What is UPenn Admissions is Looking For?
Academic excellence. Leadership. Passion for the unique opportunities that Penn has to offer.
These are the key hallmarks of successful Penn applicants.
Similar to other Ivy League schools, Penn assigns every applicant an academic index rating on a 1-9 scale (1 being the lowest, 9 being the highest) based on only 2 components:
GPA and standardized test scores.
- GPA: At Penn, your GPA is recalculated based on a simple unweighted 4 pt. scale which does include +/-, all academic years, and all courses are taken.
- The UPenn SAT Math/Reading scores or your ACT composite are required. Penn has no preference for the SAT vs. the ACT and will choose whichever one is higher if you submit both. Penn does permit score choice but encourages applicants to submit their entire testing history for both ACT and SAT exams. Penn super scores ACT scores and SAT scores.
Your GPA and test scores are combined for a total score from 0 to 240, which is then tiered on a scale from 1 to 9. A student with a perfect GPA and test scores is scored as a 9, before any other factors are taken into account.
Penn heavily considers the academic rigor of the student’s curriculum relative to what is offered at their high school. Guidance counselors can disclose whether or not they believe that the student is taking the most rigorous curriculum that is available to them.
If AP or IB courses are offered, the student should take them in the major subject areas in their junior and senior year. Students are not required to submit AP scores; however, doing so can demonstrate mastery in that subject, and scores may be used to complete certain prerequisites.
Penn requires 2 teacher recommendations to round out their academic evaluation. Teacher recommendations are an important way to separate good 4.0 students from those who are leaders with a true passion for learning.
The University of Penn likes to see genuine excitement from teachers with demonstrated examples of why they believe the student will excel in a college environment such as Penn’s.
Not all schools and communities offer the same opportunities for extracurriculars, and Penn does account for that. Penn also prefers quality over quantity in reviewing what a student does in their free time. A student with a laundry list of clubs that he or she is simply a member of will not be as compelling as a student who demonstrates investment in and passion for a few key activities outside of the classroom.
Some students wish to send in supplemental material relating to their extracurriculars such as artwork or music. This is not required and is recommended only in cases where the student has a significant accomplishment in that area, or it is directly related to their area of study. For example, a student who is applying to Digital Media Design may want to submit material if they have experience with digital media, computer animation, etc.
University of Pennsylvania Supplemental Essays
In addition to the personal essays required by the Common Application or Coalition Application, Penn weighs the supplemental Penn essay heavily in their review. This essay prompt has traditionally been referred to as the “Why Penn” essay.
At Solomon Admissions, we give our clients an extensive primer on how to tackle the Penn supplemental essay. Here’s a brief excerpt from our recommended approach to the all-important Penn supplement essay:
How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying. (400-650 words.)
The Penn supplemental essay is used to weed out the countless students who do not make a case for why they have specifically committed to Penn.
4.0 students with great recommendations and extracurriculars will struggle with this essay if they have not taken the time to figure out a) what makes Penn unique among the schools that they apply to, and b) what they can contribute to the student body.