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To the Class of 2014: Greetings from beyond the grave! I’m not actually dead of course, but I’ve recently graduated and entered “The Real World,” a strange, mysterious place. No doubt you’re excited to begin your Penn experience. To help you along the way, I offer you 14 bits of advice:

1. Meet as many people as you can. Now. For the next few months and especially during NSO, you have a free social pass that enables you to walk up to other freshmen you don’t know, introduce yourself, and strike up a conversation. And it’s not awkward! So take advantage of this precious time. Some of my closest friends at Penn were the result of chance encounters.

2. Don’t do what you don’t want to do. You’d be surprised how many students come to Penn to study something because someone else told them to. Don’t pick a major or career just to please your parents or follow your friends — you’ll make yourself miserable. If your passion lies somewhere else, then be honest with yourself and have the guts to pursue it.

3. Take time to relax. Penn’s famous “work hard, play hard” atmosphere makes this place incredibly fun, but it can lead to burnout if you’re not too careful. Get to know your limits and respect them. Don’t be afraid to stop and take time to reflect and rejuvenate.

4. Don’t buy textbooks at the Bookstore. Unless you feel charitable toward Barnes and Noble, you can usually get your textbooks at sites like and Amazon for much cheaper.

5. Borrow your textbooks — for free. Penn partners with other colleges to let you borrow books from other college libraries for free. For some classes, you can find and borrow the required textbooks from other colleges by using the EZ-Borrow, Borrow Direct or Interlibrary loan systems. There are limits to how long you can keep the books, but using these systems saved me hundreds of dollars.

6. Use Van Pelt to the fullest. This place has everything you need for every project or paper you’ll ever work on. When you need a little guidance navigating the thousands of sources available to you, reach out to a Penn librarian. You can make an appointment, or contact them via e-mail, IM and even text-message.

7. Don’t wear “Not Penn State” shirts. At worst, it looks elitist, and at best, it looks like you’re insecure about your college choice. If you ever want that “Ivy-League” feeling, go study in Fisher Fine Arts Library.

8. Get to know your professors. Penn’s faculty are some of the finest in the land, but if all you do is go to class, you’re missing out. Use office hours and other out-of-class events to pick your professors’ brains.

9. Walk like an Egyptian. Penn’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is world-renowned for its collection of centuries-old artifacts from across the world, including an amazing Egypt exhibit. You have free access to this archeological treasure trove, so use it!

10. Spend time in the greenery. If you’re sick of the city, take a trip to Penn’s Morris Arboretum. You can walk through its miles of gardens, winding pathways, and wooded areas for free.

11. Don’t dress up for class. I’m looking at you, Whartonites. You’ll have plenty of time in the real world to wear suits and dress shirts. Enjoy jeans, shorts and t-shirts while you can.

12. Travel for free. Penn Transit offers you free bus service between campus, Center City and West Philadelphia on weeknights. The buses are fairly reliable, clean and rarely crowded.

13. Take charge of your finances. Get your own bank account, and even a part-time job, so you can learn how to manage your money. It’ll make the transition to the real world — when it comes — that much easier.

14. Savor your experience at Penn — every minute of it. These next four amazing years will whiz by before you know it. Of course, graduation seems like an eternity away, so you probably don’t understand what I’m talking about. Don’t worry — you will someday.

Ashwin Shandilya is a 2010 Wharton graduate. He is a former Marketing Manager and Editorial Page Editor of the DP and is currently working in finance in New York. His e-mail address is

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