An Interview On
University of Pennsylvania

Background

Interview Date:May 2019

Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Multiracial, but I identify more as Black/African-American
Graduation Year: 2021
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
High School Experience: Private boarding school in Massachusetts with a graduating class of about 300 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Dual Major in Computer Science and Finance. I’m enrolled in the business school as well as the engineering school.
Minor: None
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in the Wharton Undergraduate Finance Club where we do financial analysis and stock pitches. I’m also in a fraternity.

Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
The fraternity has had a pretty big impact on my experience. Probably 90% of my guy friends now are from that fraternity. I live at the house and spend most of my time there. Also, one of the brothers helped me get my first internship, so it has pretty much affected all aspects of my life.

How difficult is it to join the Wharton Undergraduate Finance Club?
It is relatively competitive. You have to interview, submit your resume, and so forth. There are cuts, but there are definitely more competitive clubs.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your majors?
I have a pretty heavy course load. I have a lot of weekly and biweekly assignments and a lot of longer-term projects. I don’t have many writing assignments, it’s a lot of quantitative work. I also have a few tests and a final exam.

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 accessible are your professors?
My professors are very accessible for both of my majors. They all have mandatory office hours but outside of that, they don’t usually have a lot of time where they say they’re open. You can reach out to them at any time and when you do they are very able to work around your schedule. They’re very accessible if you put in the work. I tend to reach out to the teaching assistants as well.

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.

Can you describe a time where you felt the competitive atmosphere?
There are a lot of times where if somebody has done a homework assignment and you haven’t, they will not want to share their work with you because they don’t want you to get the credit for their work. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there are a lot of people who don’t want you to do as well as them in the class. There is a curve in my classes in Wharton about half of the time and in the engineering classes there is always a curve.

Why did you pick your majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose my major because I knew I wanted to do either engineering or business, but I was not sure which I wanted to do. I’m very happy with my choice because I’ve enjoyed both sides very much.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived over the past two years?
Freshman: Ware College House in the Lower Quad

Sophomore: Fraternity house

How was transitioning from Massachusetts to Philadelphia, PA?
It was a relatively good change but only because of the fact that it’s a city rather than a town.

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
On campus is very safe. They have a lot of people on staff who are patrolling the area and are very quick to send out notifications if anything close to campus is happening. When you get past campus and get into West Philadelphia, it can be pretty dangerous. You just can’t wander too much, but I haven’t been affected by that much because Penn’s campus is safe.

Pros and cons of being located in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA?
Pros:
1) There’s really good food.
2) You’re near some other colleges so you can meet a lot of different places and go to different places.
3) I like living in a city because it’s really easy to get around on public transportation.
Cons:
1) It’s a lot more expensive to do things around the city.
2) I like being able to go see nature, and there are not a ton of opportunities to do that in the city.
3) In general, at night it is less safe. You can’t go out alone unless you’re making a pretty short walk.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
Usually, I’ll go out to some social event or party on Thursday, Friday or Saturday night. I’ll sometimes get dinner with friends, but a lot of it is doing homework. I’ll usually choose two nights between Thursday, Friday, and Saturday to go out per weekend.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
It depends on the person because at Penn there are a lot of different social circles. For some people, like me, it’s where most of the social events on the weekends come from. For other people, a lot of clubs do things on the weekends. If you’ve made an effort for that to be where you get the main social activities from, that’s the biggest impact it will have on you. Other than that, unless you’re in the fraternity itself, I don’t think it has too much of an impact. We have other events like fundraisers, but that doesn’t have as much of an impact on people’s lives.

How exclusive are the fraternity events?
In general, it’s pretty open. If you have a friend in the fraternity that can vouch for you and say you’re their friend, you can come. My close friends who are not in the fraternity come to things.

What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Penn and Wharton have a lot of interesting people come to speak on weekend nights. A thing I do a lot is go to restaurants in Philly. We have a movie theater nearby that a lot of people go to. I’ll go to the gym and play pick up basketball until pretty late at night sometimes. Also, a lot of people end up doing work on the weekends at night.

How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at your school? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I don’t think I would change anything. I think I’m pretty satisfied with the weekend options. I always have something I could be doing and have friends that would be willing to do a variety of things, whether it’s going out to a party or going to play basketball. At the same time, I always have the option to stay in.

Campus Culture

How did you meet your closest friends?
A few of them I met towards the very, very beginning either on my visit day when I was a senior in high school or in the first few weeks at school when everyone is meeting each other and going out together. At Penn, the first few weeks there are a lot of different social events that are thrown by the school, clubs, and fraternities so you’re constantly with other freshmen going off places and form groups from that. Also, I made friends from joining a fraternity.

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.]

How would you describe the Black community on campus? How strong is it?
It’s really strong. Right when you get to Penn they do a lot to make sure that every person who identifies as African-American is able to be part of that community and meet people from that community. There’s a really strong bond. A good example is a few weeks ago a random senior who I had never met made a group chat and told everyone to add everyone you know to add people who identify as African-American and are in Greek life so we can all be connected. It started at the very end of this year so we couldn’t set up anything but next year we’re all going to go out to dinner and do stuff like that. Even if you’re in a position where you’re not directly connected to people, there are things like that to bring you all together.

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 really like it. I like going to a school where every day there are people who I don’t know and people that I’m meeting. By the end of high school, I knew everyone in my grade and knew people in the surrounding grades and I didn’t really like that, I like always being able to meet new people. I like that Penn is large and you’re always meeting people.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Yes, definitely. There are some younger alumni I know that have stayed connected to me personally and have told me to look into certain internships. Outside of that, and I haven’t used this as often, there are a lot of older alumni who, if you make the effort to reach out to them, they are very helpful and will help you try to find things. I’d say a decent amount of people at Penn find their first internship through some kind of alumni network relation.

To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful have they been?
I have not used the career office yet. What they would be helpful for, and what I should have gone to them this year for, is organizing yourself because Penn has so many different events and opportunities to get exposed to different companies and things like that.

Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
I’ve mostly worked with Java, so I know that very well. I’ve also taken classes in C and OCaml. I haven’t used much software in my Wharton classes but the Wharton Undergraduate Finance Club does some financial modeling with Excel. Most of your software experience will come from clubs and internships I think.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, how easy are they to work with?
I’ve gone to their office a few times. They’re very helpful when you reach out to them and try to meet them one-on-one. In general, just because it’s a big school and there is only so much money to go around, sometimes it can be stressful. There have been many times when they’ve done things to be helpful. Like, when I first applied I got my financial aid package and told them that I didn’t think I could go with that package and they re-evaluated for me and changed it to ensure that I could go. They’re also really good at explaining and letting you know the situation.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

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.

What is something a prospective student of color should know that we haven’t touched on?
Assuming they come from a background where they’re used to being around people of color, it’s important to understand that there is a strong community there and people are always eager for you to reach out. If somebody is visiting, they should check out all the resources the school has and reach out to some people there.

Reasons to attend Penn:
1) 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.]
2) 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.
3) It’s really fun. It’s easy to meet people and people like to have a good time.

Reasons to not attend Penn:
1) It’s a lot of work. It is very competitive and can be very stressful.
2) The food on campus is not very good. During your freshman year, you’re trapped into the meal plan and the food is really just not good.

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