How to Beat 6,500 Applicants and get into The University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine (2020-2021)

Upenn School of Medicine
Perelman School of Medicine University of Pennsylvania

The oldest medical school in the United States, Perelman School of Medicine is part of the prestigious University of Pennsylvania. Penn Med, as it’s colloquially known, has remained one of the top med schools in the country since its founding in 1765, currently ranked #3 in U.S. News and World Report. Read on to find out what you can do to get into the Perelman School of Medicine.

“Our mission is to advance knowledge and improve health through research, patient care, and the education of trainees in an inclusive culture that embraces diversity, fosters innovation, stimulates critical thinking, supports lifelong learning, and sustains our legacy of excellence.”

Penn Med Virtual Tour

How difficult is it to get into the Perelman School of Medicine?

Given its renowned reputation as one of the best medical schools in both the U.S. and the world, Penn Med’s admissions process is extremely rigorous. It’s also highly selective, with one of the lowest acceptance rates in the country.

Perelman School of Medicine Acceptance Rate

In 2019, Penn Med had an acceptance rate of 4 percent. Of the 6,500 students who applied, 720 were interviewed, for a total interview rate of 11 percent. Ultimately, 150 accepted students ended up matriculating.

Of the students who attended Perelman as first-year students, 46 percent were men, and 54 percent were women. The student body also included a majority of out-of-state students — 76 percent — and 3 percent international students.

Perelman School of Medicine Average MCAT

Given the University of Pennsylvania Medical School acceptance rate, it probably comes as no surprise that accepted students have top MCAT scores. On a scale of 472-528, the average score for accepted students is 521.4. A score of 517 would put you in the 10th percentile, while a score of 525 would put you in the 90th percentile of accepted students.

Perelman School of Medicine Average GPA

The med school also expects applicants to perform well academically in their undergraduate studies. The average GPA for admitted applicants is 3.89, with a range of 3.74-4.0 for the 10th and 90th percentiles respectively.

Majors for Matriculants to Perelman School of Medicine

Like most med schools, Perelman does not require you to major in a specific discipline or even area. Still, of admitted students, 79 percent majored in a science discipline, while only 21 percent chose other areas of study.

Perelman School of Medicine Application Deadlines

You must submit your application to the Perelman School of Medicine via the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) by November 1st at 11:59 pm EST. Once you are designated as a verified applicant, you’ll receive a medical school supplemental application, which you must submit along with your $90 application fee or fee waiver, MCAT score, and letters of recommendation by December 1st at 11:59 pm EST.


Interviews are by invitation only between September and January.


If you’re applying for Penn Med’s Early Decision Program (EDP), you must submit your application to AMCAS by August 1st and your completed application by August 15th. Before applying under the EDP plan, you’re required to discuss it with the Office of Admissions before June 1st of the admissions cycle in question.


The Perelman School of Medicine admissions department encourages all students to submit their applications early to ensure they have enough leeway at each stage of the process.

Perelman School of Medicine Requirements


Perelman School of Medicine admissions are not based on the student having completed specific courses but rather on the knowledge and competencies students have gained throughout their education as they prepare them to be a physician. That means there are no specific prerequisites for admission; instead, students should demonstrate that they have built skills in:

  • English and communication
  • Biology
  • Chemistry
  • Physics and mathematics
  • Behavioral disciplines

Applicants must also hold a bachelor of science or arts from an accredited college or university in the U.S. or Canada before they matriculate at Perelman. If they attended a foreign institution (outside of Canada), they must complete at least one year of science coursework at an accredited institution in the U.S. before they apply.

UPenn Medical School Tuition

The annual sticker price of tuition at UPenn Medical school, including associated fees, is $65,497. With food, housing, and other expenses, the school estimates a total annual cost of $91,184-100,019, variable by the year and the individual.

Most students, however, don’t end up paying full price. Eighty-six percent of Perelman students receive financial aid of some type, and many receive merit scholarships. There are 30 full-tuition scholarships available annually via the Twenty-First Century Scholars Program.

The average student graduates with $129,945 of debt.

UPenn Secondary Essays

In addition to your personal statement, you’ll be tasked with writing Penn Med’s secondary essays. Below is a list of the current prompts and our advice on how to respond.

Some general tips:

  • Get started early.
  • Make your responses specific to Penn Med wherever possible.
  • Be honest.
  1. Have you taken any online courses for credit? Y/N

This is a straightforward question that solicits a straightforward response. If you have taken online courses for credit, list them here if space allows.

  1. Have you been nominated for or received an award from any state, regional or national organization? Y/N and list all awards received here.

Again, this response doesn’t require any embellishment — simply list your awards if applicable.

  1. Have you taken or are you planning to take time off between college graduation and medical school matriculation?
If Yes: Please describe your activities during this time in 500 characters or less.

This is an opportunity to demonstrate your maturity and breadth of experience since your undergraduate years. Perhaps you wanted to gain work experience or perspective in your “gap” time. Or maybe you simply didn’t feel you were ready at the time or had different plans. Give an honest response, while emphasizing the positive and how you believe it contributes to your readiness for med school now.

