Penn accepted a record-low 15% of applicants to the Class of 2025 through its early decision program this year, offering admission to 1,194 students — about half of the incoming class.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, which rocked admissions processes nationwide, the University decided the submission of SAT, ACT, and SAT Subject Test scores would be optional. Out of the total number of admitted ED students, 24% did not submit test scores.
Admitted students from the ED pool hail from 56 countries and 43 states, as well as Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, and Guam. Thirteen percent of the accepted ED students are international. Of those who are American citizens or permanent residents, 50% identify as students of color, a slight decrease from 52% last year. Twelve percent are first-generation college students, which is a 2% increase from last year.
The Daily Pennsylvanian spoke with five members of the Class of 2025, each of whom will pursue a variety of programs, about their interests in Penn and the impact of COVID-19 on their college application processes.
Incoming College first-year Laura Coleman was anxiously awaiting her decision for a week before she finally received it. Alone in her room in New York City, she began screaming when she read her acceptance, prompting her mom to rush into the room and celebrate the news.
Coleman said her older sister, College senior and former DP News Editor Julie Coleman, helped inspire her decision to apply ED.
“Because my sister had gone to Penn and obviously loved it, it made me have a better outlook and feel more confident ED'ing there even though I hadn’t been able to visit many other schools," she said.
Coleman was also drawn to Penn because it offers a Native American and Indigenous Studies minor as opposed to other schools she was looking at, such as Vanderbilt University and Georgetown University, which solely offer a few related courses.
Like tens of thousands of other applicants, the pandemic led to a few disruptions in Coleman's application. She was one of the 38% of ED applicants who chose not to include standardized testing as part of their application this year. After only being able to take the SAT once in March of her junior year, for which she said she felt unprepared, she decided to hold off submitting her score after test dates post-March were canceled due to the pandemic.
Coleman said the pandemic did not greatly inhibit her extracurricular activities and schooling, adding that she felt lucky the majority of her activities besides tennis were able to continue online. Coming from an all-girls school, the Nightingale-Bamford School, she is now most looking forward to engaging with Penn's diverse student body.
“It is going to be a huge difference, but I think that [it] is something I really need because I have been at the same school since I was five years old," Coleman said. "What I do love about my school is being able to have a close community, but I feel like although Penn is bigger, there will be so many ways to still have that community."
Incoming College and Wharton first-year Analina Koh told her family not to be in the room when she opened her decision — just in case she got rejected. When she saw confetti erupt on her screen, she was shocked to find out that she was accepted into Penn's prestigious Huntsman Program in International Studies & Business, her first choice.
Koh said she was drawn to the program due to her interests in becoming proficient in Korean and because she believes the program will engage her interests in linguistics and business.
“I joke a lot about where I am from because I'm from Guam, a descendant of Malaysian Chinese, and I lived in Singapore for half my life,” Koh said. “I come from all these countries and I know that I have a global perspective. I know I have a global heart.”
She said Penn's diverse community drew her to apply to the University as well, adding that she liked how the students come from a variety of different backgrounds.
“Everyone gets together and it is energy. Whenever I talk to Penn students it makes me so happy," Koh said. "It just brings out the best in me. I just love the Penn community."
While Koh was able to submit her SAT and SAT Subject Test scores in her application — which she said she was satisfied with after taking the tests prior to the pandemic — she was unable to visit Penn in person before applying. Instead, Koh said she has been relying on virtual tours to get to know the campus until she can safely visit for the first time.
Once on campus, Koh said she wants to get involved in both preprofessional and fun clubs, such as Kite and Key, Wharton Ambassadors, and Penn Tea Club.
Incoming College first-year Carson Sargent first heard about Penn when he received an email from the College Board that invited him to apply to the QuestBridge National College Match program. Sargent, who is from Keokuk, Iowa, was ultimately chosen out of 18,500 Questbridge applicants to match with a university and earn a full ride scholarship. Penn was one of his top choices.
