Am I Good Enough for Penn?

May 17, 2022
By AdmissionSight
View of UPenn sign placed next to an access road.

Am I Good Enough for Penn?

For high school students who are looking to get into some of the best undergraduate programs in the world, the entire application process can come with quite a fair amount of doubt and anxiety. And for good reason! Applying to Ivy League schools is a competitive and rigorous process.

Ultimately, you may end up asking yourself, “Am I good enough for Penn?” If you are curious about your chances of getting into Penn, officially known as the University of Pennsylvania, then you have absolutely come to the right place!

At AdmissionSight, we work with all different kinds of high school students in order to help them achieve their dreams of getting into Ivy League schools, top 10 schools, big public universities or small liberal arts schools. No matter what a high school student’s dream school is, surely the questions of whether they are good enough to get in will one day cross their mind.

That is especially true if your dream school is Penn. After all, Penn – as part of the Ivy League – is known as one of the most prestigious and competitive schools in the United States. For that reason, students need to be able to prove that they have what it takes to be productive and impactful at the school. So, learning about the ways to get into Pennsylvania University, as well as what the school and its admissions officers expect out of its applicants is very important.

So, if you want to learn more about what it takes to be up to the very high standards at Penn, as well as what you may be able to do to further improve your chances of getting in, then you have come to the right place.

Let’s get started on helping you get the answer to the very important question, “Am I good enough for Penn?”

When it comes to Penn itself, here is some crucial information about the admissions statistics for Penn’s graduating class of 2025. Of the 56,333 students who applied to Penn’s Class of 2025 in the early and regular rounds, 3,202 were admitted, leading to an overall acceptance rate of 5.68 percent. The 3,202 admitted students to the Class of 2025 included 1,194 students who were admitted through the early decision round, good for a much more forgiving acceptance rate of 15.00 percent.

These statistics are not meant to discourage you. Instead, they are simply meant to open your eyes to the realities of applying to schools like Penn. If you have this lofty goal, you are going to have to prepare for the reality that it is going to be a very hard road ahead! But just because it is hard does not mean that it is impossible.

So, with that important information out of the way, let’s start getting into the admissions expectations that the Penn admissions committee holds for its applicants.

University of Pennsylvania admissions requirements

While this section is absolutely called “requirements,” it is important to know that Penn – or any other top schools in the United States – do not have necessary benchmarks that students need to meet in order to apply for a space of admissions at Penn.

The reason for that, is because Penn knows that students tend to be more or less at the mercy of the kinds of courses that are available to them at their high school, as well as what kinds of activities they can get involved in out of the classroom.

University of Pennsylvania buildings

Still, there are expectations that the admissions committee has for all students that apply. So let’s get into them.

When it comes to the average grade point average that high school students who go on to get accepted into Penn, that number is a highly impressive 3.9 GPA. Based on the fact that a perfect unweighted grade point average is a 4.0, you should already be getting a pretty clear idea of just how high the expectations really are at a school like Penn.

However, it is not just about getting great grades in and of themselves. Students need to get great grades in difficult and advanced courses to really impress the admissions committee at Penn and similarly prestigious schools. This basically means taking honors, AP or IB courses. Admissions officers will look closely at every applying student’s high school transcript to see how many of these kinds of courses are on their transcript.

There are two overall reasons why taking these kinds of courses is so important to a student’s chances of getting into Penn. Those include:

  • AP and IB courses are modeled directly after introductory undergraduate classes both in terms of difficulty and subject matter and in the way that the classes are actually structured. Students who are able to succeed in this structure really help themselves when it comes to proving to admissions officers that they will be able to enjoy similar success at the university level.
  • Beyond that, AP and IB courses are actually graded on a grade point average scale out of 5.0 rather than 4.0. For that reason, many students who apply to top schools will end up sending in a transcript with a GPA that is above that of a 4.0! Remember, that 3.9 average for Penn applicants is just that, and average. It is quite likely that there are many students who are coming in a bit below average, and many more who are coming in well over that average. Taking AP or IB courses and earning A grades is going to dramatically improve your grade point average.

Now that that is out of the way, it is also important to mention that the admissions committee at Penn also looks at a student’s high school transcript to get a good idea of the breakdown of classes that they took during their four years in high school. While this is not an official requirement either, those admissions officers certainly look for a transcript that closely reflects the following:

  • English: four years, with significant emphasis on writing and literature.
  • Mathematics: four years of any rigorous mathematics incorporating a solid grounding in fundamental skills (algebra, geometry, trigonometry). We also welcome preparation in skills related to statistics, data science and calculus.
  • History/Social Studies: three or more years, with courses that include the writing of essays.
  • Science: three or more years of laboratory science (including biology, chemistry and physics).
  • Foreign Language: three or more years of the same foreign language.

Students are also strongly encouraged to invest their time and energy in high school classes that interest them and that cover topics that pique their natural interests.

Though it is not at all a requirement to know which academic subjects are your favorite or what you want to pursue as a major for your undergraduate studies, it certainly is helpful for the admissions officers to get an idea of what kinds of courses you and take and what kind of student you may be in the event that you do end up getting into Penn.

University of Pennsylvania ACT and SAT scores

One thing that used to be an admissions requirement, but is actually an optional aspect of any student’s application to Penn is a standardized test score. For years, the SAT and ACT have served as a crucial steppingstone for students applying to the vast majority of schools. However, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of schools have adopted a standardized test optional policy.

