University of Pennsylvania
#17 Overall Influence#10 Desirability Rank

University of Pennsylvania

Private research university in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

By James Barham, PhD

The University of Pennsylvania (commonly known as “Penn”) is a leading private research university (note that nearly all US universities named after their state are public-supported—Penn is an exception to this rule).

The sixth-oldest institution of higher learning in the country, Penn was the brain child of American Founding Father Benjamin Franklin, who also served as its first president. Franklin’s educational ideas were highly innovative for the time, inclining more towards the teaching of practical skills and preparation for the learned professions, in contrast to the traditional curriculum based on the Classical languages, literature, and history, which aimed primarily to produce ministers and “gentlemen.”

Accordingly, the first medical school in the 13 colonies (now known as the Perelman School of Medicine) was founded at Penn in 1765. Also, thanks in large part to Franklin’s guiding principles, the first business school in the country (the Wharton School) opened there in 1881.

Penn has had a major impact on American politics and history: nine signers of the Declaration of Independence were either graduates of the university or members of its Board of Trustees. Hundreds of Penn graduates have served in the two houses of Congress, at the cabinet level of the executive branch, and as ambassadors in their country’s diplomatic service. Nearly 50 have served as governors of many different states. Finally, Penn can boast three US Supreme Court Justices (James Wilson, Owen J. Roberts, and William J. Brennan) and two presidents (William Henry Harrison attended the Penn medical school, but did not graduate, and Donald Trump received his bachelor’s degree from the Wharton School).

Located in racially and economically diverse West Philadelphia, Penn today has a student body that is “majority minority,” comprising numerous African American, Hispanic, and Native American students, as well as many international students (just under 500 in all) hailing from East Asia, South Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and elsewhere.

Among notable alumni we may mention:

  • Philosopher, Hilary Putnam
  • Famed linguist, Noam Chomsky
  • Investors, Warren Buffett & Eric Weinstein
  • Entrepreneurs, Elon Musk, Steve Wynn, & Sundar Pichai
  • Actors, Bruce Dern, Candice Bergen, Vanessa Bayer, & Elizabeth Banks
  • Broadway producer, Harold Prince
  • Stand-up comedian, Whitney Cummings
  • TV personalities, Andrea Mitchell & Marc Lamont Hill
  • Distinguished American poets, William Carlos Williams & Ezra Pound
  • Renowned architect, I.M. Pei
  • Blogger, Cenk Uygur
  • Kaw professor and political activist, Lawrence Lessig
  • African independence leader and first president of Ghana, Kwame Nkrumah
  • 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump

Altogether, some 28 Penn-connected persons have been recipients of the Nobel Prize, including:

  • Christian Anfinsen —chemistry
  • Stanley Prusiner and Gerald Edelman, —physiology or medicine
  • Edmund Phelps, Lawrence Klein, and Simon Kuznets, —economics
  • Martin Luther King, Jr., —peace


What does this school look for?

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How much does it cost to attend?

Tuition (in-state)


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After Graduation

Averages for 10 years after enrolling

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Campus Life

What's it like to attend this school?

The People

Full time on-campus stats

Student Body






The Campus

Where will you be attending?


34th & Spruce Street, Philadelphia PA 19104-6303

What is University of Pennsylvania known for?

Our answer to this is to show you the disciplines in which a school's faculty and alumni have had the highest historical influence. A school may be influential in a discipline even if they do not offer degrees in that area. We've organized two lists to show where they are influential and offer corresponding degrees, and where they are influential through scholarship although they don't offer degrees in the disciplines.

Top areas of influence with degrees offered

#6 World Rank #4 USA Rank
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Social Work
#7 World Rank #6 USA Rank
#14 World Rank #8 USA Rank
#12 World Rank #8 USA Rank
#21 World Rank #9 USA Rank
#19 World Rank #10 USA Rank
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#16 World Rank #10 USA Rank
#14 World Rank #10 USA Rank
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#30 World Rank #12 USA Rank
Religious Studies
#14 World Rank #12 USA Rank
Political Science
#19 World Rank #13 USA Rank
#39 World Rank #15 USA Rank
#21 World Rank #16 USA Rank
Computer Science
#39 World Rank #17 USA Rank
#22 World Rank #18 USA Rank
#34 World Rank #18 USA Rank
#63 World Rank #19 USA Rank
#83 World Rank #26 USA Rank
Earth Sciences

Other areas of influence

#7 World Rank #6 USA Rank
Criminal Justice

Influential People

Who are University of Pennsylvania's Most influential alumni?

University of Pennsylvania's most influential alumni faculty include professors and professionals in the fields of Medical, Social Work, and Business. University of Pennsylvania’s most academically influential people include Noam Chomsky, Ezra Pound, and Warren Buffett.

Noam Chomsky
Noam Chomsky

American linguist, philosopher and activist

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Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound

American poet and critic

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Warren Buffett
Warren Buffett

American business magnate, investor, and philanthropist

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Elon Musk
Elon Musk

South African-born American entrepreneur

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Michael Behe
Michael Behe

American biochemist, author, and intelligent design advocate

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William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams

American poet

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Hilary Putnam
Hilary Putnam

American philosopher

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Paul Ralph Ehrlich
Paul Ralph Ehrlich

American scientist and environmentalist

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Martin Seligman
Martin Seligman

American psychologist and writer

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William S. Paley
William S. Paley

American television executive

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Samuel George Morton
Samuel George Morton

American physician and naturalist

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William Henry Harrison
William Henry Harrison

American general and politician, 9th President of the United States

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