Yale Vs Penn – Which School Is Better?

Being one of the eight private universities that make up the world-famous group known as the Ivy League, Yale University is one of the most iconic, prestigious colleges out there. 

It is also the third oldest institution for higher education in the United States, with the school graduating its first class of students in 1718.

Yale is a research university with a 373-acre urban campus located in New Haven, CT. 

The college comprises 14 constituent schools, including ten professional schools, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, and the undergraduate school originally known as Yale College. 

In particular, Yale is well-known for having excellent music and drama programs, as well as many notable extracurriculars in these areas.

Another member of the Ivy League, the University of Pennsylvania, is an excellent private research university located in Philadelphia. Founded in 1740, Penn is the country’s fourth oldest existing institution for higher education.

University of Pennsylvania’s urban campus has an area of just under 300 acres. This makes Penn somewhat smaller than Yale in terms of campus size, but the tables are turned when it comes to enrollment. 

As of the fall of 2020, Penn has a total undergraduate enrollment of just under 10,000 students. On the other hand, Yale’s total undergraduate enrollment was around 4,700 students the same year, making its undergraduate student body about half the size of Penn’s.

With Yale and Penn both being such highly-prestigious, widely-known schools, it is only natural to want to compare the two. For this reason, that is precisely what we have done in the following article. 

Read on to look at some critical similarities and differences between Yale and Penn as we compare each school’s academic requirements, rankings, acceptance rates, and much more.

Yale Vs. Penn – Academic Requirements for Admission

Yale University Saybrook College
Helpfullguy99, Saybrook College Courtyard, CC BY-SA 4.0

With Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania being the highly prestigious, highly sought-after colleges that they are, they both have incredibly high standards for admission. 

Among the students who make up Yale’s first-year class of 2025, a 95% majority graduated in the top 10% of their class in high school. 

Acceptance rates for Yale and Penn have consistently been in the single digits in recent years, although Yale has historically been the more selective of the two schools. 

Yale was named among the 11 colleges in the country with the lowest acceptance rates following the fall 2020 admission cycle, during which the school accepted only about 6% of applicants. That year, Penn’s acceptance rate was 9.4%.

Looking at the standardized test scores of students who were accepted into Penn’s first-year class of 2026, one can see that the school truly admits only the finest students. 

The middle 50% of accepted first-years earned an ACT score between 34 and 36, with an SAT score between 1510 and 1560.

The average SAT score of admitted Yale students falls within the same range as Penn’s, coming out to 1515. When it comes to high school GPA, however, Yale’s admissions standards are far more stringent than Penn’s. 

The average high school GPA of accepted students at Penn is a 3.9 on a 4.0 scale, meaning that students will need to earn nearly straight As in all classes in order to be a competitive applicant to the school. 

At Yale, accepted students have a median high school GPA of 4.14 — meaning that taking AP or IB classes is essential to increasing your likelihood of admission to the college. 

Both schools require submitting an official high school transcript with a list of all courses taken and grades earned, so grades are paramount to first-year admissions at both schools.

Yale Vs. Penn – Ranking, Acceptance Rates, and More

According to the 2022 edition of US News and World Report’s list of the best global universities, Yale University is ranked the #12 best college in the world. The University of Pennsylvania is just one spot lower on the list, coming in at #13. 

Yale is known for having one of the best law schools out there. 

In fact, Yale Law School has maintained its position at the very top of the US News and World Report’s yearly list of the best law schools in the United States every single year since 1994, when they began publishing these rankings.

On the other hand, Penn Carey Law is ranked sixth among the best law schools, placing it well within the top ten but not quite as high as Yale. When it comes to criminal law, however, Penn is tied for third place — putting it five spots ahead of Yale, which is ranked eighth for this particular specialty.

In 2022, Yale received an impressive 50,015 applications for the first-year class of 2026 — the highest number of applications seen in the entire centuries-long history of the university. 

The 2022 admission cycle also made Yale University history for another reason: only 2,234 students from this pool of applicants were offered admission, making the acceptance rate for this year the lowest the school has ever seen at just 4.46%.

In 2022, the University of Pennsylvania received 54,588 first-year applications — a few thousand more than Yale received. 

The school decided to withhold acceptance rates for the class of 2026, instead disclosing only that 2,417 students who were offered admission chose to enroll. 

Although there is no way of knowing how many students Penn offered admission to, some sources estimate that the acceptance rate for this pool of applicants was most likely around 4.4%.  

If this estimation is accurate, then it can be said that Yale and Penn are similarly selective in terms of acceptance rates.

Deciding Whether to Attend Yale or Penn

Universiy of Pennsylvania – Public domain photo via Wikimedia Commons

Suppose you are stuck trying to decide whether you should attend Yale University or the University of Pennsylvania. In that case, you can at least rest assured that both are phenomenal schools with tons to offer their students. 

In other words, regardless of which of the two colleges you ultimately decide on, you will have chosen a stellar Ivy League university, which all but ensures that your undergraduate education experience is enriching, fulfilling, and successful. 

That being said, there are numerous factors outside of prestige that you should take into consideration in the college decision-making process. 

One factor that can hugely influence a student’s experience at a given school is size — not just campus size but also class/student body size. 

Penn has a total undergraduate enrollment of about 10,000 students

On the other hand, Yale’s total undergraduate enrollment the same year was around 6,500 students, making its undergraduate student body about half the size of Penn’s!

With Penn’s larger student body comes larger class sizes and a slightly larger student-to-faculty ratio. About 70% of classes at Penn have 20 or fewer students, compared to 75% at Yale

Thus, students who prefer smaller class sizes and being able to get to know their professors in a tight-knit classroom environment may be somewhat more satisfied at Yale than at Penn, although both are pretty small schools compared to others. 

Another thing to consider is location. 

Ask yourself: would you rather attend college in Philadelphia or New Haven? Each city has its virtues, but one significant difference is that Philadelphia’s population of over 1.5 million people makes it over ten times larger than New Haven, which is home to a comparatively modest 130,000 people.

RECAP – Which Is the Better School, Yale or Penn?

There is no way to objectively determine which of these two excellent Ivy League schools, Yale University or the University of Pennsylvania, is the better one. 

At the end of the day, rather than trying to determine which of the two schools is “better,” a more worthwhile endeavor is to figure out which school is a better fit for you as an individual student, taking into account all of your professional aspirations, personal interests, academic needs, and preferences. 

One crucial step in the process of selecting a college to attend is to form an idea of what major program or programs you would like to apply to.

Specific programs may be more or less selective than others, impacting each student’s likelihood of being admitted to those programs at a school. 

Another reason it is helpful to know your intended area of study is because this information is handy when comparing and contrasting specific programs at one school versus the other. 

To give one example, Penn is ranked first in the United States for its business program offerings, making it an excellent choice of college for students who want to study finance, marketing, management, or any other business-related fields.

For students who are considering going to graduate school — and especially law school — down the line, on the other hand, there are reasons to believe that Yale may be the better choice, given the fact that Yale Law has been named best in the nation every year for nearly three decades now.

Each of these universities varies by having its unique set of strengths, weaknesses, extracurricular activities, course offerings, academic resources, program faculty, and all of the other elements of any given university that differentiate it from all the other schools out there.

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