The University of Pennsylvania only received 6,088 Early Decision (ED) applications for its Class of 2024 — down from 7,109 just last fall — a more than 14% drop from last year’s number of ED applications. This news was first reported in The Daily Pennsylvanian, Penn’s student newspaper, on November 13, 2019; yet, adjusted numbers were released from Penn’s admissions office on December 16, 2019 (see below). Before the sudden drop this year, the number of ED applicants to Penn had been rising for years.
While some may argue that an uptick in fires in California or the lack of a recent SAT score re-centering are to blame, one actual reason for the sudden drop in Penn’s ED application numbers is likely Penn’s choice to break its long-time one 650-word supplemental essay question into two shorter essays (still totaling 650 words in all) this application cycle. Enough students make application choices based on perceived effort to complete Common App supplements alone; therefore, seeing two distinct essay prompts scared off up to 1,000 high school seniors – who clearly were not all that invested in applying to Penn to begin with – from applying to Penn Early Decision this fall.
Just goes to show, many students are not as focused on perceived college fit as they are on perceived college application fit.
Penn’s Former Supplemental Essay Question:
How will you explore your intellectual and academic interests at the University of Pennsylvania? Please answer this question given the specific undergraduate school to which you are applying. (400-650 words)
Penn’s Current Supplemental Essay Questions:
How did you discover your intellectual and academic interests, and how will you explore them at the University of Pennsylvania? Please respond considering the specific undergraduate school you have selected. (300-450 words)
At Penn, learning and growth happen outside of the classrooms, too. How will you explore the community at Penn? Consider how this community will help shape your perspective and identity, and how your identity and perspective will help shape this community. (150-200 words)
As one can see above, the change in Penn’s supplemental writing requirement was implemented in such a way as to provide two direct – and more specific – leading questions to Penn applicants in order to give Penn’s admissions team members the information that they really always wanted but were clearly not getting enough of by using Penn’s old 650-word essay prompt alone. Sadly, too few students must have been capable of organizing their thoughts clearly and articulately in the old 650-word responses. But even fewer were even willing to try answering two questions on Penn’s supplement this admissions cycle. Thus, by creating more concrete language in two prompts, Penn upset the equilibrium of its apple cart.
December 16, 2019 Update: Tonight, Penn put out the following information:
On Monday, December 16th at 7:00 p.m. ET, the University of Pennsylvania will announce admission decisions for Early Decision applicants to the Class of 2024, the institution’s 268th class.
The University of Pennsylvania received 6,453 applications under the first-choice Early Decision Program for the entering class of 2024. From this group of highly talented and compelling students from around the globe, 1,269 students were offered admission, approximately 53% of the expected enrolling class in the fall of 2020.
Nationally, 46 states, Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico are represented in the class with the highest concentration of admitted students from Pennsylvania (189), New York (162), California (136), New Jersey (132), Florida (51) and Texas (45). Fifty-nine students reside in the city of Philadelphia.
13% of the class are international students based on their citizenship, hailing from 50 countries from Argentina to Zimbabwe.
54% percent of the admitted students are female, 52% of the U.S. Citizens/Permanent Residents self-reported as a member of a minority group, and 10% are first-generation college students. 24% of the admitted students had a parent or grandparent attend Penn in prior generations. 13% are estimated to qualify for a Federal Pell Grant.
Admitted students have pursued a most demanding secondary school curriculum in a range of educational settings. Their middle 50% testing ranges are 1450-1550 on the SAT and 33-35 on the ACT.
So, either Penn’s student newspaper was completely in error in what it reported (only 6,088 ED applicants) or Penn somehow found 365 additional ED applications after November 13 (twelve days after its ED deadline). Were all of them QuestBridge students? If not, where did the other applications come from?
Even taking Penn’s latest news release at face value, Penn experienced at minimum a nine percent drop in ED applications in 2019 compared to 2018. Accepting Penn’s latest numbers also means that Penn’s ED acceptance rate for Fall 2019 rose to 19.7% after hitting 18.5% in 2018 when Penn accepted 1,279 ED applicants. Penn has now accepted over half of its Class of 2024, which Penn expects to total 2,400 students, via Early Decision.
Penn’s higher ED acceptance rate this fall tracks with softer demand at various Ivies. For more information on that, click here.