Notice how the subject of this essay weaves an extracurricular, a challenge, and personality traits into one supplement. A good way to see if your chosen activity would make for an effective essay is to see if it illustrates many facets of yourself.
It is also important to choose something that you have not discussed in detail yet. If your common application essay was about debate and you already have it listed in your activities and awards section, it would be a good idea to discuss something that the admissions team can’t simply look up elsewhere on your application. Hobbies, for example, would make for interesting and unique essays.
If you choose to write about a job or an internship, the same guidelines for the extracurricular apply. It would also be beneficial if the skills you gained in your work experience apply to the major or profession you would want to pursue at Penn State.
For instance, if you are applying as an education major and you worked at a restaurant during the school year, you could discuss how working with people taught you how to be patient, how communication was a key part of customer service, and how you frequently had to juggle multiple tasks at one time. Even though a career in education and a job at a restaurant are not exactly the same, the skills you’ve acquired will make you more successful in the career of your choice.
If you write about a challenge or obstacle, it is important to be wary of the sob story. Sob stories are a common college application mistake, in which the writer discusses a tragedy or hardship that is meant to make the reader feel bad, but does not effectively demonstrate how the hardship affected the writer and changed him/her, or how the writer overcame it.
Instead, focus on how you faced the challenge and how it changed you, but do not let it define your high school career. This would also be a good place to subtly explain any irregularities in your academic record. For example, if your grades in junior year were much lower than usual because your mother fell ill, you could write about how you gained a newfound appreciation for your mother after you were tasked with taking care of your younger siblings in her absence.
Notice how this example still discusses a tragic event, but it better demonstrates the writer’s maturity as a result of the event. Even though it is not explicitly mentioned that the mother’s illness contributed to the drop in grades, the admissions team will gain a new insight into the experiences that have shaped who you are and affected the parts they can see, like your academic record. Make sure to then highlight how this newfound maturity and evolution of character impacted you and would continue to impact you in college and beyond.
Writing about a characteristic or personality trait is a little more difficult, but would also make for a unique and standout essay. You can do this by exposing your traits through your work in an extracurricular, job, or experience, or you can delve into a memory in your essay that solely focuses on the trait.
For example, if you think that you would be a good fit for Penn State because you thrive in community-oriented environments and you love the community-focused atmosphere at Penn State, you could write about a time where you held a “Friendsgiving” and how cooking with your friends was a way of bonding and connecting.
If you want to get in, the first thing to look at is the acceptance rate. This tells you how competitive the school is and how serious their requirements are.
The acceptance rate at Penn State is 51%. For every 100 applicants, 51 are admitted.
This means the school is moderately selective. The school expects you to meet their requirements for GPA and SAT/ACT scores, but they're more flexible than other schools. If you exceed their requirements, you have an excellent chance of getting in. But if you don't, you might be one of the unlucky minority that gets a rejection letter.
Many schools specify a minimum GPA requirement, but this is often just the bare minimum to submit an application without immediately getting rejected.
The GPA requirement that really matters is the GPA you need for a real chance of getting in. For this, we look at the school's average GPA for its current students.
The average GPA at Penn State is 3.6.
(Most schools use a weighted GPA out of 4.0, though some report an unweighted GPA.
With a GPA of 3.6, Penn State requires you to be above average in your high school class. You'll need at least a mix of A's and B's, with more A's than B's. You can compensate for a lower GPA with harder classes, like AP or IB classes. This will show that you're able to handle more difficult academics than the average high school student.
If you're currently a junior or senior, your GPA is hard to change in time for college applications. If your GPA is at or below the school average of 3.6, you'll need a higher SAT or ACT score to compensate. This will help you compete effectively against other applicants who have higher GPAs than you.
Each school has different requirements for standardized testing. Most schools require the SAT or ACT, and many also require SAT subject tests.
You must take either the SAT or ACT to submit an application to Penn State. More importantly, you need to do well to have a strong application.
