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The University of Pennsylvania

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If you are even slightly introverted, don't like

Jun 01 2013Physics
If you are even slightly introverted, don't like drinking, consider yourself primarily an intellectual, or aren't one of those Jewish/Asian kids who mostly interacts with his/her own kind, then you should probably avoid Penn. Social life is dominated by the greek system and alcohol. Some of my hallmates "go out" at least once or twice a week, and not because they particularly want to, but to keep up appearances. Although drinking isn't the only thing to do, it is the only mainstream activity. Everything else is going to be done with a small group of friends--if you are lucky enough to find such a group through extracurriculars.

The student body as a whole isn't quite what I had hoped. I won't generalize by putting an adjective to all ten thousand of us, but I will say that you may have a tough time finding grounded, humble, and mature classmates. And for an ivy-league institution, you may have a surprisingly tough time finding sharp students. By this I don't mean mindless hard workers who manage a 4.0; I mean quick-witted intellectuals, people who aren't afraid to think and discuss. Most intellectual discussions I've been a part of have been painful not only because other students are close-minded, but because they generally just don't care about why the gradient of a function points in the direction of greatest slope, or about why a particular economic model behaves the way it does, or about free-will and artificial intelligence.

I guess most of my discontent comes from Penn's pre-professional culture. If you want to keep your head down, do the work, get your diploma, and get paid, Penn is for you. But I am not that kind of student. I'm here primarily to discover the world and the universe and share that experience with my like-minded peers--peers who I have yet to find and fear that I never will.But enough about the students, I have better things to say about the rest of the university. For example my professors--never before have I been in an environment where any of my curiosities can be answered by merely asking. They love to help and are so accessible I find it hard to believe they have time to do anything else. One of my professors even holds office hours in his own home! And if that's not enough, the university has a program where you are allowed to take any of your professors out to lunch once per semester. The rest of the staff are wonderful as well; a few of the dining hall ladies even know me by name.

1st Year Male -- Class 2016
Education Quality: A, University Resource Use: D

Penn is a big school, much bigger than

Oct 11 2013Business - Management and Administration
Penn is a big school, much bigger than 90% of high schools. A fraction of the size of Michigan etc. But it's easy to get lost in the crowd, either on purpose or unwittingly. While my HS was highly ranked it did no prepare me to compete where I was the average student and not one of the geniuses at the school. It took me 2 years to learn to compete. And compete is the word in most classes. Of course the professors are subject matter experts and their insights help you leap frog into the real world. But the other 1/2 of learning will come from your roommate who is taking a different major, or is from another country, or whose family runs a $1b business. The breadth of the experience is your exposure to the materials, the professors, your peers, and the experiences that happen to you.

When you think of Frat, what's the first thought? If it's motivating 50-75 members to recruit and organize parties. That's a good start. If you also think of managing a $500,000 budget for the rent, meal plan, social budget, fundraising events, you are on top of it. I can't think of a leader that's graduating from the school that didn't practice those skills in a Frat. I think Penn now has 40 of them, of course with a nice complement of Sororities.

These school is setup to allow for failure and success. You have to pull yourself up and get back in the game. You grow up fast. There is a safety net with free tutors for the key intro classes. And an entire "society" dedicated to helping you improve your writing skills.

I'll add one interesting feature of UPenn: you can take any class you want (of course you need to meet the pre-reqs). That includes French majors taking Business classes, Engineers taking classes in the Law School, etc. You can also custom design your major, with approval, and the school says 50% of undergrads have 2 Majors. I had 4, from 2 schools (Wharton and Engineering).

There are no walls, only the ones you climb and stand on top of to enjoy the view and decide what's the best direction for you.

I have to talk about summer jobs. Nothing short of amazing. The current undergrads really have incredible access. I'm amazed that undergrads I know (I also interview for Penn and keep in touch) have had incredible jobs at JPMC, Google, Macy's, etc. etc. Freshman year! I'm so happy to see them all getting jobs, when their HS friends are surfing

Sports can be pretty serious. The school doesn't like to lose: especially the other Ivys. Learn more about that on your own. Penn is D1.

The dorms are good enough, but they are also have focus areas like: music, language, etc. (Houses) I think 30% of students live off campus or are in the Greek system. This also helps you move out from under the umbrella and get your ready for post Graduate living.

Good luck

Alumnus Male -- Class 2000
Starting Job: programmer Preparedness: A Reputation: A+

I am not Jewish or Asian

Feb 27 2013English
I am not Jewish or Asian. I am a blondish girl from upstate New York. I do not necessarily "fit in" at Penn according to some people, however I found many friends there (some Jewish, some Asian, some neither). I really liked almost all of my classes and teachers. It is possible to figure out the first week or two if you like a teacher or not. If you don't like the class, you can drop it, no problem. So I never got stuck in a class that I hated. I studied English and Russian. I LOVED the Russian faculty and found it really great to participate in their activities (I even spent a summer with Penn-in-Moscow which, I am afraid, doesn't exist now)

I will touch on some different points:

1. Campus safety: I found it fine. I often came home late (after 2am) and did not have any issues with anything. There are homeless people roaming around the campus but security does try to get rid of them and anyway I never found them threatening.

2. Social life: I rushed for a sorority and did not get into a single one. Apparently I am not cool. Then I joined the Philomathean Society, which was a good fit and where I made many friends. I always had something to do with other Philos and I was never bored on the weekend. If you want to have a social life, yes, you have to join a club or find an interest. Obviously you will not have a social life if you stay in your dorm room. While at Penn I participated in Philo, Russian activities, volunteered with tutoring in West Philadelphia, participated in Christian organizations, etc. It was very easy to get involved in something and because the student body is large, you will always meet different people. It is really not a problem. I never attended a frat party and I never got drunk at college. It is not required to do so.

3. Academics: I felt pretty challenged. I took a lot of different classes and studied a lot. If you want to take easier classes you can probably find them. Most of my classes were based on writing papers and encouraged creativity. My only negative feelings come from the creative writing faculty, because I think that they only appreciate people who write like them or kiss up to them, and use classes to show off how cool they are. I wanted to be a writer at one point and found the creative writing classes useless, but what can you expect, you can't "learn" to be a writer really. I found faculty in general very approachable and pleasant. I would recommend taking more than 1 class with a faculty member if you can (or with different faculty members). It helps them know you which will be useful for recommendations later. Seven years since graduating I keep in touch with some faculty, all of whom I took more than one class with.

4. Campus facilities: I actually love the campus. The buildings are beautiful and well-kept. There is a lot to do around the campus. I almost never left campus but there are Indian, Ethiopian, Chinese etc. restaurants just near the campus. When I had a dining plan I found the dining halls to be decent but I discontinued the dining plan after my first year. I think it's true that you are not guaranteed housing in your later years and I applied late as a senior and lived in International House. It was not a biggie and I think you can always find somewhere to live on/near campus.I have studied at state schools and taken classes at a variety of universities. In general my time at Penn was the best and I have very few complaints. College is what you make of it but I do believe you can accomplish anything you want at Penn. There are great resources available. It helps if you know what you want to do and try to actively get involved.

4th Year Female -- Class 2006
Friendliness: A+, Innovation: B+
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