How to Get Into UPENN

Thousands of students dream of attending the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn). And for good reason: UPenn is the Porsche of higher education. It houses one of the most internationally acclaimed business schools,[1][2] Benjamin Franklin founded it,[3] and boasts one of the most robust undergraduate research programs in the world.[4] Even among the Ivy League Colleges, UPenn is a crowning jewel. In short, there’s little to hate and loads to love about this elite university.

And make no mistake: UPenn is an elite college. And, like acquiring any elite product, it’s highly competitive and not without cost. In this way, UPenn truly is the Porsche of colleges. Every driver has heard of Porsche, but most don’t drive one. As you can imagine, most who apply to UPenn don’t get in. As we mentioned in our How to Get Into the Ivy League Article, those who get into UPenn, or any Ivy League, don’t do so by accident but with a combination of grinding hard work and meticulous strategy.

In this guide, we’ll explore what it takes to get into UPenn. If you’re serious about attending this incredible college, we’ll cover what you can do to make yourself an attractive applicant. While much of the advice will target applying to UPenn, many tips will apply to other elite colleges. If you are considering applying to other Ivy League schools, then you may wish to check out other guides which we have written.

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Table of Contents

How hard is it to get into UPenn?

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How difficult is it to get into UPenn? That depends on several factors. Generally, though, it’s immensely competitive. To help you see what fit you would be for UPenn, here are some statistics about the most recently accepted class of 2027:

UPENN Statistics

  • The acceptance rate was 6%.[5]
  • The average GPA was 3.9. This was with a heavy course load (AP and IB classes).[6]
  • Ninety-four percent of the students graduated from the top 10 percent of their high school class.
  • The middle 50% of scores, as well as the median scores on each of the two SAT components, are as follows:[7]
    • SAT Evidence-based Reading + Writing component: 740 to 770, with a median of 760
    • SAT Math component: 770 to 800, with a median of 790[8]
  • The average ACT score was 34.

Like I said, this is a competitive space. However, you have a shot if your high school transcript looks like this. These high academic standards and UPenn’s emphasis on holistic admissions mean that applicants must excel academically and demonstrate a breadth of extracurricular involvement, leadership qualities, and a compelling personal narrative. Moreover, UPenn’s commitment to building a diverse and inclusive campus community adds another layer of complexity to the admissions process, as the university seeks to enroll students from a wide range of backgrounds and perspectives.[9] Overall, admission to UPenn requires a combination of academic excellence, extracurricular engagement, and a strong alignment with the university’s values and mission.

Keep in mind, also, UPenn’s standardized testing policies. Regarding ACT scores, you have absolute control over which tests you send. This means that you could take ten tests and only send your highest one.[10] For the SAT, UPenn has a Score Choice policy of “All Scores.” This means that the University of Pennsylvania requires you to send all SAT scores you’ve ever taken to their office.[11] Currently, the 2023-2024 year is test optional.[12] Remember, however, that if you decide not to send in a standardized test score, you must generously make up for it in other areas: GPA, extracurriculars, and a strong personal narrative.

However, as of the time this article was written, the following Ivy Leagues, including UPenn, have the following policies regarding testing.[13]

  • Brown University: Requiring SAT or ACT scores for all applicants.[14]
  • Columbia University: Permanently test-optional.[15]
  • Cornell University: Requiring SAT or ACT scores for all applicants.[16]
  • Dartmouth College: Requiring SAT or ACT scores for all applicants[17].
  • Harvard University: Requiring SAT or ACT Scores for all applicants.[18][19][20]
  • University of Pennsylvania: Test-optional through at least the 2024-2025 application cycle.[21]
  • Princeton University: Test-optional through at least the 2025-2026 application cycle.[22][23]
  • Yale University: Requiring SAT, ACT, or IB or AP exam scores for all applicants.[24][25]

What is UPenn looking for?

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What are you looking for?

UPenn states, “We want our campus to reflect the world around us, so we enroll students from all corners of the world and a wide range of backgrounds.” You will see more about this in this article’s “admissions trends” section, but UPenn accepts many diverse people. So, if you are in the minority, that could be to your advantage. And yet, if you’re not in a racial or cultural minority, you should consider how you can add value to UPenn’s diversity objective.

