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Frequently Asked Questions



The online materials mention applicants must have completed their freshman year of high school. Is this program targeted to rising Sophomores or is it appropriate for all high school grades?

We accept applications from rising Sophomores through Seniors. Admissions is highly selective. We look at all aspects of the application to build a diverse cohort of students who can work well both independently as well as with each other. For rising Sophomores, we pay particular attention to academic strength/consistency, demonstrated maturity, and the ability to balance the rigorous coursework and social components of the SAAST program.

I will be a rising Senior this summer. Is this program an option for me?

This program is indeed an option for you, and in fact a good majority of our applications come from rising juniors and seniors. Many enroll looking to explore new areas of engineering or bolster their understanding in one of the six SAAST fields before applying to college.

I am wondering how many other young woman usually attend.

Across the six SAAST courses in the last couple of years, it is not unusual to see up to 40% of the enrolled students being comprised of young women. This reflects the percentage of women enrolled as undergraduates at Penn Engineering, and is well over the national average of about 20%.

What are the standards used to determine admission?

The SAAST Admissions process is based on that used at the undergraduate level, comprising the online application, personal essay, letters of recommendation, high school transcript, and standardized test scores.

If I applied after the priority deadline, when can I expect my admissions decision?

Decisions are rendered after 3 weeks of the application complete date. All students are notified by email when their applications are complete.

I haven’t received my admissions decision.

In order to provide the Admissions Committee enough time to review each application thoroughly, admissions decisions for applications received on or before the priority deadline in March are typically released no later than the second week of April. Please allow 2-3 weeks processing for applications received after the priority deadline.

Can I appeal my course placement?

If you have ranked your top two program choices on the online application and wish to change this before receiving your Admissions decision, you may contact us to have this changed. After acceptance into one of the six SAAST courses, however, course placement cannot be altered.

What are my chances of being admitted from the waitlist for the SAAST program? How many students are accepted from the waitlist? Is the waitlist ranked? What is my position on the waitlist? How are applicants selected from the waitlist? How often does the Admissions Committee review the applications?

The greatest factor affecting acceptance from the waitlist is the number of withdrawals we receive prior to the program start date in July. Individual circumstances vary greatly from year to year, and we simply do not know how many withdrawals we will receive. The waitlist is not ranked; applications noted as waitlisted are rolled back into the general admissions pool along with any applications received past the priority deadline. The Committee meets on an ad-hoc basis to review applications until all places in the program have been filled.

How many students participate in SAAST? How many people are on the waitlist? How many offers of admission have been made to date?

We aim for a class size of about 200 students. We do not publish admission statistics prior to the end of the current program year.

Can I submit additional documents to improve my chances of being admitted?

Past the priority deadline, we will only accept updated transcripts or standardized test scores. We do not accept other documents.

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What are the requirements?

Online application
Official high school transcript (sealed, sent directly from your school)
Personal Essay and Short Answers
2 Letters of Recommendation (on official school letterhead, signed and sealed)
Test scores, if applicable (PSAT, SAT I, II, ACT, TOEFL, IELTS, AP, IB)
$75 non-refundable application fee

When will the current application for SAAST be available?

The SAAST application for the current cycle will be available on our website in mid-January. Please  contact us by email to request to be notified when the application becomes available online.

Is there a deadline? If I miss the priority deadline, can I still apply?

We continue to accept applications on a rolling basis thereafter, space-as-available.  For more information, see Fast Facts.

Is there an application fee?

Yes, there is a non-refundable application fee of $75 USD.

Where do I send my essay, transcript, recommendations?

Office of Academic Programs
School of Engineering and Applied Science
220 S. 33rd Street
111 Towne Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6391

If you'd like to fax any of the materials (official transcripts must come directly from the school) the number is 215-573-5577, Attn: SAAST.

Should I be specific in my essay about the particular course I am most interested in?

If the specific course contributes significantly to why you wish to participate in SAAST and/or your goals, please feel free to indicate the course.

Who should I ask to write my letters of recommendation?

At least one of your letters of recommendation should be written by a math or science teacher. Your second letter may be written by another teacher, a guidance counselor, or a coach or advisor who knows you well. Your high school transcript speaks to your academic strength, so we will be looking to the recommendation to learn more about the rigor of your coursework, performance in the classroom, and interactions with your peers.

Is there an official recommendation form?

Yes, download the form for recommenders to fill out, which you may download from the SAAST website at the time you apply. Recommenders should write letters on official school letterhead.

