Does Penn Interview Everyone?

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

A student talking to her interviewer while standing.

Does Penn Interview Everyone?

Every single school year, hundreds of thousands of high school seniors apply to one more or of the eight Ivy League schools hoping to be among the very elite that end up getting in. As you very likely already know, the eight Ivy League schools are among the most prestigious and selective schools in not only the United States, but also the entire world.

As is the case with many of the top schools in the United States, all eight Ivies do offer unique components to their application process such as alumni interviews or video introductions. The University of Pennsylvania offers such interviews, but does Penn interview everyone?

Penn, or UPenn, as it is also often called, was first established back in 1740, making it one of the few schools that is older than the United States itself! Though it is not considered to be amongst the three most elite schools in the Ivy League known as the “Big Three,” it absolutely is a very impressive school to go to and opens countless doors before, during and after a student’s education.

a university building in front of a bust street.

One such opportunity is the fact that undergraduate applicants have the chance to meet with a Penn interviewer after they submit their application documents. That interview can become a small, yet important part of a student’s journey to ultimately getting into the school. But we’ll get into the specific details of these interviews in a little while!

At AdmissionSight, we make it our number one goal to give the students that we work with every single application cycle the tools and education that they need to improve their chances of getting into the most competitive and prestigious schools in the country.

While we do often help students during their high school years decide what kinds of courses to take, what extracurricular activities to focus on, and much more, our most common work comes when students are on the verge of beginning the application process in earnest. That typically begins in the summer leading into their senior year of high school and continues into the midway point of their senior year.

For a lot of students that we work with, this means helping them fill out the applications themselves, securing fantastic letters of recommendation, crafting unique and powerful personal essays and statements, and – of course – taking part in the interview process at the different schools that they are applying to.

Over the years, our experience within the world of undergraduate admissions has helped us develop unique strategies to help students overcome the historically low acceptance rates at these schools and get in! In fact, 75 percent of the students that we work with go on to get into either an Ivy League school like Penn, Harvard or Columbia or into top 10 schools that are not in the Ivy League but are no less prestigious such as Stanford, MIT or UChicago.

So, if you are asking yourself the question, “Does Penn give interviews?” or want to know more about what you can expect from the specific admissions process at this wonderful school, then you have certainly come to the right place! Let’s break down the important information regarding this unique and exciting aspect of applying to some of the most selective schools in the world.

Does Penn give interviews?

Does Penn give interviews? The simple answer to this question is yes! In each application cycle, the school makes sure that students who are interested in taking part in the interview program get the opportunity to do so. In fact, based on what we know about how Penn approaches the interview, it could be argued that Penn cares more about the interview than any of the other Ivy League schools.

Young woman talking to a person in an interview.

Why do we say that? We say that because in any given year, more than 90 percent of the applicants at Penn will end up being offered a chance to interview. That is a really high percentage and shows that the school gets a lot of useful information out of this process.

With that in mind, the school does encourage students to “Please don’t worry if you’re not invited to interview. Since we aren’t able to reach every applicant, not having an interview won’t be held against you in our review.”

With that being said, the school does make it clear that if you as an application do end up receiving an invitation to take part in the interview process, that they “strongly encourage you to make time for the opportunity. If you have to decline the interview, please respond to your interviewer explaining why you can’t participate in the conversation.”

Keep in mind that the school does not permit students to request to take part in an interview with a Penn interviewer.

When it comes to the interview itself, the school breaks down a bit of a heads up in terms of what will come after a student does receive an invitation to take part.  Here is a basic breakdown as provided by the school!

First contact

Students who apply to Penn via the school’s Early Decision option can expect to be contacted by their Penn interviewer sometime between the middle of October and the end of November. As for Regular Decision applicants, they’ll hear from their interviewer between December and February.

It is understandable to be somewhat impatient and anxious to hear back from Penn regarding your potential interview, but the school wants to make it clear that there is no need to stress and that an interview is very likely to take place. The school does encourage students to frequently check the inbox of the email that they provided in their application, as this is the most likely way that the alumni interviewer will initially contact students.

Penn does encourage students to “respond courteously and promptly (within 3-5 days). Remember, this exchange is the start of the conversation with your interviewer, so first impressions count. If alumni interviewers don’t receive a prompt response from you, then they might assume you wish to decline the interview.”

One interesting thing to note is that while the school admits that the impulse to Google search or research your Penn interviewer after you hear from them is understandably rather strong, students are encouraged to refrain from doing so. The interview is meant to be the first impression, so staying away from Google is encouraged!

Where do interviews take place?

In the past, interviews were typically done either in person when possible or over the phone when not. However, as you may have guessed, the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way a lot of schools approached this aspect of the application process.

Female student talking in front of her laptop.

In the 2021-22 application cycle, all interviews were done remotely either on Zoom, Google Hangout or another video-conference computer program. While this may change in the future, students can currently presume that this will be the case in the coming years as well.

What should students wear to their interview?

While the interview may very well be conducted virtually, this does not mean that you should feel like wearing your pajamas to the interview is the right way to go. To be safe, it’s best to wear something a bit formal while also comfortable. There’s no need to wear a suit, but wearing a nice button-down shirt or blouse will definitely help you feel mature, professional, and comfortable.

Should students bring anything?

Students may feel inclined to bring their resume, portfolio, or other materials that could help them in their interview. None of that is required, however, and the only thing students are encouraged to bring to their Penn interview is themselves!

How much does the Penn interview matter?

