How to get into upenn; collegeadvisor.com image: a photo of huntsman hall part of the Wharton school at Upenn

How to get into UPenn—General Information

The University of Pennsylvania is a private Ivy League research university located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It was founded in 1740 as the College of Philadelphia. The student body in the university at large is nearly 30,000, and the undergraduate population is just over 10,000.

What we’ll cover in this How to Get Into UPenn guide:

  • UPenn average GPA scores
  • Optimal UPenn SAT scores
  • UPenn application deadline
  • Details on the UPenn early decision acceptance rate
  • Preparing for a UPenn interview
  • UPenn supplemental essays, and more.

When thinking about how to get into UPenn, you should ensure each portion of your application is competitive—your GPA, UPenn SAT scores, UPenn supplemental essays, and more. This means preparing your application materials well before the UPenn application deadline. 

More broadly, you should prepare for the UPenn application deadline by ensuring your grades align with the UPenn average GPA. You should also strive for high UPenn SAT scores. This will improve your chances of admission, though we will also discuss how to apply to UPenn with grades lower than the UPenn average GPA. 

Figuring out how to get into UPenn takes strategy. We can help. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes UPenn graduates. Want to maximize your UPenn admissions odds?  Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272. 

How hard is it to get into University of Pennsylvania?

When wondering how to get into UPenn, selectivity is a big question. UPenn is a highly competitive school, with an undergraduate acceptance rate of 5.9% for the class of 2025. The UPenn Early Decision acceptance rate for the class of 2025 was 14.9%. 

In short, UPenn is a highly selective school. So, there is no one answer to how to get into UPenn. It will be a “reach” school for any applicant, but with a solid application, you can be a strong contender. In this guide, we will break down how to get into UPenn with actionable goals you can complete well before the UPenn application deadline. 

What GPA for University of Pennsylvania?

In considering how to get into UPenn, be sure to review the UPenn average GPA. The UPenn average GPA is 3.9. This makes the school highly competitive, with a low UPenn Early Decision acceptance rate and regular decision acceptance rate as well. The UPenn admissions website says high school performance is “the single most important factor in the student selection process.” 

In order to meet the UPenn average GPA, select rigorous yet appropriate high school courses. For instance, if you have taken standard math courses throughout school, senior year may not be the time to insist on taking AP Calculus BC. However, excelling in challenging classes is the best way to show academic strength. It’s all about finding the right balance in your course schedule.  

Beyond grades

If you are a high school junior or senior wondering how to get into UPenn and realizing you can’t meet the UPenn average GPA by the UPenn application deadline, don’t worry. Remember that your grades are just one part of your application. Ultimately, your GPA shows UPenn admissions how you might handle their course load. If you can supplement a GPA lower than the UPenn average GPA with strong UPenn SAT scores, extracurriculars, and UPenn supplemental essays, you can still submit a strong application. To put your best foot forward, start strategizing before the UPenn application deadline.

What does the University of Pennsylvania application look like?

When trying to figure out how to get into UPenn as you look toward the UPenn application deadline, you’ll want to know exactly what is expected of you. This is especially true given the low UPenn Early Decision acceptance rate and lower RD acceptance rate.

You can access the UPenn application through the CommonApp or the Coalition Application. If you are a QuestBridge scholar, you can also apply to UPenn via the QuestBridge application. 

In addition to the Common App or Coalition Application, UPenn admissions also requires:

  • UPenn supplemental essays
  • Official high school transcript 
  • School report
  • Letters of recommendation (3)
  • Early Decision agreement (if applicable)
  • Mid-year report
  • Final report (if matriculating)

Of all these requirements, the UPenn supplemental essays will most demand your attention. Make sure your school sends the rest of the forms listed above to UPenn admissions by the UPenn application deadline. 

Two essays

UPenn requires two additional UPenn supplemental essays in addition to the Common App or Coalition Application essay. To learn more about how to approach the UPenn supplemental essays, read our article, “University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022.”

The UPenn undergraduate application also includes optional application materials, which we highly recommend submitting by the UPenn application deadline if they apply to you. These are:

UPenn waived its requirement of UPenn SAT scores or ACT scores for the 2021-22 application cycle in light of COVID-19. However, these policies may change. So, keep your eye on the UPenn SAT scores and ACT scores requirement. 

Test scores can help

Sending UPenn SAT scores or ACT scores is technically optional. However, when looking at how to get into UPenn, know that testing is a great way to boost your application. This is particularly true if your GPA is lower than the UPenn average GPA. Take the PSAT your sophomore year for a starting score. Then, study throughout your sophomore and junior year. This will give you time to test and retest if necessary to receive high UPenn SAT test scores before the UPenn application deadline.

