how to get into UPenn

The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn or Penn) is one of the most prestigious institutions of higher education in the United States as well as all over the globe.

UPenn, which is ranked #7 in National Universities by US News, has a 6% acceptance rate. The Ivy League school receives more than 50,000 applications per year.

No minimum GPA requirement is set by the University of Pennsylvania’s admissions committee. The most successful candidates, however, have an average GPA of 3.9.

UPenn has holistic admissions, and some of the most important non-academic factors in the review process are personal traits, talent, and extracurriculars.

Planning on attending the University of Pennsylvania but fear that its very high selectivity level is going to get in the way?

Below are ten things you need to do in order to be accepted into UPenn:

  1. Achieve a 3.9 GPA
  2. Pass SAT with a 1500 or ACT with a 34 score
  3. Take at least 7 AP classes in high school
  4. Write your best Common App essay
  5. Prove your fit with Penn-specific supplementals
  6. Showcase your interests
  7. Obtain 3 glowing recommendations
  8. Demonstrate interest in UPenn
  9. Take interviews
  10. Apply early

4 Top Things That UPenn Looks For

There is no specific type of college-bound student that the University of Pennsylvania is looking for.

If truth be told, the Ivy League school itself says so, it enrolls students from various parts of the globe and an assortment of backgrounds.

However, it prefers candidates who are looking to develop as well as polish their talents and abilities within the learning environment that UPenn offers, which is interdisciplinary, practical and liberal arts-heavy.

It also has a penchant for those who are most likely to use their knowledge and skills for the betterment of the community.

1. GPA 3.9 or Higher

The University of Pennsylvania doesn’t have a minimum GPA requirement applicants have to meet to be considered for the review process.

The Ivy League school makes it clear that its admissions officers evaluate all the different elements of an application to have an idea of whether or not a candidate is likely to succeed in the program he or she is interested in.

However, considering the fact that UPenn is a highly selective postsecondary institution, as evidenced by its single-digit acceptance rate, a high GPA is one of the most important things applicants should have to get accepted.

In a few, we will talk about just how high your GPA should be to get positive feedback from Penn.

2. Academic Rigor in High School

The level of difficulty of the coursework of a student is what academic rigor is.

Because it’s a competitive school, the University of Pennsylvania leans toward teenage kids who pushed and challenged themselves throughout their high school careers by taking difficult college-level courses such as AP and IB classes.

According to the common data set (CDS) of the elite school, academic rigor is a very important factor in the review process — it’s on the same level as other academic criteria such as GPA, standardized test scores and recommendations.

UPenn’s website itself says that it expects candidates to have grabbed the opportunities their high schools offer.

University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine

It adds that it will also take into consideration an applicant’s high school profile for its admissions officers to best understand the types of courses, especially difficult ones, available to its attendees.

What Classes Do I Need to Take in High School to Get Into UPenn?

High school teens who are considering earning a bachelor’s degree at the University of Pennsylvania are encouraged by the Ivy League to take classes in core academic areas throughout the 4 years of high school.

The following are the classes being referred to by UPenn:

  • English
  • Social studies
  • Math
  • Science
  • Foreign language (a single language)

Generally speaking, having a balanced and advanced college preparatory curriculum can help make your application competitive enough for Penn.

However, different schools or departments tend to have different preferences.

For instance, admissions officers at Penn Engineering want to see applicants with strong preparation in physics and mathematics, particularly calculus.

Meanwhile, UPenn’s business school, the Wharton School, has a preference for candidates with strong preparation in mathematics, particularly calculus.

Does UPenn Accept AP Credits?

The University of Pennsylvania may award credit to applicants who took AP exams. However, while many colleges grant credit to AP exam scores as low as 3, UPenn grants credit only to AP exam scores of mostly 5.

Similarly, the top-tier school does not give credit to scores obtained from certain AP exams.

It’s important to note that the most credit that Penn can award to certain AP exams with a score of 5 is 1.5 credit units — most are equivalent to 1 credit unit, while a few are equivalent to 0.5 credit unit.

For instance, nursing students at the elite institution may earn a 0.5 credit unit for the subject NURS 0061 for getting a score of 5 on the AP Chemistry exam.

Other than for credit-awarding purposes, UPenn may also grant advanced course standing to admitted students who took AP exams in high school and earned high scores, too, thus allowing them to skip certain introductory-level courses.

