The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

Please support us by disabling your ad blocker on our site.


Dan Bernick
Dan Straight

Credit: Dan Bernick

Penn students “work hard and play hard.” And most of us love it. But if a just-released survey is any indication, Quakers want to work smarter and play smarter.

The Enrolled Student Survey allows students to evaluate Penn by asking how much they like classes, faculty and extracurricular activities. Forty-three percent of undergraduates took the survey last spring. The results were compared to peer institutions (all the Ivies plus Duke, MIT, Stanford and a few others).

First, some fun facts: 56 percent of us receive an A or A-minus average. Fifty-one percent are left-leaning when it comes to politics, while 20 percent lean right. Nineteen percent are Jewish. Five percent are transfers to Penn. And 11 percent are legacies.

The most interesting trend in the data, however, is a happiness paradox: students are happy in the abstract but disappointed with the details.

Academically, 90 percent of Penn students rank their overall educational experience at Penn as “good” or “very good.” Unfortunately, that number doesn’t tell the whole story.

Thirty-two percent of us study more than we want to and Quakers spend 1.5 more hours doing homework per week than our peers. Fewer than half of us get enough sleep to feel well-rested four or more days of the week.

Translation: Penn students work too hard. Too much time crammed in a library cubicle and too many all-nighters. Many people rationalize this by saying Penn students enjoy the work and learn a lot. Here, too, the numbers tell a different story.

Penn students rate themselves as being worse at formulating original ideas than our peers rate themselves. And even though we all sit through writing seminars, we rate Penn’s helpfulness in improving our writing ability lower than they do — only 17 percent say Penn has helped them “very much.” We are less excited by classes than students at peer institutions, and we participate in fewer classroom discussions.

This does not mean we are stupid or anti-intellectual.

Students want the curriculum to be more engaging. Rote memorization is great for high school, but many of us came here expecting debates in class and applications to real-world problems. We want to interact with faculty more (71 percent) and many of us want to attend more lectures outside of class (48 percent). The extra chapter of that book you have to read doesn’t help you learn — it stresses you out and takes time away from other intellectual pursuits.

In terms of students’ on-campus social lives, 89 percent are “very satisfied” or “generally satisfied,” but that number is also misleading.

Forty-one percent participate in extracurricular activities less than they want to, and 43 percent don’t relax and socialize outside of class enough. We are the Social Ivy, so why are these statistics lower than our peers?

Fifty-five percent of Penn students volunteer less than they want to. Sixty-two percent participate in athletics/exercise less than they want to (not surprising — our intramural sports involvement is half that of our peers).

It seems obvious Penn students want more for their social lives. We are happy with the parties but we also enjoy intramural sports, relaxing with friends, volunteering and exercise. There is a strong desire among students to participate in more community-building activities, but we all assume this is a minority view.

So what is going on here? Students are satisfied academically (90 percent) and socially (89 percent), but when you add it all up, only 56 percent of Penn students would “definitely” choose Penn all over again.

Penn students like the idea of working hard and playing hard. But for many of us, working hard does not mean studying more than 30 hours per week, and playing hard needs to be more than just parties and NSO.

Students want to interact with faculty and content outside of the classroom and be more engaged in the classroom. Socially, the data proves we crave more activities, especially athletics and community-wide social programming.

For those who want to work smarter and play smarter — you are the majority.

Dan Bernick, a College sophomore from Mendota Heights, Minn., is a College representative on the Undergraduate Assembly. His email address is Dan Straight appears every other Tuesday.

Comments powered by Disqus

Please note All comments are eligible for publication in The Daily Pennsylvanian.