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What Penn Looks For

“What you seem to be, be really”

Benjamin Franklin

Each year, the University of Pennsylvania Admissions Selection Committee seeks to enroll a class of 2,420 scholars, scientists, artists, athletes, entrepreneurs—and more—who hail from all corners of the world and a wide range of backgrounds.

Through the application review, 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 knowledge in “service to society.”

The Admissions Selection Committee looks for students with a demonstrated record of academic excellence, a commitment to seeking challenge, a range of interests and talents, and developing leadership. In terms of academic credentials, our primary focus is on the high school transcript, grades and rigor based on what is available at the student's high school, but we also take a close look at standardized test scores, correlating them with high school performance.

Additionally, Penn seeks to attract students with intellectual curiosity, interdisciplinary mindset, and the desire to engage with faculty. Our ideal applicants are people who have demonstrated an ability to channel their ideas and interests into positive action—students whose talents and experiences are likely to make an impact on our campus community, the city of Philadelphia, and maybe even the wider world.

So how does our admissions philosophy relate to your application? While we could easily fill the class with valedictorians and students with perfect test scores, our goal is to build the ideal incubator for tomorrow’s leaders. As such, we look beyond mere numbers to intangible qualities. It is therefore essential that you help us discover what separates you from those with the same, or similar, GPA and test scores.

Let us hear your authentic voice. Tell us your story. As you prepare your application, take some time to reflect on these questions:

  • What matters most to you?
  • Why do you want to attend Penn?
  • Down what path will Locust Walk lead you—academically, socially, and personally?
  • How do you plan to use your Penn education as a foundation for making your mark on the Penn community and the larger world?

Penn is firmly committed to ensuring this education is available to the brightest minds. We are need-blind through the evaluation and selection of our class, meaning we do not take a student’s financial background into consideration when making admissions decisions for citizens or permanent residents of the United States, Canada and Mexico.  Penn's financial aid is need-based only.  We do not award academic or talent-based, such as athletic or music, scholarships.  Instead, all aid is devoted to helping families who need financial assistance to afford Penn.  All admitted students who demonstrate need will have their full financial need met throughout their undergraduate years at Penn; we will meet 100% of the demonstrated need. Finally, our financial aid packages do not include loans.  All aided students are awarded no-loan aid packages, allowing them to graduate debt-free.

Our Admissions Selection Committee looks forward to reviewing your accomplishments, learning about your ideas and dreams, and getting a sense of what you might contribute to the Penn community.

High School Preparation

  • Engineering applicants are strongly encouraged to take the highest levels of physics and calculus available in their secondary schools.
  • Wharton applicants are strongly encouraged to take the highest level of calculus available in their secondary schools.
  • Nursing applicants are encouraged to pursue a strong secondary school preparation in the sciences—particularly chemistry.
  • The Admissions Selection Committee will review your curriculum within the context of what courses are available at your secondary school. Competitive applicants will have taken the most rigorous courses.