Unknown student writing on her table.

This optional policy became especially popular as in-person and group examination became difficult and unsafe during the major waves of infection. Now, with the pandemic seemingly getting under more control, it is unclear how long this test optional policy will last. But we’ll get into the specifics of this in a little bit.

Right now, let’s go over the average ACT and SAT scores for students who apply and get into Penn:

  • The average SAT score for students that are accepted to Penn is a 1500 out of the perfect score of 1600. The 25th percentile score is a 1440 and the 75th percentile score is a 1560.
  • The average ACT score for students that are accepted to Penn is a 34 out of the perfect score of 36. The 25th percentile score is a 32 and the 75th percentile score is a 35!

With that in mind, it is important to know that the school did recently announced that it would be extending its test optional policy:

“Penn understands that the impacts of the pandemic have been broad, unevenly distributed, and – for some families – all-encompassing,” the school announced. “We are heartened by the incredible resilience, creativity, and agility demonstrated by our applicants. In light of this, Penn will extend our test-optional policy through the 2022-23 admissions cycle. This extension will apply to all first-year and transfer applicants.”

So, what does this mean for you as a student applying to Penn and wondering, “Am I good enough for Penn?”

AdmissionSight doesn’t find it necessary to point a student in one direction or another when it comes to the decision to take advantage of the test optional policy or not. What is most important for every student interested in applying to Penn to know is that despite these test optional policies, approximately 2 million students decided to take either the ACT or SAT or 2021. Chances are good that the majority of those students ended up applying to some of the most competitive schools in the country.

So, while you certainly do not have to take either the SAT or ACT to get into Penn, taking the test of your choice and getting a great score could certainly help.

Penn application requirements

Finally, we want to quickly go over the application requirements that students must include as part of their first-year application. In order to be considered by the admissions committee, students must have their applications in by:

  • Early Decision
    November 1, 2021
  • Regular Decision
    January 5, 2022
  • Application Fee
    $75 or fee waiver for those who qualify.

The required forms include:

  • Common Application or Coalition Application & Penn-specific Essay
  • Official High School Transcript
  • School Report
  • Standardized test score (optional)
  • Letters of Recommendation (3)
  • Early Decision Agreement (only if applying for Early Decision)
  • Mid-Year Report
  • Early Decision: Required February 15, 2022 if student is deferred
  • Regular Decision: Must be submitted directly by the school as soon as mid-year grades are available
  • Final academic report required in June for matriculating students

Beyond that, students have the option to sign up for an alumni interview. Early Decision applicants will have a window between mid-October and early December and Regular Decision students have a window between December and early March.

Finally, students are invited to submit a fine arts supplement (with the due date coming 10 days after the application deadlines). Students can also submit an additional letter of recommendation if they desire, with the early decision deadline coming in early November and the Regular Decision deadline coming in early January.

What we know about Penn’s “ideal” student

When it comes to students who are trying to get into top schools, the assumption typically is that the only thing admissions committees really care about is a student’s grade point average. While there is no question that your GPA is going to be important when it comes to your ability to get into any top school, the admissions officers at Penn consider far more than just GPA.

Young woman talking to an interviewer.

So what does it take to be seen as an “ideal” student in the eyes of the admissions committee at Penn? Here are some things to consider.

Penn looks for passionate learners

One of the most important traits that any student who wants to apply to Penn should keep in mind is that they need to be able to prove they are passionate learners. Of course, the best way to prove that you are a passionate learner is to take your studies very seriously throughout high school. However, this does not just mean taking hard classes and getting great grades. It also means pursuing your academic interests inside and outside of the classroom.

Inside the classroom, you can prove your passion for learning by taking core courses and electives that cover the topics that you are passionate about.

View of a woman using a laptop while studying.

Outside of the classroom, you can take part in extracurriculars that deal with your academic interests. Whether it’s a school club, academic competitions, or other ways to expand your interests, showing that you’re a passionate learner will make you even more impressive in the eyes of the Penn admission committee.

Penn looks for students who are unique from their peers

As one of the most impressive schools in the world, the University of Pennsylvania is always looking to fill its halls and classrooms with young men and women who will go on to do incredible things in their respective fields. Whether you are doing it through things that you have accomplished and been a part of, or your personal essay or recommendation letters, you are going to want to make it a primary goal in your application to prove to the admissions officers at Penn that you are truly unique amongst your peers.

Penn looks for students who are leaders

Penn also looks for students who will help lead the Penn community now and in the future. And the best way for a student to prove that they are going to be a leader once they get to Penn is to make sure that they are taking on roles of leadership in high school. The best ways to do this are to become leaders in extracurricular activities or become a leader in your community.

Students walking with their teacher on the hallway.

If you’re curious about how to become a leader in your extracurriculars, the best way to do it is to simply choose extracurricular groups or activities that you care about. Whether you’re into sports, theater, academic competitions, school government, or anything in between.

Really, in the eyes of schools like Penn, the activity itself matters less than the way that a student pursues those activities. So what matters most is that you truly care about what you get involved in and stick with it to earn roles of leadership and impact.

Will you get into Pennsylvania University?

As you know, the answer to these questions is really impossible to answer until you put it to the test At AdmissionSight, we know how hard it truly is for even the best students to get in. We also know how to get students in, period.

After all, 75 percent of the students that we work with end up attending an Ivy League to otherwise top 10 school in the United States. If that’s the kind of school you want to end up at, you owe it to yourself to see what we have to offer.


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