Skip to main content

For Incoming Students 

Each spring, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions and UScholars administrators collaborate to admit a cohort of 20-30 incoming students to the program. These students come from diverse backgrounds and varying degrees of prior research experience, with interests ranging across all the undergraduate schools' areas of study and with a shared curiosity and a passion for research and cross-disciplinary collaboration.

Interested students who have been admitted and formally accepted their offer to attend Penn will be invited to apply to the University Scholars program. The application consists of brief responses pertaining to the students' general interest in research and the UScholars program.

UScholars serves as a student's primary co-curricular program, an academic activity that augments a student's intellectual trajectory, but does not yield credit or fulfill a requirement as a curricular (or course for credit) commitment. As such, UScholars may not participate in programs with similar academic commitments (e.g., Vagelos Molecular Life Science, VIPER).

For Current Penn Students

Most UScholars enter the program upon matriculation at the university. However, a small number of sophomores and juniors at Penn can apply to the program via the link below. They may apply only once during their time at Penn and that one application cannot be revised and resubmitted. Applicants must evidence that they are pursuing their own original and independent research question and that they are committed to the program’s mission, including interest in communicating and collaborating within and across their area of study.  Since the UScholars program serves as a student’s primary co-curricular academic commitment, applicants may not already, or later decide to, participate in like programs.

Apply Here

Sophomore applicants applicants must have a well-formed research question and an idea of how to answer that question – a methodology. They should have identified potential Penn faculty members who would serve as their research mentor. Please see our Program Requirements page for more information on Penn faculty mentors.

Junior applicants must already be conducting their own original, independent research under the guidance of a research mentor from a Penn faculty mentor. Please see our Program Requirements page for more information on Penn faculty mentors.

Application Components 

Personal Statement (maximum of 500 words) 
What are your intellectual and professional aspirations? Why do you want to be a University Scholar (UScholar) – how does this program relate to your aspirations?  What does it mean to you to participate in a cross-disciplinary community of scholars? What do you bring to the program? 

Research proposal (maximum of 500 words) 
Outline your project, stating for an intelligent, non-specialist reader the purpose, substance, and relevance of your proposed work; briefly assessing the state of knowledge and previous work in this area; and describing your project’s procedures (with timetable and plan for completion), followed by a projection of your potential contribution to this field.  Also, provide a one-page bibliography (not included in word count) of up to 12 academic sources that have informed your research. 

Two (2) letters of recommendation 
The first letter is from one standing Penn faculty member (with tenure or in tenure-probationary status: Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor) who will serve as a mentor for your research project, helping you plan your program of research and advising you as you work. The second is ideally written by a standing Penn faculty member who also knows you and your work well.  Both letters should speak specifically about your intellectual curiosity; potential for independent scholarly work, particularly for your proposed project; research skills; and motivation for, as well as commitment to, this particular program.  Since not all applicants know two faculty members well, the second letter may come from a teaching assistant (TA), from an instructor at another school, or from someone who knows you and your work from other contacts. 

Please note:  Ideally, your research mentor is a standing Penn faculty member (with tenure or in tenure-probationary status: Professor, Associate Professor, or Assistant Professor).  Postdoctoral scholars and research faculty may be suitable primary advisors, but should supplement – rather than replace – the role of a standing faculty member (often called a principle investigator in the sciences). Ultimately, the research mentor must be a researcher with intellectual expertise and commitment relevant to the field of your research and available at Penn for mentoring you through the conclusion of your project. 

Resume or CV


Interview with UScholars Faculty Council 


Nov. 1: application materials are due 
by Dec. 1:  interviews begin 
by winter break:  final decisions are determined