Penn State SAT Requirements
Many schools say they have no SAT score cutoff, but the truth is that there is a hidden SAT requirement. This is based on the school's average score.
Average SAT: 1270 (Old: 1786)
The average SAT score composite at Penn State is a 1270 on the 1600 SAT scale.
On the old 2400 SAT, this corresponds to an average SAT score of 1786.
This score makes Penn State Competitive for SAT test scores.
Penn State SAT Score Analysis (New 1600 SAT)
The 25th percentile New SAT score is 1180, and the 75th percentile New SAT score is 1370. In other words, a 1180 on the New SAT places you below average, while a 1370 will move you up to above average.
Here's the breakdown of new SAT scores by section:
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
Penn State SAT Score Analysis (Old 2400 SAT)
The 25th percentile Old SAT score is 1630, and the 75th percentile SAT score is 1940. In other words, a 1630 on the Old SAT places you below average, while a 1940 puts you well above average.
Here's the breakdown of old SAT scores by section:
|Section||Average||25th Percentile||75th Percentile|
SAT Score Choice Policy
The Score Choice policy at your school is an important part of your testing strategy.
Penn State has the Score Choice policy of "Highest Sitting."
This means that you can choose which SAT tests you want to send to the school. Of all the scores they receive, your application readers will consider the SAT score from your single highest test date (the sum of math, reading, and writing).
This is important for your testing strategy. Because you can choose which tests to send in, and Penn State only considers your highest score on a single test date, you can take the SAT as many times as you want, then submit your strongest score. Your application readers will only see that one score.
Therefore, if your SAT score is currently below a 1786, we strongly recommend that you consider prepping for the SAT and retaking it. You don't have much to lose, and you can potentially raise your score and significantly boost your chances of getting in.
Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and SAT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you'll study smarter and make huge score improvements.
Penn State ACT Requirements
Just like for the SAT, Penn State likely doesn't have a hard ACT cutoff, but if you score too low, your application will get tossed in the trash.
Average ACT: 27
The average ACT score at Penn State is 27. This score makes Penn State Moderately Competitive for ACT scores.
The 25th percentile ACT score is 25, and the 75th percentile ACT score is 29.
Even though Penn State likely says they have no minimum ACT requirement, if you apply with a 25 or below, you'll have a harder time getting in, unless you have something else impressive in your application.
ACT Score Sending Policy
If you're taking the ACT as opposed to the SAT, you have a huge advantage in how you send scores, and this dramatically affects your testing strategy.
Here it is: when you send ACT scores to colleges, you have absolute control over which tests you send. You could take 10 tests, and only send your highest one. This is unlike the SAT, where many schools require you to send all your tests ever taken.
This means that you have more chances than you think to improve your ACT score. To try to aim for the school's ACT requirement of 27 and above, you should try to take the ACT as many times as you can. When you have the final score that you're happy with, you can then send only that score to all your schools.
ACT Superscore Policy
By and large, most colleges do not superscore the ACT. (Superscore means that the school takes your best section scores from all the test dates you submit, and then combines them into the best possible composite score). Thus, most schools will just take your highest ACT score from a single sitting.
We weren't able to find the school's exact ACT policy, which most likely means that it does not Superscore. Regardless, you can choose your single best ACT score to send in to Penn State, so you should prep until you reach our recommended target ACT score of 27.
Download our free guide on the top 5 strategies you must be using to improve your score. This guide was written by Harvard graduates and ACT perfect scorers. If you apply the strategies in this guide, you'll study smarter and make huge score improvements.
SAT/ACT Writing Section Requirements
Both the SAT and ACT have a Writing section that includes an essay.
Penn State requires you to take the SAT/ACT Writing section. They'll use this as another factor in their admissions consideration.
SAT Subject Test Requirements
Schools vary in their SAT subject test requirements. Typically, selective schools tend to require them, while most schools in the country do not.
We did not find information that Penn State requires SAT subject tests, and so most likely it does not. At least 6 months before applying, you should still doublecheck just to make sure, so you have enough time to take the test.