University of Pennsylvania (known as Penn or UPenn) is one of the best universities in the world. Founded by Benjamin Franklin - one of the Founding Fathers of the United States - Penn is one of only 9 universities founded before the American Revolution. Fancy going there?
Penn is not short of applicants. With over 40,000 applicants competing for a place in the Class of 2021, achieving a place is highly competitive. It is therefore critical that you have a Super-Curricular (or two) under your belt to impress the officers for admissions. The majority of applicants are good all-rounders; individuals who are good at everything. However, Penn is seeking individuals who are good across the board, but of exceptional ability at one or perhaps two particular fields. This could be through academics (winning an international Chemistry Olympiad) or through sport (representing your country) or through exceptional internships (working for a famous Professor and helping her edit her next article).
2) Sit the SAT/ACT exams
Penn requires everyone to have completed the SAT Reasoning exam (or the ACT as an alternative). The score for the SAT to aim for is 750+ and the score for the ACT to aim for is 33+. Penn also requires each candidate to complete the SAT Subject Tests. Here, you pick 3 subjects out of a list of 20 or so and then sit 3 separate papers. Some applicants would only complete 2 SAT Subject Tests because technically Penn doesn't require you to do 3. This will be a big mistake. If you look at the body of admitted students, virtually every single one has at least 3 SAT Subject Tests. If you start preparation two years before applying you can't get it wrong. A good free online tool is Khan Academy where anyone can practice the SAT free of charge.
3) Create a CommonApp profile
The majority of applications to Penn are submitted via a portal known as the CommonApp. You can find it here. The portal requires you to provide detailed background information such as your name, age, and school details. You will also need to produce a number of admission essays. The questions to these essays are released on 1st of August of the year when you submit your application. It is recommended to start drafting them in August so that you are ahead of everybody else and have more time to sort out other parts of your application.
4) Submit the App by 1st November
Penn has 2 application deadlines: Early Decision (1st November) and Regular Decision (1st January). Hard data shows that applicants have an advantage applying in the Early Action round. We therefore recommend that you apply by the 1st of November to ensure that your application gets the best possible chance of being picked by the admissions officers. That said, unlike Harvard or Stanford, Penn's early round is binding. If you are accepted, you must come to Penn to study. Just be sure that this is what you definitely want. Please remember that submitting a complete application during the Regular Round is much better than submitting a rushed application during the early round!
5) Continue to provide updates
Once you have submitted your application, it is imperative that you continue to provide the Admissions' Office with regular and substantial updates regarding your progression as a candidate. Given the sheer number of people applying to University of Pennsylvania, the decision to admit a particular candidate is not always straightforward. Therefore, it is important to demonstrate that you are a candidate who continues to push themselves all the way up until the last day of the decision-making process. This way, you show that you are not someone who will just rest on their laurels. If they are down to two candidates for a place, they are more likely to award the offer to someone who has provided updates (assuming everything else is the same). Examples of updates could include news regarding your charitable work or updates on any extra academic work that you have been pursuing.
How to apply to the University of Pennsylvania?
1) Start very early. If you are leaving the preparation to a mere one year in advance, you are doing it wrong. Most admitted candidates will spend a minimum of two years working on their overall profile and the application. It is not uncommon for successful admitted candidates to start 3 or even 4 years in advance which means starting when you are just 14.
2) Register and complete the SAT Reasoning (or the ACT) and SAT Subject Tests. If you are applying from a country where English is not an official language, you may also have to sit TOEFL - the English language exam. Both SAT exams are not straightforward and take time to master. A perfect score helps but won't get you in on its own. Remember that if you are doing the SAT, you should always include the optional written component. Similarly, while Penn only asks for 2 SAT Subject Tests, many admitted candidates will have completed 3 or even more.
3) Register and complete the CommonApp. This is a centralised portal through which you can apply to all of your US university choices, including Penn. CommonApp requires you to complete a number of essays and it is best to start early. Essay questions are released each year on the 1st of August. The deadline for Early Decision is 1st November which is 2 months ahead of the Regular Decision (1st January).
4) Once you have applied, be sure to continue communicating with the Admissions' Office and to provide them with regular updates.
Kim, a current student at Penn says: "Being awarded a place at Penn has been incredible. I am so lucky to be surrounded by such smart & hard-working people"
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