The University of Pennsylvania (Penn or UPenn) is a medium-sized Ivy League research university located in University City, Philadelphia. The university consists of four undergraduate schools: the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), the Wharton School, and the School of Nursing. The university is home to a variety of interdisciplinary programs; notable programs include the Huntsman Program in International Studies and Business, the Roy and Diana Vagelos Integrated Program in Energy Research, and the Nursing and Health Care Management program.
In addition to its deep historical roots, Penn has a rich and active student life, with students colloquially balancing their “hard work” with “hard play”. The university is also known for its medical school, its urban setting, and its pre-professional culture— an excellent environment for individuals who prize connections and make the best of their school’s resources.
Currently, the University allows all first-time undergraduate applicants to apply for its early decision and regular decision programs on one of three platforms: the Common App, the Coalition App, and via Questbridge. Students applying under Penn’s early decision program are uniquely allowed to apply early to other public and private institutions under any other non-restrictive early action program.
As of September 2023, Penn requires that all undergraduate applicants write:
- a 150-200 word “thank you” note essay (only for first-time freshman),
- a 150-200 word “Why Penn” essay,
- and a sub-school specific essay with no word limit.
Penn also requires that all transfer students write a 4150-character (~700 word) essay detailing their reasons to transfer to the University.
Currently, Penn is also test-optional for the class of 2028 admissions cycle and superscores both the SAT and ACT.
Freshman Acceptance Rates (co 2027)
# of Apps.
Play Party Hard”
In the fall, students celebrate toast throwing with friends after hopping from day party to day party. Come winter, students scatter with friends on vacation after a harrowing finals season. During the spring, students study for their midterms before heading out to a pre-game for Spring Fling.
Culture & Clubs
Penn’s culture is highly structured and stratified, defined by cutthroat club applications, institutionalized networking, and an extensive involvement with fraternities. Most club applications will involve a written supplement alongside two to three rounds of interviews. Mass club, fraternity, a Capella, and program rejections are common among first years. This leads to a phenomenon called “Penn Face”— where students put on an air of “everything is fine and normal”, even if they feel as if their world is collapsing in on itself. The desire for students to feel responsible and well-accomplished leads to elitism, isolation, and burnout. Connecting and forming good impressions with peers is a balance between authenticity and a feeling of shallowness in one’s social life. Unfortunately, Penn has one of the most depressed student bodies in the nation with some turning to substance abuse or other self-destructive ways of coping.
Though Penn has a unique atmosphere for these problems, there are still a large number of students who enjoy the competition and thrive. It is not mandatory to party to have a good time at Penn as well, and the most important component of making the most of Penn culture is understanding yourself, your expectations, and your limits.
In the College of Arts and Sciences, students receive a pre-major advisor and a major advisor after declaring their majors. The pre-major advisor guides students in exploring their interests and prepares them for graduation. In the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, students will receive a faculty advisor. The Nursing School receives a faculty and professional staff advisor. Wharton students are assigned advisors, with access to many others. All students receive plenty of resources to help them not only graduate but also prepare for their careers.
Penn offers excellent career advising to all students, and it is a cornerstone of Penn’s student resources.
Housing, Dorms, and Food
Credits, Curriculum, and Graduation
Penn utilizes a course unit system, where one class generally is 1 credit unit. Students should expect to complete anywhere between 28 to 40 course units at their time at Penn. Generally, Penn’s schools adopt an interdisciplinary approach to their curriculums, with requirements aiming to motivate exploring different fields.
Graduation requirements for schools naturally vary based on their own goals. The College of Arts and Sciences embrace the General Education Curriculum, entailing:
- Different “Sectors” explore different fields in STEM, Humanities, and Social Sciences.
- Foundational Approaches to establish baseline skills and knowledge, such as a foreign language requirement and a Writing Seminar.
- A major.
- A minimum of 16 credit units taken within the College of Arts and Science requirement.
The School of Engineering and Applied Sciences has a much more rigid curriculum, where students are expected to take a certain set of physics, biology, chemistry, and math classes. Majors are fairly predefined. The Wharton School requires individuals to complete coursework to fulfill their Bachelor of Science in Economics and a concentration, such as finance or accounting.