University of Pennsylvania Admissions Consulting Services
University of Pennsylvania Admissions Guidance
What is Penn 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.
1) GPA: At Penn, your GPA is recalculated based on a simple unweighted 4 pt. scale which does include +/-, all academic years, and all courses taken.
2) The 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 superscores ACT scores and SAT scores.
Penn highly recommends submitting your two highest SAT Subject Tests in subjects related to your intended area of study.
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. 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.
Approaching the 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.
A bad answer to this question is overly general as if it was cut and pasted from essays used for other schools that you are applying to. Some students might also make the mistake of repeating qualifications that are already listed in their application. A great answer highlights specific programs or features of the Penn experience that excite you. If you have not had an opportunity to visit campus, do your own research not only on majors and the general curriculum, but on student life, research and internship opportunities, extracurriculars, and perhaps even the unique urban environment that Penn offers. You may wish to follow Penn on social media to see what cutting edge work is being done by students and faculty.
For help on the Penn supplemental essay, feel free to reach out to us. The information provided here is the tip of the iceberg for acing the Penn essays.
For more information about the college application process,
contact us at 1.646.598.8174 or .