How to Get Into UPenn 2021: Acceptance Rate & Tips

UPenn is at the top of the school list for excellent students across the world. It’s no wonder why: with a history of thought and business leadership that traces its origins all the way back to founder Benjamin Franklin, Penn continues to produce world-class graduates with impressive academic and professional credentials. When many hear the name Penn, they think of the Wharton School of Business. The university prides itself, however, on delivering a rigorous arts and sciences foundation across all four of its undergraduate schools. And its ability to deliver on its promise continues to draw more and more applicants.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

In fact, in the 2020-2021 application season, the University of Pennsylvania saw a spike in applicant numbers, with total applications increasing by 34% more than the previous year. Of 56,333 applicants, Penn offered admission to just 3,202. For Early Decision, Penn’s acceptance rate fell by 4.7% to 15% after a 23% increase in applicants.

Application RoundNumber of ApplicantsNumber of Admitted StudentsAcceptance RateAcceptance Rate % Change (from 2020)
Early Decision7,9621,19415%-4.7%
Overall56,3333,2025.68%-2.39%

The numbers are daunting to say the least. But they don’t always give the full picture. And they’re representative of macro trends in worldwide education that are outside any single person’s control. That’s why it’s more effective to first understand these numbers in context, then use your time to focus on preparing your own personal application as best you can. 

What do you need to apply to the University of Pennsylvania?

UPenn has waived its standardized testing requirement, though you are still able to submit your SAT or ACT scores if you feel they will enhance your application. These are all the materials that every applicant will need to prepare and submit in order to be considered for admission to UPenn:

More information: UPenn Application Requirements 

UPenn also gives applicants the option to submit a Fine Arts Supplement and/or an Additional Letter of Recommendation. The university offers alumni interviews for the majority of applicants, though this is dependent on the availability of the alumni interviewers. 

For details on submitting Financial Aid materials to UPenn, use the university’s helpful checklist.

What is UPenn looking for?

The University of Pennsylvania particularly prizes academic ambition and performance. The school expects successful applicants to have taken the most challenging coursework their school offers and to have excelled across all fields. Like most top universities, they value interdisciplinary capability.  

To get a sense of just how much UPenn values academic achievement, consider the fact that over the last several years, 91% of the university’s admitted students had an unweighted high school GPA of 3.75+, and all acceptees had an average SAT score of 1494.

Beyond academics, however, Penn seeks students who embody Benjamin Franklin’s commitment to “service to society.” In practical terms, this means that the university is looking for young people who proactively engage in improving both their immediate communities and society as a whole. Penn wants to see an applicant’s genuine desire to uplift others shine through in their application. However, this does not mean that the university wants you to take part in just any volunteer or charitable activities. They particularly look for societal influence that stems from your authentic interests, skills, and personal background. They look for young people who have proven that they are capable of founding, growing, or innovating community development projects that matter to them as individuals.

Finally, Penn aims to admit students from a diverse range of backgrounds and with a diverse set of ambitions and interests. If you stand out from others, they’ll have a clear motivation to bring you to campus.

How can you get into UPenn?

While there’s no surefire formula for being admitted to a school as selective as UPenn, you can do a few concrete things to increase your chances of admission. These include:

If you’re able to achieve a near-perfect GPA in the hardest classes, engage meaningfully with personal interests and community problems, and demonstrate an ability to take charge of your own goals by acting on your principles, you’ll set yourself up for submitting a strong application that the UPenn Admissions Committee will remember. None of this is easy, but if you’re deeply motivated to be at Penn, you can find ways to show it.

What are your chances of getting into UPenn?

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