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Letters of Recommendation

If you’re detecting a pattern in our application process, you’re right. We want to get to know you. Letters of recommendation give us a more personal view of you as a student and offer perspectives that can’t be learned through grades and scores.

Beginning with the 2021-2022 application process, all applicants to Penn can now meet recommendation requirements in one of two ways:

Option 1: Submit your high school counselor recommendation and two teacher recommendations


Option 2: Submit your high school counselor recommendation, one teacher recommendation, and one other recommendation

We don’t prefer one option over the other and encourage you to choose the option that works best for you.

As part of your application requirements, we ask that you either submit your counselor recommendation and two teacher recommendations or your counselor recommendation, one teacher recommendation, and one other recommendation from someone of your choosing. We rely on recommendations to understand you as a learner and how you interact with those around you. While a teacher’s perspective and understanding of who you are in a classroom setting is crucial to our process, we also know that there are many reasons that others may know you even better.

When considering who to ask for a letter of recommendation, remember:

  • When asking a teacher for a recommendation, Penn would like to hear from instructors that you had during your junior or senior year in major academic subjects (such as math, science, history, English, or foreign language).
  • Consider obtaining a recommendation from a teacher in your area of academic interest. We don’t, however, recommend submitting letters from two teachers of the same subject area.
  • The best teacher recommendations come from instructors who know you well and who can speak to your engagement in the classroom — not necessarily the ones who gave you the best grade.
  • When asking for a non-teacher recommendation, Penn would like to hear from someone who knows you personally and whose perspective would add information not captured elsewhere in your application. This second person may be a supervisor at work, mentor, coach, arts or music teacher, spiritual leader, or cultural leader.
  • Start this process early and ask for recommendations well in advance of the deadline to allow your recommenders to reflect on their experiences with you.
  • Prepare your recommenders with useful reminders such as your resume, lists of past projects and assignments, favorite topics, etc.
  • Letters from family members and close family friends traditionally do not provide information that is helpful to the evaluation process. 
  • Penn does allow for one supplemental recommendation. Please see the Supplementary Materials section for more details. 

For more information, Penn offers workshops throughout the admissions cycle that may help you prepare for this part of the application.