Impressions Of
University of Pennsylvania

Academic Experience

Female Cognitive Science Major C/O 2019

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
It depends on the class because Cognitive Science is a very interdisciplinary major. In a lot of the Biology, Psychology, and Neuroscience classes, you learn a lot of information and then you have exams on the information. You have a lot of textbook reading and maybe a couple of quizzes to make sure you’re keeping up with the information, but not a lot of weekly work. The exams are also so hard because they cover so much information. I’ve also taken some classes in the business school that are on behavioral economics and they were more readings and exams.

How accessible are your professors?
Pretty accessible. It’s very easy to make a meeting with them. I’ve had experiences when professors maybe aren’t nice when I meet with them, but you’re always able to meet with them or email them. They also have office hours. I would say the resources of the professor being there have always been pretty sufficient in my experience.

Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose it because it is very interdisciplinary and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. Cognitive Science covered a lot of things that I knew I wanted to learn in college, like economics and computer science, were things I was able to learn through my major. I’m happy I chose Cognitive Science but wish that I had a more cohesive experience with the major. With that being said, there’s no other major I would have rather done.

Female Digital Media Design Major C/O 2021

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
I mostly have weekly homework assignments for my Computer Science classes or Fine Arts assignments. I usually take two Computer Science classes per semester and that takes up the majority of my time. The Fine Arts assignments require studio time. How much the weekly projects affect your grade differs for each class. For one of my classes, half of my grade is based off of assignments and then for another, 80% is based on exams.

Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
For Computer Science, I really appreciate the TA’s because they are really helpful in terms of helping you understand the material and your homework. I rely on the TA’s more so than the professors.

How accessible are your professors?
I contact my TA’s more just because, personally, I’m kind of intimidated by professors. My freshman year I had a really good experience with a Physics professor. There aren’t a lot of TA’s in Physics, so I just went to my professor’s office hours every week and he was super helpful and really made sure I understand the material.

Male Computer Science and Finance Dual Major C/O 2021

Is there anything that you feel your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
I think the Finance department does a very good job of providing opportunities to stretch your academic pursuits outside of the classroom. They give a lot of opportunities to have you engage in other ways like clubs, networking events, and stuff like that. I think the engineering school does a very good job of providing tutoring and have resources to get your work done. There are daily office hours where you can walk in and ask a teaching assistant questions and also get personal tutors. Also, in general, the professors are very available to meet with you one on one. But, I think the engineering school does a much worse job than the business school of giving people a manageable workload. They have no sense of giving you homework that is feasible. They do a good job of offering resources, but it’s not enough.

How would you describe the learning environment? Is it particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s very competitive but it can be pretty collaborative as well, more so in the engineering school than the business school. In general, both schools really encourage collaboration and I think that somewhat rubs off on the student body, but I think it rubs off more in the engineering school. In Wharton, the competitiveness stems a lot from wanting to perform well so that you can get a good job at the firms that other people want to get into. The competitiveness stems from wanting to get better careers later on. In the engineering school, the competitiveness comes from wanting to perform well in the class.

Social Opportunities

Female Cognitive Science Major C/O 2019

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
Greek life parties are really popular. Once a week or every other week the frats will throw a party at a club downtown and those are popular, but I don’t go to them because I prefer to stay on campus and see what’s going on here. There are one or two college-y bars you can go to if you want to stay on campus. Ideally, I like to go to a party that a frat is throwing on campus. There is pretty much always something going on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. There is a drink special at the bar on campus that people like to go to on Wednesdays but I very rarely go to that.

What’s an alternative to going to a party or bar that you like for a night out?
There are a lot of club events on campus, like acapella groups and other shows. Those are fun and I’ve skipped going out to go to those before. There are a lot of restaurants and cool bars downtown. There’s also a movie theater on campus. There’s so much to do.

Female Digital Media Design Major C/O 2021

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
Freshman year I was still adjusting and I mostly went to frat parties with friends. They were fun because they were new to me, but now that the novelty has worn off, I don’t think they’re that fun. This year, now that I’ve found my friend group and community, I like to go to Center City and do karaoke or go to restaurants. I tend to go out on Friday or Saturday.

