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Students socialize and enjoy a sunny day at Penn's College Green.

Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

This week, thousands of new students will arrive in Philadelphia, with many of them stepping foot on Penn’s campus for the very first time.

Ahead of the first day of class on Aug. 31, The Daily Pennsylvanian reached out to Penn students and faculty for advice on how incoming first years, transfer students, and sophomores can succeed in their first in-person semester.

Here’s what they said:

1)  It’s okay if things don’t go as planned.

“It’s okay if you change your mind about things. I came to college wanting to be a chem major and pre-med, and now I’m an econ major minoring in statistics. What you originally plan on doing might not be what you do in the end, and that’s okay.”

— College senior and Co-President of the Transfer Student Organization Lexi Brauer

“I think the best thing for all [first years] to do is not to expect specific things. Don’t expect things to go a specific way because if they don’t, it could lead to disappointment even though what actually ends up happening could be equally as great, if not better.”

— College sophomore Alex Wenig

2)  Form relationships with professors and TAs. 

“Even if you have nothing to ask, even if it’s a course where you barely have to study, go to every single office hours for your professor and your TA. Get into that personal relationship with them because you have no clue when it’s going to come in handy.”

— College senior and PENNacle Counselor Joseph De Simone

“Get to know everyone. Some of the best relationships may end up being in that first year with faculty and TAs. Next year you’ll be applying for an internship, or what have you, and you’ll wish you had people to write recommendations for you.”

— Director of the Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing Valerie Ross

“I feel like people are very intimidated when it comes to asking questions in class or asking questions at office hours. One thing that might help with that is setting up private meetings with your professor or with a TA.

— College senior and Executive Vice President of the Transfer Student Organization Sarah Chowdhury

3)  Reach out to your peers.

“The ‘social ivy’ is a real phenomenon. People here want to meet you.” 

— College sophomore Alex Wenig 

“Everybody who comes to Penn experiences culture shock. I encourage students to reach out to others to help put them at ease. We all sit in our little frightened bubbles very often.”

— Director of the Marks Family Center for Excellence in Writing Valerie Ross

4)  Apply for clubs, and don’t be intimidated by rejection.

“Take advantage of the club fair. Even if you are intimidated by the application process or you face a few rejections you will find a community that will support you and an extracurricular that you will love and cherish."

— College senior and Co-President of the Transfer Student Organization Deepti Tantry

“Don’t be upset when you get rejected, because it happens. Worst case, it’s a temporary sadness, but you can always reapply."

— Engineering junior and NSO Team Coordinator Anna Jiang

5)  Take advantage of campus resources.

“There are so many knowledgeable and caring people at Penn, and the first weeks of the semester are a great time to get to know them. If you find out where they are, now you’re more likely to connect with the Cultural Centers, Career Services, Penn First Plus, or the Weingarten Center later in the semester when you’re very busy.”

— Director of Learning Resources at Weingarten Learning Resources Center Ryan Miller

6)  Explore not only Penn, but Philadelphia as well.

“There are so many cool things to do at Penn that you’re exposed to as a first-year student or a transfer student. The same goes for living in a city like Philly. There are so many really cool things that you can explore and take advantage of.”

— College senior and Co-President of the Transfer Student Organization Deepti Tantry

“You can’t be at Penn without exploring Philly. Having Philly right here is such an important part of the Penn experience and getting out of the Penn bubble."

— College senior and Executive Vice President of the Transfer Student Organization Sarah Chowdhury

7)  Find time for yourself to enjoy your Penn experience.

“Never view your social life or your diversions as a waste of time because in order to give your best self in your academics and your extracurriculars, you need to be balanced and have some sort of diversion so when you pick up your laptop, you’re giving your best effort.”

— Wharton sophomore and Class Board 2024 Vice President of Finance Annabelle Noyes

“Don’t waste your time, it’s college. Especially [the Class of 2024] and the 2025 students, enjoy your time here because it could be taken away so easily.”

— College sophomore Alex Wenig

8)  For sophomores — allow yourself time to adjust from virtual college to in-person college.

“We’re going to see half of the school navigating an in-person experience for the first time and I think they definitely need to take advantage of any opportunity they can."

— College senior and PENNacle Counselor Joseph De Simone

“Don’t be scared if you haven’t connected with as many people as you would have liked to by now, because everyone’s in the same boat. There’s Second Year Orientation going on — that’s going to be a great way to meet new people."

— College senior and Co-President of the Transfer Student Organization Lexi Brauer

9)  For transfer students — you have the power to shape your own Penn experience.

“Do what you're interested in, but don’t overwhelm yourself first semester. Maybe take four classes if you want, even if you were taking five or six at your old school."

— College senior and Co-President of the Transfer Student Organization Lexi Brauer

“Focus on yourself and don’t compare yourself to others because your experience is unique and different and you have the power to shape that however you want."

— College senior and Executive Vice President of the Transfer Student Organization Sarah Chowdhury

10) You belong here, and you are not alone.

“This is still going to be a difficult year with the ongoing pandemic, but the support is available to students to ensure that they have a successful year and really take advantage of the great opportunities at Penn to get to know their peers and to get to know themselves better as learners.”

— Director of Learning Resources at Weingarten Learning Resources Center Ryan Miller

“To all Penn students, new and returning, remember that you belong here at Penn and when things get tough, they get tough for everyone. You're here for a reason and you’re going to do great things.”

— College senior and Co-President of the Transfer Student Organization Deepti Tantry

Note: Some quotes have been edited for clarity and brevity.

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