Penn State Undergraduate Admissions Penn State University

Application Review Process for First-Year Students

Penn State receives over 70,000 first-year student applications, so what can you do to ensure your application is as competitive as possible?

Application Submission

First-year, domestic students may apply for undergraduate admission to Penn State via Early Action. To apply Early Action, students must submit a complete application (the application itself, the Self- Reported Academic Record [SRAR]; and standardized test scores [official scores from either the SAT or ACT]) by the deadline of November 1.

Students applying Early Action will receive a decision by December 24 and will be part of the early financial aid awarding process beginning in mid-February, if Penn State has received the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) by December 1. Possible decisions for Early Action qualified applicants will be 1) admit; 2) deferral of decision to the November review group (see below); or 3) denial of admission.

Early Action is a non-binding commitment by Penn State to respond to applicants earlier in the admissions decision cycle. Applicants will still have until May 1 to pay their enrollment deposit, or commit to Penn State. If you tend to stress out more than most and have been dreading the college admissions process, applying early action may be the best way to make your senior year of high school as enjoyable as possible.

For those students choosing to not participate in Early Action and all other domestic students, we recommend submission of a complete application, including all required materials (application, SRAR, test scores), prior to 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. While not a deadline, admission becomes more competitive for applications received after November 30.

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

Application Evaluation

The most important piece of our review is your academic record, which represents your individual four years of academic development. Penn State’s holistic assessment of application materials includes the academic courses, grades and levels of those courses and standardized test scores, plus additional factors that may include an audition, a portfolio review, the geographic and cultural background of the student, the personal statement, and the activities list. We take a hard look at the many roles you serve as a student, sibling, athlete, son or daughter, volunteer, and/or employee. Assembling a class of students with diverse interests and experiences is a task that we take seriously.

Penn State does not have a minimum GPA or standardized test score used for admission. There are no such things as “cut offs.” We review students in a holistic manner, taking into account a full range of factors.

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 2021 Profile and Middle 50% GPA Data

The ranges in the chart below represent the middle 50 percent of students offered admission for Summer/fall 2017—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 2017 Middle 50% GPA Statistics
  University Park All other Campuses
High School GPA (4.0 scale) 3.55-3.97 3.05-3.55
Summer/Fall 2017 Middle 50% SAT Statistics
Scores computed based on a 1600-point scale.
  University Park All other Campuses
Evidence-Based Reading and Writing + Math 1230-1410 1050-1270
Summer/Fall 2017 Middle 50% ACT Statistics
  University Park All other Campuses
Composite ACT 27-31 23-28

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. The summer session is mandatory for students accepted into the summer session at the University Park campus.

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

Alternate Campus Selection

Students are asked to provide an alternate choice campus on their application. Including an alternate choice campus allows us to efficiently review a student’s application for admission to Penn State, should they not meet the qualifications for their first choice campus.

Please understand that we review a student application for their first-choice campus first. If we are unable to offer admission to that campus we then review the application for summer (if University Park) or for admission to the student’s alternate choice 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 may then choose to remain at their offered campus for four years if their program is available, or they may opt to participate in our 2+2 plan by completing two years at that campus and their final two 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.