Penn State vs UPenn: Which Is Ivy League



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The University of Pennsylvania vs Penn State University: you’ve likely heard of these schools (and maybe even thought they were the same thing!). But do you know the basic differences between them? In addition, many people are aware that one of these schools is part of the Ivy League, but which one is it?

Is Penn State Ivy League? Or is Penn Ivy League?

We answer all these questions here in our complete UPenn vs Penn State guide. We’ll then go over the pros and cons of attending each university and provide you with key tips for figuring out which school is a better match for you.

Is Penn State Ivy League? Is UPenn an Ivy?


Many people wonder, “Is Penn State Ivy League? Or is UPenn Ivy League?”


Here’s the truth: UPenn

is

a member of the Ivy League, whereas Penn State is not

. The main reason so many people get confused about this is that the two schools have very similar-sounding names (University of Pennsylvania vs Pennsylvania State University).


UPenn is normally called just Penn, which makes it sound almost identical to Penn State

(so much so that

even newspapers have mixed up the two

!).

Another reason it’s confusing is that the Ivy League consists of only private universities, but UPenn sounds as though it’s a public state university when, in fact, it’s not! (For the record, Penn State

is

a public school, so no surprises there.)

So what are the

Ivy League schools

?

Here’s the full list

, along with their current


US News

rankings

, so you can see how Penn compares with the other Ivies:


Ivy League University


US News

Ranking
Princeton University 1
Harvard University 2
Columbia University 3
Yale University 4

University of Pennsylvania

8
Dartmouth College 13
Brown University 14
Cornell University 18

The gist of it is this:

UPenn is a highly ranked, private Ivy League institution, while Penn State is a large, well-ranked public university

.

In reality, the two schools aren’t connected to each other in any major way, except for the fact that they’re both well known and located in Pennsylvania.

Now then, what are some of the biggest differences between UPenn and Penn State?

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University of Pennsylvania

(

Bryan Y.W. Shin

/Wikimedia Commons)

University of Pennsylvania vs Penn State Comparison


In this section, we give you a

comprehensive UPenn vs Penn State comparison

to show you how these two big-name universities differ (and are sometimes a lot alike as well).


University of Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania State University

Nicknames
Penn, UPenn Penn State, PSU

Location
Philadelphia, PA State College, PA

Public or Private?
Private Public

Part of Ivy League?
Yes No

Undergrad Enrollment
10,448 40,639


US News

Ranking
8 63

Niche Grade
A+ A+

Acceptance Rate
8% 49%

Average GPA
3.9 3.7

Avg SAT/ACT Score

SAT:

1520


ACT:

35

SAT:

1325


ACT:

30

Tuition & Fees
$60,042 In-state: $18,454

Out-of-state: $35,984

Student-Faculty Ratio
6:1 14:1

# of Schools/Colleges
12 (7 = graduate only) 20

# of Majors
~90 majors >275 majors

Most Popular Majors
Business, nursing, engineering Biology, communication, econ

# of Student Clubs
~600 >1,000

Greek Life
~50 frats and sororities >70 frats and sororities

Sports
NCAA Division I NCAA Division I

Med Starting Salary
$68,100 $58,300

Overall Reputation
Highly prestigious Ivy League university known for its pre-professional programs, #1-ranked business school, and party scene Very good public university known for its huge size, social life, breadth of academic programs, and participation in the Big Ten Conference

Let’s look at all these UPenn vs Penn State facts in more detail.

Nicknames

The University of Pennsylvania is often called UPenn or Penn for short, while Pennsylvania State University is called Penn State or PSU.


Remember that “Penn” refers to the private Ivy League institution.

It’s similar to how you’d call Columbia University just Columbia, or Brown University just Brown.

Location

UPenn is located in

Philadelphia

, the largest city in the state, on the southeast tip of Pennsylvania. It takes around two hours to drive from Penn to New York City.

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Meanwhile, the main Penn State campus (called University Park) is based in

City College

, a smaller college town that’s surrounded by mountains and located smack in the center of the state.

