The Ivy Coach Daily

February 11, 2023

What To Do After Being Deferred by UPenn

The University of Pennsylvania's campus, visible through a campus archway.
Learn how to position your candidacy after a deferral from the University of Pennsylvania (photo credit: Bryan Y.W. Shin).

Deferred by the University of Pennsylvania? While being deferred in the Early Decision round to UPenn likely didn’t make your day, it could be worse. You could have been denied admission.

So what should deferred UPenn applicants do after receiving word that UPenn has kicked the can on their admission decision? As UPenn founder Ben Franklin once said, “Diligence is the mother of good luck.” We agree. Here, you’ll find out how deferred candidates to UPenn can best position themselves for admission in Regular Decision.

The Percentage of Accepted UPenn Early Decision Applicants

For the UPenn Class of 2028 and the Class of 2027, the school has yet to disclose the percentage of students who earned admission in the Early Decision round (though we do know that over 8,500 students applied ED to UPenn’s Class of 2028 — an all-time record, eclipsing the over 8,000 students who applied ED to the Class of 2027).

Historically, the trend is clear: the Early Decision acceptance rate is dwindling — capped by a record-low ED admission rate of 14.9% for the Class of 2025. While the figure bounced slightly to 15.63% for the Class of 2026, the overarching trendline is plain.

Have a look at UPenn’s Early Decision acceptance rate for each incoming class, dating back twenty years:

Admissions CycleUPenn Graduating ClassUPenn Early Decision Admission Rate
2023-2024Class of 2028TBD
2022-2023Class of 2027TBD
2021-2022Class of 202615.63%
2020-2021Class of 202514.9%
2019-2020Class of 202419.7%
2018-2019Class of 202318%
2017-2018Class of 202218.5%
2016-2017Class of 202122%
2015-2016Class of 202023.2%
2014-2015Class of 201923.9%
2013-2014Class of 201825.2%
2012-2013Class of 201724.9%
2011-2012Class of 201625.4%
2010-2011Class of 201526.2%
2009-2010Class of 201431.2%
2008-2009Class of 201331.5%
2007-2008Class of 201229.2%
2006-2007Class of 201129%
2005-2006Class of 201028.4%
2004-2005Class of 200934.2%
2003-2004Class of 200833.1%
2002-2003Class of 200738.9%

The Percentage of Deferred UPenn Early Decision Applicants

UPenn rarely releases the percentage of Early Decision candidates whose admission is deferred instead of denied, lumping the figures together. Heck, as of the date of this publication and in a break from prior years, the university has yet to release the percentage of Early Decision admits to the Class of 2028.

That said, the percentage of deferred Early Decision candidates typically mirrors the percentage of admitted Early Decision candidates. These figures tend to move together. So if 18% of students are admitted, one can expect around 18% of students to be deferred. A deferral is thus meaningful at UPenn! Think of all the students who were denied rather than accepted or deferred.

The Percentage of Denied UPenn Early Decision Applicants

Since the percentage of deferred Early Decision candidates typically mirrors the percentage of admitted Early Decision candidates, the denied students are whatever’s left over. If 15% of students are accepted in a given year, one can expect around 15% of students to be deferred. Thus, approximately 70% would be denied outright.

Chances of Admission to UPenn After a Deferral

The percentage of students who earn admission to UPenn has ranged over the years — from 9.5% for the UPenn Class of 2026 to 16% for the UPenn Class of 2023. As a guiding principle, it’s safe to assume that around 10% of deferred candidates to UPenn will get in during Regular Decision.

Chances of Admission to UPenn After a Deferral with Ivy Coach

Over the last 30 years, around 40% of students who first approach Ivy Coach after being deferred by UPenn — students who did not work with our firm on their Early Decision application — ultimately earn admission to the Ivy League institution in the Regular Decision round. These students complete Ivy Coach’s PostMortem application review and work with us on drafting a powerful Letter of Continued Interest to UPenn.

UPenn Courtesy Deferrals

Depending on the year, around 20-25% of UPenn Early Decision admitted students are legacies. If you’re a UPenn legacy whose child was deferred, you might thus wonder if it was a courtesy deferral. And while you’ll never know the answer to this question with certainty, it is rare for UPenn to deny legacy applicants (though it does happen).

It doesn’t cost UPenn anything to let alums think their children were strongly considered for admission, particularly when these alums donate money to the institution. Thus instead of denying their children outright, they’ll often courtesy defer them. After all, they’ve got to keep their alums happy (or less upset), so they keep up those donations.

How to Approach a University of Pennsylvania Deferral: A Step-by-Step Guide

Step 1: Turn that frown upside down. Yes, over these next several weeks, some students at school will wear hoodies and hats from the colleges they’ll be attending next year. But that says more about them than it does about you. Who rubs one’s good fortune in others’ faces? Just remember that for every student who earned admission to their dream school in the Early Action/Early Decision round of admission, several more likely were deferred or denied. You won’t necessarily know because they’re not wearing hoodies or hats.

