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Newly unionized workers put up a banner at Hillel. Credit: Caroline Brand

Looking back on the first month of the semester, I’ve heard about the same personal struggles and issues from many people — some of which I’ve experienced too. Given the pervasiveness of these topics, I’ve decided to address a few of them below.

I’m a junior who has been looking for a relationship since freshman year, but I’ve only found one-time hookups. Is finding a boyfriend at Penn hopeless?

Many people, whether they realize it or not, have mental lists of the qualities they want their significant other to possess. Mine used to consist of 50 items, until I realized that the chances of one person having every attribute I wanted is practically a statistical impossibility. I’m not saying you should date the next guy you see, but think about one or two qualities that are most important to you, and consider compromising on the rest. I used to rule out guys who weren’t 6’0” or taller (I’m 5’10” and love wearing heels), but going on a date with someone who was 5’8” was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Also, consider organizing a dinner with five friends and asking each of them to bring someone that no one else in the group knows. We tend to cross paths with the same people over and over — after all, how many of your 2,400 classmates do you know? — but the more people you meet, the more potential boyfriend options you have. Cast a wider net, and stop fishing in the same pond.


My classes here are much harder than my high school ones (I’m a freshman). I’m not even taking anything particularly difficult, but it feels like Penn requires a different kind of thinking than high school did.

You’ve already made the toughest quantum leap. As you get further into your major, you’ll start building a skill set and knowledge base that are highly applicable from one course to the next. In the meantime, consider throwing your go-to high school study methods out the window. For example, in high school, I relied heavily on reading the textbook before a test. This was an effectively foolproof method, as my teachers drew questions almost verbatim from the book — even math problems. For my first Econ 001 exam at Penn, I employed this same method and diligently read chapters 1-5 in Parkin’s “Microeconomics.” To my surprise, I received a grade below the mean. The key, professor Rebecca Stein told me, was doing practice problems — an entirely novel concept to me. Furthermore, if you mostly studied solo in high school, consider collaborating with your classmates — it is a great way to develop different outlooks on the material and revamp your method of thinking.


Penn has really changed my perceptions about career aspirations. I used to think it was noble to become a surgeon or a public interest lawyer, but it seems like the most respected and sought-after careers are on Wall Street. Should I go down the OCR path even though I’m not excited about it?

On-campus recruiting epitomizes the concept of mob mentality. Even the most nonprofit-loving, anti-corporate liberal arts majors are drawn to investment banking information sessions — likely motivated by the fear of opting out of something so normative and engrained in Penn’s culture.

Although OCR is often cast in a negative light, don’t be turned off by its reputation — it is so much more than crisp suits, sellouts and Montblanc pens. For people genuinely interested in the industries that OCR serves, it is an incredible opportunity. Firms aren’t exactly handing out job offers left and right, but in a sense, OCR jobs are low-hanging fruit. Executives from the world’s top companies are less than half a mile away, eager to meet you and ready to extend lucrative job offers for fast-paced positions early in the recruiting cycle. If there’s any chance that those types of careers might interest you, OCR is absolutely worth participating in — the rewards can be immense.

That said, if you came to Penn wanting to cure cancer or assuage the tensions in the Middle East, OCR probably isn’t for you. College is supposed to help us develop, not morph us into someone with entirely different values and goals.

Need advice not addressed in this column? Email your questions to and get personalized advice from the columnists.

Caroline Brand is a College senior from Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. You can email her at or follow her at @CBrand19. “A Brand You Can Trust” usually appears every other Tuesday.

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