You may be part of a majority or dominating group. For example, a recent data pool suggests that 73% of finance professionals are male and 71% are white.[26] Likewise, most psychology majors in the US are female.[27] These are highly demographically dominated fields.

Therefore, if you’re an upper-middle-class white female majoring in psychology, you should consider how other aspects of your application showcase other unique qualities. Otherwise, you compete with more people like you for the same spot. If this is you, then here’s something you can do about it: demonstrate how you contribute to this diversity in ways other than apparent factors like ethnicity or race. Your unique background, experiences, and perspectives could strengthen your application.

Let’s use Ben, the aspiring medical student, as an example. Ben applied to several prestigious schools but felt daunted when he looked at the class pictures from the last five years of the schools he wanted to attend. Most had one or two white males in a class of 20+ students, and he was a white male. Medical school interviews brought questions about how he would contribute to the diversity of the incoming class.

This is a valid question because future doctors serve all kinds of people. Medical schools want to enroll doctors who can empathize with many different types of people. So, Ben thought more deeply about what made him diverse.

“Something different about me is that I’m a dad. As young as I am and at this stage of life, I have started growing my family,” Ben said during a medical school interview.

“This has given me a whole new perspective. I empathize with those who need extra care or accommodations because they must care for their children. It has also forced me to grow up and put others before myself.”

Admittedly, Ben brings less to the diversity table than some of his peers, but he found something to market himself with. He demonstrated his unique experiences and perspectives to contribute to an incoming class.

Now, what can Ben’s story teach us about getting into UPenn? Well, quite a lot, actually. If you are in a similar boat, consider what unique experiences you bring to the UPenn diversity table. This is, after all, what they are looking for.

UPenn’s website makes this claim as well:

We look for students who aspire to develop and refine their talents and abilities within Penn’s liberal arts-based, practical, and interdisciplinary learning environment. Our ideal candidates are inspired to emulate our founder, Benjamin Franklin, by applying their “service to society” knowledge to our community, the city of Philadelphia, and the wider world. To best understand prospective students’ paths through Penn, we approach applications with a comprehensive whole-person review and with great care.”[28]

UPenn values students who will have a positive impact on society. If you can demonstrate your potential impact to the admissions committee, that would be one of the most valuable things on your application. While not springing from your cultural or racial identity, showcasing your unique impact on the world (or at least your slice of it) diversifies your application.

But how do you demonstrate your impact? This is an excellent question to ask for your Penn application as well as applications for other elite schools. It’s simply not true that schools like UPenn want well-rounded students. By “well-rounded,” I mean having a perfect GPA, being class president, captain of the track team, and scoring impressively on your ACT and AP tests. There are too many of these applicants to sift through. If you’re going the Ivy League route, you’ll need to set yourself apart by demonstrating three things on your application: passion, skill, and (you guessed it) impact.

Demonstrating Passion for your UPenn Application

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The aim is to convey to the admissions committee your dedication to pursuits beyond academics. Imagine you’re deeply committed to promoting environmental sustainability. Acting on this passion could involve spearheading community clean-up initiatives or advocating for renewable energy policies. Such endeavors showcase your commitment effectively. Demonstrating a fervor for non-academic pursuits signals to the admissions committee your potential to effect positive change in the world—a quality UPenn values in its graduates.

Ensure that your passion aligns with the following criteria:

  • It transcends the confines of the classroom environment; activities ONLY at school are less impressive.
  • You have a genuine interest in it.
  • It encompasses efforts towards change, assistance, creation, or enhancement of something.

If your passion checks the boxes above, you’re ready for the next step.

Demonstrating Skill on your UPenn Application

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Your application must pair your skills with your passion. Here is why. While passion is expected, only some people commit to developing marketable skills from their passions.

For example, discussing the intricacies of a political issue, understanding its complexities, and debating its implications can be intellectually stimulating. However, many can engage in such discussions given enough exposure. Conversely, actively working towards addressing the issue through policy research, community organizing, or advocacy requires dedication, expertise, and effort.

Imagine this scenario: you acquire knowledge, dedicate hours to research, and actively engage in grassroots initiatives to effect change in your community or beyond.

