The Ivy Coach Daily

May 16, 2024

How Does UPenn Review Applications?

Woodland Walk is featured at night at the University of Pennsylvania.
The University of Pennsylvania has four undergraduate colleges (photo credit: Abhiram Juvvadi).

Like every highly selective institution in the United States, the University of Pennsylvania seeks to admit diverse cohorts of students from all walks of life. The last thing admission officers at UPenn are looking for is homogeneity. But what criteria do UPenn’s admissions officers specifically weigh when determining an applicant’s fit with the university?

UPenn Admits the Experts and Specialists Hidden in Each Application Pool

We at Ivy Coach have made it our mission to dispel a myth that often circulates in the college admissions sphere — that of the well-rounded applicant. Sure, UPenn looks for students who have excelled in all areas academically, but it’s only those who have pursued their individual passions as far as they will go that stand the best chance of admission.

Whether it’s the soloist in a national youth orchestra, the student-chemist who was a finalist for an innovative research award, or the activist who created systemic change within their community, UPenn’s incoming classes are composed of experts and specialists, not students who have refused to specialize in the hopes that a well-rounded resume will get them through the door. 

The Profile of a Typical UPenn Enrollee

According to the UPenn 2022-23 Common Data Set, the average high school GPA for a Class of 2027 enrollee was 3.9, although 54% had a 4.0 in high school. 93% of students graduated in the top tenth of their high school graduating class, 98% in the top quarter, and 100% in the top half. The mid 50% range for SAT scores in the Class of 2027 was 1510–1560, and for ACT scores the range was 34–35. UPenn accepts superscored test results, which reflect the highest individual section score from each test administration.

While these numbers may seem daunting, it’s important to remember that academic performance is just one component of a holistic process that seeks to understand each applicant as a three dimensional human being. While one does not necessarily have to be at the top of their class to be admitted to UPenn, an application with academic shortcomings must be supplemented by strong showings in other sections.

Applicants to UPenn are also asked to submit letters of recommendation from a high school counselor, a teacher, and a third person (which could be a teacher, a mentor, boss, coach etc. — though we strongly recommend a second teacher). Some applicants are asked to sit for alumni interviews, but this optional component is only conducted on the basis of alumni availability, and is not one of the more important aspects of the admissions process. On the other hand, essay responses, including UPenn-specific supplemental questions, are among the most important aspects of the application. Students should think of written responses as an opportunity to show UPenn’s admission committee who they are, filling in all the blanks that are not accounted for by the numbers and bullet points on a resume.

What Distinguishes UPenn’s Admissions Process from the Rest of the Ivy League

UPenn is relatively unique within the Ivy League in that, in addition to the College of Arts Sciences, UPenn operates three other undergraduate colleges: UPenn Engineering, the School of Nursing, and the Wharton School. Each school values applicants with an affinity for and preparation in each respective discipline. Additionally, UPenn offers applicants the chance to apply to a variety of dual degree programs that span the various undergraduate colleges. Admission to these programs is highly competitive, but it is certainly possible to get into UPenn without applying to or being denied to one such program. However, if one does not get admitted to at least one of the undergraduate colleges, one does not get into UPenn itself.

Ivy Coach’s Assistance with UPenn Admission

We at Ivy Coach have long discouraged students from specifically applying to Wharton, which is by far the most difficult undergraduate college to get into at UPenn. Instead, we help current UPenn students transfer into Wharton through the internal transfer process. Over the last five years, 100% of Ivy Coach’s clients seeking internal transfer into Wharton from another UPenn program have gained admission with the help of Ivy Coach’s Jayson Weingarten, a former UPenn and Wharton admissions officer. If you’r interested in our internal transfer assistance, fill out our complimentary consultation form, click Internal Transfer, and we’ll be in touch.

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