How to transfer to Penn

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of UPenn building at day time.

How to transfer to Penn

For students studying at undergraduate programs all over the United States, the most typical experience is that students enroll at a school before their freshman year and then graduate from that same school four or five years later. However, just because that is the most typical route that students take does not mean that it is the only route that students take. Far from it!

For many students – an estimated 15 to 40 percent of all undergrad students – the undergraduate experience includes moving from one learning institution to another. This is referred to as transferring and it is something that students do at virtually all schools.

A woman sitting by the window, smiling while writing.

Whether attending the incredibly selective and prestigious University of Pennsylvania (commonly referred to as Penn or UPenn) has always been your dream, or if you have more recently become interested in attending Penn, then chances are good that you are curious about how to transfer to Penn, or if it is even possible to transfer to such a prestigious Ivy League institution. Well, you’ll be happy to hear that it is not only possible to transfer to Penn and other similarly selective schools, but also that students do it every single school year!

At AdmissionSight, we work with both first-time applicants and transfer applicants to help them identify and get into the schools of their dreams. This means working with students on everything from picking out their high school curriculum, to signing up for impressive extracurriculars, to filling out and writing applications and more!

We know just how important gathering information and gaining knowledge about the application process is, and what school’s expectations are, to a student’s success in their own application journey. It’s also why we are so proud of the fact that 75 percent of the students that we work with each year go on to enroll at an Ivy League school like Penn, Harvard or Yale or a top-10 program elsewhere in the country like Stanford, MIT or UChicago!

A female student sitting on a couch having thoughts in her head.

If you applied to Penn right out of high school and – for one reason or another – were not able to be offered a spot in their incoming graduating class, you may be seriously considering trying to apply again to the school as a transfer student.

Sometimes, all it takes is a little bit of time and a little bit of impressive success at the collegiate level to convince the admissions committees at these highly selective schools that you belong! So, if you are interested in learning about how to transfer to Penn and how to get into Penn as a transfer student, then you have absolutely come to the right place!

Let’s get started on breaking down all of the important information as it pertains to becoming a University of Pennsylvania transfer student.

Penn transfer students

One misconception that some students may have about applying to top schools such as Penn as a transfer student is that it is actually easier to get into such schools in this way. While the answer to the question, “Can you transfer to Penn?” is, of course, yes, you should not be operating under the assumption that getting into the school this way is any easier than getting into the school as a first-time applicant coming straight out of high school.

UPenn signage

The reason why some people believe that it is easier to get into schools like Penn as a transfer likely has to do with the fact that transfer applicants are competing with a much smaller pool of students. While high schoolers apply to Penn in the tens of thousands each application cycle, it is typical for far fewer students to apply as transfers each year. For example, in 2021 just over 3,500 total students applied to transfer to Penn.

However, students must be aware of the fact that along with the much smaller pool of students that are applying to Penn as transfer comes the far fewer available spots for those students.

For that reason, it is important to know that when it comes to the acceptance rates that transfer students have to deal with, those rates are usually lower than the acceptance rates for first-year applicants. This means that it is statistically even harder to get into top schools as a transfer student!

However, just because it is harder, does not mean that it is impossible. In fact, the school encourages students to apply as transfers.

“As a transfer student, you bring a unique perspective to our application process and our community,” the school’s official site reads.

So what does that really mean? This is a very important thing for students who are thinking about trying to become a University of Pennsylvania transfer student to know. Essentially, Penn is specifically interested in identifying and accepting transfer applicants into the undergraduate program who will bring with them a unique perspective and identity that can add to the already complex and diverse community that exists on the school’s campus.

While this certainly includes people from different cultures and backgrounds, it is not exclusive to that! For that reason, the important thing to keep in mind is that if you want to improve your chances of transferring into Penn, you are going to have to find a way to make sure that you – as a person and as a student – are able to stand out both inside and outside of the classroom.

When it comes to the application process, the school approaches the entire process in the same holistic manner that they approach the process for first-year students.

What that means is essentially that the Penn undergraduate transfer admissions committee is going to go through your transfer application in order to learn about what kind of student you are, find out about your past achievements (inside and outside of the classroom) and make sure that you will be able to excel within the school’s rigorous academic tradition as well as contribute new and exciting points of view within the school.

This may sound like a tall order to achieve, and that is because it is! If you want to learn how to transfer to Penn, you are going to have to be prepared for the multi-pronged approach that you are going to have to take to make sure that your application stands out!

What is the University of Pennsylvania transfer acceptance rate?

Before we get into the specific materials that students need to send in as part of their Penn transfer application as well as what the deadlines are for transfer applicants, we want to spend just a little time going over the raw numbers in terms of transfer success rates at Penn.

Because the 2022 application cycle is still so recent, many schools have not released their admissions information. For that reason, we will look back at the numbers related to the 2020-21 application cycle. After all, admissions statistics tend to be very similar from one year to the next.

As mentioned previously, just over 3,500 students applied to Penn as transfer students in 2021. Out of those students, approximately 165 students earned admission. That marks a transfer acceptance rate of about 4.7 percent.

The Daily Pennsylvanian put this incredibly low transfer acceptance rate into perspective compared to other schools in the Ivy League.

“This year’s acceptance rate dropped more than two percentage points from last year’s rate of 7.8%. In 2019, the transfer acceptance rate was 5.9%, more than an entire percentage point higher than this year.

