering students
- Computer Science A – A 5 will provide one c.u. for CIS 110
- Computer Science AB – A 4 or 5 will earn one c.u. for CIS 110
- Microeconomics – A 5 will waive Economics 001
- Macroeconomics – A 5 will waive Economics 002
- French language – A 5 will earn one c.u. for French 202 and will fulfill the language requirement
- French literature – A 5 will earn 1 c.u. for French 212 and will fulfill the language requirement
- French language or literature – A 4 will not earn credit but will fulfill the language requirement
- German language – A 5 will earn one c.u. for German 104 and will fulfill the language requirement
- Italian language and culture – A 5 will earn one c.u. for ITAL 201 and will fulfill the language requirement
- Italian language and culture – A 4 will earn no credit but will satisfy the language requirement
- Latin, Latin – Literature, or Latin – Vergil – A 4 or 5 will fulfill the language requirement; A 5 will earn one c.u. for Latin 204
- Mathematics BC – A 5 will earn one c.u. for Math 104
- Physics B – A 5 will earn 1.5 c.u. for Physics 101 and 1.5 c.u. for Physics 102
- Physics 1 – A 5 will earn 1.5 c.u. for Physics 101
- Physics 2 – A 5 will earn 1.5 c.u. for Physics 102
- Physics C (Mechanics) – A 5 will earn 1.5 c.u. for Physics 150
- Physics C (Electricity and magnetism) – A 5 will earn 1.5 c.u. for Physics 152
- Psychology – A 5 will earn a waiver of Psychology 001
- Spanish language – A 4 or 5 will fulfill the language requirement; A 5 will earn one c.u. for Spanish 202
- Statistics – A 5 will earn a waiver of STAT 101 or STAT 110
Do I need to take SAT subject tests to get into the University of Pennsylvania?
In the past, applicants were recommended to submit SAT subject tests but were not required to do so. However, the College Board discontinued SAT subject tests for both domestic and international students in 2021, so you don’t need to worry about them. However, if you took SAT subject tests before 2021, you could submit them if you would like them to be considered along with the rest of the information in your application file for the University of Pennsylvania.
Does the University of Pennsylvania super score SAT or ACT scores?
According to the University of Pennsylvania, it allows students to use score choice, but it prefers that you submit all of the scores that you have received on the SAT or ACT across testing dates. Score Choice is not the same as super scoring, however. Instead, it is a free option for the SAT that allows you to submit the highest SAT score across testing dates.
The school does super score both the ACT and the SAT. This means that if you submit multiple testing date scores, it will consider the highest score that you earned on each subsection of either the ACT or SAT.
What should I write about in my statement to get into the University of Pennsylvania?
When you apply to the University of Pennsylvania, you will need to submit a personal essay and answer the Penn-specific essay questions. The essay questions change every year, but you can review the questions when they are released on Aug. 1 during the year that you apply. You can see the questions that were asked during the 2019/2020 application cycle on the school’s website.
The Penn-specific essays will require you to answer two questions, including one essay of 300 to 450 words and the second essay of 100 to 250 words. If you are applying to one of the school’s specialized programs, you will also need to submit an additional essay for that program. The University of Pennsylvania states that when you apply to the school, you will be applying to one of its four undergraduate schools. It asks that you answer the Penn-specific essays for the particular school to which you are applying.
The University of Pennsylvania offers several tips for writing your essays. The school advises you to read the questions carefully to make certain that you are answering what you are asked. It also says that you should read through your answer to make certain that it is relevant to the question. Finally, the school advises you to polish your essay after you have written it.
When you write your essays, there isn’t a specific list of things that you should include. The University of Pennsylvania wants to gain a glimpse into who you are and the types of contributions that you have to offer. When you are writing your personal essay, talk about something that has shaped you into the person you have become. Write about the things that you value. Your personal essay and essay responses are not the places to list the accomplishments that you have included in other parts of your application. Instead, your words are how you can bring your application to life.
You should review the essay questions as soon as they are released on Aug. 1. You will have more time to think about how to respond and to begin writing when you check them early. Plan to write several drafts of all of your essays. After you have completed your first drafts, ask a teacher to review what you have written. Take the critiques that you receive and rewrite your essays until they are as good as they can be. Once you are finished, proofread everything. You don’t want to submit essays that contain typos or grammar mistakes.
Do not ask your parents or anyone else to write your essays for you. This is dishonest, and it could result in a denial of your application. The admissions officials at the University of Pennsylvania understand how to spot essays that have been written by people other than the applicants. If someone else writes your essay, it is doubtful that what makes you who you are will be apparent. It will also be a violation of the University of Pennsylvania’s code of ethics.