3. SAT 1500 Superscore

Applicants to the University of Pennsylvania may choose whether or not to include their SAT or ACT scores in their applications.

Based on the Ivy League’s CDS, standardized test scores are very important role players in the review process, but only if they are available — otherwise, its admissions officers will not look for them and applicants won’t be placed at a disadvantage.

In the 2022 to 2023 admissions cycle, around 48% of all accepted students submitted their SAT scores while applying to UPenn. On the other hand, about 23% submitted their ACT scores.

Similar to most colleges, the Ivy League does not prefer scores from one standardized test over the other.

Later, we will talk about how high your SAT or ACT scores should be if you want to increase your likelihood of getting into Penn, so continue reading if the prominent school is at the top of your college list.

Does UPenn Superscore SAT or ACT Scores?

The University of Pennsylvania superscores SAT and ACT scores, albeit in different ways.

What the premier institution does when superscoring SAT scores is that it combines the highest EBRW score and Math score across multiple tests to come up with a composite score.

When superscoring ACT scores, meanwhile, UPenn considers the highest individual English, Math, Reading and Science scores across different test dates.


Although the Ivy League permits score choice, where students who took the SAT many times can submit only their best scores, it encourages hopefuls to submit their entire testing history.

Penn adds that it pays attention to the higher score each time applicants who took both the SAT and ACT decide to submit their scores from both standardized tests.

Is UPenn Test-Optional

Since 2020, the University of Pennsylvania has adopted a test-optional admissions policy, which means that applicants are not required to submit their standardized test scores.

Those who wish to submit their SAT or ACT scores, however, may do so. Meanwhile, those who prefer to keep their standardized test scores to themselves will not be put at a disadvantage in the review process.

UPenn’s test-optional policy applies to both first-time, first-year applicants and transfer applicants.

Should You Submit Your Scores to UPenn?

The University of Pennsylvania stresses that whether or not applicants should submit their SAT or ACT scores is a decision that’s purely their own to make.

It’s perfectly fine to withhold your standardized test scores if you are unhappy with them and feel that they do not reflect your academic achievements and college readiness.

On the other hand, you are welcome to have them included in your UPenn application if you are proud of what you have accomplished as a test-taker.

So, to increase your chances of getting admitted to UPenn only send SAT test scores 1500 or higher or ACT scores 33 or higher.

Scores lower than above will not help with admission.

4. Applications With Personality

Character or personality traits — such criterion is a part of the admissions process at the University of Pennsylvania.

But instead of simply being considered by the Ivy League’s admissions officers, it’s considered very important.

It’s for this reason exactly why UPenn has a holistic admissions policy.

Through the many different requirements candidates have to submit, the institution can determine which ones would contribute something new and different to the campus community.

Specifically, Penn is on the hunt for individuals who are inspired to emulate its founder, Benjamin Franklin, in using their knowledge, skills and talents to serve the community.

Due to this, you should refrain from holding back showing your personality through the different opportunities provided by the elite school to aspirants, from college essays, supplementals to extracurriculars.

How Hard is It to Get Into UPenn?

Getting into the University of Pennsylvania is not that easy. It’s no secret that the Ivy Leagues are some of the most selective postsecondary institutions on the face of the planet.

And among those 8 very selective schools, UPenn is one of the most selective.

UPenn acceptance rates over years

UPenn’s Acceptance Rate

As of this writing, the acceptance rate for first-time, first-year applicants at the University of Pennsylvania is around 6% only.

For reference, the acceptance rates at Harvard University and Princeton University, both of which are Ivy League schools just like UPenn, are 4%, making them the most difficult Ivies to get into.

With a single-digit acceptance rate, your application needs to be above-average to get an offer to enroll.

In the previous year, Penn’s acceptance rate was even lower. In earlier admissions cycles, however, the elite school has welcomed more students to its 600-acre suburban campus than usual.

The table below shows the acceptance rates for freshmen applicants at UPenn from 2013 to 2023:

Academic YearApplicantsAdmitsAcceptance Rate
2022 to 202354,5883,5496.50%
2021 to 202256,3323,3045.86%
2020 to 202142,2053,7898.97%
2019 to 202044,9613,4467.66%
2018 to 201944,4913,7408.40%
2017 to 201840,4133,7579.29%
2016 to 201738,9183,6749.44%
2015 to 201637,2683,78710.16%
2014 to 201535,8663,71810.36%
2013 to 201431,2823,83012.24%

How to Get Into Into UPenn

The University of Pennsylvania’s low acceptance rate of 6% can easily intimidate any college-bound teen, including above-average ones.