Can I submit my recommendations online?

Unfortunately, we do not at this time have an online system available for submitting letters of recommendation. Students should print and complete the top portion of the letter of recommendation form to give to their recommenders. Recommenders may print their comments directly on the form or attach separately on official school letterhead. The recommendation must be sealed and should be sent to:

Office of Academic Programs
School of Engineering and Applied Science
220 S. 33rd Street
111 Towne Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6391

I completed the online application well before the priority deadline, but what if my letters of recommendation/transcript arrive after the deadline?

In fairness to all applicants, only those applications that are complete by the priority deadline will receive first consideration. You need to check with your teachers and guidance office to make sure that the letters and transcripts arrive on time.

Are the PSAT, SAT I, SAT IIs, ACT, or other standardized test scores required?

Exam scores are not required to apply to the SAAST program. Admissions is highly competitive, and we review each aspect of the application very carefully. For rising high school sophomore applicants who may not have test scores to include, we particularly look for a level of maturity and rigorous academic preparation that will allow the student to do well in a social and academic setting where the majority of the students are older (juniors, seniors). If students do take the PSAT, SAT, SAT2, or ACT before applying, however, they are encouraged to include the scores.

I received my test scores from the CollegeBoard electronically. How do I submit my test scores?

Contact the CollegeBoard (US phone number: 866-756-7346), select the prompt that allows you to request Score Reporting, then select the option that allows you to speak to a representative.  Inform the representative that you do not have a code and are requesting hand-addressed reporting. Please use the address specified in the confirmation email you received upon completing the online portion of the SAAST application:

Office of Academic Programs
School of Engineering and Applied Science
220 S. 33rd Street
111 Towne Building
Philadelphia, PA 19104-6391

I filled out the online application. Is there a way to save my work?

Unfortunately, you cannot save the information entered, so please be sure to enter all the information only when you are fully prepared to submit the application. We recommend reviewing the application and preparing your responses in a separate document, then copy/pasting your information into the application when you are ready.

Why can’t I log into my application account?

When you apply for SAAST through our online application form, you do not automatically receive an account. The web interface is designed to simply collect application materials and store the information on the server for Admissions review. Once you submit the completed form, you will not be able to review or make any changes to your application. There is no method to continuously check the status of your application. However, you will receive a confirmation email that you application is complete once all application materials have been received in our office.

I haven’t received a confirmation email after completing the online portion of the application. I haven’t received a confirmation email stating that my application is complete. How can I check whether all the parts of my application have been received?

You will receive a confirmation email when ALL supporting materials have been received (online application including essay and short answers, signatures form, transcript, letters of recommendation, test scores, application fee payment). Please do not contact us while your supporting materials are in transit. We do not provide application status updates except to confirm that all required components of the application have been received.

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What are the costs to attend the SAAST program?

See Financial Information for program and other fees.  If you are an international student, you will be expected to submit financial certification documents for your I-20 or DS2019 application.  For more details click here.

A deposit of $500 USD is due 2 weeks from date of acceptance to hold your placement in the program. The remaining balance is due in full on May 29, 2015.

Please note that students should plan to have access to funds for any personal spending. International students should also plan to accommodate additional fees such as visa application, SEVIS, and shipping fees.

Is the $75 USD application fee refundable?

We are sorry, but the application fee is non-refundable.

When is the application fee due? Is there a deposit? When is the program fee due in full?

The non-refundable application fee of $75 USD is due at the time of submission of the online form.

Upon acceptance, a non-refundable deposit of $500 USD is due 2 weeks from date of acceptance to hold your place in the program.

The remaining balance is due in full on May 29th.

If my son or daughter withdraws the program before the start date, will we receive a refund?

Once a student is accepted and confirms his/her decision to enroll in the program, a non-refundable deposit fee of $500 is due within 2 weeks of the admissions decision to confirm his/her place in SAAST. This fee cannot be waived or deferred, and is non-refundable. Your deposit will be credited towards the program tuition fee.

If you need to withdraw from the program after having paid in full, you will receive a refund in accordance to the following schedule. Requests may be sent via email or FAX. Students dismissed from the program for disciplinary reasons will not receive any refund.

NOTE: All requests for a refund must be made in writing, and properly dated. Refunds are given based on the date in which we receive your formal written request to withdraw from the program and receive a refund.

