10 Attributes UPenn University Admission Counselors Look for in Future Students

March 10, 2021
By AdmissionSight

10 Attributes UPenn University Admission Counselors Look for in Future Students

Both parents and students are well aware that Ivy League schools are not easy to get into. Eight of the world’s top-tier universities comprise this prestigious group, which many applicants aspire to attend in order to improve their academic opportunities. Naturally, these renowned schools like UPenn end up attracting some intense competition from incredibly talented students.

Old building surrounded by trees.

While it’s well-understood that the admissions process of these universities is challenging, many applicants and parents aren’t sure how to improve their chances of getting accepted. What makes one application more impressive than another? What does UPenn look for in applicants? Fortunately, AdmissionSight has spent years mastering the ins and outs of the college admissions process for some of the best schools in the country, including UPenn. So, we know exactly what admission counselors are looking for and how to nail your application.

You might have heard the terms “comprehensive” or “holistic” used to describe a college admissions process. These fancy terms are just used to describe how an admissions process includes a wide variety of factors when determining whether a student gets accepted or not. UPenn, along with all other Ivy League schools, uses this approach when sifting through applications.

In other words, there isn’t one test you can take, one grade you can achieve, or one characteristic you can have that will secure your spot in the next UPenn class. Admission counselors are more interested in how you measure up overall against the competition. They’ll consider everything from your high school GPA and your extracurricular activities to your sports participation and how you spend your free time.

For all parents and students who are wondering how to get into UPenn, you’re in the right place. Here at AdmissionSight, we know the college admissions process like the back of our hands. To give you a headstart against the competition, we’ll help answer “what does UPenn look for in applicants?” This way, students can feel more confident about their applications, and parents can know how to best prepare their kids for getting into UPenn.

What does UPenn look for in applicants?

1. Knowledge of the university

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s start with a little pop quiz. What’s your favorite part of UPenn? Which of the university’s four schools are you hoping to attend? What courses would you like to take within your academic interest? If you were able to answer these questions quickly, specifically, and accurately, you’re off to a great start! However, if you had trouble providing responses and resorted to general responses such as “I’m excited to attend UPenn because it’s a great school”, then we have some work to do.

One of the most important attributes admissions officers look for is knowledge about the university. They already know how great of a school UPenn is, so they won’t be impressed with applicants who simply sing the school’s praises. Instead, they’re looking for details and specifics about the university and how these aspects line up with your academic and professional goals. Admissions counselors can easily separate stronger from weaker applicants based on how much they know about UPenn.

2. Challenging high school curriculum

Whenever somebody asks, “what do UPenn admissions interviewers look for?”, one of the more popular answers is “a high GPA”. While it’s true that admissions counselors want to see an impressive grade-point average, there’s more to the equation than simply getting awesome grades. UPenn recognizes that each high school is different and will consider your GPA and curriculum overall in relationships to your high school. In other words, simply choosing the easiest courses to earn the highest GPA possible won’t cut it.

Students writing in class.

Instead, you’ll need to plan your courses diligently and deliberately. Your classes should be challenging enough to push your academic development while still being doable. After all, you don’t want to take the toughest courses only to fail them. Furthermore, you should try and line up your high school courses with the degree you’d like to pursue at UPenn if you already know which of the university’s four schools you’d like to attend. Pre-high school counseling is a great place to start.

3. A positive impact on teachers

Another important attribute that UPenn looks for in applicants is their impact on teachers. Did you stand out as a student in a positive way? Or did you just do the bare minimum to get by? Admissions officers want to know what your high school teachers think of you. In order to complete the UPenn application process, you’ll need to get impressive letters of recommendation from previous or current high school teachers. This requirement is designed to offer admissions officers a deeper and more personal look into who applicants are as a student.

Teacher and student talking in a table.

Of course, you can’t write a recommendation letter on behalf of your teachers or influence what they write. However, you can make sure you have a positive impact in the classroom, go above and beyond to progress in the class, always participate, and do everything to come across as eager, competent, and talented to your teachers. That way, by the time you’re preparing for the UPenn college admissions process, you’ll have no shortage of teachers who are willing to provide you with excellent letters of recommendation.

4. High standardized test scores

Closely linked with your high school curriculum and GPA is another attribute UPenn application officers will be looking for on your application: high standardized test scores. These tests are used to give the admissions committee a deeper understanding of how your academic performance lines up with the difficulty of UPenn’s courses.

In other words, the higher you score on the SAT and ACT, the more prepared you are for collegiate-level subjects. Although there are multiple other factors – both academic and non-academic – used to determine your eligibility for UPenn, it’s still paramount that you score high on these standardized tests.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UPenn is not requiring applicants to complete the SAT or ACT for the 2020-2021 cycle. However, it’s important to keep in mind, that these standardized tests are still being accepted and considered.

Although they’re not required, an excellent SAT and ACT score can help further cement your spot in the incoming UPenn class. A great way to prepare for these exams is to take practice tests online or by attending a dedicated course. You can technically take the SAT and ACT as many times as you want, but we recommend limiting it to two or three times.

5. Solid UPenn alumni interview

You’ve probably heard just how important alumni networks are to Ivy League universities like UPenn. Graduates of these prestigious universities tend to stay in contact with each other and are known for providing each other favors both in personal and professional settings.

While this is a great reason to attend an Ivy League school, you’ll be interacting with this network before even attending UPenn. You see, one of the attributes admissions officers look for in students is a great alumni interview. What’s that? Well, if chosen, you’ll be sitting down one-on-one with a graduate of UPenn.

Two shaking hands.

This two-way interview is designed to benefit both you and UPenn. You’ll have a chance to ask any questions you want about the university, its application process, and what it’s like to attend. Through the alumni volunteer, UPenn will get to know more about you, why you want to attend the university, and what sets you apart from the competition.

