4 Success Stories from UPenn Admits

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

Group of students studying in a room.

4 Success Stories from UPenn Admits

The University of Pennsylvania, more commonly known as UPenn, is one of the eight esteemed Ivy League universities. It’s located in Philadelphia, making it a well-connected and vibrant center of higher education.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of UPenn is its rich history. It was founded by none other than Benjamin Franklin and has been offering courses since 1740, making it one of the oldest schools in the country. Given this prestige and exclusivity, many eager applicants enjoy hearing success stories about “how I got into UPenn” from successful graduates.

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If alumni are any indication of a school’s value, then UPenn deserves its ranking as one of the top schools in the country. Having produced heads of state, actors, musicians, inventors, business moguls, and scientists, among others, UPenn undoubtedly offers world-class educational opportunities.

Some of the most well-recognized alumni include Elon Musk, John Legend, Warren Buffet, William Henry Harrison, and Ezra Pound. Upon its founding, Benjamin Franklin wanted the school to focus on an academic program training public service, government, and commerce leaders.

To help you increase your chances of getting accepted to UPenn, we’ll take a look at how hard is it to get into UPenn along with some success stories from students who have already succeeded.

How hard is it to get into UPenn?

One of the quickest ways to determine how difficult it is to get into any university is to look at its acceptance rate. For the Class of 2024, UPenn received 42,205 applications. Of the tens of thousands of students who applied, only 3,404 received those highly coveted acceptance letters.

This makes for an acceptance rate of 8.07%. That means for every 100 students who applied, only eight ended up getting into UPenn. The Class of 2024 actually broke the trend of a falling acceptance rate that the university had experienced for three consecutive years.

While an 8.07% acceptance rate sounds incredibly selective, it’s sometimes difficult for students to put these numbers into context. When compared to colleges throughout the country, UPenn is very difficult to get into.

In fact, the average acceptance rate among registered colleges in the United States is 68% – making UPenn nearly 8x harder to get into. However, when compared to its Ivy League counterparts, UPenn is actually among the less selective. To be sure, only two of the Ivies are easier to get into than UPenn: Dartmouth and Cornell.

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When placed into this context, students seeking to attend UPenn can feel a little more confident and inspired knowing that this Ivy League school isn’t quite as discerning as some others. However, it’s still going to be a challenge to get into UPenn.

But, instead of seeing this as an obstacle, applicants should start looking for ways they can improve their chances of getting admitted. After all, the acceptance rate is a simple calculation of the number of admitted students in proportion to the total number who applied.

With an excellent application, your chances of getting in can be significantly higher than this acceptance rate.

Does applying to UPenn’s early decision make a difference?

What many applicants don’t realize is that many universities offer two separate timelines for application. The standard timeline is what the vast majority of students follow. However, a small number of students choose to apply early during what’s known as early decision or early action, depending on the school.

UPenn’s Regular Decision timeline requires applications to be turned in sometime in January and decisions are made by April. During Early Decision, the application deadline is moved up to November and applicants learn about the decision some time in December. So, is there any real advantage to this early decision?

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Yes, there is! Believe it or not, the acceptance rate for UPenn’s Early Decision application timeline is significantly higher than that of its Regular Decision. For the Class of 2024, UPenn received 6,453 applicants for Early Decision. Out of this total group, 19.7% were admitted.

That’s more than twice the admission rate for Regular Decision of the same year! Why wouldn’t all students take advantage of this Early Decision option? Well, UPenn’s earlier timeline is binding.

This means that you’re expected to matriculate if you end up getting accepted. That’s why we only recommend Early Decision for students who are positive they’ll attend UPenn.

What kind of students get accepted to UPenn?

As we mentioned before, UPenn’s acceptance rate isn’t the most accurate way of determining your chances of getting admitted. Although admission rates are a great way to get a rough idea for how difficult it is to get into a university, there are other factors that you can take into account.

For example, the academic performance of accepted students can help you determine what kind of GPA and standardized test scores can improve your chances of getting accepted.

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Keep in mind that UPenn takes a comprehensive approach to admissions, meaning they take academic and non-academic related factors into account. However, the objective nature of test scores and grades makes the most suitable for comparison. For UPenn, the average GPA for admitted students was 3.9 on 4.0 scale.

Other than studying hard, stay up-to-date on assignments, and the usual, a great way to boost your GPA is to take weighted classes such as Advanced Placement (AP) and honors courses.

When it comes to standardized test scores, accepted UPenn applicants performed just as impressively. 34 was the average ACT score and 1500 was the average SAT score. It’s advisable to take these tests at least two or three times. This gives you an opportunity to boost your score without making admissions officers wonder why you had to take the test so many times.

How I got into UPenn: Success Stories

Success Story #1

“As a graduate of UPenn and former interviewer, I would say you need to show the school that this is where you want to study. Research particular things that are unique to the school that you want to be a part of or a contributor. What can YOU bring to the university or contribute to the student body.

Be yourself and if there is something unique about you, let it be known. Share about this during your interview. The interview cannot hurt your chances but it can definitely boost your chances if it contains (+) information that is in addition to your application.

Apply early if you can.”

Success Story #2

“There are four ways I am aware of:

  • Legacy early admission. If one of your parents or grandparents went to Penn, you can apply extra early. If you apply this way there is an expectation you would accept.
  • Early admission. Apply early, possibly secure your space before the rest.
  • Regular admission.
  • Transfer from another accredited institution.