Does Penn interview all applicants? Well, no. The school can’t get to every single applicant every year. With that in mind, just because Penn doesn’t interview everyone does not change the answer to the question, “How much does Penn interview matter?”

Young woman talking to a student.

The Penn interview is an important part of the process at the school, and the fact that 90 percent of applicants in a given year can expect to be invited to take part in an interview makes that abundantly clear.   In the end, there are a number of connected reasons why the interview is so important to the admissions process at Penn and many of the other top schools in the country.

In the end, these kinds of schools are accepting tens of thousands of applications every year from the most accomplished, intelligent, and committed students that high schools all over the world have to offer. When so many students are sending in incredible grade point averages, standardized test scores, extracurriculars and more, it becomes uniquely difficult to make final decisions on who gets offered a spot in the incoming class and who, unfortunately, is not offered a spot.

While an interview is not likely to be the prime deciding factor in whether or not a student gets in, it can be a true factor in the school’s holistic admissions process. Beyond that, the interview offers the Penn interviewer – and by extension the school’s admissions office – to get to know who you are as a person beyond what is already on your application.

In the interview, you will get the chance to talk about your passions, moments or accomplishments you are most proud of, important lessons you have learned, and much more. Rather than reiterate things the school also knows about you thanks to your application, you should take advantage of the interview to show the school a side of you that they have not yet seen!

In the words of the school itself, here are the three primary purposes in which the interviews play for applying student:

  • they are an incredible way for alumni to stay engaged with the university;
  • they allow applicants to learn more about the school from an informed and engaged alumnus; and
  • They provide Penn Admissions with information about the applicant that might not appear in the student’s application (their personality, passions, and potential fit).

Even knowing that, you may still be asking, “How much does the Penn interview matter?” Here is what the school has to say:

“Yes. Time and again, Admissions Officers tell us how helpful the interview report is as they evaluate applicants. In addition, applicants say the interview strengthened their perception of the university, and increased their desire to attend Penn.”

When it comes to how hard the decisions really are for the Penn admissions committee, consider the admissions statistics for the 2021-22 application cycle. Based on the available statistics, it is estimated that the overall acceptance rate for the school was approximately 4.4 percent. Simply put, if you get the chance to even marginally improve your chances of getting in by taking part in an interview, you should not think twice and do it!

What are Penn interviews like?

Now that you have an idea of how many students can expect to receive an invitation to take part in an interview as well as why these interviews are so important, you may be curious to learn more about what these interviews are actually like! While all interviews are somewhat different based on who the student is and who the Penn interviewer is, there are some basic guidelines that interviewers follow and some basic things that applying students can expect.

Female student shaking hands with her interviewer.

First off, it’s good to know that each alumni interviewer will typically conduct about three or four applicant interviews each year. These interviews typically last between 30 and 40 minutes.

After the interview takes place, the interviewer will complete a short report about the meeting for the Penn admissions office to take a look at.

Though the details of your interview will be going directly to the admissions officers at Penn, students should not feel as though this interview is a test. First and foremost, it is a way for the school to learn more information about you in your own words. The conversation will typically focus on your personal interests, why you are interested in attending the University of Pennsylvania and why you think it would be a great place for you to continue your education.

If you are interested in some typical questions that Penn interviewers ask, take a look below:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What’s important to you?
  • What are your current academic and/or extracurricular interests?
  • What led you to apply to Penn?
  • What classes, programs, and activities on Penn’s campus are exciting to you?
  • What plans do you have for your future?

Of course, these are not the only questions that you will be asked, but the above will give you a decent idea of what you can expect. Beyond getting asked these types of questions, students who take part in the Penn interview will also get the chance to ask questions of their own. Students should make sure to take advantage of this opportunity by thinking about the questions that you will want to ask beforehand.

It is perfectly acceptable to write them down on a notecard and bring that card with you if that will make you feel a bit more at ease. While it’s important to keep in mind that Penn is a dynamic campus and community, and that your alumni interviewer may not have all the info on the current goings on around campus, their experience will absolutely offer you an important and valuable perspective. Here are some questions that students often ask their Penn interviewers:

  • Can you tell me about the most influential parts of your Penn experience?
  • What is one of your favorite Penn traditions?
  • In what ways are you still connected to campus and your Penn peers?
  • What are the advantages of the Penn alumni network?

When your interview comes to an end, it is always wise to send out a quick thank-you email to your interviewer. Beyond that, not further communication is expected or required.

Tips to prepare for your Penn interview

Now that you know all of the most important facts about the Penn interview process, you may be curious to learn about some extra tips to help you out! Here are some of the key tips below no matter where you plan on interviewing:

  • Be on time: This is a pretty simple one, but don’t make your interviewer wait. Make sure you do everything in your power to arrive at your virtual interview in time;
  • Make a personal connection: Try to connect with your interviewer during the conversation. Now is not a time to brag or inflate your accomplishments. Instead, focus on letting them get to know who you are as a person.
  • Don’t be afraid to think before you speak: One great tool is taking a breath and really thinking about questions that are asked of you before you start speaking. Take your time so that you can thoughtfully and accurately answer questions that are provided to you.

Succeed in the Penn interview

While taking part in a Penn interview is not going to be the single deciding factor in whether or not you end up getting into the school, a great interview can certainly help your chances! If you want to learn more about how to prepare for your Penn interview, or any of the other aspects of the application process, contact AdmissionSight today to schedule a free consultation.


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