Remember, expertise in a particular field isn’t mandatory; proficiency in any skill or a willingness to learn something new matters. Natural talent isn’t a prerequisite, either. The journey of developing your skills is highly appealing to admissions committees.

Integrating skill and passion in your UPenn application gives the admissions committee exactly what they want, as they are on a mission to “look for students who aspire to develop and refine their talents and abilities.”

Demonstrating Impact on your UPenn Application

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Once more, UPenn wants students who can make a positive difference in the world. They prefer those who use what they learn to help others, not just themselves. They want students who will apply “their knowledge in ‘service to society’ to our community, the city of Philadelphia, and the wider world.”

It might seem like the application process is all about what UPenn can do for you. But remember, they mostly want to know what you can do for them. They’re looking for students who will significantly influence the world.

So, how do you show UPenn that you have this transformative potential? If you’ve made a difference, that’s a good start. You don’t have to change the world before finishing high school. Making a difference in your school, community, or even your state is impressive. And if you’ve done that already, it suggests you’ll do even bigger things in the future.

Think about doing an “Impact Project” to show UPenn what you can do.

The Impact Project: How to Enhance Your College Application

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Consider these guidelines when brainstorming potential impact projects:

  1. Showcase your interests outside of school boundaries.
  2. Utilize a distinctive set of skills.
  3. Aim to make a positive change in your community.

Here are some examples of impactful projects you could undertake:

  • Establish a gardening club to promote sustainable living practices and organize community gardening projects.
  • Coordinate a charity fashion show featuring local designers to raise funds for a cause you deeply care about.
  • Spearhead a literacy program to support underprivileged children in improving their reading skills.
  • Launch a mentoring program pairing high school students with elementary school pupils to foster academic and personal growth.
  • Organize a fundraising campaign for a local animal shelter, utilizing social media and community events to raise awareness and donations.

Select a project aligned with your passions, values, and desired impact. Your genuine engagement and commitment will resonate with admissions committees. Remember, colleges recognize that no one is perfect. You don’t need to excel in every aspect. What matters is demonstrating your unique strengths and contributions.

Consider these examples of applicants who, despite their imperfections, have established a compelling narrative:

Applicant #1:

  • Created a website to help people suffering loss express and connect with others in a healthy way
  • Excels in debate and public speaking
  • Struggles with advanced mathematics

Applicant #2:

  • Volunteers regularly at a homeless shelter, coordinating donation drives
  • Scored impressively on the ACT and AP courses
  • Has challenges with writing

Both applicants have weaknesses but have developed a distinctive brand for themselves. Impact projects can help shape your personal brand and highlight your strengths. This focused approach conveys to admissions committees your potential to affect change.

So, keep these examples in mind as you contemplate your impact project. It’s perfectly fine to carve out room to pursue your passions.

Admissions Trends

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Remember how I said that UPenn accepts many diverse people? Here’s what I mean. These are the statistics from the most recently admitted class of 2027:

  • Students came from 97 nations. Their international students are most commonly citizens of Canada, the UK, China, India, and Hong Kong.
  • They had students from 48 US states. The most common states US students are from are Pennsylvania, New York, California, New Jersey, and Texas, with 6% of the class being from Philadelphia.
  • 19% are first-generation college students.
  • 57% identify as students of color.
  • 25% are from races and ethnicities historically underrepresented in higher education.
  • 20% are estimated to be pell-eligible.
  • 54% were assigned female at birth.
  • 46% assigned male at birth.[29]

UPenn’s commitment to diversity is undoubtedly reflected in the demographics of its recently accepted class of 2027. This is all part of its efforts to “enroll students from all corners of the world and a wide range of backgrounds.”

UPenn Undergraduate Colleges

Which one

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To get into the University of Pennsylvania, your strategy must be precise. In fact, you need to have an application plan that incorporates your college major. We’ve written previously on how aptitude testing helps students pick their college major. If you haven’t taken one, consider taking a high school aptitude test before you plan your application strategy. You’re less likely to change your major if your major is based on aptitudes, and it will make picking an application project easier.