Refund Request Date Received Amount
Before June 5 - 100%, less $500 deposit
June 5 – June 12 - 75%, less $500 deposit
June 13 – June 22 - 50%, less $500 deposit
After June 22 - no refund

Is financial aid available?

Yes, financial aid is available for students with demonstrated financial need. Students must submit the respective financial aid application with their other application materials. Notification of aid availability will be announced along with the admissions decision.

I can’t afford the application fee but would like to apply.

If you qualify for an application fee waiver, please include a statement from your high school counselor verifying your income status in your application. Once approved, your application fee will be waived. The SAAST office will provide you with the App Fee Waiver code.  Be sure to contact the SAAST office at 215-898-0053.

I am applying for financial aid. Can my application be placed on hold for the following year, if sufficient financial aid is not available?

We have in previous years been generous with aid based on need. In the case that a well-qualified student is unable to attend this summer, he/she is welcome and encouraged to apply in following years. Applications cannot be rolled over to the following year.

I don't see a financial aid application online. How do I access it?

Financial assistance is available to SAAST applicants with demonstrated need. On the online application, you may indicate your intention to apply for financial aid. Download and complete the financial application forms located on the "Financial Information" section under the Home tab, making sure to attach your family's current 1040 tax form, and any other requested materials, such as W-2's.  You will be notified of any financial aid available along with your application decision.  International students should download the International Financial Aid Form.

What documents are necessary to apply for financial aid?

Please complete the financial aid application and attach your family’s most current 1040 tax form and    W-2's. For international students, please attach the equivalent – for example, the Canadian form is the T4, and the Indian form is Form 16.

Does applying for financial aid affect my admissions decision?

No. The admissions decision and financial aid decision are two separate processes; thus, the admissions decision will not be affected in any way. If you indicate you will be applying for financial aid, however, you must complete the application and submit all necessary forms before your application will be considered complete.

When will I hear whether I received financial aid?

Notification of aid availability will be announced along with the admissions decision. In order to provide the Admissions Committee enough time to review each application thoroughly, admissions decisions for applications received on or before the priority deadline are typically released by the second week of April. Please allow 2-3 weeks processing for applications received after the priority deadline.

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Will I be graded on my work? What sort of Grade is reported on my transcript?

Yes, SAAST courses are treated as college courses, and all of the
work is evaluated and graded on Penn's grading scale of "A" to "F." Penn
uses a plus/minus system as well.

Do participants of the SAAST program receive college credit?

Yes, participants who successfully complete the SAAST program
receive 1 credit unit (the equivalent of 3 semester hours) which is posted on their Penn transcript.

How do I know whether my experience and skill fits in well with the courses?

While there are no pre-requisites for the SAAST courses, all six courses are taught and graded at the college level. Since the coursework is rigorous and fast-paced, some prior coursework along with a very high motivation to take an active learning role will be helpful. Please see below for course-specific FAQs.


What prior coursework is helpful in the Biotechnology course?

Eligible students should have at least 1 year's coursework in Biology and Chemistry. AP Biology experience is a plus but not a pre-requisite. Coding experience a plus but not a pre-requisite.

Computer Graphics

What prior coursework is helpful in the Computer Graphics course?

Eligible students will find prior experience in Photoshop, Maya or other modeling tools useful, but it is not a pre-requisite.

My daughter is interested in applying to the undergraduate Digital Media Design program at Penn Engineering upon completion of high school. Is the SAAST Computer Graphics course the correct choice to give her a feel for this program?

Computer Graphics is indeed an excellent choice for a student intending to apply to the DMD program. Students work extensively with 3D modeling, becoming familiar and proficient with the use of Maya software and techniques.

Computer Science

What prior coursework is helpful in the Computer Science course?

This course is for beginners with little to no experience with programming. Students who have already taken an AP-level computer science course can benefit from the intense and rigorous college level curriculum.


What prior coursework is helpful in the Nanotechnology course?

Eligible students should have coursework in high school Chemistry and Biology. Students in the course will spend the first few days reviewing important chemistry concepts to ensure a solid foundation before delving into the Nanotechnology coursework.


What prior coursework is helpful in the Robotics course?

Eligible students should have prior coursework in Physics, Math (Precalculus is a plus but not a pre-requisite), and C programming or Autocad.

Engineering Complex Networks

What prior coursework is helpful in the Engineering Complex Networks course?

Eligible students should have coursework in physics and math. Some computer programming knowledge is recommended but not a pre-requisite.


Do you have civil or structure engineering courses?

