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Penn received a record 65,000 applications during this year's admissions cycle.

Credit: Benjamin McAvoy-Bickford

Penn received a record number of applications for the Class of 2028 despite campus leadership transitions and concerns over antisemitism and Islamophobia. 

The Class of 2028 received 65,230 applications, according to Interim Penn President Larry Jameson's stated remarks at a University Board of Trustees Meeting on March 1. Over 8,500 of these students applied to Penn through the Early Decision program, according to an earlier University announcement. Applications are up more than 10% from the year prior — the Class of 2027 received more than 59,000 applications

The increase in applications follows an unprecedented semester for the University. Both Penn's president and Board of Trustees chair resigned in December, and many students expressed concerns about antisemitism and Islamophobia on campus throughout the fall semester

This is also the first application cycle since the Supreme Court’s overturn of affirmative action last year. 

In an interview with The Pennsylvania Gazette, Vice Provost and Dean of Admissions Whitney Soule shared that while admissions officers are not aware of an applicant's race throughout the application process, they still are “reading students with the full integration of complexity that they reveal about themselves.”

“The substance of how we think about reading the totality of a student within an application and the information they provide to us to think about them as an individual—that part does feel familiar,” Soule added. “What is different, though, is that we can’t know the racial or ethnic makeup of the class that we are intending to admit, and what that might represent for the students who enroll."

While Penn saw an increase in applications, other Ivy League institutions did not, at least in the early admissions cycle. Harvard University saw a 17% decrease in early action applications and Brown University saw a 5% decrease in total applications from last year. 

Penn made several changes to its application for the 2023-24 admissions cycle. An essay prompt unique to each undergraduate school was added to the application on July 31, a transition from the previous single short answer used for all four schools.

The application also removed a question about applicants’ intended area of study while adding one about campus group involvement.

Penn also added a new application the admissions cycle for the Class of 2027, asking students to write a thank you note to someone they had not thanked and wanted to acknowledge. In her interview with The Pennsylvania Gazette, Soule described reading these notes as "one of the most favorite experiences" of her years working in higher education.

"It was one of the most unbelievable experiences to read those thank-you notes, because they were all so genuine and personal," Soule said.

Penn announced on March 5 that it was extending its test-optional application policy for the 2024-25 admissions cycle, despite other institutions reinstating standardized testing requirements. This decision defied decisions made by several other Ivies, as — in the weeks preceding Penn's announcement — Brown, Dartmouth, and Yale all implemented standardized testing requirements.

Regular decision applicants to Penn will receive their admissions decisions by April 1.