It’s about a three-hour drive in either direction to Pittsburgh or Philadelphia (where Penn is based). Note that while Penn has one main campus, Penn State has

24 campuses all around the state

.

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University Type

We already covered this above, but just to reiterate,

Penn is a private Ivy League university, whereas Penn State is a public state university

. Check out our detailed guide to learn more about the

differences between private and public colleges

.

Size

Few realize how different the two schools are in size, or total number of undergraduates. Whereas Penn has approximately 10,000 undergraduates, Penn State has around 40,000—

that’s

four times as many students


. In fact, Penn State is

one of the largest schools in the US

in terms of enrollment.

Rankings & Grades

As you might’ve guessed, Penn, being a more prestigious Ivy, is much higher ranked than is Penn State by publications and websites such as

US News

,

Forbes

, and

Niche

.

That said,

Penn State performs well

, often ranking within the top 100 spots and even in the

top 20 for best public colleges in the US

.

Here are the current national rankings of the University of Pennsylvania vs Penn State:



US News



Forbes


Niche

Niche Grade

UPenn
8 6 10 A+

Penn State
63 117 82 A+

As you can see from this chart,

Penn is consistently ranked in the top 10 national universities, making it an extremely prestigious school

.

Interestingly, both Penn and Penn State earned

A+ grades

from students on Niche, indicating that student satisfaction is extraordinarily high at both institutions.

Admissions

The current acceptance rates are 49% for Penn State and just 8% for Penn. This means that Penn—that’s the more prestigious Ivy League school—is


way

harder to get into than is Penn State

.

So out of every 100 applicants, a little less than half will get into Penn State, but only eight will get into Penn. This puts Penn at the same level of selectivity as Northwestern, Duke, and the University of Chicago. It also makes it one of the

most selective colleges

.

As for the academic profiles of admitted applicants to UPenn and Penn State,

Penn’s students have higher stats

, with an average high school GPA of 3.9 (compared with Penn State’s 3.7).


UPenn also has higher average test scores

: admitted applicants got averages of 1520 on the SAT and 35 on the ACT, compared with Penn State’s lower average scores of 1325 on the SAT and 30 on the ACT.

What this means is that

you’ll need to have a much more competitive application to be able to get into Penn than to get into Penn State

.

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The Pennsylvania State University (


Penn State

/Flickr)

Tuition & Fees

You likely know that private US universities are generally a lot more expensive in tuition and fees than are public universities (especially if you’re in-state). The same rule applies to UPenn vs Penn State.

Being a private, prestigious university,

UPenn charges around $60,042 per year in tuition and fees for

all

domestic students

regardless of state residency. That’s a ton of money that doesn’t even include housing or meal plans.

By contrast, Penn State, being a public state school,

charges only $18,454 for in-state students and $35,984 for out-of-state students

(which is still, shockingly, nearly $25,000 cheaper than the cost for Penn).

Despite all this,

Penn might ultimately be the cheaper option for you

. Penn is need-blind and

meets 100% financial need

through a combination of grants and scholarships (no loans). In 2019-20, the

average aid package at Penn

was $54,301.

Student-Faculty Ratio

The student-faculty ratio shows how many students there are per professor at an institution.

The lower this ratio, the better

, as that means students can get more one-on-one time with their professors.

UPenn has an

impressive 6:1

student-faculty ratio, while Penn State has a good, but not amazing, 14:1 ratio. So expect smaller class sizes, on average, at UPenn than at Penn State.

Schools & Academics

Penn State is the larger of the two institutions, with not only more undergraduates overall but also more schools and colleges:

Penn State has 20 colleges compared with Penn’s 12

.

Penn State’s also got Penn beat in the sheer number of majors it offers. Even though UPenn offers approximately 90 majors spanning a variety of fields,

Penn State offers a whopping 275+ majors

. If you’re looking for options, Penn State is the place to be.

Extracurriculars

Both UPenn and Penn State are known for their lively social scenes and for having a huge number of clubs and extracurricular activities: the two universities each offer more than 500 student clubs and organizations, with

Penn State offering over 1,000

.