“Penn’s record-low transfer acceptance rate pales in comparison to other Ivy League schools. Harvard University, for example, typically admits around 12 out of 1,500 transfer applicants each year, yielding an acceptance rate of under 1%, the Harvard Crimson reported. In 2020, Princeton offered admission to just 13 of 905 applicants — an acceptance rate below 2%.”

The article does go on to make it clear that while Penn does have a very low transfer acceptance rate, it is actually the second-most popular school for students to transfer to within the Ivy league, behind only Cornell University.

One of the reasons why Penn is such an attractive option for transfer students is because of its highly regarded Transfer Student Organizations, which is a student-run group of transfers that offer social and academic support for transfer students at the school! This includes organized information sessions, office hours, and virtual breakout groups to speak with upperclassmen mentors to help admitted students decide whether to enroll.

Penn transfer requirements

Just like when a student applies to any college or university as a first-year student, transfer students also need to make sure that they are adhering closely to the school’s requirements and deadlines when applying.

Male students studying in his dorm room.

To make it a little easier for you, we thought it would be a good idea to break down what students need to send in, and when they need to send it in in order to be considered by Penn’s admission committee.

Penn’s transfer deadline and fees

  • Application Deadline
    March 15
  • Application Fee
    $75 or fee waiver for those who qualify

Penn’s transfer required forms

  • Common Application OR Coalition Application & Penn-specific Essay
  • Official College Transcript
  • College Report
  • Official High School Transcript
  • Letters of Recommendation (2)
  • Mid-Term Report -Required for students who will enter as sophomores. Ask each professor to report your current grade in the class. The form can be downloaded from the Common Application and submitted through your Penn Applicant Portal.

If sending supporting documents via email, they should be sent to documents@admissions.upenn.edu.

If sending supporting documents via mail, they should be sent to:
3535 Market Street, Suite 850
Philadelphia, PA 19104

Other application information and materials

One crucial thing for students to know about applying to Penn as a transfer student is that, just like for first-year applicants, submitting either an SAT or ACT score as part of an application is completely optional. If a student does want to send in a standardized test score, it is important to know that the last test dates that are accepted are February for the ACT or March for the SAT. Penn only accepts scores taken within five years of the time of application.

For supplementary materials, students can send in their Fine Arts Supplement no later than March 20th and an additional letter of recommendation no later than March 15th.Pe

Penn transfer decisions

Notification of Decision


Admitted Student Reply/Enrollment Confirmation


Can you transfer from community college to Penn?

So, now that you know how to transfer to Penn in terms of what you need to send in and when you need to send it in by, you may be curious about how to get into Penn as a transfer student coming from a community college.

Though some students may actually think that applying from a community college would hurt your chances of getting into Penn compared to applying from a different four-year college or university, you would actually be mistaken! In fact, it is believed that students trying to transfer from community colleges may actually have an upper leg in some respects when it comes to applying to Ivy League schools.

View of a student smiling at the camera.

If you are thinking about trying to do just that, then take a look below to find out why you may actually be at an advantage compared to students applying from state schools or private institutions around the country.

  • Community college transfers offer a new point of view: As previously mentioned, one of the primary focuses for schools like Penn when considering transfer applicants is whether or not a student will bring a unique and diverse point of view to the school. It is not much of a secret that Ivy League school enrollment has been dominated by wealthy – and often white – students. When it comes to community colleges, many students are from different ethnic and cultural backgrounds, and a fair number of students are the first of their family to go beyond a high school education. Those kinds of points of view and life experiences are highly valued at schools like Penn which are working hard to be more inclusive to new kinds of students learning and becoming great within their classrooms.
  • Success at community colleges can predict success at Ivy League schools: Without a doubt, some of the most rigorous academic experiences for undergraduate students in the United States takes place within the Ivy League. These schools spend tens of millions of dollars each school year to make sure that their students have access to the best faculty, the most advanced technology and the most student-friendly environment so that these students can get the world-class education that the Ivy league is known for. For that reason, some may assume that the education that students get at community colleges will not do enough to prepare transfer students to succeed in the event that they actually do end up getting into a school like Penn as a transfer student. Interestingly, that is actually the opposite of the truth! As it so happens, students coming from community colleges have proven to be well equipped to succeed at Ivy League schools. In fact, a study from 2019 found that students who transferred from community college to schools like Ivy League graduated at higher rates than those transferring from other four-year institutions.
  • There’s an actual reason to transfer from community college to an Ivy League: One key factor that admissions officers at Ivy League schools look for when they are reviewing transfer applicants is something known as a “defined academic need.” This essentially refers to a clear and objective reason why a student would benefit from attending a school like Penn aside from that student simply wanting to enroll at a more prestigious school. This is a huge advantage because community colleges simply do not offer the kind of diversity of courses or resources that four-year programs do. So that is your “defined academic need,” and it is absolutely something that you will want to discuss when it comes to filling out your personal essays as part of your application.

Get more help in coordinating your University of Pennsylvania transfer

Despite the fact that Penn is one of the most popular Ivy League schools for transfers to apply to, it remains incredibly difficult to achieve the goal of actually getting in as a transfer student. With that being said, just because it is hard does not mean it is impossible, and students prove that fact every single year!

If you are curious about what your chances are of getting in and want to learn more about the process, challenges and opportunities that you may have as a transfer applicant, contact AdmissionSight today to schedule a free consultation.



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