For tips on testing, check out our article, “To Take or Not to Take: Standardized Tests in a Test-Optional Environment.”

In the same vein, we highly recommend taking advantage of the UPenn interview if you are offered one. This is a great chance to breathe life into your application and meet a UPenn alumnus. 

For the fine arts supplement and additional letter of recommendation, only submit these if they apply to you and will add to your application. If you have a strong art portfolio, share this with UPenn admissions. With regard to the extra letter of recommendation, the UPenn admissions site asks that you “only submit additional letters from people who know you personally and whose perspective would add information not captured elsewhere in your application.”

What extracurriculars does University of Pennsylvania like?

If you are trying to figure out how to get into UPenn, you are likely curious about extracurriculars. There is no formula when it comes to choosing extracurriculars. Instead, simply commit to extracurriculars you love, not extracurriculars you think UPenn will love. UPenn can tell the difference between extracurriculars that match your interests and extracurriculars you chose just to boost your resume. 

Do not try to become the student body president, debate team captain, and editor-in-chief of the school paper—unless all of those activities truly reflect your passions that come through in other parts of your application. Dedication to a few extracurriculars you love will show more character and discipline than a long list of extracurriculars not connected to your interests. The answer to how to get into UPenn lies in authenticity—reflecting your unique passions will set you apart. 

What is the acceptance rate for University of Pennsylvania?

If you are wondering how to get into UPenn, there is probably one statistic you care most about—the UPenn Early Decision acceptance rate and overall acceptance rate. The acceptance rate for UPenn undergraduate admissions is 5.9%, and the UPenn Early Decision acceptance rate was 14.9% for the class of 2025. Any acceptance rate under or around 10% makes a university highly selective. This means most accepted students have strong grades that match the UPenn average GPA.

When thinking about how to get into UPenn, you’ll have to choose whether to apply to UPenn Early Decision or regular decision. Do not be swayed by the UPenn Early Decision acceptance rate versus the overall acceptance rate. Instead, think about whether UPenn is truly your dream school. If you have been thinking of nothing but UPenn throughout your application process and would be happy to immediately accept their offer, then apply ED.

Want to learn more about acceptance rates? Check out our expert guide.

On applying early

You should not apply ED to show demonstrated interest (DI). That is not the answer to how to get into UPenn. UPenn does not take DI into account, so there is no reason to apply ED if UPenn is not your top choice. 

Now, whether you are looking at the UPenn Early Decision acceptance rate or overall acceptance rate, you may be wondering—what does that number really mean in terms of how to get into UPenn? Simply put, the UPenn Early Decision acceptance rate and overall acceptance rate represent the number of students admitted out of the total number of applicants.

The UPenn Early Decision acceptance rate and overall acceptance rate can help show how selective UPenn is and where it fits on your college list in terms of “reach” versus “safety” schools. However, you shouldn’t focus on it too much. At the end of the day, there will always be unknown admissions factors. So, simply give it your best shot, and remember that your admissions decision does not reflect your worth.

Does University of Pennsylvania require interviews?

When wondering how to get into UPenn, the question of interviews often comes up. UPenn does not require interviews, nor do they offer them to all applicants, since UPenn interviews depend on alumni availability. However, the UPenn admissions site does say 90% of applicants are offered a UPenn interview, so you should prepare to interview for UPenn. 

UPenn also states, “If you receive an invitation for an alumni interview, we strongly encourage you to make time for the opportunity. If you have to decline the interview, please respond to your interviewer explaining why you can’t participate in the conversation.” In other words—do not turn down this opportunity unless you have a very strong reason to do so. 

We highly recommend you visit the UPenn admissions site to prepare for your UPenn interview. UPenn has a particularly thorough page that details what to expect and courteous common practice. 

General guidelines to keep in mind for your UPenn interview:

  • Say yes! It is highly recommended to accept this invitation.
  • Lean into the spontaneity. Do not research your UPenn interviewer or prepare a list of your accolades to recite. Let a natural conversation about your passions and personal story arise. 
  • Dress appropriately. The UPenn admissions site suggests dressing as you would for a school presentation or picture. Ultimately, you should be comfortable. This will help you just focus on the conversation between you and your UPenn interviewer.
  • Review the list of possible questions your UPenn interviewer may ask on the UPenn website.
  • Prepare your own list of questions for the UPenn interviewer, and consider including the questions provided on the UPenn website.
  • Write a quick thank-you note post-interview. 
  • Review the “Penn Alumni Interview Program Principles of Good Practice” page, as well as the “Advice on College Interviews from Penn Admissions” video.
  • Have fun! This is your chance to let your personality shine through and add dimension to your application. 

