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A Comprehensive Guide to Getting into the University of Pennsylvania

14/12/202326 minute read
A Comprehensive Guide to Getting into the University of Pennsylvania

The University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) is particularly well-regarded for its programs in business, law, medicine, and engineering, with thousands of student competing for admission. it’s highly selective, receiving a large number of applications each year and accepting only a fraction of those who apply.

So what does it take to get into Upenn? In this blog, we’ll explore Upenn’s admission statistics, shed light on the type of student it looks for, and provide expert tips to maximize your chances of admission.


UPenn, located in the vibrant city of Philadelphia, stands as an Ivy League institution renowned for its rigorous academics, innovative research, and rich history. Founded by Benjamin Franklin in 1740, Penn has a distinctive blend of tradition and modernity.

If you’re wondering what it takes to get accepted into UPenn, you’ve come to the right place. Although there’s no guaranteed method for admission, there are certain steps and strategies that can boost your chances of success.

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 2023 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)

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

UPenn is one of the hardest schools to gain acceptance to. The university typically accepts less than 8% of applicants and admitted just 4.1% for the Class of 2027. While acceptance rates have decreased over the years, the number of applicants increased by about 33% from 2022 to 2027. This means that in order to get into UPenn, your application needs to be exceptional

The class of 2027 at UPenn had the lowest acceptance rate in recent years at just 4.1%.

UPenn Acceptance Rate in Recent Years
Class OfApplicantsAdmitsAcceptance Rate
202759,0002,4004.1%
202655,0003,3006%
202556,3333,2025.68%
202442,2053,4048.07%
202344,9603,3457.44%
202244,4823,7318.39%

What is Upenn looking for?

Top universities like Upenn look 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.

1. Academic Excellence

Admissions officers at UPenn look for individuals who not only demonstrate exceptional scholastic achievements but also showcase a genuine passion for learning and intellectual curiosity.

Students can challenge themselves and excel academically by taking rigorous courses, such as Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) courses.

UPenn is interested in more than just the numbers; they value students who engage deeply with their chosen subjects, contribute to their academic communities, value passion for learning beyond the classroom and engagement in activities such as research, internships, or independent projects.

2. Leadership and Community Involvement

Top universities like UPenn look for students who have pursued their interests and passions outside of the classroom and have demonstrated leadership and teamwork skills. UPenn looks for students who participate in activities that show leadership and reflect their commitment to their community. This could include leading a club, volunteering, or organizing community events.

3. Authenticity and Communication Skills

UPenn looks for students who have a track record of success, and can effectively articulate their values and skills.

Admissions officers want to see who you are beyond your achievements and qualifications; they aim to get to know applicants through their essays and letters of recommendation.

4. A Comprehensive Approach

It's important to bear in mind that UPenn employs a holistic approach in their admissions process, where they take into account every facet of an applicant's profile. Similar to other leading universities, UPenn assesses grades and test scores, but they also place significance on personal attributes like character, creativity, intellectual curiosity, and the potential for growth.

What do you need to get into Upenn?

As acceptance rates to Upenn drop and the number of applicants increase year by year, it’s clear that it’s getting tougher to get into the university. Upenn's admissions officers comprehensively review each application, looking for academically successful students who are also involved in extracurricular activities.

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

High School GPA

A strong GPA is essential to your application to any university, and the minimum requirement for UPenn is 3.25.

But meeting the minimum requirement may not be enough. According to UPenn’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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Standardized Test Scores

While UPenn remains test optional for the 2022/23 admissions year, your SAT and ACT scores are considered and can help your application stand out if you’ve scored well.

UPenn superscores applicants’ test results:

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

We recommend that you submit your test scores if you have good SAT or ACT scores within these ranges.

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

Source: UPenn's Common Data Set 21/22

Extracurricular Activities

Extracurricular activities form an essential part of a UPenn 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 choose varied and coherent extracurricular activities 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

To get into UPenn, it’s advised you request three letters of recommendation – one from a counselor, one from a teacher, and a third letter that could either be a teacher recommendation or non-academic recommendation.

These letters of recommendation give the university a more personal understanding of you as a student and help them gain insights that can’t be identified from your grades or test scores alone.

Essays

The UPenn application requires three essays – one personal essay and two supplemental essays . You have to write based on the relevant essay prompts when applying through the Common App. These essays are critical as they showcase who you are as a student and what you’ll bring to the UPenn community.

Successful essays can take many forms, from personal narratives to academic essays to creative writing. The best essays reveal a student's voice and unique perspective.

