Our admissions process has always relied on what we call “whole person review:” the practice of considering each student’s individual context and environment as we learn through their applications about their lived experiences, their achievements, and the academic and personal contributions they have made in their respective communities. This philosophy will continue in the age of COVID-19.
We are committed to continuing to work with all of our applicants and their counselors to understand the ways in which their lives have had to shift in light of COVID-19, and to support students in their efforts to represent those shifts in their Penn applications.
Please see below for answers to some of our frequently asked questions.
How will we assess letters of recommendation?
Given the change in circumstance due to COVID-19, we recognize that both the past and current academic year may look quite different. We will assess your letters of recommendation with sensitivity to any changes that occurred in your learning environment. Please refer to our Letters of Recommendation webpage to learn more about this part of the application.
How will we review remote education? What does that mean for prospective students?
Schools and districts are making the best decisions they can at this moment in the interest of their students' health and educational experience. We respect and support the decisions schools are making, and recognize these decisions are outside of the students' control. We expect students to make the most of the educational opportunities available to them regardless of whether that takes place in person or virtually.
Do we support secondary schools switching to pass/fail grading options at this time?
Schools and districts are making the best decisions they can at this moment in the interest of their students' health and educational experience. We respect and support the decisions schools are making, and recognize these decisions are outside of the students' control. We expect students to make the most of the educational opportunities available to them.
Have we updated our policies around granting credit for end of year exams (AP, A-Level, IB, etc.)?
Penn will continue to grant credit and placement for these exams. Credit policies can be found here. We understand some scores will now be based on online tests, while other scores will be based on year-long academic coursework. Testing agencies are making prudent decisions to prevent large gatherings of people. We are in communication with testing agencies around the world and we support them in the decisions they feel they need to make.
Have we made any changes to our standardized testing policies?
We routinely review the role of standardized testing in our admissions process. Testing agencies including the College Board and the ACT have cancelled multiple test dates in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. We believe these are responsible decisions, and we recognize the impact fewer test dates will have on students’ plans.
In response to COVID-19, Penn will not require applicants to submit the SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Tests for the 2021-22 application cycle. This applies to first-year and transfer applicants. Applicants who do not submit SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Test scores will not be at a disadvantage in the admissions process. For international students attending schools where English is not the language of instruction, we continue to require testing that demonstrates English-language proficiency. We accept the TOEFL, IELTS, and Duolingo English Test. Students who are able to take the SAT, ACT, and/or SAT Subject Tests and wish to report them may continue with that plan. For more information, please see our main testing webpage and our revised testing policy for students planning to apply during the 2021-2022 admissions cycle.
I can’t visit campus right now. Will that harm my application?
Even before we suspended all on-campus visit programming due to COVID-19 precautions, Penn did not consider demonstrated interest in our admissions process. This means that we do not consider whether a student has visited campus, taken a tour, attended a high school visit, emailed their admission officer, or engaged in any other point of contact with us. This policy remains true now. If you’d like to visit Penn from the comfort of your own home, we invite you to explore campus through our virtual tour.
Have we made any changes to our English language proficiency policies?
Testing agencies have cancelled multiple test dates in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. We believe these are responsible decisions, and we recognize the impact this will have on students’ plans. Starting with the 2020-21 admissions cycle we will accept the TOEFL, IELTS and the Duolingo English Test. Where the TOEFL or IELTS have been cancelled due to COVID-19 students can sit for the TOEFL IBT Special Home Edition or the Duolingo English Test. Please note we do not currently accept the IELTS Indicator exam. Please find more details on our testing policy on our admissions website.
My regular activities outside of school have been disrupted. Will that harm my application?
We respect and support the decisions schools have made to switch to remote education and recognize this disrupts many in-school and out of school activities. We recognize the disappointment this may bring, and we also appreciate that some students may need to take on additional responsibilities with home or family during this unprecedented time. Our whole person review process has always relied on a comprehensive look at each student’s individual context and environment as we learn about their achievements and experiences. This approach will continue in the age of COVID-19, as we seek to understand the ways in which student’s lives have had to shift, including as it relates to activities, responsibilities and commitments outside of the classroom. We encourage students to practice self-care during this time and to rest assured that a change in their typical activities due to coronavirus adaptations will not harm their application to Penn.
How is Penn financially supporting families who have been negatively impacted by COVID-19?
Penn continues to be committed to meeting 100% of a family’s demonstrated financial need with grant-based financial aid. That means grants and work-study funding that you do not have to pay back. Penn will build a financial aid package that takes into account the latest financial information you provide about your family, including any negative impact you have experienced as a result of COVID-19.
Will I have an opportunity to share details about how the COVID-19 pandemic and other events have impacted my family and me?
The Common Application includes in its additional information section a COVID-19 FAQ and the following text and questions:
Community disruptions such as COVID-19 and natural disasters can have deep and long-lasting impacts. If you need it, this space is yours to describe those impacts. Colleges care about the effects on your health and well-being, safety, family circumstances, future plans, and education, including access to reliable technology and quiet study spaces.
Do you wish to share anything on this topic? Y/N
Do you wish to provide details of circumstances or qualifications not reflected in the application? Y/N
There is a 250-word limit for responses.
The Coalition Application includes the following text and instructions:
In light of natural disasters and emergency situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools have made significant adjustments to their academic schedule, course offerings, method of instruction, and grading and testing policies. If you wish, you may share information here regarding how your school or organization has responded to these events. Check all of the following that apply to you.
Coalition App applicants will also have the option to include additional information in an answer box. There is a 200-word limit for responses.
Should I answer the Common App or Coalition App questions about COVID-19 and, if so, how should I answer?
Your response is optional. It might provide helpful, additional context as we evaluate your application. Applicants should provide short-answer responses, not a full essay. Please note that we will not compare students’ answers, and leaving this question blank will not negatively impact your candidacy. Your school may also give us COVID-19 related information to consider in our review.