We are sorry, but we do not at this time offer civil or structure engineering courses at SAAST.

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I live near Philadelphia. Can I enroll as a commuter student?

SAAST is designed to give students a taste of college life, which includes meeting other students, social and recreational events, and of course, late-night study sessions and lab work. Living in the dorms is an essential component of the experience; hence, there is no commuter option.

Will there be activities planned for the weekends?

Evening and weekend activities vary from year to year. Last summer, students spent a weekend at the beach and another at Six Flags Great Adventure. Students also enjoy industry site visits during the week as part of their academic experience. Weeknights and Sunday evenings are typically devoted to homework and working on final group projects. These evenings are coordinated by our residential staff, offering a balanced mix of outings and study sessions to accommodate the rigorous coursework the students complete throughout the 3 weeks. Miscellaneous weeknight activities can occur in the dorms, on campus, or dinner/group outings just minutes away in the city. The final Friday of the program is reserved for the Graduation Ceremony, where students celebrate the culmination of their hard work with the presentation of their final projects.

What security measures will be taken for student safety? Where will students live, eat, attend classes?

SAAST students are housed in one of the high-rises, on Penn’s 285-acre urban campus. All entrances are monitored 24/7 by Penn Public Safety, and students must swipe their ID and enter a secure, private keycode to enter the buildings. Residential Teaching Assistants (RTAs), supervised by a full-time Residential Director in the dorms and instructors in the classrooms, are current Penn undergraduates who live in the dorms with the students and serve as TAs in the classrooms. Meals are taken at either 1920s Commons or Houston Market, and all classes take place in the Engineering Quad.

How much free time will I have?

SAAST courses pack an entire semester’s work into three weeks, so you can expect to be quite busy. However, students still have time to socialize and get to know each other, and our staff of undergraduate Residential Teaching Assistants (RTAs) plan many activities that take advantage of all that Penn and Philadelphia have to offer.

Will I have time to go home on weekends?

We do not encourage leaving campus on weekends except in very specific circumstances. The weekends at SAAST are just as busy as the weekdays with group excursions and work on projects and homework. You may also disadvantage your work team by leaving on the weekend. However, if you do need to leave campus for any reason at any time (not on an official SAAST excursion or accompanied by a SAAST staff member), we must be provided prior written permission from a parent or guardian.

Can I choose my roommate?

Due to the very short turnaround time between registration and the start of the program, we are unable to accommodate roommate requests.

How much money do I need to bring?

All of your course materials (including lab supplies, textbooks, and coursepacks), meals, and group activities are included in the Program Fee. You should bring money for occasional snacks, souvenirs, laundry (about $3.00 per load), and other small, personal expenses.

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I am an international student. Is an English proficiency exam required?

An exam is not required, though we encourage applicants who have already taken the TOEFL to include the score with their application. Alternatively, you may indicate that you have attended a school for at least 1 year where the primary mode of instruction is English or ask both of your recommenders to assess your English language ability in the letters of recommendation. Other qualifications may exist; contact us if you have additional questions.

My transcript is in a language other than English.

You must have the transcript translated by an official service provider or notarized, and send the original, sealed copy from your school for comparison purposes.

I've been accepted to the program. How do I apply for a visa?

You will be applying to UPenn for an I-20 for F-1 status.

To learn more, please see this page.

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Penn offers other summer programs for high school programs. What is unique about the SAAST program?

SAAST is linked directly with the School of Engineering and Applied Science at Penn, with each of the 6 programs modified from actual first and second-year engineering courses. If you are interested in engineering, the practical applications of science, or would like to explore a subfield (e.g. biotechnology) within engineering before applying to college, SAAST may be a great opportunity to do so.

Can we visit Penn Engineering?  I am interested in a certain program. Can we visit for more information?

Absolutely! Please visit the prospective students tab of the Penn Engineering website for more information. Tours of the Engineering quad are available year-round.

Will attending SAAST help me get in to Penn?

Students who attend SAAST do not receive special consideration for admission to any of Penn’s undergraduate schools. However, the SAAST experience, and a Penn transcript, can help strengthen a student’s application to any college or university. In addition, the exposure to college life can be an invaluable experience to students in choosing a college, and SAAST students will have the chance to attend admissions workshops to help them navigate the admissions process.

Do you provide health insurance coverage during the program?

No. SAAST does not provide health insurance coverage. Students and their families are responsible for acquiring appropriate health care coverage for the duration of the 3-week program.

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