|Describes the student body mostly as:|
Friendly, Arrogant, Approachable
Describes the faculty mostly as:
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.