How selective is University of Pennsylvania?
The University of Pennsylvania is one of the most selective universities in the U.S. The school received 44,961 applications for the entering class of 2023 and accepted 3,346. This represents an overall admission rate of 7.7%. The University of Pennsylvania received 7,109 early decision applications and admitted 1,280 for an early decision admission rate of 18%. The regular decision admission rate was 5.7% out of 37,852 applications received.
These statistics reveal a couple of things. Overall, almost 93 out of every 100 students who applied were rejected. People who applied by early decision had a greater chance of being admitted. If the University of Pennsylvania is your first choice, and you have the GPA and test scores that you need, you might want to apply to the school through the early decision process.
What extracurricular activities do I need to get into the University of Pennsylvania?
There isn’t a specific list of extracurricular activities that the University of Pennsylvania looks for when it reviews applications. The school says that it wants to see your unique contributions and accomplishments in your chosen activities in both your school and your community.
The admissions officers will want to see that you have participated in activities that you are passionate about. The school asks for you to talk about how much time you have spent on each activity and to include detailed information about the roles that you had in each. Signing up for a large number of activities will not be especially intriguing. If you have participated in just a few activities but have excelled in them, that will be better. The school would like to see that you have held leadership roles and have contributed to your school, family, and community.
If you are a Division 1 athlete who is going through the recruitment process for the University of Pennsylvania, remember to keep your GPA up, and work to achieve the highest possible test score. The school may not move forward with your recruitment if you slack off in the classroom.
What enrichment opportunities will help me get into University of Pennsylvania?
Many students who intend to apply to elite colleges think that participating in expensive “enrichment” opportunities during their summers will improve their chances of gaining admission. If you attend an enrichment program that accepts everyone who is willing to pay the price, it likely will not help you. Any enrichment opportunity that you do participate in should be fairly selective and should be in your area of interest. For example, if you want to major in a STEM field, think about competing in the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair or another prestigious competition. These types of activities are worth much more on your application than participating in others.
You can also research enrichment opportunities that are available in your state at universities or colleges. Some schools offer intensive academic summer programs that can help you to delve into your area of interest more fully.
Who should I ask to write my University of Pennsylvania letters of recommendation?
The University of Pennsylvania requires two teacher recommendations. The school wants you to choose teachers from your junior or senior year who know you well and who teach in a major academic subject area. Pick teachers that you believe will write strong letters to support your application to the University of Pennsylvania. Make sure to give them plenty of notice so that they will have time to write letters for you. Your guidance counselor’s recommendation must also be submitted, so ask him or her well in advance of your application deadline.
You do not need to submit other recommendation letters when you apply to the University of Pennsylvania. The university says that when you submit too many supplements, it can detract from your application. However, if you do submit an additional recommendation, it should not come from another teacher. Instead, it should be someone like a coach or research supervisor who can talk about your personal qualities. If you do choose to submit an additional letter, it must be submitted through the Common or Coalition Application.
Does the University of Pennsylvania require an interview?
While an interview is not required, the University of Pennsylvania tries to offer interviews to most applicants and says that more than 90% of the applicants are interviewed. However, if you are not asked for an interview, you should not worry. It will not harm your chances of being accepted.
Once you submit your application, your contact information will be sent to alumni representatives in your area. Some areas do not have enough alumni to interview everyone, however.
On-campus interviews are not conducted. If you are chosen for an interview, you will be contacted by the alumnus who will conduct the interview. Promptly respond to an email asking you for an interview. The interview will either be conducted virtually or in-person, and the school weights both types of interviews equally.
Make certain to prepare for your interview by talking to other students who have gone through the process or by researching the types of questions that you might be asked online. Remember that your interviewer will be evaluating you. Dress appropriately and arrive on time. Bring a list of questions to ask your interviewer about the University of Pennsylvania. Don’t let your parents come to your interview with you. This will make you look like you are not ready for college.
After your interview is completed, the interviewer will write and submit an interview report to the school. Your interview report will be considered together with the rest of your application materials. If you are not offered an interview, your application will not be harmed.
What does University of Pennsylvania look for in students?
The University of Pennsylvania uses a holistic process to review applications. The admissions officials meet in committees to discuss the applicants and want to learn what is unique about you. Some of the qualities that the school looks for in students include the following:
- Academic excellence
- Intellectual curiosity
- What you are passionate about
- Your hobbies
- Leadership skills
- Potential to positively impact the school
The admissions officials want to understand who you are and why you would be a good fit for the school. If you want to be admitted to the University of Pennsylvania, you will need to show that you have a true passion for learning and a strong character.
Will visiting the University of Pennsylvania help me get in?
