Penn undergraduates will not be the only ones getting a flavor of the Fling that “Never Tasted So Sweet.”
As in years past, high-school students admitted to Penn will be visiting campus during Spring Fling weekend. Some will come for official Penn Previews on Thursday or Friday, and others will venture over on their own and take part in the Fling festivities.
Dean of Admissions Eric Furda acknowledged that the coincidence of Penn Previews and Spring Fling does raise some potential issues. For instance, admitted students and their families cannot get into the Quad during Spring Fling without purchasing a $20 guest pass beforehand.
“That’s a disadvantage in some ways because the Quad is such a unique and symbolic building of this campus, so I think that’s certainly a limitation,” Furda said.
While admitted students may enjoy Fling weekend, they may be getting an inaccurate impression of the school not consistent with Penn’s reputation of high academic standards.
“Whenever you walk through a campus, there may be defining moments that give you a skewed perception of what that campus is like,” Furda said. “In some ways this is also just one snapshot of what this place is like and it’s not emblematic of the whole University.”
Current students who visited Penn during previous Fling weekends while still in high school agreed that the representation of Penn one gets during Fling is not indicative of a regular weekend at Penn.
“My perspective of the school is definitely different now,” Engineering freshman Sai Parepally said. “When touring, I didn’t get as much of a sense of the amount of work undergraduates at Penn have. Now I’m getting the working hard perspective after being here for almost a full year.”
Parepally came for Penn Preview days during last year’s Spring Fling. He did not know he needed to purchase a guest pass to get into the Quad until after the Social Planning and Events Committee had stopped selling passes, so he stayed with his uncle who lives in the suburbs of Philadelphia.
Even outside the Quad, Parepally saw beer cans and empty liquor bottles throughout campus, and he witnessed at least two students vomiting while walking through campus around 5 p.m.
“There’s a lot of behavior at Fling that no one’s proud of,” Furda said. “You’re all coming off a long semester and you’re going to be heading into finals, so you’re blowing off steam.”
Students who were able to enter the Quad were very much aware that Spring Fling is a special weekend.
“I didn’t think Fling was an every weekend occurrence,” Wharton sophomore and Class of 2014 President Spencer Penn said. “It didn’t make me question the academic rigor of the school or the intelligence of the students. It just made me feel like they’re normal kids.”
SPEC Spring Fling Co-Director Kelly Chen agreed. “If you’re looking to see an average weekend, Fling is not the best representation of that,” the Wharton and Nursing junior said.
“But that’s not what it’s supposed to be,” College sophomore and SPEC Spring Fling Co-Director Casey Peeks added.
SPEC student leaders agree Fling weekend demonstrates how Penn students are able to balance a rigorous workload with the need to take some time to relax and enjoy college life.
“Students really try to give off a ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality on-campus tours,” Peeks said. “Spring Fling showcases that mentality.”
The weekend also highlights how much students can do during their time at Penn.
“Spring Fling is the largest student-run college festival on the East Coast,” College junior and SPEC Secretary Josh Oppenheimer said. “It can show prospective students what you can do as a freshman.”
For Wharton sophomore Nikita Anand, who visited during Fling as a high-school senior, the weekend exhibited Penn students’ school spirit.
“Coming from a small high school, it was such a breath of fresh air,” Anand said. “There were so many nationalities, so many clubs, so much enthusiasm and Penn spirit.”
SPEC leaders are proud of this ability to bring together the entire community during Fling.
“We have a diverse set of interests,” College sophomore and SPEC Spring Fling Co-Director Julie Palomba said. “We can study and be social.”
Even though there are some concerns having Penn Previews overlap with Fling weekend, SPEC student leaders think Fling sheds a positive light on campus as a whole.
“What happens in the Quad and on College Green is something that I think all parents and students should be proud of,” Oppenheimer said. “Nobody is trying to hide anything from parents or prospective students.”
And despite his concerns about skewed perceptions of campus, Furda is proud to offer Penn Preview Days over Fling weekend, as the admissions office has done in the past.
“I hope that people come away with [the idea] that there are traditions here, that there’s energy here, that our students are working hard and they are also enjoying themselves,” Furda said.
Others agree Spring Fling can serve as a great tool to sway prospective students to come to Penn.
Anand called herself a “firm advocate” of holding Penn Previews during Fling.
“Sure, it can have a negative effect if you’re more conservative. But why should we hide Spring Fling? It’s one of the things we’re so proud of here.”
The concern remains that the weekend might nonetheless be unattractive to parents.
“My mom would probably deter me from coming to Penn if she had seen Fling,” said Parepally, who was accepted early decision and visited during Penn Previews without his parents. “It seemed really cool for me though and would have swung me in favor of Penn if I had the option,” referring to the fact that early decision acceptance is binding.
On the other hand, some parents might love what they see if they visit during Fling weekend, College sophomore Arianne Taormina said. Taormina, who went to the Fling concert when she was a high-school senior, noticed last year on St. Patrick’s Day that parents were not intimidated by students drinking beer on College Green, but instead seemed to be reminiscing “of the good old college days.”
Parepally, Taormina and Anand were all admitted early decision and committed to Penn, but for others, Fling can play an instrumental role in their decision to enroll.
“The admissions office does a great job selling the school,” Penn said. “But I felt like coming to Fling, being able to hang out with real students, gave me a newfound insight about the culture of the University. There’s no reason we shouldn’t embrace our reputation as the social Ivy.”
Oppenheimer said SPEC and Admissions do not coordinate the overlap of Penn Previews and Fling. The coincidence is partially due to scheduling limitations in the busy month of April, Furda said.
“If students are on bad behavior, and I’m not just talking about drinking, but just aren’t representing the place well, then I’m concerned about that,” he said. “But I think that happens less than the net positive of a campus celebration that is a tradition at Penn that people know about.”
“This is Spring Fling,” Furda continued, “and if you don’t want to see that part of [Penn], then don’t come on those days.”