University of Pennsylvania
BackgroundInterview Date:April 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Graduation Year: 2021
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
High School Experience: Private all-boys Catholic school in New Jersey with a graduating class of about 120 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Finance and Legal Studies double major – I’m in Wharton Undergraduate Business School
Extracurricular Activities: I play club lacrosse and club hockey. I’m also part of a fraternity and volunteer through the DREAM mentorship program.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience? In what ways?
All of them have in different ways. Club hockey and club lacrosse are the physical aspect and allow me to work out, my fraternity is where I made friends, and DREAM is my philanthropy and adds socially, physically, and spiritually.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your majors?
I usually have a problem set a week for my Finance and Statistics classes, one case study for my negotiations class for Legal Studies, and my other two classes are Legal Studies classes that have [intermittent assignments], like one presentation and one project and a final exam. Those two classes are formatted differently because there is more reading than the others.
Is there anything that you feel your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
One thing I dislike about some of my courses is that they are only lectures and we don’t have any small group meetings. If I want to meet in a small group and ask questions about specific things that might not apply to the general class, I have conflicting class times where I can’t get into meetings with the teaching assistants or professors and outside of those times, they aren’t that accessible.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s collaborative, but only within my social group. If I didn’t have a group of friends or the guys in my fraternity who I can work with and are in the same major as me, it would probably be a lot more competitive. I got lucky in that sense because most people are pretty competitive here.
Can you describe a time when you felt the competitive atmosphere?
Just people not wanting to collaborate on work. Also, the test environments can be strict and people don’t want to study together. A lot of people try to isolate themselves and do work by themselves.
Why did you pick your majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose them just because of job opportunities. I’m happy with my choice, but I am a bit upset that they restricted me from taking some classes that I’m actually interested in, like some Cinema [Studies] and Sociology classes. There are a lot of core requirements and additional classes I have to take because I’m in two majors. I won’t be able to go abroad either because you have to take all of the core business courses at Penn and I realized that too late.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Ware College House in the Lower Quad in a single
Sophomore: Fraternity house in a single room.
How was transitioning from New Jersey to Philadelphia, PA?
Not bad at all because I’ve had my car here both years so if I want to go back it’s about an hour and forty-five-minute drive.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I’ve always felt pretty safe. There are the occasional moments when we’ll get text messages about robberies like three blocks off-campus because there are a lot of sketchy people. I’ve never lived off-campus, so my scenario’s different than a lot of other people’s, but I’ve always felt safe.
Pros and cons of being located in the University City neighborhood of Philadelphia, PA?
1) Easy access to Center City. Anytime I want to go to a nice restaurant or go to bars, I can just go in.
1) Every once in a while, there are weirder people from West Philly floating around.
2) 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.
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.]
What’s an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Going to an Eagles game, Phillies game or Flyers games. There’s also a movie theater near campus that a lot of people go to. Typically, I’m going out or studying.
How happy are you with the weekend activities or nightlife at your school? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m pretty happy. Maybe one thing I’d change is to go golfing you have to drive like 30 minutes to an hour to get to a course, so it’s difficult to go.
How did you meet your closest friends?
My best buddy I went to high school with. From there, I met who he was friends with and I met a lot of my other friends through my fraternity which I joined in the spring [of freshman year].
How would you describe the overall social scene at Penn?
It’s pretty good but segmented where there are tiers of people who are close to each other. If you’re not in certain frats you can’t go to certain parties. There is a lot of competition between frats where people will steal people during rush and stuff like that and it can get competitive during that time. But, in general, it’s not too cutthroat and people are nice to each other.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
It depends on who you hang out with. Like, every frat will have mixers with sororities, but our frat isn’t very diverse and we only mix with two or three sororities that aren’t that diverse. Everybody’s welcome, but the way it works is it’s not that diverse at certain Greek life parties.
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.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Yeah, they’ve been good about coming back to campus. I’ve been there when companies have prospective recruiting events and I’ve been able to network with them.
To what extent have you used the career office? How helpful have they been?
I’ve never gotten to that.
Have you learned any computer programs or languages through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
Excel, but we’ve only done it a bit in my Finance classes. I’ve also taken a few summer classes on how to use Excel for financial modeling but not through Penn. In general, our Finance courses do a pretty good job of helping us with the foundation of how to compute some of those formulas.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
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.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
They would miss the entire off-campus social scene. If you visit, try to visit somebody who’s at the school so they can show you more of the social culture you don’t see from walking by. Also, make sure to walk by the fraternities and stuff like that.
Reasons to attend Penn:
1) There are great job opportunities when you leave.
2) You’re put in an academically stimulating environment where everyone around you is pretty smart. The level of conversation is generally higher and more intense.
3) You’re in a city that has a little green space, so it’s the best of both worlds.
Reasons to not attend Penn:
1) If you don’t like a competitive environment, you should stay away from here.
2) 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.