  1. Have you participated in any global activities outside of the U.S. prior to submitting your AMCAS application? Y/N (1000 characters or less)

If you’ve participated in global activities, particularly volunteer or humanitarian work, briefly describe them and explain how they contribute to your preparation for a career in medicine. You should also connect it to your personal growth and perspective.

  1. Are there any special, unique, personal, or challenging aspects of your personal background or circumstances that you would like to share with the Committee on Admissions, not addressed elsewhere (siblings/relatives at Penn, applying as a couple, educational environment, culture, ethnicity, etc.) Y/N 
If Yes: Please explain and limit your response to 1,000 characters.

This question is intended to help the Perelman admission committee understand your background and how your experiences may have contributed to your identity as a student. If, for example, you faced a unique difficulty that might have impacted your coursework, they will use that information in evaluating your application.

Of course, you should never fabricate a hardship or anything else on your application.

  1. Have you or your family experienced economic hardships? Y/N. 
If Yes; Please explain briefly in 1,000 characters:

Similar to the previous question, this will give Perelman insight into your background and circumstances beyond your control that might have impacted you as a student and candidate. Just be forthcoming here — it will be to your benefit.

  1. Have you been employed at the University of Pennsylvania Health System or Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and worked with a Penn faculty mentor? If yes, please indicate name, department, phone number of faculty, and start/end dates.

This is another one with a clear response. Just be honest here.

  1. Please explain your reasons for applying to the Perelman School of Medicine and limit your response to 1,000 characters:

This “Why us?” question is a prompt you may have encountered when you were applying to undergraduate colleges. It requires you to go beyond the surface level to identify the specific aspects of Penn Med that appeal to you. 

Steer clear of factors like prestige and U.S. News ranking, and instead focus on the curriculum, unique approach, strength in your specialty of choice, research or extracurricular opportunities, faculty you admire, and so on. You can touch on its impressive reputation, but avoid making it seem as though you only want to attend the school for the name recognition. Be as specific as possible when writing about why you want to attend Penn Med.

  1. The Perelman School of Medicine seeks to foster a safe and welcoming environment for all students. In this spirit, the following optional questions are asked about sexual orientation and gender identity.

You may choose to answer, one, both or none of these questions. This will not have any impact on your application and will not be shared as part of the admissions process. Rather, this information will enable us to better facilitate any visit that you have to the School of Medicine.

If none of the following designations adequately describe how you identify, please feel free to elaborate in the option marked “Other.” We recognize that improving our understanding of sexual and gender identities are a continuous process, and welcome your input.

 Do you identify as (please check all that apply):
 Heterosexual/Straight, Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Asexual, Queer, Other

Do you identify as (please check all that apply):
 Cisgender, Transgender, Gender non-conforming, Gender non-binary, Other

Please let us know if you have a preferred name and/or preferred Gender Pronouns.

Note that your responses here will not be factored into your admissions decision. However, they can benefit you if you do end up receiving an interview invitation. Perelman wants prospective students who visit to have an experience that makes them feel safe and welcome. By answering these questions, they’ll be able to connect you with helpful school ambassadors who can show you what resources they have available to students who are part of these underrepresented groups.

You may choose to respond to this series of prompts only if you feel comfortable doing so. Remember: your responses will NOT factor into your admissions decision.

UPenn Medical School Interview

Perelman has a traditional interview process, with one-on-one interviews scheduled between September and January. These interviews are offered by invitation only, and the holistic review of your candidacy will include this evaluation as part of the admissions criteria.

Past applicants have been asked questions about why they want to become a physician, their weaknesses, why they wanted to attend Perelman specifically, and others.

There’s no quick formula for acing your med school interview. That said, there are some ways to ensure you’re doing your absolute best. Start by considering your path to medicine. What’s your motivation? How do your experiences connect to your larger goals? Why have you pursued various opportunities, activities, and so on, and how do they fit into the big picture?

You should also do your due diligence when it comes to researching Perelman. While the admissions committee knows you’re applying to other med schools, they want to know that you’d be a good fit for them and vice versa. That’s why it’s essential to find out everything you can about Penn Med and every school where you interview.

Finally, the cliche “practice makes perfect” holds true here — although there is a such thing as over-practicing. You don’t want to come off as disingenuous or rehearsed. Do some mock interviews to get you in the mindset and find out if there are any nervous tics you can keep at bay, but don’t overthink it. Try to be as natural as possible.

UPenn Residency Matches

Graduates from Perelman School of Medicine end up in a diverse range of residency matches in the following areas:

  • Primary care: 38.3%
  • Surgery and Surgical Specialties: 24.8%
  • Other Specialties: 36.9%

Within these, the top five specialties are:

  • Internal Medicine: 20.8%
  • Pediatrics: 8.7%
  • Anesthesiology: 8.1%
  • General Surgery: 7.4%
  • Psychiatry: 5.4%

Ultimately, the medical school will set you up for a promising career in a wide range of specialties.

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JESSICA FREEDMAN, M.D., is president of MedEdits Medical Admissions and author of the MedEdits Guide to Medical Admissions and The Medical School Interview. Follow Dr. Freedman and MedEdits on Facebook and Twitter.
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