There is no right way to write a college essay, but it is essential to be authentic to oneself. When writing an essay, students should consider what they want to convey about themselves and how they want to be remembered by the admissions committee. The essay is a chance to show the admissions team who the student is beyond their grades and extracurricular activities and to demonstrate their potential to impact the community at UPenn positively.

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How this Math Student Got Into UPenn

How to increase your chances of getting into UPenn?

1. Apply Early

Early admits have a higher rate of acceptance. For the class of 2027, the Regular Decision Admit rate was only 2.4%, but the Early Decision Admit Rate was 15%!

However, UPenn’s early decision application is binding, meaning if you are admitted to UPenn, you’re obligated to accept admission. If UPenn is your dream school, applying early can help your chances of gaining admission.

2. Take Rigorous Courses & Score Well

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.

It's important to maintain high grades throughout high school and to take advantage of opportunities for academic enrichment.

As mentioned above, 88% of admitted students had a GPA of 3.75 and above. You should aim to achieve an ever GPA for your application to be competitive.

Helpful resources

  • If you want to add rigorous coursework to your academic profile, consider taking some Online AP Courses at Crimson Global Academy.
  • If you’re struggling to reach a GPA of 4.0, consider taking Online Tutoring with experts who can help you reach your maximum academic potential.
  • Enroll in a pre-college summer program to help you get a head start on your college education.

3. Choose the right extracurricular activities

Taking a variety of extracurricular activities is not always the answer. Make sure you choose the right extracurricular activities that demonstrate leadership and community involvement.

Helpful resources

4. Submit your SAT/ACT Scores

While UPenn is test-optional, your SAT/ACT scores will be considered if submitted. There are several benefits to submitting your scores, even if they have a test-optional policy.

  • Demonstrates your academic abilities: Submitting strong SAT or ACT scores can demonstrate your intellectual abilities and provide admissions officers with additional evidence of your potential to succeed in college-level coursework.
  • Strengthens your application: If you have strong SAT or ACT scores, submitting them can improve your overall application and make you a more competitive candidate for admission.
  • Demonstrates your commitment: Submitting your test scores, even if it's optional, can demonstrate your commitment to the admissions process and your interest in attending the college or university.

If you decide to submit your SAT/ACT scores, ensure you score higher than the average scores highlighted earlier.

Helpful resources

5. Write a powerful personal essay

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.

Your essay should include the following:

  • Provides insight into your personality: A well-written college essay can give admissions officers a glimpse into your personality, interests, and experiences that may not be evident from the rest of your application. This can help to make you a more memorable and compelling candidate.
  • Demonstrates your writing skills: A strong college essay can showcase your writing skills and provide evidence of your ability to communicate effectively. This is important because strong writing skills are highly valued in college coursework.
  • Highlights your unique qualities: A strong college essay can highlight your unique qualities and experiences that make you stand out from other applicants. This demonstrates your potential to contribute to the campus community and positively impact your future career.
  • Shows your commitment to UPenn: A well-crafted college essay can demonstrate your genuine interest in attending UPenn and your understanding of what makes it a good fit for you.
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Is UPenn Right For You?

Upenn is an excellent option with many resources to ensure your future success, and while that’s the best option for many, it may not be the best option for you.

If you’re looking for a challenging and stimulating academic environment that values diversity, innovation, and excellence, UPenn could be a great choice for you. Moreover, if you’re interested in fields such as business, law, medicine, engineering, social sciences, or humanities, UPenn has top-ranked schools that can provide you with cutting-edge knowledge and practical skills.

Ultimately, whether UPenn is the right fit for you depends on your individual goals, aspirations, and personality. Ask yourself what makes UPenn different to you from other universities and whether your aspirations align with its mission. If you think another university might line up better with your objectives, consider applying to one of the other Ivy League schools.

Final thoughts

While UPenn is a competitive university, taking the right approach could dramatically increase your chances. If you understand what the university looks for and prepare your application in advance, you’ll have better a higher chance of admission.

Take advantage of the resources available, seek guidance when needed, and craft an application that authentically reflects who you are and why UPenn is the perfect fit for your academic journey. Whether it's the rich history, the vibrant community, or the world-class faculty that draws you to UPenn, your pursuit of excellence and a holistic educational experience aligns seamlessly with the university's ethos.

If you want additional support and guidance on your journey to getting into a top Ivy League school, book a free consultation with our experienced college counselors who can provide you with personalized advice and support.

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Crimson students are up to 7x more likely to gain admission into U Penn. Book a free consultation to learn more about how we can help you!