What are some of your favorite events to go to on campus?
I really like going to the dance shows because my roommate is part of two dance teams and I think it’s really fun to go out with all of our friends to support her. Also, my friends and I go to the movie theater pretty often. It’s pretty close and convenient to go to.

Male Finance and Legal Studies Double Major C/O 2021

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
It depends on the night. Wednesday night there is a bar on campus that has a good deal that we’ll typically go to, Thursday night people go downtown to a club in Center City, Friday is usually a fraternity party, and then Saturday there is usually a day party and then that goes into a party at night or just a party at night. I usually do work Thursday nights and Saturday morning if there’s nothing going on. Friday, if I don’t have hockey, I’ll go mentor with the DREAM mentorship program.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
It’s pretty major. Unless you’re on a sports team, you’re pretty restricted in the nightlife if you’re not in it. You wouldn’t get into the parties or go to the downtown [club events frats organize]. Generally, if you’re not part of a fraternity that is friends with another fraternity, you won’t be able to get into the bar or party. You have to be within a certain social network of different fraternities in order to go to their events. If you have friends in the fraternity, you’re usually good, but there are only like three fraternities that I can say I’m close enough with to go to their events. [About 27% of undergraduates are involved in Greek life.]

Campus Culture

Female Cognitive Science Major C/O 2019

How would you describe the overall social scene at Penn?
Penn is kind of boujee, people use the term “sceney.” Coming from New Jersey, the parties that are thrown here were so extravagant to me. A lot of them involve renting out another space, dressing up, and there are a lot of formals and date nights. It’s very event-based. They’re also creative events, like freshman year there was a party where a frat paid for buses to take us out to the woods and there was a DJ in a tent booth in the middle of nowhere. It also depends on your flexibility in the social scene because it’s very diverse and you can go or not go to any of those things. One other nice thing is there’s so much going on that you don’t feel the need to go to anything, so you can easily call your own nights in and nights out. There are so many options it’s not like you have to go to anything.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I would say Greek life isn’t very diverse in that respect. With the eight sororities I’m pretty familiar with, three of them are more diverse than others, but there is a predominant demographic of people who join that.

Male Computer Science and Finance Dual Major C/O 2021

How would you describe the overall social scene at Penn?
It’s very segmented and all depends on what kind of scene you want. For me, it’s a lot more in Greek life and being part of that scene. But, there are also a lot of people who are more part of clubs and things like that and there are a lot of people who live in smaller on-campus dorms where they have their own little community. The social scenes can vary a lot and it’s hard for me to have a good perspective on other people’s social scenes because it’s such a big school.

To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Definitely a lot. On a day to day basis, it’s a very diverse school and for that reason you meet a bunch of different people in your classes and things like that. Socially, when you’re going out it’s the same thing. You’ll see people from all different backgrounds going out to the same places. Maybe when you get into specific groups, specific clubs, or specific fraternities there’s a little bit less mixture of different backgrounds but that’s just from people being comfortable with where they grew up. So, usually, your small social circle can end up being a lot of people who are similar to you. But, when people come together for events you get a variety of people at the same events. [The undergraduate population of Penn is about 41% White, 20% international, 13% Asian, 10% Hispanic, and 7% Black.]

Male Finance and Legal Studies Double Major C/O 2021

To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
Not that much. I have friends on the club lacrosse team who used to be athletes, but when they do parties they typically mix with a girls’ team or do an open party, and the same people who would be going to those open parties are the ones going to our parties. There are a bunch of [multicultural] fraternities and coed fraternities that are more diverse and mix more, but my world is pretty isolated.

How do you like the size of Penn in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [Penn has about 10,600 undergraduates.]
I like it, but there are pros and cons to it. It’s nice that you know most of the people in my area of the social life, but I do wish I had more options in terms of nightlife and other girls to meet. In general, it can be gossipy.

Philadelphia, PA

Pros of

  • “There’s so much to do in the city. It opens up a lot of options for students on top of recreational activities, like, I’m able to do tutoring once a week and a lot of people have had internships downtown or work with an organization.”
  • “There’s really good food.”
  • “I like that it’s not directly in the city because I don’t like hectic areas but it’s really convenient to go to Center City if I want to.”
  • “You’re near some other colleges so you can meet a lot of different places and go to different places.”