After all, your major will determine what college of UPenn you apply to. That’s right. In addition to applying to UPenn, you must determine which of their internal colleges you want to attend. Applicants must choose one of the four undergraduate colleges of UPenn:

  • The College of Arts and Sciences
  • The School of Nursing
  • Penn Engineering
  • The Wharton School

We read the following about these four colleges on the UPenn Admissions page.

Most students begin their education in one of the four schools but may take courses across all four. We’ve organized our curriculum to make it possible for students to sample from among more than 4,200 courses (including offerings in more than 40 languages), choose from a variety of interdisciplinary minors, and pursue more than one degree.[30]

If accepted, you’ll have a cornucopia of courses to choose from. However, to get accepted, you’ll need a specific application strategy, depending on the college to which you apply.

The Wharton School

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It would not be a surprise if you had heard of this school. Donald Trump and Elon Musk are some notable alumni of this school. Founded in 1881 as the world’s first collegiate business school, The Wharton School is globally recognized for intellectual leadership across every major discipline of business education. Wharton offers education at every level: undergraduate, MBA, executive MBA, and doctoral. Wharton also reaches out annually to 9,000 participants through Executive Education programs. The school’s online journal, Knowledge@Wharton, published in multiple languages, reaches more than 1.7 million global subscribers. Wharton’s school also makes up one of the largest business school alumni networks in the world, having 99,000 plus graduates.[31]

Wharton claims they want the following qualities in their students.[32]

In applicants to the Wharton School, we would like to see:

  • An interest in business to fuel positive change to advance the world’s economic and social well-being

  • Demonstrated leadership

  • Strong preparation in mathematics, particularly calculus

Serious applicants should ensure their course work reflects “strong… mathematics.” Combine this with a history of strong initiative and leadership topped off with a desire for conscious capitalism.

Economist and Investopedia writer Will Kenton defines conscious capitalism this way:

“Conscious capitalism” refers to a socially responsible economic and political philosophy. The premise behind conscious capitalism is that businesses should operate ethically while they pursue profits.

This means that they should consider serving all stakeholders, including their employees, humanity, and the environment. They shouldn’t limit the impact of their achievements to just their management teams and shareholders.[33]

The Wharton School wants students who align with this ethical philosophy. Hence, they want students who will “fuel positive change to advance the world’s economic and social well-being.”

In other words, they want data scientists with hearts of gold and sharp but sensitive minds. The Wharton School doesn’t just want business prodigies who will change the world but future executives who ensure that their business ventures bring success to everyone.

School of Arts and Sciences

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This is where nearly half of UPenn students will study. They offer over 50 majors, signature interdisciplinary programs, and dual-degree programs. The Graduate Division includes over 30 graduate groups and offers the degrees of Master of Arts, Master of Science, Master of Philosophy, and Doctor of Philosophy. The faculty from this school are academically accomplished, to say the least, having been awarded honors such as the National Medal of Science, the MacArthur Fellowship, Pulitzer, and Nobel Prizes.[34]

If you want to apply to Penn’s School of Arts and Sciences, consider the following. On the College’s website,[35] we read the following:

In applicants to the College of Arts & Sciences, we would like to see:

  • A curiosity in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences

  • An ability to apply classroom knowledge to the real world

  • Strong preparation in a balanced and advanced college preparatory curriculum

Thus, when completing your impact project, demonstrate these qualities saliently, especially in your essays.

School of Engineering and Applied Science

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The School of Engineering and Applied Science was founded in 1852 as the School of Mines, Arts, and Manufactures. UPenn claims that its engineering students have an “unparalleled experience” because of the world-acclaimed faculty and state-of-the-art research laboratories they can access. They also state that “Penn Engineering students play a critical role in asking and answering the questions that will improve human health and transform the world.”[36]

Sadly, Penn Engineering’s website[37] tells us the least regarding what they want in students. The following is all they tell us:

In applicants to the School of Engineering and Applied Science, we would like to see:

  • An ability to innovate, design, and practically apply scientific discoveries

  • Expressed reasons for pursuing an engineering education

  • Strong preparation in physics and mathematics, particularly calculus

A bit vague, isn’t it? While not obviously helpful or specific, this list of requirements does attempt to scratch the surface of what they’re asking for in applicants. What I can tell you is this: the students I know who have made it to the Penn Engineering School had the following in common.