Visiting the University of Pennsylvania might indirectly affect your admission chances by allowing you to get to know the campus and understand whether it is the right school for you. However, if you cannot visit, it will not hurt your chances of admission.
If you do choose to visit, you must register in advance. The school offers information sessions that are conducted by the admissions officials and tours that are led by current University of Pennsylvania students. You can also sign up for a class visit or a lunch visit to dine with current students. If you cannot visit the campus, you can participate in the school’s virtual tour. The admissions officials also travel to locations across the country, so you can sign up to attend one of these events if you would like.
Does the University of Pennsylvania accept the Common Application?
The University of Pennsylvania accepts either the Common Application or the Coalition Application. Both applications are free and are available online. The school also participates in the National College Match program through QuestBridge, which is available if you have an economically disadvantaged background. In addition to your application, you will need to complete the Penn supplement.
While the applications are free, you will either have to pay the University of Pennsylvania’s application fee or ask for a fee waiver. If you qualify for a fee waiver based on your financial circumstances, it will not be held against you.
What are the University of Pennsylvania’s application deadlines?
The deadlines that you will have will depend on whether you apply through the early decision or regular decision process. The application deadline for the early decision process is Nov. 1. The deadline for the regular decision process is Jan. 5. If you apply through the early decision process, you will be notified of the University’s decision in mid-December.
For the early decision process, the last testing dates that are accepted are October for the ACT and November for the SAT. For the regular decision process, the last testing date that is accepted is December for either test.
You will also need to pay attention to the financial aid deadlines. The deadline for early decision applicants for financial aid is Nov. 4. The deadline for regular decision applicants for financial aid is Feb. 3.
If you choose to apply through the early decision process, you will be notified about whether your application has been accepted, denied, or deferred in mid-December. If it is deferred, it will be considered during the regular decision process. You should submit additional material that demonstrates your further accomplishments to be considered by the admissions office. If you are deferred and then accepted, you will need to make your decision about whether to enroll by May 1.
What can I do now to increase my chances of getting into the University of Pennsylvania?
The steps to take now to make it likelier that you will be accepted by the University of Pennsylvania depend on where you are in your high school journey. It is best to begin preparing as early as possible because of the school’s selectivity. If you are a junior or rising senior, you hopefully have already earned a high GPA and have pursued a rigorous course load throughout high school.
If you are a freshman or sophomore in high school, start by creating a goal plan. Your plan should include individual steps to accomplish your semester and annual goals. Check off each step as you accomplish it. Start using a schedule such as Google Calendar, and be sure to enter all of your tests and assignment dates. Learning to use a schedule and a plan can aid you throughout your life.
Strive to earn an A in all of your classes, and sign up for the hardest classes that your school offers. Take practice tests for the ACT and SAT, and choose the test that you are more comfortable with. Sophomores should take the PSAT/NMSQT to get an idea of what to expect when they take it during their junior year.
Get help in any class that you find difficult, and consider hiring a test prep tutor if your scores on the ACT or SAT practice tests are not where they need to be. Make certain that you work to build a great character and participate wholeheartedly in all of your activities inside and outside of school.
Beginning with your junior year, you should sit for the PSAT/NMSQT and start taking the actual SAT or ACT. If you are selected as a national merit scholar after taking the PSAT/NMSQT, it will look great to the admissions officers at the University of Pennsylvania. If you need to retake the SAT or ACT, taking the test beginning early in your junior year will give you more opportunities to increase your scores.
Your senior year is your application season. Meet all of your deadlines and continue taking difficult classes. Make sure to keep your grades up. The University of Pennsylvania will check the grades that you earn during your senior year.
How do I apply to the University of Pennsylvania?
To apply to the University of Pennsylvania, choose either the Coalition or Common Application. You should start early regardless of which application process you choose. Make sure to notify the teachers that you want to write recommendations for you in plenty of time, and start working on your essays as early as possible. Fill out your application and your financial aid materials, and submit everything well within the deadlines. The University of Pennsylvania offers a detailed application checklist that can help you to stay on track. Make sure to have all of your standardized test scores sent directly to the University of Pennsylvania.
Acceptance by the University of Pennsylvania is difficult, but it is attainable. You will need to work very hard every year of high school if you want to attend this school. If you are not admitted, your hard work and dedication will likely allow you to gain admission into a different school of your choice.
Going Ivy is a leading college admissions consulting company that has helped numerous students to achieve their goals of gaining admission to Dartmouth as well as to other schools in the Ivy League. This page was create to help you understand how to get into the University of Pennsylvania. To find out if Going Ivy can help you to achieve your college dreams, call today for a free consultation.