On Sunday, Oct. 11, a group of 93 high school seniors arrived at Penn. They hailed from 23 different states but had at least one thing in common: all were here as part of the Penn Early Exploration Program.
PEEP is a three-day program created to bring high school students from low-income backgrounds or historically underrepresented groups to campus. Penn covers all expenses for participants, including travel expenses to and from Philadelphia.
PEEP participants stayed in dorm rooms with current students. They attended sessions hosted by each of Penn’s four schools and spoke with Penn students and faculty. They also met with student leaders of various organizations for underrepresented groups on campus.
Of course, there were social elements as well, including networking, games, an open mic night and a starlight bus tour of Philadelphia.
However, the program isn’t only designed to attract students to Penn — it is meant to build the skills that will help high school students apply to any school. Students learned about the college application process by attending a workshop at the Kelly Writers House and a session on how to prepare for college interviews.
“It’s not only about Penn,” Associate Dean of Equity and Access and Wharton alumna Nicole Maloy said. “That’s the beauty of it.”
Still, Maloy said, almost all of the students who attend the program end up applying to Penn.
College freshman Tonna Obaze, who attended PEEP last year, said that after attending the three-day program, she knew Penn was the place for her.
“I was looking for a college that I could call home, and when I got to PEEP ... that’s what brought me to Penn.”
This year, the 93 attendees were selected from an applicant pool of about 300. Despite receiving 100 fewer applications than last year, Maloy said that this year’s application pool was stronger than before.
PEEP is a result of the priority that Penn President Amy Gutmann has placed on emphasizing access and inclusion, Maloy said. “The stereotype of the Ivy League university doesn’t let students from certain backgrounds easily imagine themselves at universities like this.”
Both Obaze and Maloy emphasized the fact that PEEP isn’t just meant to lure students to Penn. Instead, it’s meant to help students, many of whom haven’t had access to the opportunities that other applicants have, understand and feel comfortable with the college admissions process.
“Even for those who don’t decide to go to Penn, it’s a great exposure to the college system,” Obaze said.
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