  • Moderate to high mastery in coding
  • Took the hardest STEM courses their high school offered
  • Were involved in STEM communities outside of school
  • Often Competed Nationally in STEM Competitions
  • Most completed STEM research or projects as early as 8th or 9th grade
  • While some had internships, these didn’t tend to matter as much as research or projects

Remember, however, that this list is derived from my own experience advising students. It also comprises the insights I’ve gleaned from other consultants who have advised students who have been accepted to UPenn.

School of Nursing

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The School of Nursing at UPenn stands as one of the top-tier research establishments in the country dedicated to the field of nursing science. UPenn Nursing faculty consistently receives more research funding from the National Institutes of Health than any other private nursing school, and many master’s programs are ranked first in the country. Students can access a state-of-the-art simulation lab, a nurse-led elder-care practice, and classrooms with the latest technologies. Nursing students can also clock in clinical experience in two of the nation’s best medical institutions, the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.[38]

Want to apply to one of the best Nursing Programs in the world? If so, according to the School of Nursing’s website, you’ll need to do the following and demonstrate the following on your application.[39]

In applicants to the School of Nursing, we would like to see:

  • A commitment to patient care and the future of healthcare delivery

  • A desire to explore issues in healthcare and research

  • A strong preparation in the sciences, particularly in chemistry

Ensure that your essays, applications, and recommendations communicate these elements.

Tuition and Financial Aid

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graduation cap with spare change

Tuition and fees were $63,452 for the 2022-2023 academic year.[40] If this seems out of reach, there’s still hope. UPenn’s grant-based financial aid program strives to level the playing field for students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Since 2004, the university has allocated an impressive $3.1 billion in undergraduate aid, benefiting over 25,000 students.[41]

In the 2022-23 academic year, nearly half of the traditional undergraduate students received grant-based financial aid, so if UPenn’s price tag is a barrier to attending, you could be one to receive this aid.[42] Ongoing contributions from alums and supporters are a big reason this is all possible. UPenn has a net price calculator to help you see what you will likely be responsible for paying.[43] You can visit that here.

As the nation’s largest provider of financial aid, UPenn covers 100% of the demonstrated need for eight semesters. Additionally, each Penn student is assigned a counselor of financial assistance for ongoing support.[44]

Prospective applicants need to understand that all financial aid at Penn is need-based. Unlike some institutions, Penn does not offer merit-based scholarships, prioritizing support based on students’ economic circumstances.[45] Therefore, applicants should carefully consider their financial needs and the university’s aid policies when deciding about their academic journey. Ultimately, Penn’s dedication to accessibility ensures that deserving students can pursue their educational goals regardless of economic barriers. However, because most students pay UPenn’s total sticker price, you likely would, too. That’s no little sacrifice, so have that on your mind when it’s time to apply. This is especially true if you apply early-decision.

Student Life at UPenn

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student life

At UPenn, the campus is lively and diverse, with students from all over the world. This diversity is everywhere, from clubs and events to cultural groups, making the campus a place where differences are celebrated and students can learn from each other.

UPenn’s campus has over 1,200 student organizations, so if you’re willing to put yourself out there, you’re bound to find your people.[46] These organizations include academic and professional groups and cultural, athletic, and recreational clubs, providing students ample opportunities to explore their passions outside the classroom.

In addition to student organizations, the university hosts various social events and traditions. Moreover, Greek life adds to the social scene on campus, with a mix of fraternities and sororities to join.

UPenn is also home to numerous cultural and artistic venues, where students can attend performances, art exhibitions, and cultural events both on and off campus. Whether enjoying a theater production at the Annenberg Center or exploring contemporary art at the Institute of Contemporary Art, students can access a vibrant arts scene.

If sports are your thing, Penn has division I-level sports teams, intramural leagues, and fitness classes to give ample opportunities to stay active and healthy.

Philadelphia, where UPenn is situated, has much to offer as well. You can visit famous places like the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall or explore museums like the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Those who want to be in nature can enjoy parks like Fairmount Park, while history buffs can visit places like the Eastern State Penitentiary. Plenty of restaurants also serve different cuisines worldwide, and the city has a lively nightlife. Philadelphia also serves as a hub for internship and job opportunities, allowing students to gain valuable real-world experience and expand their professional networks.

