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Transitioning to a new school can be difficult, but it can be less stressful if you've prepared in advance and know what to expect. We've compiled a list of resources and important steps to transition to Penn's academic system.

Set up Your PennKey

A PennKey and password are required to access many of the University’s electronic services. Eventually, you will receive a letter with information about creating a PennKey, your access code to many of Penn’s online services. You will need your PennKey and password to log into Campus Express. If you have not received this letter, visit the PennKey website. Please note that your PennKey will become your email handle, and that it cannot be changed once it has been set. 

Access Path@Penn

Path@Penn is your home for accessing things like academic record and transcript orders, student billing and payment information, financial aid application status and awards, and, most importantly, online registration and schedule planning tools. 

Use XCAT for Transferring Courses

Submit course documents (syllabi, papers, tests, etc.) to XCAT by selecting the appropriate departments you want credit from. If you receive no response for a submission after two weeks, contact your academic advisor or the head of the department you submitted the request to. The XCAT website has a lot of information, including FAQs, how-to’s, and contact information for academic departments. The link below will take you to a website with video tutorials and other information, and the button will take you directly to XCAT itself. Advice: submit courses to multiple departments, as you never know what you might get credit for. 

XCAT Tutorial 

Make an Appointment with Your Advisor

Your advisor will help you figure what classes to take and who to contact if you already have a major in mind and want to declare. This is especially important if you’re an incoming junior; you’ll need to declare by the end of the first semester, or you’ll have a very difficult time registering for spring courses. You’ll want to try and add courses before the end of the freshman Advance Registration period. Unless you live in the area, this appointment will be over the phone. Your advisor should be listed on Path@Penn. In addition, you'll likely receive in email that contains their contact information soon. 

Set Up Your Email

It is crucial that you follow the directions you receive in the mail to set-up your Penn email account immediately. Throughout the summer, this will be the main mode of communication between you and the university about important events, dates, and deadlines. Remember: each school uses a different mail server. Please note that your PennKey name will also be your email handle, so make sure to choose it carefully. Click on your school below to find out more:


College of Arts & Sciences: Penn Live
Wharton School: Wharton Webmail
Engineering School: SEAS Webmail
Nursing School Webmail

Campus Express

Campus Express is the site you will use to create your PennCard and Penn email, view your housing assignment, and choose a dining plan. Doing this over the summer will save you a ton of headache once school starts.

Prepare for Diagnostic Tests

Writing: Only juniors are able to test out of the writing seminar requirement, and only after submitting 40-50 pages of writing samples from your previous writing seminar to the Critical Writing Program or XCAT and successfully completing the Writing Diagnostic Test. Incoming juniors should contact the Critical Writing Program to schedule the assessment, which is conducted during New Student Orientation.

Foreign Language: Other students may test out of the foreign language requirement through an online test before arriving at Penn as well as a written test taken during NSO. Students should go to the language department pages for the links and dates of the diagnostic tests.

Class Standing

It is possible that you will have to accept your offer of admission and register for classes without knowing exactly what you will get credit for on XCAT. This is a little bit intimidating; it is advised that incoming transfers who wish to inquire about their class standing call or email with the Office of Admissions, but they seem to be of little help. A good suggestion for a transfer concerned with what they'll get credit for and what their class standing will be would be to get in touch with an academic advisor over the summer— they may be able to make some educated guesses about how your previous coursework will fit into Penn's requirements.

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