But it’s important to note that a small fraction of applicants do get into the Ivy League school every admissions cycle, and you could be a part of it, but only if your application makes it possible.

Getting into UPenn chart
Getting into UPenn

Let’s talk about the different things you may do to increase your chances of getting a UPenn acceptance letter.

1. Achieve a 3.9 or Higher Unweighted GPA

According to the CDS of the University of Pennsylvania itself, the average high school GPA of all first-time, first-year students admitted to the Ivy League was 3.9.

It goes without saying that you should have the same GPA or higher to get into the elite school.

Among those who were accepted, around 54% had high school GPAs of 4.0. Meanwhile, about 36% had GPAs of between 3.75 and 3.99. Up to 6% and 4% had GPAs of 3.50 and 3.74 and 3.25 and 3.49, respectively.

Most candidates who got an acceptance letter from UPenn were at the top of their graduating class — up to 93% of them graduated in the top 10% of their high school class.

At Penn, by the way, class rank is considered if the applicant’s high school ranks its students. Otherwise, its admissions officers will not look into the matter.

2. Pass SAT With a 1500 or ACT With a 34 Score

Besides the fact that the University of Pennsylvania does not require applicants to submit their standardized test scores, as discussed earlier, there is also no minimum SAT or ACT scores candidates who report their scores have to meet.

So, in other words, you can apply to UPenn and choose to submit your test scores no matter what they are.

Of course, since the institution is extremely competitive and the goal is to get an offer to attend it, having impressive SAT or ACT scores is important in making your application stand out.

Checking out the testing profile of the most recent admits lets you know whether or not yours are good.

Based on Penn’s CDS, the composite SAT score range of successful applicants was 1500 to 1570.

On the other hand, the composite ACT score range of accepted freshmen applicants was 34 to 35.

3. Take at Least 7 AP Classes in High School

Admissions officers at the University of Pennsylvania recommend (not require) taking AP classes because they are well aware of the fact that not all high schools in the US offer those college-level courses by the College Board.

But they will consider AP classes if available when assessing the rigor level of an applicant’s secondary school record.

Generally speaking, competitive schools such as UPenn expect applicants to have taken 7 or more AP classes throughout their high school careers.

It goes without saying, too, that the more challenging the courses completed, the better the application.

It’s also a great idea to take an AP course in each of the following core classes such as math, English and foreign language.

Took some AP classes but not that many because your high school offers only a handful of them?

Fret not — Penn will not take it against you. What’s important to the institution is that you grabbed whatever opportunity was available.

It’s also important to note that the Ivy League accepts IB classes just like AP classes.

4. Write Your Best Common App Essay

Application is a very important academic admissions factor at the University of Pennsylvania, and its CDS says so.

Your Common App essay (or Coalition App essay as UPenn also accepts the said platform) is one of the most personalized components of your college application, and Penn is interested to know what makes you different.

Needless to say, although the Common App essay should be between 250 and 600 words only (or between 500 to 650 words for the Coalition App essay), you should put plenty of time and thought into writing it.


However, unlike college-specific supplemental essays, which we will talk about next, you cannot talk about how you and UPenn are best fit for one another on your Common App or Coalition App essay because all institutions that you apply to by means of the platform of your choosing will be able to read it.

5. Prove Your Fit With UPenn-Specific Supplementals

Other than the Common App or Coalition App essay, you will also have to write a bunch of shorter essays when applying to the University of Pennsylvania.

All in all, you have to come up with the following UPenn-specific essays:

  • 1 personal essay (between 1,000 to 1,500 words)
  • 3 short-answer essays (between 150 to 200 words)

Just how important are these Penn-specific essays?

Well, according to the Ivy League school itself, it reads every word that you write because it wants to have an idea of what you might bring to the community, including your creativity and perspective.

6. Showcase Your Interests (EAs)

It’s true that the University of Pennsylvania likes to know how applicants perform inside the classroom. However, the Ivy League school is also interested in knowing what they are like outside the classroom.

Due to this, extracurricular activities are an important part of the review process.

Admissions officers take a look at the Activities section of the Common App or Coalition App to have an idea of some of the things that candidates are excited or passionate about as well as what sort of responsibilities they have at home and what kinds of pursuits they go for to contribute something to the community.

