The University of Pennsylvania
The University of Pennsylvania - Comments and Student Experiences|
I hated the Quad, people carelessly taking a dump on bathroom floors, smearing fecal matter on walls, the vomit in the hallway, and the food poisoning and rotten lettuce/food in Hill. I hated the showers that don't give you enough water pressure. I hate the contempt Penn employees in dining hold of Penn students every day, assuming students are all rich, entitled brats.
To get to an Ivy, I gave everything up in high school: family, friends, the idea of ever having a normal life and finding a spouse, wasting my time reading books that I have long forgotten. I have been unable to find friends because the classes are so time-consuming, (if you take these classes half-way seriously unlike a lot of students here that just kind of wing/skim as they do other stuff), that I have been unable to join extracurricular activities and make friends that way. If I could go somewhere else I would have, but I invested too much of my soul, suffered from too much stress on my heart to turn back from this hell. I tried to engage in research, but the never ending sea of just barely above average grades just made it all not worthwhile/interesting.It is damn near impossible to get an A in humanities/social science unless you get to know professors, which shouldn't be a prerequisite to an A. Students will smile to your face in science/math classes, but underneath the politeness are fierce competitors, baying at the sight of blood/weakness, who don't care about you. College is not the time to experiment outside your strengths academically. In my time here, I have known 4 Penn students who successfully committed suicide. If I could go back 7 or 8 years, I would tell myself to become a butcher or maybe find work at a gas station. No amount of money could be worth this. I can't comment on the relevance of this to other Ivies, although I am predisposed to think that these problems are uniquely Pennsylvanian. I had straight A's going back 7 years, 130's IQ, and I frequent Pottruck, so I am not just some schmuck that they let walk in the door. This can happen to you. Think twice before attending.
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.
My problem was with the students. I went to Penn as a naive, unassuming, kind of quiet, non-religious Jewish guy from the Midwest, smart, but not the smartest, determined, and hard-working, but who also liked to drink beer and meet girls. I was not a social misfit, nor was I at the other end of the spectrum. I did not sit in my dorm room, but went out and got involved. Unfortuntely, this wasn't enough to prepare me for the people I met at Penn. As a now-38-year-old, having gone to graduate school and lived and worked in a major city since 1997, I can honestly say that, up to this point in my life, I have never, ever met a more unfriendly, uncaring, selfish, self-absorbed, stuck-up, and/or phony group of people than I did in my 4 years at Penn. From the very first day in the Quad, I found myself thinking, "uh oh." Why didn't I transfer? I should have, but didn't. I guess I wanted the degree from an Ivy League school. Has it helped? I live in the Midwest, so not really. Oh well - - I like to think that the academics outweighed the people, and to some degree they did, but I can't help but think how fun college could have been --- should have been --- with a nicer, more genuine, grounded student body.
I realize that my opinions is, unfortunately, based on anecdotal evidence. But I simply cannot forget it, and it still asounds me to this day (i.e., the homely but stuck up Jewish girl at Smoke's who asked me for a cigarette and then laughed at the brand I offered her (Merits); the masses of women in general who, for whatever reason, had attitudes that were completely unjustified in terms of both physical and mental attributes; 19-year-old Wharton jagoffs with no real-world accomplishments acting as if they were the next version of Donald Trump; the terribly provincial -- and incredibly ignorant -- attitudes harbored by many students from the east coast; the overall snobbery that I just couldn't -- and still can't -- comprehend, given that only a miniscule portion of 18-to-22-year-olds can possibly have the kind of individual accomplishments warranting such levels of entitlement; and the constant, annoying, and blatantly insecure student concern that Penn is an Ivy League school and NOT PENN STATE). The list goes on, and on, and, unfortunately, on. I feel like I'm generalizing, and I hate doing that. But the more I think about these things, the more I realize that they are typical of way too many students at Penn, and my friends who went to other colleges are incredulous when I relate some of these things. I don't know if things have changed in 15 years. Maybe I had bad luck. Maybe if I was on a different floor in the quad, I would have met different people. Lots of things in life are determined by chance; I understand that. But having witnessed these things for 4 years, I kind of think it doesn't matter.