Greek life is big at both schools as well, with each offering dozens of fraternities and sororities.

Finally, UPenn and Penn State are both part of the

NCAA Division I

in terms of athletics.

Median Starting Salary of Alumni

While the median starting salary of alumni is high for graduates from both UPenn and Penn State,

ultimately UPenn wins: the median salary here is an impressive $68,100

. Meanwhile, at Penn State it’s $58,300—about $10,000 less.

Broadly speaking, this means that you’re likely to make a better salary if you graduate from UPenn than if you graduate from Penn State.

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Pros and Cons of Attending UPenn vs Penn State

UPenn vs Penn State: both schools are excellent ones to attend, but each naturally has its own set of pros and cons you’ll need to consider before you apply. We introduce the biggest pros and cons of the two renowned schools below.

Pros of Attending UPenn


  • It’s a highly prestigious Ivy League school.

    Just having the label of “Ivy” helps make Penn stand apart from other top-ranked schools. The university is very competitive, so you know it’s got a great reputation.

  • It’s got a great social scene.

    UPenn is known not just for its academics but also for its cool parties, Greek life, and huge variety of clubs.

Cons of Attending UPenn


  • It’s got a high price tag.

    Tuition and fees are roughly $60,000, but remember that financial aid is pretty great at Penn, so most likely you’ll have to pay only a small portion of this price. Still, try to consider other factors, too, such as housing and food, for which costs can add up pretty quickly when you’re living in a large city like Philadelphia.

  • It’s prone to mix-ups with Penn State, a less highly ranked non-Ivy.

    Even though Penn is ranked within the top 10 universities, many people still confuse it with Penn State as a result of their similar names and locations. So be prepared to have to tell people on a semi-regular basis that, yes, Penn is an Ivy and, no, it’s not the same thing as Penn State.

Pros of Attending Penn State


  • It’s got a gigantic array of majors and extracurriculars.

    Penn State has a huge enrollment, yes, but it’s also impressive in its number of majors (245+) and student organizations (1,000+ clubs and 70 frats/sororities). If you’re looking for an academically well-off school with a great social scene, Penn State should be at the very top of your list.

  • It’s home to a renowned distance-learning branch.


    Penn State World Campus

    is the online branch of PSU. More than 150 academic degrees and certificates are available online, offering students tons of flexibility and class options.

Cons of Attending Penn State


  • Its rankings are very good but not amazing.

    While Penn State is undoubtedly an excellent choice for many students, its rankings on reputable college lists are not nearly as high as they are for Penn, so consider whether that’s something that might be important to you.

  • Its location makes the campus feel slightly isolating.

    State College is a cool little college town, but beyond the University Park campus and this town there isn’t much, which can be difficult for some students who don’t like feeling so far away from big cities.

UPenn vs Penn State: Which Should You Apply To?


When it comes to the University of Pennsylvania vs Penn State, it can be tricky to figure out which school is ultimately a better fit for you (and you might very well end up applying to both!).


Here are six factors to consider

to help you determine whether UPenn or Penn State is a better choice for your college applications.

#1: Size

Size usually

does

matter when it comes to colleges, as students tend to feel more comfortable in certain environments. Whereas some students prefer larger schools where they can get to know tons of different people, others prefer smaller schools with more intimate student bodies.

With UPenn vs Penn State, UPenn is a medium-sized school with around 10,000 undergraduates, while Penn State is a

very

large school with about 40,000 undergrads.

If you’d prefer a more close-knit community, then UPenn would be a better choice for you. But if you like the idea of a more diverse, bustling atmosphere, then PSU would be an ideal choice.

#2: Overall Prestige

Another factor to consider is the overall prestige and reputation of the school.

Being part of the Ivy League, Penn undoubtedly has more prestige than Penn State.

However, Penn State has made an impressive name for itself. These days, the university is mostly known for its academic quality (especially compared with that at other state universities), premier online campus, and Big Ten football team.

