A Comprehensive Guide to Getting into the University of Pennsylvania

09 JAN 2023

The University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1740 by Benjamin Franklin, one of the United States’ founding fathers, eager to create a school to educate future generations. The university has 12 schools: 5 offer undergraduate and graduate studies, and 7 offer only graduate studies. Penn's highly-ranked schools include its world-famous Wharton School of Business.


The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn or Penn) is a private institution founded in 1740. It has a total undergraduate enrolment of 10,183, and its setting is urban in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. UPenn strongly focuses on interdisciplinary learning and research, offering double degree programs, unique majors, and academic flexibility. This means competition to study at the university is fierce, particularly at the undergraduate level.

A Day in the Life: University of Pennsylvania Student

What is the University of Pennsylvania’s Ranking in 2023?

US News & World Report ranked the University of Pennsylvania 8th in their Best Colleges 2022 edition. Upenn ranked 13th in the 2022 QS World University Rankings.

Notable rankings

  • #1 in Business Programs
  • #1 in Nursing
  • #14 in Best Value Schools
  • #21 in Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs (tie) At schools whose highest degree is a doctorate
  • #26 in Most Innovative Schools (tie)
  • #46 in Undergraduate Research/Creative Projects (tie)

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

UPenn is one of the hardest schools to gain acceptance. The university typically accepts less than 8% of applicants and admitted just 6% for the Class of 2025. While acceptance rates have decreased over the years, the number of applicants increased by 36% from 2021 to 2026. This means more competition for student applications to stand out as the numbers increase.

Acceptance Rates for the class of 2026

The class of 2026 at Upenn had one of the lowest acceptance rates of 6%, although a bit higher than the last year.

U Penn Acceptance Rate Last 5 Years
Class OfApplicantsAdmitsAcceptance Rate
202655,0003,3006%
202556,3333,2025.68%
202442,2053,4048.07%
202344,9603,3457.44%
202244,4823,7318.39%
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What kind of student is Upenn looking for?

The University of Pennsylvania is looking for academically strong, intellectually curious students who have a passion for learning. They seek students who have demonstrated a commitment to extracurricular activities and leadership roles and have a diverse background and unique perspective to contribute to the university community.

Additionally, they value students who clearly understand their goals and aspirations and have shown the initiative and drive to pursue them. U Penn wants students eager to engage in the academic and social opportunities offered by the university and who will make the most of their time there to develop into well-rounded and responsible individuals.

What do you need to get into Upenn?

As acceptance rates to Upenn drop and the number of applicants increase year-on-year, it is clear that it is getting tougher to get into the university. The admissions officers at Upenn perform a comprehensive review of each application and look for well-rounded students who do well academically but are also involved in activities outside the classroom. It is also important to show consistency in your academic and extracurricular success.

The comprehensive review consists of the following categories:

High School Preparation

When applying to Penn, students select an undergraduate in one of their four schools. Regardless of their major, students can take classes in all four schools to build a strong foundation.

Admissions officers, therefore, look for high school profiles that are well-rounded in terms of subject choices rather than heavy in one area. A strong GPA is essential to your application, and the minimum requirement is 3.25.

According to U Penn’s Common Data Set for 21/22, 88% of admitted students had a GPA of 3.75 and above, and 52% had a GPA of 4.0. To increase your chances, we recommend aiming for a GPA of 3.75-4.0.

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

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Testing

Officers also use standardized test scores to understand a student’s standing compared to their peers. However, during the 2021-22 application year, Penn did not require the submission of test scores.

Penn encourages students to provide their entire history of test scores and use a superscore combining the highest Math and English grade from different exams.

We recommend that you submit them if your GPA isn’t high enough or if you have good SAT or ACT scores within these ranges

SAT/ACT score ranges for recent U Penn admits:

U Penn SAT/ACT Score Ranges
25th Percentile7th Percentile
SAT Evidence Based Reading + Writing720770
SAT Math760800
ACT Composite3335
ACT English3335

U Penn's Common Data Set 21/22

Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities form an essential part of a Penn application. Besides listing all your activities, officers also want to know the duration of time spent on each and your responsibilities in the particular club. This means it is important to cultivate an activity throughout your high school career rather than have a one-off interest.

