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BFS Students at an Event

Benjamin Franklin Scholars are selected based on their interest in, and demonstrated capacity for, a deep engagement in the liberal arts and sciences, both as ends in themselves and as engines of change in the world. We look for spirited, independent people who find their own passions and are predisposed to explore their own ideas, wherever they might lead. We welcome restless minds who are not content just to appreciate great ideas as abstractions up on a shelf, but who see them as transformative; changing minds and so changing the world. 

Admissions for Incoming Penn Students

Each school implements the BFS vision somewhat differently so that the program enhances the existing home school requirements.  Learn more about the program in each school below:

An immersive first-year experience 

In their first year, students in the College of Arts and Sciences (the “College”) take an intensive year-long course called the Integrated Studies Program (ISP) , which makes up half of the first-year curriculum.  The course sets out broad themes in the humanities, sciences, and social sciences, and uses the multiple perspectives that different disciplines provide to examine the underlying questions that make each of them tick. 


All incoming first-years admitted to the College are invited to apply to ISP, with the exception of those already pursuing another specialized intensive program at Penn (Huntsman Program, University Scholars, Vagelos Scholars, etc.)  Applications are available after April 1 and are due on the same day as Penn’s enrollment confirmation is due (usually May 1). For more information on Integrated Studies, please contact Dr. Julio Tuma (215-898-4772).

A gateway to Penn, rich in liberal arts

BFS offers students in the School of Engineering and Applied Science (SEAS) a gateway to all that the Penn has to offer.  Students engage in a top-flight engineering education while taking part in the larger world of the university. 

BFS-Engineering students train as the next generation of builders and dreamers in an atmosphere rich in excellence in the liberal arts, business, medicine, law, and nursing. 


Students enrolled in the School of Engineering are selected as Benjamin Franklin Scholars as incoming first-year students. 

A liberal arts option

Benjamin Franklin Scholars in Nursing (BFS-N) provides a liberal arts-intensive option within the undergraduate nursing major for students who are curious and inclined toward intellectual exploration. 

As a scholar within BFS-N, your academic experience is marked by rigorous coursework and extracurricular activities open to you and peers in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Wharton School, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science. In addition to a variety of campus-wide programs as part of BFS, you can enroll in the justly famed BFS seminars – courses taught by expert faculty from across campus in a variety of topics. 

A full description of the BFS-N program and its requirements can be found here


Becoming a BFS-N scholar is by select invitation on matriculation at the discretion of the BFS-N program leadership.


The Joseph Wharton Scholars (JWS) program in the Wharton School emphasizes the importance of breadth across the liberal arts and sciences within the framework of a business education. 

Students in the program take BFS seminars in Wharton and in the College of Arts and Sciences and engage in a significant senior research project (waived if doing one for a joint or dual-degree program). 

A full description of the JWS program and its requirements can be found here


Students enrolled in the Wharton School who are selected for the Joseph Wharton Scholars Program are simultaneously designated Benjamin Franklin Scholars. 

Admitted Incoming BFS Students: What’s Next? 

Please complete the Housing Application in your Student Portal. You do not have to reapply for BFS in the Housing Application or do any long form essay within the Housing Application. Simply note that you have already been invited to BFS or are planning on entering as a BFS student, and list ‘Hill College House’ as your first choice of Housing. 

Current Penn Students: How to Apply 

The majority of students in BFS are invited to apply during the process of being admitted to Penn. There are, however, limited opportunities for on-campus admission.  For students accepted to BFS at the end of their first year at Penn, the housing requirement for the program is waived. 

Students in the College of Arts and Sciences, Nursing, and Wharton who were not admitted to BFS during the first-year admissions process may apply to the program by May 15 of their first year, with decisions communicated by July 1. 

For Wharton and Nursing: the student application requires a concise personal statement about who the student is, why they are applying, and what background or experiences have prepared or qualify them for the program; two faculty recommendations; and an unofficial copy of your Penn transcript saved as a pdf from Path@Penn.  

For the College: prospective students are asked for two faculty recommendations, an unofficial copy of your Penn transcript saved as a pdf from Path@Penn, and the completed application to Integrated Studies. The Integrated Studies Program (ISP) is the first-year curriculum for BFS students in the College. All students wishing to apply to BFS at the end of their first year must complete this program during their sophomore year. 

Students are strongly encouraged to take one or two Benjamin Franklin Seminars before applying. Applications to the program are evaluated by your home school's program and admission is based on intellectual interest and ability as demonstrated by the essays, coursework, and faculty recommendations. 

For the two letters of recommendation in support of the application:  at least one must be from a standing faculty member at Penn (not a lecturer, adjunct professor, emeritus professor, or practice professor; rather, with tenure or in tenure-probationary status: Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor). It is the student’s responsibility to get both letters submitted by no later than May 15. Faculty may find further information here about the faculty letter of recommendation

Have questions about BFS? View our FAQs below: 

All BFS students take at least three (3) BFS seminar CUs during their time at Penn. These are the heart of the BFS program and bring together students and faculty who jointly pursue powerful questions of mutual interest. In addition, the four undergraduate schools – Nursing, Engineering, Wharton, and the College – have their own additional requirements for their BFS students. We also host joint plenary events to which the entire BFS community is invited to hear speakers or just get to know one another better. 

There are many extraordinary and intensive opportunities at Penn, each with their own rigors. Amazing educational experiences here are simply the norm, and it’s true that worthwhile things tend to be demanding, and sometime force us to make choices. For example, students whose home school is the College and who are doing Integrated Studies will be unable simultaneously to complete the requirements for the College’s intensive biological science program, the Vagelos Scholars Program. Students who are pursuing a dual degree with a professional school may be able to simultaneously complete an intensive or dual-degree program (such as Huntsman, LSM, or Nursing and Health Care Management) while also being able to complete the requirements for BFS in their professional school. These students will NOT be eligible for Integrated Studies. Contact your pre-major advisor for more information. 

No, any undergraduate at Penn can request a seat in a BFS seminar. Roughly a third of the seats in BFS seminars are reserved for program participants, and the rest are open to BFS students or for general enrollment. Some BFS seminars may have seats reserved for majors in that department (for example, History usually reserves some seats in BFS seminars for their majors). Some BFS seminars may require a permit for all students, whether or not the student is in the BFS program. 

No, all aid from Student Financial Services is need based; there are no merit-based scholarships administered by Penn’s Student Financial Services. 

No. Students can “bank” courses in advance, so if you have completed two BFS seminars by the end of your sophomore year, you can go abroad all of junior year and take your third BFS seminar senior year. If, however, you haven’t taken any BFS seminars by the end of your sophomore year and plan to be abroad all of junior year, it is not realistic to expect to take all your BFS seminars as a senior. 

No, BFS is not a degree program or a major.  The BFS distinction is noted on your transcript.  

Some BFS courses are introductory, appropriate for students interested in a subject in which they have no prior experience; others require some knowledge going in. 

You may have semesters in which you take no BFS seminars, and others in which you take more than one.