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#3: Cost & Financial Aid

Cost is typically a huge factor in determining whether you can go to a particular school for college. Generally speaking, public schools (such as Penn State) will be much cheaper than private schools (such as Penn), especially if you qualify for in-state tuition.

Remember, though, that there’s more to consider than just tuition and fees:

you must also think about housing, meal plans, transportation, and basic spending money

.

Since Penn is in a large city, you’ll need to have more money saved for things such as housing and outings with friends in the city. Penn State, on the other hand, is located in a smaller college town, so those kinds of things won’t be nearly as expensive.


Don’t forget to take into account financial aid.

Even though UPenn is way more expensive than Penn State in terms of tuition, it promises to meet 100% of students’ financial need through grants and scholarships (and no loans!), so this could end up saving you loads of money.

It’s advisable that you take some time to look into the

financial aid policies and packages

of both

Penn

and

Penn State

to see what you might qualify for at each school.

#4: Academic Programs Offered

Try to think about what you might want to study

before

you apply to college; this way, you’ll know for sure whether the school you’re considering actually offers your intended major.

Both Penn and Penn State offer a wide breadth of majors and minors; however,

Penn State has an even larger array of majors

, so if you’re undecided, this school would probably be the wiser choice. Check out the

full list of majors at Penn

and the

full list at Penn State

.

You should also take into consideration

whether your intended major has a better reputation at Penn or Penn State

. For example, although both schools have great nursing programs, Penn’s nursing program is

much more highly ranked

than Penn State’s.

#5: Location and Setting

Although both UPenn and Penn State are based in Pennsylvania,

they’re in

very

different parts of the state

. UPenn is on the southeastern tip in the state’s largest city, Philadelphia, while Penn State is in the middle of the state in a smaller college town with not a lot around it.

If you’re concerned about feeling isolated, then Penn State probably isn’t the best fit for you. On the other hand, if you’re not a huge fan of big-city living (and the high costs often associated with metropolises), then UPenn might not offer an ideal setting.

#6: Selectivity

It’s important to consider the overall selectivity of UPenn vs Penn State before you apply to one (or both) of them for college.

Remember that Penn is

much

more competitive than Penn State.

If your academic profile (i.e., your GPA and SAT or ACT scores) generally matches that of admitted applicants to UPenn or Penn State, then that school can be considered a

target school

. If your GPA and test scores are way below the averages of the school, then that school (whether it’s UPenn or both UPenn and Penn State) can be considered a

reach school

. Finally, if your GPA and SAT or ACT scores are far above the averages at, say, Penn State, then you can view this as a

safety school

.


Try using our

college acceptance calculator


to get a clearer sense of your admission chances to both UPenn and Penn State.

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Conclusion: Is Penn State Ivy League, or Is UPenn?

So is Penn State Ivy League? Or is Penn Ivy League? Penn State, or PSU, is a large public university that is

not

part of the Ivy League, whereas UPenn, or Penn, is a prestigious private university that

is

in the Ivy League.

While the two universities are often confused with each other due to their similar-sounding names,

they couldn’t be more different

.

UPenn is a top-ranked Ivy League school and one of the most selective universities in the country. Academically, the institution is mainly known for its premier business school and nursing program. Beyond the classroom, Penn is home to a thriving social scene as well.

Meanwhile, Penn State is a well-ranked public state university known for its quality academics and highly impressive array of academic programs and extracurricular activities. It’s also the creator of a renowned distance-learning branch.

Although both Penn and Penn State are equally fantastic schools to attend,

it’s up to

you

to figure out which school is a better fit for you

based on their respective pros and cons, and factors such as size, location, and financial aid.

What’s Next?



Ready to learn more about what it takes to get into UPenn vs Penn State?

Then check out

our admission requirements pages for Penn

and

Penn State

to see how you stack up.


How do the UC schools differ from the CSU schools?

Learn about the

key differences between these two California-based public university systems

in our expert guide.


Did you know that CUNY and SUNY are two different university systems based in New York State?

Get the rundown of how these two systems work in

our side-by-side comparison

.



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