Although this is an integral component of your overall application, you don’t have to be nervous about the interview. It’s informal, relaxed, and simple. Just make sure you put your best foot forward and ask all of the questions that have been bouncing around in your mind.

6. Extracurricular activities

Although high GPAs and impressive SAT and ACT test scores are important components of your UPenn application, admissions officers are also looking for non-academic attributes. And one of those is participation and success in extracurricular activities.

In your application, you’ll have an “Activities” section where you can talk about what you do outside of the classroom, whether it’s a hobby you enjoy in your free time, ways you interact with your family, or a club you join with fellow classmates after school. Regardless of what you put, keep in mind that UPenn admissions officers are interested in what keeps you busy outside of school.

It’s advisable to be yourself during this part of the application and to list a wide variety of activities and experiences. UPenn wants to know how much time you’ve spent on these activities, why you got involved in the first place, and what you learned along the way.

How have you developed a particular skillset or improved your knowledge in a certain area? Don’t be afraid to get specific as the admissions committee is looking for students who aren’t just active inside the classroom. They’re also looking for applicants who can contribute to extracurricular activities

7. What makes you you

Each year, tens of thousands of students submit applications to UPenn. This means admissions officers are sifting through tens of thousands of applications to determine which stand out from the crowd. While perfect standardized test scores and impressive GPAs will certainly improve your chances of getting admitted to UPenn, you can’t forget about the most important component of the application: you.

You’re the only thing that makes your application entirely unique. As a result, you’ll need to let your personality, interests, and uniqueness shine through on the application. After all, you’re the most important attribute that UPenn is going to consider.

What kind of experiences did you have growing up that helped shape who you are? What challenges or obstacles did you face and what did you learn along the way. Why are you interested in the subjects you’re pursuing? What kind of change do you want to make in the world?

These are all questions you should have clear answers for in order to show admissions officers at UPenn why you’re unique and why this university is a great fit for you. Make sure you offer some variety when filling out the application. Try not to rehash old ideas or retell stories. You want to maximize what UPenn admissions officers can learn about you.

8. Contributions to the community

When answering“what does UPenn look for in applicants?”, it’s critical to talk about how you will contribute to the university and the overall community. You see, applying to an Ivy League school isn’t just about proving why you’re eligible based on grades, test scores, and extracurricular activities or how the school will help you achieve your goals.

Students gathered for a picture in Upenn

UPenn admissions officers want to know how you’re going to add to the university. They already know what UPenn brings to the table. They’re more interested in how you plan to bring something a positive contribution to the school’s community.

UPenn admissions officers specifically look for students who emulate and are inspired by the school’s founder: Benjamin Franklin. In other words, they’re looking for someone who is serving society.

More specifically, admissions counselors want to know how you plan to serve the local school community, the larger city of Philadelphia, and the world at large. Sound too complicated? Don’t worry you don’t have to – and you shouldn’t – promise anything too big. Instead, talk about what you can personally bring to the UPenn community.

9. Clear direction and goals to get into UPenn

Admission officers at U Penn are interested in how you have grown and developed throughout your high school years both in academic and nonacademic settings. Furthermore, they’re interested in how you plan to continue this growth and development. What are your personal, academic, and professional goals? Many students struggle to clarify their overall direction because the question seems too complex and involved.

In reality, admission counselors don’t expect students to know exactly what they want to do. Instead, they just want to see that students have a detailed plan of action for the foreseeable future.

It’s not a big deal if this ends up changing throughout your college experience. Perhaps an even more important attribute that you pin admissions officers are looking for in an applicant is an ability to tie in specific university offerings with the student’s long-term goals.

In other words, can you explain what specific courses, research opportunities, clubs, extracurricular activities, and other school offerings will help you continue to reach your goals? Finding a connection between your overall objectives and UPenn’s offerings is a great way to illustrate why you’re a great match for the university and vice versa.

10. Exceptional supplemental essays

No discussion about how to get into UPenn is complete without talking about supplemental essays. Every year, the university releases a new set of essays to which applicants must respond. These supplemental essay prompts are to be filled out in addition to the standard application. While the latter focuses primarily on your grades, test scores, high school courses, and extracurricular activities, the supplemental essays are d are more open-ended. They’re designed to give admissions officers at UPenn a better idea of who you are and what makes you unique. Due to their importance, it’s critical that you nail these essays.

Whether you’re an excellent writer or have some room to improve, working with an admissions specialist is a great way to kick your supplemental essay responses into high gear.

AdmissionSight has been working with applicants for years, guiding them through the writing process, and helping them nail the UPenn supplemental essays.

We know exactly what admissions officers are looking for and can help you better understand the supplemental essay prompts. Our highly qualified team offers personalized essay editing services to make sure your essays are in perfect shape before submission.

You’re one step closer to getting into UPenn

If you’re looking to learn everything you need to know about UPenn and its admissions process, consider working with AdmissionSight. As a leading provider of college admissions services, we have spent years mastering the college admissions process of some of the world’s best universities, including the Ivy League.

We know what admissions officers are looking for, how students can stand out from the crowd, and what can greatly increase a student’s chances of getting into their dream university. Whether you’re a student or parent who’s been wondering “what do UPenn admissions interviewers look for?” we can help you answer that question.

Need a hand choosing the right high school courses to take? We’ve got you covered with academic planning services. What about summer programs? Yes, we can help you with that too! And how about extracurriculars?

Our team even offers extracurricular planning because our services are as comprehensive as the admissions processes of the country’s top schools. Feel free to reach out to AdmissionSight today to learn more about what services we offer and how you can benefit from them

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