Penn, however, suggests that applicants indicate the amount of time they have spent on each EA for them to have a glimpse into the depth of their involvement and the potential impact they have made.

It adds, too, the importance of indicating the specific roles played for each activity mentioned.

What Extracurricular Activities Do I Need to Get Into UPenn?

The University of Pennsylvania itself confirms that it’s not looking for a predetermined list of EAs.

Instead, it wants candidates to be themselves, thus allowing its admissions officers to learn how they spend their time.

This prestigious school also reminds them to include not only school-related activities but also those outside the campus.

Some examples are family duties, part-time work, community experiences and summer adventures.

7. Obtain 3 Glowing Recommendations

All first-time, first-year applicants to the University of Pennsylvania are required to submit a total of 3 letters of recommendation, each of them coming from on- and also off-campus authorities.

Let’s take a look at all 3 recommendations UPenn requires:

  • 1 counselor recommendation
  • 1 teacher recommendation
  • 1 other recommendation

According to Penn’s admissions officers themselves, they would like to see a teacher recommendation from an instructor that you had most recently as well as taught you a core academic subject.

The other recommendation, meanwhile, may come from another teacher (who taught you a different core subject) or a non-academic individual who knows you personally and can add information not found elsewhere on your application.

Some examples include your coach, mentor, work supervisor and spiritual or cultural leader.

8. Demonstrate Interest in UPenn

First things first: the University of Pennsylvania does not consider an applicant’s demonstrated interest in the review process, as made clear by both its CDS and the Penn Admissions Help page of its website.

Still, as a candidate, you could benefit tremendously from having enough interest in the Ivy League school.

Taking a campus tour, for instance, lets you have an idea of the things that make you and UPenn a match made in heaven.

Due to this, you may specify them in your supplemental essays, which are important components of your application.

Applying early, which is a form of demonstrated interest, may also increase your admissions chances.

In a few, we will talk about early application as something that can help you get into Penn, so keep reading!

9. Take Interviews

The University of Pennsylvania conducts alumni interviews, which allows the school to learn more about applicants as well as allow applicants to learn more about their top-choice Ivy League school.

More than 90% of candidates are interviewed, depending on the availability of volunteer alumni members.

Various admissions factors are considered very important by Penn, including GPA, college essays and personal qualities.

While interviews are also a part of the review process, it doesn’t carry as much weight as the rest of the criteria.

As a matter of fact, those who are invited to an alumni interview may decline, although UPenn asks them to respond to their respective interviewers explaining why they cannot take part in it.

Does UPenn Require an Interview?

It’s true that an interview is taken into account in the admissions process. However, it’s not a requirement.

Still, the University of Pennsylvania says itself that it strongly encourages applicants invited to an alumni interview to grab the opportunity.

But it stresses, too, that not having an interview won’t put an applicant at a disadvantage in admissions.

10. Apply Early

At many colleges, early applicants have a special place in the hearts of admissions officers. That’s because they are very much likely to matriculate if accepted, which is great for the school’s yield rate — the percentage of admits who enroll.

Needless to say, applying early may increase your likelihood of getting into the University of Pennsylvania, and the figures on the elite institution’s CDS serve as proof.

According to the CDS of UPenn, a total of 7,794 college-bound teens applied early. Of those, 1,210 were accepted.

Doing the math, the early acceptance rate for the said admissions cycle was 15.52%.

But don’t just apply early to Penn if you want to enjoy increased admissions chances — apply earlier than your classmates by submitting an application that’s also more competitive than theirs.

What Are UPenn’s Application Deadlines?

The University of Pennsylvania only has 2 admission plans: early decision and regular decision.

Unlike most other top-tier postsecondary institutions, UPenn has no other ED round, just the one whose deadline is November 1.

On the other hand, its RD deadline is January 5.

The following are the notifications of decision per admission plan:

  • Early decision – Mid-December
  • Regular decision – April

Is UPenn a Good School for You?

Everyone knows that the University of Pennsylvania is a good school because it’s an Ivy League and a highly ranked institution of higher education year after year.

However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s a good school for each degree-seeking teen — being a good school doesn’t automatically make it a good-fit school.


Before you apply to UPenn, make sure that it has the particular program and overall college experience you want.

It should also meet various other important criteria, from the cost of attendance, location, extracurriculars to career services.