Complete the UPenn Application

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Applying for college

UPenn offers two kinds of applications: Early Decision and Regular Decision. Penn does not offer Early Decision II or Early Action application options.[47]

Applying Early Decision

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Applying Early Decision means submitting your application early and committing to attending if accepted. For Penn, this means by November 1.[48] Applying Early Decision gives you a higher chance of acceptance. Those who apply for Early Decision have a 15% chance of making it as opposed to the normal acceptance rate of 6%.[49] However, remember that if you apply for Early Decision, you are committing to attend that school if accepted.

Not accepting the offer is frowned upon and will worsen your chances with other schools you might have applied to. Generally, you should be sure you truly want to attend a school if you plan to apply using early decision. There’s still hope if you are not accepted with your Early Decision application. If you are deferred, meaning your Early Decision application did not result in an acceptance, your application will be moved into the Regular Decision pool like everyone else.[50]

There is also the option of applying Regular Decision to Penn, with a deadline of January 5 (precise dates may change year to year).[51]

Where to Fill out a UPenn Application

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UPenn accepts the Common Application or the Coalition Application. The Common Application personal statement or a Coalition Application essay is integral to the application. These written pieces play a significant role because they offer admissions officers valuable insights into who the students are beyond their academic achievements. Given the high number of qualified applicants competing for admission to prestigious institutions like Penn, these essays serve as a way for students to distinguish themselves. A strong personal statement or essay can make a student memorable and set them apart from their peers.[52]

Alumni Conversations at the University of Pennsylvania

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Most applicants will have an alumnus or alumna contacting you about a (sort of) interview. They don’t call it an interview because it doesn’t determine whether you are accepted or rejected. This is why they call these alumni “conversations.” They are meant to be a resource to you so you may ask questions and be an opportunity for the alumnus to report more about you to the admissions committee.

The goal, they say, is to get to know you better through these conversations. Whether you connect with alumni or not is based on how many alumni volunteers they get to talk with applicants that year. UPenn says you will likely be contacted for this opportunity, but it is not guaranteed. You also cannot request this opportunity. Your chat with an alumnus will be online or on the phone.

To prepare for this, they say to be prompt in emailing the alumna back about scheduling a time to meet and to be ready to answer questions like the following:

  • Can you tell me a little about yourself?
  • What’s important to you?
  • What are your current academic and 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?

You should also wear something you might wear for a class picture or school presentation; there is no need to bring a resume or portfolio. The purpose is to get to know you better as an applicant.

Visit UPenn Campus

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After reading thus far, you may think that UPenn is the place for you. If so, congrats! However, visiting a university can give you insight that extensive research alone cannot provide. For those considering Penn, a visit allows you to experience the lively campus atmosphere and an opportunity to envision Philadelphia as a potential home.

During an in-person visit to Penn, you’ll speak to a staff member and then embark on a guided campus tour led by a current student. If in-person visiting isn’t feasible, Penn offers virtual alternatives such as online information sessions, student-led virtual tours, and specific sessions for each of Penn’s four undergraduate schools.

Connecting with current students is another effective way to gauge whether a school fits you. Chatting with a student can offer invaluable insights into college life, whether during a campus tour, information session, or chance encounter. If you’re unable to visit in person, reaching out to the admissions office to facilitate a connection with a current student is a great alternative.[53]

To simulate this experience, here’s a list of thoughts from Yash Mahajan, a current Penn student.

Advantage 1: UPenn’s Social Scene

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“A pro is the social scene. It’s a big school but not too big, so you’re going to be able to find many people that you get along with, but you’re not going to feel too overwhelmed.

Advantage 2: The Incredible Campus Aesthetics

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Secondly, the campus is beautiful. It’s in the city but not in the Heart of the city, meaning that you have access to Philadelphia but still have that campus vibe…

Advantage 3: Ivy League Academics

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[Another] pro has to be academics… There’s a whole range of classes from seminars to lectures, and you can take them across all four schools: the business school, nursing school, engineering school, and the School of Arts and Sciences.

