The Daily Pennsylvanian is a student-run nonprofit.

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


Wharton students agreed that their experiences at the school deviated from their original expectations.

Credit: Lulu Wang

Like many incoming freshman, Kevin Chou wondered whether Wharton would live up to its reputation as a highly competitive and stressful environment.

So far, however, Penn’s business school has not been what he imagined.

“I feel like Wharton in general, and maybe Penn, too, has a reputation of being a pressure cooker, and that the cutthroat competition can really get at you,” he said. “But at least for me — and granted it’s only been two weeks — I don’t really sense that.”

Fellow Wharton freshman JJ Vulopas said that he has also been “pleasantly surprised” about the atmosphere at Wharton after arriving on campus.

“I’ve heard some horror stories,” he said. I guess [it’s the same] with any prestigious school — about the atmosphere, the competitiveness [and] the curve. But I’ve really just seen an open and supportive environment so far. And everyone I’ve talked to — there’s a lot of people willing to help.”

Wharton freshman Melissa Matalon agreed.

“I guess there is that stereotype that people [at Wharton] are obnoxious or super competitive, so I was worried about that,” Matalon said. “When I actually came here ... I barely met any obnoxious people. People were super friendly. It wasn’t really the environment that people stereotype it as.”

While expressing similar feelings as her peers, Matalon acknowledged that she still has trepidation about her adjustment from classrooms in the high school to the halls of Huntsman.

“It was very overwhelming to be in a place where so many people are so well-spoken and vocal because I’ve never really been in that environment before,” she said. “It was much easier to share my voice in my high school, and now everyone is a leader who is vocal about their opinions, and it’s more of an effort to get your thoughts out there. That’s something that I’m going to try to work on.”

Vulopas said he has felt the same way.

“Meeting all the new people, being in a new place — it’s a definite adjustment, especially when everyone you talk to has a startup in China, researched this, discovered this,” he said. “But again, we’re all in the same boat. So it’s intimidating that I’m surrounded by all these brilliant people and resources, and I think that finding my way will be tough, but fulfilling.”

Before arriving on campus three years ago, Wharton senior Dave Thomas had similar feelings. For Thomas, the school initially felt “very intimidating,” but he soon realized that the feelings of intimidation came from within.

“Each person has a preconceived notion of how they are and how things outside of them also are, so [the intimidation] was true to the extent that I allowed it to be,” he said. “I’ve been through three-plus years of struggles — of course, because it’s a very difficult school — but I’ve had a lot of help. My friends have always been there to help me. Faculty members have always been there to help me. It is intimidating, but once you get accustomed to being in such a high-paced, rapid-moving culture, it doesn’t seem as intimidating. It’s more the norm.”

Fellow Wharton senior Connie Chen also emphasized the importance of camaraderie at Wharton.

“The competitiveness [at Wharton] is with the curve and getting into clubs and [on-campus recruiting] jobs,” Chen said. “From my experience, I’ve had some very collaborative friends, and you help each other and work together and ‘case’ together. I think some people might not be as collaborative as others, but you tend to just stick out with people who are positive. I would say 95 percent of the people are super nice and helpful.”

At the end of his undergraduate experience, Thomas said he has come to understand the meaning of being a student at Wharton.

“[At Wharton], I’ve developed into my own. I feel like I’ve found my niche. I’ve discovered what it means to be a Wharton student in the sense that you are very gifted and you are very able-minded,” he said. “But you use your able-mindedness and your gifts for the greater good, rather than just for self-attainment or self-glory. As you grow older in Wharton, I feel like you realize that not everything is about you. Its more about the greater community, and that’s why you give back.”

For the freshmen, many are hoping to use their first year at Wharton to discover their passions.

“I don’t know what I want to do in the future or where these next few weeks, months [and] years will take me,” Vulopas said. “But Wharton allows you to explore. Especially this first year — this is exactly what I want to do.”

Comments powered by Disqus

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