In all cases, you will be reviewed according to their application process, but with various sizes of applicant pools. There is a lot of information on the Penn website if you’re looking for admission requirements. Good luck!”

Success Story #3

“While there is no full-proof way to get accepted into any top university, here are a few tips I have for acceptance into the University of Pennsylvania that might help.

  • Apply early. I cannot stress enough how much it helps to apply early if you’re sure you want to attend Penn. For reference, this year, the early decision acceptance rate at the university was 22%, whereas only 7.3% of applicants were accepted in the regular decision round.
  • Score above 700 on all sections in your SAT. After talking to fellow students, it seemed that most of them scored a 2100 or above on their SATs at a minimum. Start studying for the SAT as a sophomore and take it early as a junior. If you’re prepared and do well, you’ll get it over with and can focus on the rigor of junior year. If you do poorly, you have plenty of time to study more and take the test later when most of your peers will probably take it.
  • Write personalized essays. Penn is on the Common Application, meaning that you don’t have to put in too much extra work to apply. That being said, if it’s your top choice, take the time to answer the essay questions. When I applied, there was only one essay question that basically asked “Why Penn?”

I took the time to explore the course catalogue, I talked to students at the University, and I learned about Penn’s extracurricular offerings. In my essay, I cited specific classes and opportunities I planned to take advantage of if admitted to Penn.

Copying and pasting your essay from another school’s “Why ____ University?” can appear obvious to application readers and won’t demonstrate your commitment to Penn specifically.

  • Use APs to raise your GPA. Having a strong GPA in high school is probably the most essential part of your application. Try to load up on AP credits if you can. Getting an A in an AP course will typically help to boost your GPA more than anything else. Most people that I have met at Penn had an unweighted GPA of 3.7–4.0 in high school or a weighted GPA of 3.8–4.2.
  • Participate in sports, community service, internship programs, and competitions. This is pretty self-explanatory, but make sure Penn knows that you did more than just study during your four years in high school.”
  • Colleen O’Malley, Minor Latin American Studies, University of Pennsylvania (2018)

Success Story #4

“The students…[are] incredibly diverse. I’ve been endlessly surprised by their different backgrounds, interests, and skills. The breadth of their interests and abilities is often remarkable. All of this is to say that, no matter your background or experiences, you have just as much chance as anyone of earning a place at Penn and making a fantastic success of it!

This brings me to my second point, which focuses on what all the Penn students I’ve met have had in common. They are all, without exception, highly driven. They are desperate to succeed in whatever they do. They may not always be the most naturally gifted in a specific field, but they almost always want to do better and improve. They have a genuine passion for learning.

In my opinion, developing such a passion is key to demonstrating to the admissions board that you would be a great fit for the university. As others have mentioned, you’re going to need to get good grades. You’ll want to aim for a GPA of 3.9 or more and an SAT score of 1500/34.

You should study hard for your exams and put in extra effort in any of the subjects you’re struggling with. Take AP courses if you can and look for any areas where you can go beyond the required work set for them.

Enter essay competitions; try writing creatively; join a science club. As you’re doing this, however, remember that the point is ultimately not simply to secure the required number in the GPA column of your high school transcript; the point is to develop a genuine interest and to cultivate a passion for learning.

Everyone has interests; you just have to find the academic area you’re passionate about. This will really help you stand out in the crowd (and it will also do your schoolwork no harm either).

Trust us, admissions boards and professors will be able to tell if you’ve developed a level of interest that you can take forward into a college degree, particularly since the academic step up will be considerable when you arrive at Penn, and a desire to learn will help sustain you.

To that end, our advice is the following: read! Pick a couple of areas you’re interested in school (a historical period, a scientific theory, an author) and try to learn as much as you can about it or them. Pick up a popular history of the topic, or buy some more of the author’s novels.

Ask your teacher for advice if you need some recommendations (you may not have realized it yet, but your teacher is an expert with a passion for his or her subject who also went to college as well)! You’ll soon find that there’s a whole rich world lying behind the small glimpse you’ve gotten of a particular subject at school. Dive into that world and the exploration alone will help your application write itself.

At the same time, you should also try and connect your interests to something specific at Penn. A great way to do this is to look at the kinds of work that Penn students and researchers are currently doing, since that’s exactly what you’ll be hoping to be doing in a year or two.

All Penn students have to take a compulsory freshman writing course in their first year, and the list of first-year seminars are all available to view online.

Finally, and most importantly: believe that you are good enough and that if you want it badly enough, anything is possible! You just have to put in the work.”

Write your own “how I got into UPenn” story

When applying to a prestigious Ivy League school like UPenn, it’s easy to feel confused, lost, and even a little alone. Students and parents both are often unsure about the best way to approach such a daunting task. How do we know?

Well, AdmissionSight has helped countless students get accepted into the university of their dreams. With over a decade of experience, we’ve positioned ourselves as the leading college admission expert for Ivy League schools. In fact, 75% of the students we assist either get accepted into an Ivy League school or Top 10 University.

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If you’re wanting to get accepted to UPenn, we know exactly how to make that happen. We’ve spent years understanding and mastering the complex college admissions process. All of our services are uniquely designed to help perfect your application to drastically improve your chances of getting accepted to the university of your choice.

If you’re eager to learn more about our services and how you might be able to benefit, feel free to contact us for a free consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!



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