Tips to write the University of Pennsylvania essays?

Another crucial part of how to get into UPenn lies in the UPenn supplemental essays. This is your opportunity to let your voice shine through in your application. Though writing two UPenn supplemental essays may seem like a tall task, we have broken it down for you into manageable action points.

Check out CollegeAdvisor’s “University of Pennsylvania (UPenn) Supplemental Essays Guide: 2021-2022” for more details.

How does University of Pennsylvania review applications? 

When considering how to get into UPenn, you might wonder about the application review process. Luckily, UPenn sheds light on the process in the Penn Admissions YouTube video, “Advice on Navigating the College Admissions Process.” Here, UPenn details each aspect of the “comprehensive whole person review” they conduct for each applicant. UPenn admissions breaks down this review into four categories:

  • Academics
  • Activities 
  • Essays 
  • Interviews 

This UPenn Admissions video goes further into what UPenn looks for within each of these categories. Academics is UPenn’s first priority, so pay attention to the UPenn average GPA and strongly consider submitting UPenn SAT scores. Be sure to review this admissions resource page when preparing your materials before the UPenn application deadline. 

Will University of Pennsylvania look at my social media? 

When researching how to get into UPenn, many applicants worry about their social media presence. But not to worry—UPenn will not be scoping out your social media, according to Dean of Admissions Eric Furda. With tens of thousands of applications received each year, it is simply not possible. So, no need to delete your accounts or change your usernames when trying to figure out how to get into UPenn. UPenn will only review the application materials you send in. 

Is University of Pennsylvania a good school for me?

This is a very important question and one that should precede the question of how to get into UPenn. Often, applicants get wrapped up in wondering if admissions will decide they are right for a school without stopping to consider whether that school is right for them.

How to determine whether UPenn is right for you:

  • Visit the UPenn “About” page, and schedule a campus tour or take a virtual one. This will help you determine whether your values align with UPenn and whether you can see yourself attending. Do you like the location? The class sizes? The focus on social-minded action, innovation, and research?
  • Research UPenn’s programs and majors to see if they match your interests. This will help you to concretely answer, “Why UPenn?” You will also need to answer this question in your UPenn supplemental essays and your UPenn interview. 
  • Look to see if UPenn offers any programs, clubs, or activities outside of your comfort zone that you can see yourself trying for the first time. This is a great way to grow as a learner. It will also help you write your UPenn supplemental essays. 

Regular or Early Decision?

If it turns out that UPenn is a good school for you, the next question to consider is whether to apply ED or RD. If UPenn is your absolute first choice and you do not want to even consider attending another school, then apply ED. But, if you are curious about other universities and are not ready to commit solely to UPenn, that’s okay, too! Apply RD. UPenn does not consider demonstrated interest in its application review process, so you won’t be penalized for applying RD. Your admissions odds also won’t necessarily improve if you apply ED.

Additional tips to get into University of Pennsylvania:

Plan ahead

Begin building a strong academic portfolio at the start of your high school career. Then, start preparing your UPenn SAT scores or ACT scores by your junior year. Finally, collect your application materials the summer before your application is due, well before the UPenn application deadline.

Constructive a narrative

What story does your application tell? Make sure this story runs through your application. If you are an artist with a passion for social change, highlight the classes, extracurriculars, and personal stories that reflect these interests. Make it easy for UPenn admissions to picture who you are and how you might fit into UPenn student life.

Ask for help

Have someone you trust review your materials well before the UPenn application deadline. Ask them to look at your application well before the UPenn application deadline so they can catch any last-minute errors.

Though applying to a competitive school like UPenn can seem overwhelming, remember that at the end of the day you are taking a step toward constructing your future. Don’t be daunted by statistics like the UPenn Early Decision acceptance rate, overall acceptance rate, or UPenn average GPA. Those numbers are just one part of a complex application review process. Instead, just remember to make the most of it and have fun. Good luck!


This guide was written by Saphia Suarez. If you want to know how to get into UPenn, we’ve got you covered. CollegeAdvisor.com’s network of 300+ Admissions Experts (and former admissions officers) includes UPenn graduates. Create your free account or schedule a free advising consultation by calling (844) 343-6272.