Penn advertises various pre-orientation programs as fun ways for incoming freshmen to meet other students. But what do students have to say about them?
While the results varied across — and sometimes within — programs, freshmen valued being able to meet other students, get adjusted to campus and move in early.
PENNacle aims to teach incoming students about leadership at Penn. During this four-day retreat, students participate in activities and discussions designed to facilitate team-building.
Wharton freshman Victoria Sacchetti participated in the program this past August.
“We all went to a campground, and we all stayed in cabins together,” she said. “And then during the day, we would do a lot of fun team-building activities like relay races and challenges that you would have to work logically as a team to be able to do.”
Sacchetti said choosing to go on PENNacle was one of the best decisions she has made.
“I met so many people, and I also really loved the opportunity to be able to meet upperclassmen,” she said. “They were able to give me a lot of advice that really helped me coming into freshman year.”
On PennArts, students take art classes on campus and explore Philadelphia. Students are divided into groups and cycle through different activities related to the arts.
College freshman Hugh Reynolds described going to a letterpress printing studio on campus with his designated group, while another group went on a mural arts tour throughout the city. He added that PennArts participants attended workshops on topics such as music-writing, dance and improvisation.
“I feel like the arts community is something where, when you kind of have that pool of people that all bond on one subject, it becomes a lot easier to connect with people and to figure out your place on campus,” he said. “I think it was one of the best ways to get acclimated to campus and connect with people, especially if you’re introverted.”
Students on PennCORP focus on social justice issues through volunteer work, workshops and discussion. Participants explore Philadelphia and learn about community engagement opportunities.
College freshman DJ Dorch said the group visited various places in Philadelphia and had thoughtful discussions about problems that Penn and the Philadelphia community face.
“For me, it wasn’t exactly what I’m studying or doing in school,” Dorch said. “But I think for other people who have a sort of interest in it like I did, it’s a nice entrance to Penn.”
Dorch added that she appreciated coming into college with many familiar faces.
“It was nice to settle into school before school actually started,” she said. “And it made the school feel smaller.”
PennGreen exposes incoming freshmen to environmental opportunities on campus and in Philadelphia. Students learn about sustainability efforts on campus, and engage in outdoor activities that include working on a farm, hiking and camping.
College and Wharton freshman Alejandro Romero said he enjoyed learning about the sustainability efforts in Philadelphia and camping in the wilderness.
“We went camping about an hour outside of Philly at some really cool place with rivers and stuff,” he said. “It was great to just be in the wilderness.”
Although Romero said he felt the program was worthwhile and enjoyed beginning classes with friends who were similarly passionate about environmentalism, but felt that the program should have reached out more to alumni during the year.
“I expected it to transition into the school year more,” he said. “But I felt like after PennGreen ended, they didn’t really make an effort to keep us in that sort of environment of fostering sustainable lifestyles.”
PennQuest is a camping program offered to 120 first-year students. Alumni from this program can be seen around campus clutching PennQuest water bottles and wearing PennQuest T-shirts or bracelets.
College freshman Laurel Jaffe enjoyed her PennQuest experience so much that she applied to become a program leader for the upcoming summer.
“From the start, PennQuest is just all about so much energy and having fun,” she said. “The leaders come out screaming and grab all the freshmen, and basically it just starts off as a wild dance party.”
Students spend a day at Camp Towanda in Honesdale, Pennsylvania before hitting the Appalachian Trail with food and supplies on their backs.
“What’s really cool is that on the trail, you have no idea what time it is,” Jaffe said. “You’ll just never have another experience like that, where you have no watch, no phone, no responsibilities.”
College freshman Elizabeth Luhnow described the “amazing relationships” she formed on PennQuest.
“A lot of the people I met I probably would not have met otherwise,” she said. “I would 100 percent recommend PennQuest. I would not let a sibling come to Penn without doing it.”
Advancing Women in Engineering:
AWE aims to help women who go into engineering by exposing them to resources on campus and supporting initiatives to recruit female engineers.
Engineering freshman Katie Simms said participants attended panels and did fun educational activities.
“We did a lot of team-building exercises and icebreakers and games to get to know the other people in the program so that we would make friends before starting school,” she said.
Engineering freshman Nidhi Kapate said she enjoyed meeting the upperclassmen leaders on the program.
“They would make sure that at every single meal you’d be sitting with five girls from your year and two older girls,” she said. “So just having that opportunity to talk to female engineers already at Penn and get advice was really helpful.”
Successful Transition & Empowerment Program:
STEP aims to help historically underrepresented students successfully adapt to Wharton.
Wharton freshman Siani Woods described STEP as a program “designed for students of color going into Wharton.”
Woods described meeting with various officials within Wharton to establish a support system and basic points of contact.
“I think the best part would have to be going into classes knowing that no matter what class I was in, I would always know one or two other people of color within my class, which is extremely comforting being at a majority-white campus,” she said.
Penn Hillel’s FreshMeet Retreat:
Hillel’s pre-orientation program allows freshmen to explore Philadelphia and meet other students over a two-day period.
College freshman Caroline Okun said she enjoyed activities such as going rollerblading, eating bagels and falafel and visiting the National Museum of American Jewish History.
“I actually met some people I’m still really close with,” she said. “It was a good way to do something quick to kind of ease the transition into college.”
Okun met one of her now-best friends through the program and said she would definitely recommend it to incoming freshmen.
“It also made me feel more comfortable going to Hillel, which was a community I ended up really liking,” she said.
All comments eligible for publication in Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. publications.