Look around your 100-person lecture. Odds are, five of you won’t graduate from Penn.
Penn’s aggregate undergraduate graduation rate is 95 percent. Each year, students choose to leave Penn, and this year is no exception. Several undergraduates have already dropped out or are planning to transfer to a different university this fall.
Engineering freshman Brian McGrath, who was studying computer and information science, withdrew from Penn in December and is preparing to start at Drexel University in the fall.
“I am really into music,” McGrath said. “I decided halfway through the first semester at Penn that I didn’t really want to continue doing something like computer science that I didn’t care about as much as music.”
McGrath recognizes that the decision to leave Penn and pursue a major in music production at Drexel was risky.
“It’s a lot safer to go through four years at Penn and get a job in computer science than it is to go somewhere like Drexel and try to get a job in music,” he said. “But I just reasoned with myself that I’d rather be happy actually learning stuff that I care about than try to just grind through for a safe job and more money.”
Although he has withdrawn from Penn, McGrath remains involved in the Penny Loafers, an a cappella group on campus.
“I’ve just been taking the train [from home in New Jersey] every Monday, Wednesday and Sunday to Penn and gone to rehearsals there,” McGrath said. “Come next fall, I’ll just walk the four blocks from Drexel.”
College sophomore Brian Rogers will begin classes at Missouri University of Science and Technology in the fall, where he plans on studying geological engineering.
“I did an internship this past summer at Vanderbilt [University] at the environmental engineering department, which is something Penn doesn’t have,” Rogers said.
Rogers considered transferring to Vanderbilt, but after doing research, he learned that Missouri S&T offered a major in geological engineering.
“If I’m going to spend a lot of money on an education, I want to make sure that I find something I really am passionate about,” Rogers said. “Since Penn didn’t have that exactly, I thought I might as well transfer.”
Nursing freshman Rachel Pak decided to take a year off from school after completing her first semester at Penn, and she is considering transferring to a different institution.
Pak said she was not eager to begin college in the fall, but she was afraid to push it off.
“I just went because it’s what everyone was doing,” she said.
Pak felt overwhelmed by Penn’s pre-professional atmosphere and by the numerous decisions she needed to make regarding her course selection, extracurricular activities and social life.
“I never had gotten a break,” she said. “I was always working, and I don’t remember really having a relaxed childhood.”
During her time off from school, Pak hopes to “soul-search, find out a little more about myself and have time to read and knit.”
Pak still may return to Penn next spring, and if she does, she plans on getting involved in greek life and other extracurricular activities.
“I want to make sure I’m giving Penn a fighting chance,” she said. “I don’t think I was in a place to be happy at Penn earlier, but I just want to make sure I’m doing everything I can to be happy at Penn and know that it is or it isn’t my place.”
On the other hand, College sophomore Peter Romanello transferred from Wesleyan University and enrolled at Penn this past fall.
“Being from New York City, I definitely wasn’t used to being in an isolated environment,” Romanello said. “For example, if there was a test at 10 a.m., the dining hall was closed, so I’d have to do UberEATS from a town like 30 minutes away.”
Romanello described having an “existential crisis” during Wesleyan orientation. He remembers never feeling completely settled, and he never felt that he would miss out on anything if he left campus.
Romanello decided to transfer to Penn when he went home for Thanksgiving and realized that his classmates felt much more settled at their colleges than he did.
“They weren’t all feeling the way I felt,” Romanello said. “I realized that I really did deserve to spend these hyped-up years of college at a place I would be happier to attend.”