What UPenn is Known For

In addition to being an Ivy League school, the University of Pennsylvania is also referred to as the Social Ivy.

That’s because its students have very active lives outside the classroom — they actively participate in all kinds of extracurricular activities as well as various fraternities and sororities and co-ed clubs and organizations.

Needless to say, UPenn is a party school.

So much so that Niche ranks the prominent institution #43 in Top Party Schools in America and #3 in Top Party Schools in Pennsylvania.

Penn is also known for its One University policy.

The said policy, simply put, allows undergraduate students to take classes across the Ivy League’s different schools, with the exception of its medical, veterinary and dental schools.

As a result, those who are working on a bachelor’s degree are provided with the opportunity to enjoy a well-rounded education with a solid foundation in the liberal arts and sciences.

Here are the 4 UPenn schools whose courses are accessible to undergraduates:

  • The College of Arts and Sciences
  • Penn Engineering
  • School of Nursing
  • The Wharton School

At the University of Pennsylvania, undergraduate students can choose from almost 100 majors across the schools mentioned above. Below are some of the most popular of those majors:

  • Finance
  • Economics
  • Management sciences and information systems
  • Philosophy
  • Nursing
  • Business
  • Information science
  • Biology
  • Political science and government

Of course, some of the most highly-ranked undergraduate degree programs at Penn include engineering programs and, most especially, business-related ones such as accounting, finance and international business.

Schools Like UPenn, But Less Competitive

Being an Ivy League school, it isn’t surprising that the University of Pennsylvania is hard to get into.

Other than UPenn, there are a few other institutions of higher education also located in Pennsylvania that have low acceptance rates.

Swarthmore College is one of them. Ranked #4 in National Liberal Arts Colleges by US News, it accepts only around 8% of all applicants per admissions cycle. Another is Carnegie Mellon University.

Regarded as a New Ivy and with a #22 in National Universities ranking by US News, it has an acceptance rate of 14%.

It’s a good thing that there are schools that are often compared with UPenn but less selective.

And some of those that you might want to consider adding to your college list are the following 15 institutions:

InstitutionAcceptance RateUS News Ranking
University of California, Berkeley15%#20 in National Universities
University of Notre Dame15%#18 in National Universities
Wellesley College16%#5 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
Haverford College18%#18 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
Boston College19%#36 in National Universities
Washington and Lee University19%#11 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
University of Michigan – Ann Arbor20%#25 in National Universities
Vassar College20%#13 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
University of Virginia21%#25 in National Universities
Villanova University25%#51 in National Universities
Bucknell University35%#37 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
Franklin & Marshall College38%#39 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
Bryn Mawr College39%#31 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
Lafayette College41%#39 in National Liberal Arts Colleges
Pennsylvania State University58%#77 in National Universities
Colleges Similar to UPenn

UPenn Transfer Requirements

While certain students currently working on an undergraduate degree at other institutions of higher education are welcome to apply to the University of Pennsylvania, it’s much harder for them to earn any available slot at this prestigious school.

As a matter of fact, the acceptance rate for transferees is slightly lower — 5% vs. 6%.

The figure given above is based on the CDS of UPenn, where a total of 3,513 individuals applied as transfer students, although only 185 got accepted.

Of all admits, only 112 actually enrolled.

Just because someone is enrolled at another college doesn’t mean right away that he or she is eligible to apply to Penn as a transferee.

To qualify as a transfer applicant, the student must have completed at least 1 year but no more than 2 years of college by the time he or she gets admitted to the Ivy League.

Unfortunately for them, though, they can attend the institution in the fall term only.

Similar to first-time, first-year applicants, transfer applicants can apply to the University of Pennsylvania either via the Common App or Coalition App. Per admissions cycle, they should use only a single platform.

Also similar to freshmen applicants is that the Ivy League’s test-optional admissions policy applies to transfer applicants, too.

But it’s important for those who wish to report their standardized test scores that only SAT and ACT scores taken within the past 5 years are accepted by UPenn’s admissions officers.

The following are the requirements for students applying to Penn as transferees:

  • Application fee ($75) or a fee waiver for those who qualify
  • Common App or Coalition App with college essay
  • Penn-specific supplementals
  • Official high school transcript
  • Official college transcript
  • College report
  • Midterm report
  • Letters of recommendation (2 teacher recommendations or 1 teacher recommendation plus another)

The deadline for transfer applications to UPenn is March 15.

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