Leadership activities are always a good choice. Check out our ebook to learn more about what extracurricular activities can help you get into Upenn.

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Recommendation Letters

Penn asks for three Letters of Recommendation for all applicants – one from a counselor, one from a teacher, and one from a non-teacher if the student desires. All these Letters help the university better understand the student as a learner and about their time in high school. Penn suggests getting Letters from teachers who have taught you most recently and those in your preferred area of academic interest.

Essays

The Penn application requires three essays – one personal essay and two supplementals. You must complete the relevant essay prompts when applying through the Common App, you must complete the relevant essay prompts. These essays are critical as they showcase who you are as a student and what you will bring to the larger Penn community.

When you write your essay, ensure you read the question thoroughly and that you answer the question directly. During application season, you might be writing a lot of essays, so it’s essential to make sure your response addresses the question asked and that you are not just reusing material that is not relevant. And as always, check your writing and read your answer to revise and polish your essay.

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Interviews

More than 90% of applicants are allowed to speak to a Penn interviewer-volunteer. While not mandatory, these conversations help the university better understand who you are and also give the student a chance to ask any questions they might have about the university.

Supplementary Materials

For specific majors, Penn might ask for supplementary materials. These could be art or music samples or portfolios.

How this Math Student Got Into UPenn

Tips on how to increase your chances of getting into U Penn

1. Apply Early

Early admits have a higher rate of acceptance. For the class of 2025, the Regular Decision Admit rate was only 4.4%, but the Early Decision Admit Rate was 14.9%!

However, applying early is binding, meaning if you are admitted to Upenn, you are obligated to accept admission. If Upenn is your dream school, applying early can help your chances of gaining admission.

2. Take challenging courses

Upenn values high school course rigor, so taking challenging classes will help your chances of admission. Taking college-level courses in high school can give your profile a boost. Studying an international curriculum like the IB can also prove you are ready to take on college workloads.

Upenn recommends taking the following courses:

U Penn's recommended courses

One way to demonstrate academic ability is to take AP classes during high school. For students aiming for the Ivy League and Top 20 schools in the United States, a good target is to take (and pass) 10-14 AP classes throughout your high school career — or 3-4 each year. If your high school does not offer AP courses, you can take them online with Crimson Global Academy.

3. Maximise your extracurricular activities

Taking a variety of extracurricular activities is not always the answer. Make sure you participate in activities throughout high school and take on key responsibilities to demonstrate leadership skills as well. Add something to your high school profile with your extracurricular activities like coding, or you can even intern somewhere to show your interest in a field. Colleges want leaders, and extracurricular activities are the best way of demonstrating your abilities outside the classroom.

4. Maintain good grades

Upenn looks at your comprehensive high school profile. That means getting good grades only for a year will not cut it. You must consistently perform well in high school to maintain a high GPA. If you need help, seek tutoring options to ensure high grades.

5. Make your essays count

Your essays showcase who you truly are as an individual. Make sure you address the application’s questions and be honest in your essays. You want to ensure the admissions officer can see you are a good fit for Upenn.

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Is U Penn Right For You?

Upenn is an excellent option with many resources to ensure your future success. However, choosing the right university that suits your personality is essential to ensure your success. Choose Upenn for the courses that genuinely interest you and to study with professors you admire. Upenn is a great place to be among like-minded peers if you want a business career.

However, do not be discouraged if you aren’t admitted to Upenn. As we have seen, it is very tough to get into, and you should always be prepared with your safety, target, and reach schools to ensure you are applying across various institutions.

Final thoughts

Your admission application is the only way Upenn officers can get to know you. So make sure you have all the different requirements met and present yourself authentically. Make sure you understand Upenn’s ethos and consider whether you will fit into the larger university community.

While Upenn is tough to get into, you don’t have to go through the admissions process alone. Crimson Education is the world’s leading university admissions support company specializing in helping students gain entry to some of the world’s most competitive universities. Crimson Students are 4x more likely to be admitted to top universities like Upenn. Learn more through our Admissions Support program.

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