Penn State Undergraduate Admissions Penn State University

Application Review Process for First-Year Students

Penn State receives over 60,000 first-year student applications, so what can you do to ensure your application is as competitive as possible?

Application Submission

We recommend that students submit a complete application, including all required materials, to Penn State by the priority application date of November 30. Completing your application by this date gives you the best chance of admission to your first choice campus and/or major. We operate on rolling admissions after this important date, so admission becomes more competitive for applications received after November 30.

NOTE: The majority of students that apply by November 30 will receive an admissions decision in January, but some students may receive their decisions earlier.

Application Evaluation

The high school grade-point average (GPA) accounts for approximately two-thirds of the admission decision. The remaining one-third is based on other factors, including standardized test scores, class rank, the personal statement, and activities list. Class rank is also considered for students with honors or Advanced Placement courses whose schools do not supply a weighted GPA. The optional personal statement and activity list are sometimes considered for students whose applications require additional review.

Penn State does not have a minimum GPA or standardized test score used for admission: we consider a combination of your GPA and standardized test scores, as well as the factors listed above.

Estimating Eligibility

Please refer to the provided chart of the middle 50% to help determine your competitiveness for admission. Remember, this chart is not a guarantee of admission but a helpful guideline for interested applicants.

Class of 2020 Profile and Middle 50% GPA Data

The ranges in the chart below represent the middle 50 percent of students offered admission for Summer/fall 2016—they are not cutoffs or averages. This chart is for estimating purposes only and in no way represents a promise or guarantee of admission.

Placing in the upper end of both ranges increases the likelihood of being offered your first choice of campus and/or major. Placing in the lower end may require you to be more flexible in making your campus (and perhaps major) choices. 

Summer/Fall 2016 Middle 50% GPA Statistics
  University Park All other Campuses
High School GPA (4.0 scale) 3.55-3.97 3.00-3.50
Summer/Fall 2016 Middle 50% SAT Statistics
Scores computed based on a 1600-point scale.
  University Park All other Campuses
Pre-March 2016 SAT*
Critical Reading + Math
1170-1350 980-1180
New SAT (debuted March 2016)**
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing + Math
1240-1410 1060-1250

*For summer/fall 2016 admission, the writing portion of the SAT administered prior to March 2016 was not used in the application review and decision.

**The new SAT scores shown here represent conversions of the prior test’s scores to fit the new test’s structure and 1600-point scale.

Summer/Fall 2016 Middle 50% ACT Statistics
  University Park All other Campuses
Composite ACT 26-30 21-25

To learn more about admission at the University, including the class profile for incoming first-year students, please review our Admissions Statistics.

Review of Additional Application Components

In addition to the main admission criteria outlined above, the Penn State application includes other components that can impact a student’s admission.

Major Selection

Penn State typically reviews applications for admissibility to the chosen campus, rather than a particular program (with the exception of a few majors, like our special programs). As a result, changing the major on your application typically does not change your admission decision–often times, the application review for a different major will lead to the same decision.

When evaluating applications, we look at the standardized test performance in math more closely for admission to our math and science programs. Additionally, some of our programs, due to enrollment limitations, are more competitive for admission than other programs.

Summer Session at University Park

Those students who are interested in University Park and would like to increase their chances of admission to that campus have the option of indicating interest in the summer session. Students can select this option when completing the application.

We review students’ applications for their chosen semester of enrollment first, which is typically the fall semester. If we are unable to offer fall admission, and a student indicates that the summer session is an option, we then review the application for admission to the summer session. Admission to this session is slightly less competitive than fall admission. If accepted, the summer session is mandatory for those students with a summer offer.

Please note: This is not a transitional or introductory session–students will take two standard Penn State classes during the 6-week session. Students then continue in the fall semester at University Park.

Alternate Campus Selection

Students also have the option of providing an alternate choice campus on their application. Including an alternate choice campus allows us to continue to review a student’s application for admission to Penn State.

We review students’ applications for their first-choice campus first. If we are unable to offer admission to that campus, and the student provides an alternate campus, we can then review the application for admission to that campus. If the student receives admission to the alternate choice campus, this decision means we were unable to offer admission to the first campus but that the student still has Penn State options. Students can then choose to remain at their offered campus for 4 years if their program is available, or they can opt to participate in our 2+2 plan by completing 2 years at that campus and their final 2 years at another campus.

Additional Application Materials for Special Programs

Some of our programs require additional application materials in order to complete an application. Please review the admissions requirements for those details.

Should you have questions about your application or admission decision, please contact Undergraduate Admissions to discuss your status.