Penn is usually buzzing right now with admitted students decorated with lanyards, exploring campus. For many regular decision admits, visiting campus is influential in their choice of college. Due to the unprecedented effects of COVID-19, Quaker Days has been canceled. Despite this, unlike many other universities, Penn has not pushed back the May 1 deadline to accept its offer of admission. While Penn is offering online materials and a virtual tour to the prospective Class of 2024, it is likely that many students will make their choice without a clear sense of what Penn is like. Here are ten points admitted students should consider before deciding whether to join us.
1. Students can go beyond the “Penn Bubble.” Philadelphia is a great city to be a student. After coming to Penn, students come to learn about Wawa, "Bring-Your-Owns", and the Eagles. Venturing past the immediate vicinity of campus, students can, and do, enjoy restaurants, scenic walks, museums, coffee shops, and historical sites. Some classic West Philadelphia activities include the Clark Park farmers market, Baltimore Avenue Dollar Stroll, and many off-campus places to study.
2. Many students choose to live off-campus. According to 2017 data from Penn Business Services, about 60 percent of sophomores, juniors, and seniors live outside of college residences each year. These include the hundreds of students who live in chapter houses for on-campus Greek organizations. However, this will soon change – Penn will require all undergraduate sophomores to live in college houses on campus starting with the incoming Class of 2024.
3. Locust Walk heavily features Greek Life. A typical visit to Penn brings one to the central vein of campus: Locust Walk. While Locust Walk is home to some academic buildings and other public spaces, many of the buildings are fraternity houses. Joining a fraternity or sorority is an important social component for over a quarter of Penn students. However, fraternities’ presence on Locust Walk is currently under heavy scrutiny by a coalition of student groups, who argue the property should go towards cultural groups and general student facilities.
4. Penn’s resources can be out of the way and decentralized. A prospective student will not see Student Health Services or Counseling and Psychological Services on Locust Walk. Students have to go further out on campus for these resources. While SHS and CAPS have made several changes in response to student feedback, such as stationing satellite CAPS clinicians across campus, many students are concerned with the limited accessibility of physical and mental health resources.
5. Student activism is abundant. Penn students are members of campus and Philadelphia communities, both of which are influenced by University decisions. Students are outspoken about institutional flaws and are not afraid to call for change when needed. There are many opportunities to advocate and actually enact change for fellow students, staff, Philadelphians, the environment, and broader global issues. At Penn, students are heard.
6. There are many volunteer opportunities. Volunteering in Philadelphia contributes to the community and can also be transformative for students. Penn students are involved in initiatives ranging from tutoring in correctional facilities to visiting children in hospitals to consulting nonprofit groups. Penn itself also offers unique opportunities through Academically-Based Community Service classes — volunteering for class credit — and the Netter Center for Community Partnerships.
7. Study abroad is a popular option for students. The past few years have also seen trends in study abroad opportunities becoming more varied, with programs such as the Penn Global Internship Program, where students can intern in a foreign country for the summer; Penn Global Seminars, where students take a course at Penn and spend a week traveling with their class to a related location; and Summer Abroad where students spend two weeks in the summer in places like Cannes Film Festival or the Alps for class credit; gaining popularity.
8. Many students enjoy alternatives to dining halls. While first-year students are required to purchase a dining plan, many students are not thrilled with the dining halls’ food itself. Don’t hesitate to try the myriad of food trucks — there is a string of them outside of the Quad, the main freshman dorm, alone. This affordable alternative is a staple of Penn’s culture — some food truck owners even memorize loyal customers’ orders!
9. Penn has an extensive and helpful alumni network. Some notable Penn alumni include Donald Trump, John Legend, Elon Musk, Tory Burch, and more. Though not all famous, Penn’s alumni are leaders in their industries and are often willing to share their experiences and give advice to current students. Alumni contact information can be accessed online. The database is also accessible anytime after you graduate from Penn.
10. Students can find their own unique niche. Penn, like many elite universities, has a reputation for pre-professionalism and competition in classes and extracurriculars. While pre-professional opportunities can challenge students and help them prepare for jobs, many students are also involved in plenty of clubs and classes that don’t necessarily contribute to their resumes. Joining a community that simply indulges your interests is more than possible here at Penn.
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