Advantage 4: UPenn’s Robust Alumni Connection

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The last [advantage]… is the alumni connection. During homecoming, it’s awesome seeing everyone coming back. There are some people you can reach out to for help, assistance, internships, etc. [It’s] cool that you have so many prominent leaders in the world who are connected to you through the school.[54]

Using Social Media to Get Into UPenn

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If you have social media accounts, consider tagging UPenn in a post while you visit. While this may seem like you’re looking at tea leaves, digitally engaging with UPenn’s brand demonstrates interest that you’re a serious candidate. Don’t get me wrong. If you don’t have a compelling application filled with excellent test scores, near-perfect grades, and a unique narrative, digitally engaging with UPenn’s brand won’t help.

However, if you’re showing that you’re serious enough to visit the campus, you might as well. This may sound strange, but many of my independent educational consultant colleagues train students to use social media in their applications. Given what many admissions leaders have said lately, it’s an effective way to market your application.

For example, Cathay O’Neil, writer, data-scientist, and admissions advocate, wrote this:

“Colleges have begun to use algorithms that work on an individual-student basis to profile and predict their behavior. They use social media data, as well as the data supplied by the applications, to compute the likelihood a given student will enroll if accepted, the extent of financial aid needed by the student – or needed to seduce a relatively well-off student.”[55]

The ethical implications of this statement provide a powder keg of controversy. However, this article doesn’t focus on the ethics of Ivy League admissions. We want to give you every advantage you can to get into UPenn. UPenn employs big data marketing tools such as these. So, if you can use them to your advantage, you should.

For example, a report as early as 2015 claimed this:

“If an applicant clicks on the school’s page from a customized email, their IP address is connected to their “anonymous” activity, and school administrators can see exactly who that person is—their email, their location, their engagement ranking, and more.[56]

Thus, colleges with marketing budgets like UPenn see the following about prospective students:

  • IP address
  • Email
  • Zip code
  • Engagement Ranking

If a student has a high engagement ranking, that increases the student’s chances. You want your engagement ranking to be a cut above the rest so colleges know you’re serious about coming there. This means spending more time to read the emails they send you. It also means liking their posts on social media (from an appropriate account). To learn more about this, you should also read our Do Colleges Look At Social Media post.


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UPenn is the elite of the elite, and your efforts will need to be elite if you plan to apply. To get that acceptance letter, you must focus on what matters most to UPenn: passion, skill, impact, and diversity. Combined with robust academics, these traits will help market you as a world-changer and someone they would be proud to educate.

If you plan on applying, do so with intention, precise strategy, and purpose.

Call us if you’re overwhelmed by this process or want help optimizing your efforts. Our team of admissions professionals can help guide you through this intense but significant process.


[1] Fernando, Jason, and Colleen Ramos. “Wharton School Overview.” Investopedia, Accessed 6 March 2024.

[2] Wharton Undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania. “Why Wharton – Undergraduate.” Wharton Undergrad at the University of Pennsylvania, Accessed 6 March 2024.

[3] University of Pennsylvania. “Benjamin Franklin 1706 – 1790.” University Archives and Records Center, University of Pennsylvania, Accessed 6 March 2024.

[4]University of Pennsylvania. “Penn CURF.” Penn CURF, University of Pennsylvania, Accessed 6 March 2024.

[5] “Facts.” University of Pennsylvania, Accessed 1 March 2024.

[6] “This Year’s University of Pennsylvania Admission Requirements.” PrepScholar, Accessed 1 March 2024.

[7] University of Pennsylvania. “Frequently Asked Questions.” University of Pennsylvania, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[8] “Facts.” University of Pennsylvania, Accessed 1 March 2024.

[9] “What Penn Looks For | Penn Admissions.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 1 March 2024.

[10] Ibid

[11] “This Year’s University of Pennsylvania Admission Requirements.” PrepScholar, Accessed 1 March 2024.

[12] “Incoming Class of 2027.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 4 March 2024.