Cons of

  • “The expenses of living in a city. I think the rent I pay is very expensive.”
  • “Because of the way the city is built, the houses are pretty close together. We do have green space, but as the university is building up, that area is going away. I prefer more spread out spaces with green areas that the city sometimes lacks.”
  • “In general, at night it is less safe. You can’t go out alone unless you’re making a pretty short walk.”
  • “The gloomy weather.”

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Female Digital Media Design Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Penn before you entered as a freshman?
I wish that I knew it was really normal to get rejected from clubs and stuff like that because my freshman year I got rejected from the first clubs I applied for and I got really discouraged and gave up. I feel like if I kept applying and then got into some more clubs maybe I’d have a better social life my freshman year.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I don’t know if this is something a student who is visiting can see, but I really like the fun traditions that Penn has like Hey Day or when they throw toast on the football field. I feel like random things like that really bring everyone at Penn together.

Male Computer Science and Finance Dual Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Penn before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I knew how many opportunities there were outside of the classroom because I wish I started with a lot of things earlier. Specifically, I wish I had gone into it realizing how many people are looking to start pursuing independent projects with each other and how many resources there are on campus that will help you come up with business plans and develop applications. I definitely wish I came into Penn knowing that’s a prominent part of the atmosphere because that incubation is something you can really get in college and the most time you have with that the better.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The food in the area. I think that’s a really big thing that a lot of people don’t think about because it’s not the type of thing they show on tours. Make sure to check out the different cafeterias and the local food in the area.

Male Finance and Legal Studies Double Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Penn before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I knew more about going abroad and shaping my major around what I wanted to do. I wish I didn’t take as many filler classes to boost my GPA early on and used that time to take core requirement classes that are stimulating and helpful to me on a personal level. That would have also let me shape my career at Penn so I could go abroad, but I didn’t have the foresight to do that and I’ll be pretty handcuffed by which courses I’ll have to take senior year. But, I’m accepting of that and of what it will be.

What is something a prospective student interested in Greek life may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
Just be yourself and you’ll end up in the group you want to be in. Don’t try to change yourself to be in one frat and then realize you don’t like those people because then only you will suffer.

Reasons to attend and not to attend University of Pennsylvania

To Attend

  • “My favorite thing about Penn is there are four undergraduate schools and all the resources available at those schools apply to all the students. I can take any of my elective classes at any of the schools, including Wharton, and I can go to their career events too. Besides the nursing school, I’ve had classes in every school that have counted towards my degree in the College [of Arts & Sciences].”
  • “You’re so close to Center City and you can get away from Penn easily if you want, even if you want to get away to study. It’s really nice to have the option to go somewhere new so you’re not at the same place every day.”
  • “One big reason is the people you meet. It’s an extremely diverse school and you get to meet people from different backgrounds, so you get to make connections with people you wouldn’t meet at many other places and the connection will last a long time.” [The undergraduate population of Penn is about 41% White, 20% international, 13% Asian, 10% Hispanic, and 7% Black.]
  • “There are really strong resources outside of academics. I think a lot of people don’t think that much about the resources outside of the academics, but there are so many opportunities to join clubs and pursue your own projects.”

To Not Attend

  • “Penn is very diverse in terms of actual demographics, but I don’t think Greek life and the social life [I participate in] has not been that diverse for me. It’s a lot of very wealthy students and revolves around money because a lot of the events that are really popular cost money.” [Socioeconomically, 19% of students come from the top 1% and 3.6% come from the top 0.1%.]
  • “When it comes to career-oriented things, people are very, very competitive.”
  • “If you’re not that into Greek life and want [the stereotypical college social scene], you won’t have a good time here. I know people who Greek life didn’t work out for and they’re pretty unhappy.”
  • “I don’t like how the clubs and organizations are competitive to get into. I also think it’s unnecessary because even the more fun things to do, like dance teams, are competitive and it doesn’t give people the opportunity to branch out because it requires applications and auditions and stuff like that.”
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