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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.

First-Year Applicants

Beginning with the 2021-2022 application process, all first-year 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

OR

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.

Transfer Applicants

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

Option 1: Submit your college report and two academic recommendations

OR

Option 2: Submit your college report, one academic 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.

Guidance on Who to Ask for Recommendations

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

  • We rely on recommendations to understand you as a learner and how you interact with those around you. While an instructor’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 asking an instructor for a recommendation, Penn would like to hear from instructors that you had most recently. For first-year applicants, these would be instructors you had during your junior or senior year in major academic subjects (such as math, science, history, English, or foreign language). For transfer applicants, these would be instructors you have had while in college.
  • Consider obtaining a recommendation from an instructor in your area of academic interest. We don’t, however, recommend submitting letters from two instructors of the same subject area.
  • The best academic 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-academic 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 instructor, 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.