[13] College Vine. “Ivy League Test Optional?” College Vine, College Vine, 9 November 2017, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[14] Castro, Alexander, et al. “Brown shifts back to requiring standardized tests • Rhode Island Current.” Rhode Island Current, 5 March 2024, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[15] Bauer, Jeremy. “Columbia University becomes first Ivy League institution to go permanently test-optional.” Higher Ed Dive, 2 March 2023, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[16] Cornell University. “Standardized Testing Policy | Undergraduate Admissions.” Cornell Undergraduate Admissions, 22 April 2024, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[17] Dartmouth University. “Update To Testing Policy.” Dartmouth Admissions, Dartmouth University Undergraduate Admissions, 5 February 2024, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[18] Saul, Stephanie. “Harvard and Caltech Will Require Test Scores for Admission.” The New York Times, 11 April 2024, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[19] “First-Year Applicants | Harvard.” Harvard College, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[20] Goncalves, Elyse C., et al. “In Sudden Reversal, Harvard To Require Standardized Testing for Next Admissions Cycle | News.” The Harvard Crimson, 11 April 2024, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[21] UPenn Admissions. “Testing.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[22] Princeton University. “Standardized Testing | Princeton Admission.” Princeton University Admission, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[23] Goodnow, Erin. “How to Get into Princeton | College Admissions.” Going Ivy, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[24] Yale University. “Standardized Testing Requirements & Policies | Yale College Undergraduate Admissions.” Yale Admissions, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[25] Griffin, Eri. “Yale announces new test-flexible admissions policy.” YaleNews, 22 February 2024, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[26] Zippa The Career Expert. “Finance Professional Demographics and Statistics [2024]: Number Of Finance Professionals In The US.” Zippia, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[27] US National Science Foundation. “Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2019.” Women, Minorities, and Persons with Disabilities in Science and Engineering: 2019 | NSF – National Science Foundation, 8 March 2019, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[28] “What Penn Looks For | Penn Admissions.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 1 March 2024.

[29] “Incoming Class of 2027.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 4 March 2024.

[30] UPenn Admissions. “Undergraduate Schools.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 1 May 2024.

[31] Annenberg, Walter H. “Schools.” University of Pennsylvania, Accessed 1 March 2024.

[32] UPenn Admission. “The Wharton School.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 1 May 2024.

[33] Kenton, Will. “Conscious Capitalism: Definition, 4 Principles, and Company Examples.” Investopedia, Accessed 1 May 2024.

[34] Ibid

[35] UPenn Admissions. “College of Arts and Sciences.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 1 May 2024.

[36] Ibid

[37] UPenn Admissions. “Penn Engineering.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 1 May 2024.

[38] UPenn Admission. “School of Nursing.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 1 May 2024.


[39] Ibid

[40] “Undergraduate Cost of Attendance | Penn Student Registration & Financial Services| Penn Srfs.” Penn Student Registration & Financial Services, Accessed 1 March 2024.

[41] “Admissions & Aid.” University of Pennsylvania, Accessed 1 March 2024.


[43] UPenn. YouTube: Home, 9 November 2017, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[44] “Student Financial Aid | Penn Student Registration & Financial Services| Penn Srfs.” Student Registration & Financial Services, Accessed 1 March 2024.

[45] “How it Works.” Penn Admissions, Accessed 1 March 2024.

[46] Penn Clubs, Accessed 2 March 2024.

[47] “How to Get Into Penn: All You Need to Know.” IvyWise, 31 August 2023, Accessed 2 March 2024.

[48] Ibid

[49] Accessed 20 April 2024.

[50] “How to Get Into Penn: All You Need to Know.” IvyWise, 31 August 2023, Accessed 2 March 2024.

[51] Ibid

[52] Ibid

[53] “How to Get Into Penn: All You Need to Know.” IvyWise, 31 August 2023, Accessed 2 March 2024.

[54] Mahajan, Yash, director. Is UPENN worth it? My Pros and Cons. 2022. YouTube,

[55] Katzman, Allan. “College Admissions in the Digital Age — Social Assurity.” Social Assurity, Social Assurity, 22 February 2024, Accessed 26 April 2024.

[56] Wang, Amy X. “Colleges are spying on prospective students by quietly tracking them across the internet.” Quartz, 26 October 2015, Accessed 26 April 2024.


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