“I opened [the QuestBridge decision] up, and I just drove around for the next 50 minutes with my mouth wide open,” Sargent said.
In the months before he applied to Penn, Sargent said many of his extracurriculars — such as his science fairs, all-state concerts, and jazz competitions — were all canceled due to the pandemic. He said he was able to submit his ACT score from a test he took in December 2019.
Sargent said he was interested in Penn for its Economics Department, as he plans to major in mathematical economics in the College. With the aspiration of one day working for the United States Census Bureau, he added that he hopes to research at the Federal Statistical Research Data Center, which Penn and three other institutions helped establish in 2016.
Hoping to arrive on campus in the fall, Sargent said he is most looking forward to exploring the history of Philadelphia and meeting people outside of rural Iowa who share his interests.
“I really hope that my first semester can be at least partially in person,” Sargent said. “If it is not, I understand. Whatever it takes to keep people safe. I do not believe that colleges are the bad guys for having regulations.”
Incoming College first-year Albert Jang first decided that he wanted to play college football as a sophomore in high school, but never expected Penn would be the school to which he would ultimately commit.
Following in the footsteps of his two older brothers, Jang, who is from Atlanta, had originally committed to the U.S Military Academy as part of the Class of 2024. After realizing the Academy was not the right fit for his future aspirations, Jang accepted an offer to play football at Penn during required summer training for West Point.
Jang said he thought he would start taking classes at Penn mid-semester with the Class of 2024, but after he was told that this opportunity was not available, he reclassified to be part of the Class of 2025. Other than having the option not to submit his SAT score, Jang said the pandemic did not substantially affect his college application, nor did it stop him from playing football.
"I am very excited to play Penn football," Jang said. "The traditions seem awesome there."
Though Jang has not been able to meet in person with Football Coach Ray Priore and his teammates, he said he has been able to connect with them virtually through Zoom and GroupMe.
“I think for a lot of athletes there is a lot that goes into the decision of what school. Not being able to be there in person and see the coach — that was definitely a risk we had to take," Jang said.
Currently, Jang said that he is not completely sure what he wants to study, but added that he is interested in possibly transferring from the College into Wharton.
Seated beside her brother, Incoming College and Wharton first-year Amarachi Mbadugha cried immediately after receiving her acceptance to Penn.
Mbadugha, who was born in Nigeria and now lives in Laurel, Md., will join Penn's Life Sciences and Management Dual Degree Program. She plans to major in biochemistry in the College and healthcare management in Wharton.
“I was crying so much first from seeing the confetti, but when I actually read that I got into LSM I started to sob,” Mbadugha said, adding that her parents were equally as excited when they found out as well.
"I know [the LSM program accepts] 25 [students] each year, so I am really interested to see if we are in small classes or whether we spread out and go our different ways based on concentrations," she said.
Mbadugha had plans of visiting Penn for the first time during spring break of her junior year in high school, but she was unable due to shutdowns in response to increasing COVID-19 cases in Maryland. Instead, she said she relied on virtual tours on Penn's website and Penn YouTubers such as Wharton junior Domonique Malcolm and College sophomore Lah’Nasia Shider. She added that participating in Penn Early Exploration Program and Penn In Focus, programs for high school seniors from underrepresented communities, helped her learn more about the University from admission officers.
“Everything about the school just made me want to come there, so I was like, 'Why not rank it my top number one school?,'” Mbadugha said.
Like her peers, the pandemic hindered Mbadugha from continuing certain extracurricular activities, such as volunteering in her local clinic during her senior year after doing so in her junior year. She also chose not to include her SAT scores in her application, as she said she was dissatisfied with her first score from a December 2019 test and was unable to retake it.
At Penn, Mbadugha hopes to get involved with the Makuu: The Black Cultural Center's community, Penn's Black cultural center, and Kite and Key, since she found the club very helpful in showing her what life was like at Penn, and hopes to do the same for future prospective students.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.