Step 2: Get over it and take proactive steps to correct the mistakes you made in the Early Decision round at UPenn through a PostMortem. While you can’t change your UPenn application, you’ll submit that same Common Application in just a few short weeks to your Regular Decision schools, many of which will have similar supplements to UPenn.

It’s an opportune time to discern what went wrong and what needs to change so your chances of admission at your Regular Decision schools are vastly improved. It’s why we recommend Ivy Coach’s PostMortem application review. During this session, we go through every section of The Common Application and multiple college supplements so students can identify what went wrong and what should change.

Step 3: After students digest what went wrong and what needs to change from the PostMortem, we recommend working on the Letter of Continued Interest to UPenn — and doing so swiftly because it should go in before admissions officers break for the holidays. At Ivy Coach, we help students prepare powerful letters that serve as compelling reminders of how a student can contribute their singular hook — rather than well-roundedness — to the UPenn community through UPenn’s culture, traditions, extracurriculars, programs, institutes, research, and much more.

Note we didn’t say class names or professor names. Our students never name-drop professors in their Letters of Continued Interest. Admissions officers as admissions officers don’t believe it’s not a genuine enough reason for why a student would wish to attend, and it risks making the applicant unlikeable.

Step 4: In the New Year, weeks after that Letter of Continued Interest is submitted to UPenn, through an email to the regional representative and by uploading it to the UPenn portal, we recommend bringing it to your school counselor and asking your counselor to make an advocacy call to UPenn on your behalf. While some counselors will say that they won’t make such a call — often in the spirit of equity — many will pick up the phone and call. After all, it’s their job to fight for their students! With the letter in hand, the counselor will now be able to position you to the regional rep as you’ve positioned yourself to UPenn.

Step 5: Consider asking one additional teacher in a core subject — English, history, math, science, or foreign language — to send in an additional letter of recommendation. While it’s not necessary to send in an additional letter, if you are going to ask for another rec, do make sure it’s not from a teacher of a subject outside of these disciplines. And do make sure it’s not from a famous person, an activity advisor, or someone else UPenn admissions officers don’t want to hear from since it will not benefit your candidacy.

The Inside Scoop on UPenn Deferrals

A headshot of former University of Pennsylvania admissions officer, Jayson Weingarten of Ivy Coach.
Jayson Weingarten of Ivy Coach

Ivy Coach’s Jayson Weingarten, a former University of Pennsylvania admissions officer, offers this inside scoop on UPenn deferrals: “Typically, UPenn defers around the same percentage of students who earn admission. So if 18% of students earn Early Decision admission, you can expect that around 18% of students will be deferred (a figure that includes courtesy deferrals, like for legacy applicants), and 64% of students will be denied admission. A deferral is thus meaningful at UPenn since the majority of students who don’t get in are denied admission outright. Having a balanced class is always important to UPenn. As such, certain numbers historically move together. For instance, UPenn’s number of waitlisted students in the Regular Decision round is typically the same as that of students who earn Regular Decision admission to UPenn. Similarly, the number of legacy admits typically mirrors the number of first-generation college student admits.”

UPenn Deferral FAQ

What percentage of admitted students are typically legacies at UPenn?

While UPenn has not released the percentage of Early Decision admits who are legacies — the progeny of the school’s alumni — in the last couple of cycles, it’s likely around 20%. For the UPenn Class of 2022, the last time UPenn released the figure, 25% of UPenn’s Early Decision admitted students were classified as legacies. With legacy admission under fire over the previous few years, it’s not surprising that the figure would drop — though ever so slightly.

Are UPenn’s Early Decision statistics deceiving because there are so many recruited athletes, legacies, and development cases in the Early round?

No, because, by that same argument, the Regular Decision round is brimming with low-income students, first-generation college students, and underrepresented minority students. All are coveted groups by the University of Pennsylvania.

So if one’s argument is that it’s harder to get into UPenn through Early Decision — that the statistics are misleading because of the percentage of legacies, development cases, and recruited athletes — how exactly is it easier to compete against the coveted groups that typically apply in Regular Decision? It’s not!

Is it harder to get into UPenn Early Decision if my child applies to Wharton?

Yes, applying to Wharton makes it more challenging to get into UPenn. At Ivy Coach, we prefer these students consider internally transferring to Wharton from Arts & Sciences. It’s easier to transfer internally than the university will have students believe! UPenn wants its students to be happy. The school doesn’t want them to transfer to an entirely different university.

How to Get Started with Ivy Coach After UPenn Deferral

If you’re interested in optimizing your case for admission to UPenn after receiving word of your deferral through Ivy Coach’s PostMortem application review and assistance with crafting a compelling Letter of Continued Interest, fill out our free consultation form. We’ll then be in touch to delineate our services. You’d be working directly with Ivy Coach’s Jayson Weingarten, a former University of Pennsylvania admissions officer.

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