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Last updated July 18, 2023

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How to Get into Purdue

Key Takeaway

Maximizing your chances of admission to Purdue University involves a strategic application approach, emphasizing academic fit, strong grades, rigorous coursework, and impactful extracurriculars. Consider timing and the competitiveness of your chosen major. Maintain a solid GPA, aim for strong test scores, and take the most challenging courses available.

Purdue University is a large, public research institution with its main campus located in West Lafayette, Indiana. It’s home to over 40,000 students.

Purdue may be on your college list because of its recognition as a great school with an acceptance rate that’s more reasonable than many others—68%.

In this post, I’ll walk you through how to increase your chances of admission to Purdue by approaching your application strategically.

Ready? Here we go!

How to Apply to Purdue

Like lots of other schools, Purdue uses the Common Application. To apply, you’ll need the following materials:

  • Common Application
  • Purdue supplement
  • High school transcript
  • Standardized test scores (these are required again!)
  • Application fee

Keep in mind that your completed Common Application also includes things like your activities list and letters of recommendation.

Purdue Application Options

At Purdue, you can either apply Early Action or Regular Decision. There is no Early Decision option.

In many ways, your choice will be determined by your ability to complete and submit your application by the early date.

But keep in mind that if you want to be considered for all of Purdue’s scholarships or for the John Martinson Honors College, you should apply Early Action.

Purdue Application Deadlines

Early Action: November 1

Regular Decision: January 15

How hard is it to get into Purdue?

Purdue is a selective institution, but it’s not nearly as difficult to get into as, say, Duke or Georgia Tech.

With a 68.9% acceptance rate, getting into Purdue may be a realistic goal for many high-achieving students. Of course, your chances will also vary by the major you’re applying to (we’re looking at you, engineering).

In general, Purdue is a solid target or reach school for students with strong GPAs, course rigor, extracurriculars, and essays. Still, it’s a competitive applicant pool, so you’ll need to put your best foot forward.

What does Purdue look for in applicants?

When reviewing your application, Purdue admissions officers ask two questions. Here’s the first:

  1. Are you academically prepared to succeed in your desired academic program?

    To answer this question, admissions officers look at your transcript and assess your course rigor, GPA, and grade trends. They also look at your school report and counselor recommendation to contextualize your academic performance. How does your performance compare to that of your peers? How rigorous is your course load compared to what your school offers? Have you taken advantage of all the academic opportunities available to you? Have you participated in and excelled at courses and extracurriculars relevant to your desired major?

    It’s all a measure of what we call academic fit.

    Now here’s the second question:

  2. Are you a competitive candidate in the context of the overall pool of applicants for the program based on available space?

    There’s a lot going on with this one: 1) are you a competitive candidate, 2) given the context of the other applicants in the pool, and 3) while also taking into account the available space in the program you’re applying to.

    So the question isn’t simply whether you’re a competitive applicant or not. It’s also about where you fall in relation to other applicants and how many seats the program has available in the first place. Some years are more competitive than others, and some majors are more competitive than others.

    See, being an admissions officer is a delicate balancing act. There are a lot of institutional priorities and logistics to take into account that go well beyond an individual student’s application.

To sum it all up, Purdue looks at the rigor of your coursework and your grades, especially in classes related to your intended major. They also pay particular attention to the grades you earned in core academic subjects like English, math, science, social studies, and languages.

But it’s not just about you, either. Whether it’s good news or bad news, Purdue admissions officers also have to take into account the time of year you apply and whether there is enough space available in the program you’re applying to.

Purdue SAT Scores

After a brief period of being test-flexible, Purdue will return to requiring test scores from applicants.

That means that you’ll need to take the SAT or ACT and submit your scores to Purdue, no matter how high or low your scores are.

Still, it can be helpful to go into standardized tests with an idea of what score you should be aiming for. That’s where the middle 50% comes in.

The middle 50% represents the score range in which the middle half of applicants scored. If you want your scores to contribute to your application’s strengths, then you should aim to be within (or at the higher end of) these scores.

Here are Purdue’s middle 50% ranges:

SAT Reading: 590 - 690

SAT Math: 600 - 740

ACT Composite: 26 - 33

So if you’re taking the ACT next weekend and hope to apply to Purdue, you should be aiming for around a 30+ score.

Bear in mind that these ranges are also for the first-year class as a whole. Middle 50% ranges will also vary by major, so the scores you need may be even more competitive than the ones listed here. Always be sure to check the information for the department you’re applying to.

What high school coursework do I need to get into Purdue?

Purdue admissions officers understand that all high school curricula are different and that some students may not have access to the same classes as other students.

Still, Purdue recommends that you complete the following course load if you can:

  • Math: 4 years
  • English: 4 Years
  • Science: 3 Years
  • Social Studies: 3 years
  • World Language: 2 years

Keep in mind that recommendations can vary by the department you’re applying to, too. For example, if you want to study engineering, Purdue admissions officers will expect that you’ve taken chemistry. If you’re applying for nursing, pharmacy, or veterinary nursing, you should have a year of chemistry and a year of biology under your belt.

And most important of all, you should be aiming for the most rigorous course load you can manage given your school resources, time, and ability. Purdue admissions officers look for students who have taken on AP, IB, or dual-enrollment courses, so add those to your schedule when you can.

What extracurriculars do I need to get into Purdue?

We know from the Purdue Common Data Set that extracurricular activities are “important” in the Purdue application review process. That means that they’re not “very important”—the most important factors—but they do play a role in your admissions decision.

Purdue admissions officers will be looking at your extracurricular activities to see how you’ve committed yourself outside of the classroom. They’ll learn about your strengths, talents, and values with each activity and in your answer to the first Purdue supplemental essay.

The deeper your commitments, and the larger your impact, the better.

For example, committing yourself to theatre for four years by participating in productions, drama club, and a children’s theatre camp will show stronger commitment than pursuing random activities each year.

Similarly, holding a leadership position, winning an award, or earning entrance to a regional, state, or national level organization can show greater impact.

Above all, Purdue admissions officers want to see the magnitude and impact of your extracurriculars so they can determine how you would fit in and contribute to the Purdue community as a whole.

Final Takeaways

Purdue is a great option to put on your college list, especially if you have a strong GPA, solid test scores, and strong course rigor.

Remember that your competition may be steeper if you’re applying to a popular major, like those in the STEM fields, so you may need to up your game if that’s what you’re aspiring to.

So how do you put all this information into action?

Take what you’ve learned about the Purdue application review process here and apply it to your application strategy.

Then craft a cohesive application narrative that speaks to the authentic you and to what Purdue admissions officers look for in students.

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