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Incoming first-year students participating in events during New Student Orientation in Fall 2021. Credit: Sukhmani Kaur

As my time at Penn inches closer to the end, cliché though it may be, I find myself reflecting on my time here. I opened my acceptance to Penn in March 2018, excited at the prospect of attending such an awesome school and truly naïve as to what lay ahead. My whole family of six crammed into my tiny Riepe dorm room for move-in with boxes of books and clothes in tow. I remember the feeling as if it were yesterday. 

In my Penn supplement, I wrote, “I am a tabula rasa — open to the power of Penn, with its world-class faculty and students, its urban classroom, and all its potential to inspire — waiting to see what will be written.” I am now less of a tabula rasa, but still excited about the opportunities before me as a result of my Penn education. Through my years at Penn, I have been both inspired and disappointed, moved and saddened by the faculty, students, and classroom that make up the University. To those who will soon open acceptances, here’s some advice:

  1. Penn is diverse if you want it to be! While it’s easy to come here and just stay within circles you already know, there is so much to explore. Penn brings together smart people with vastly different personal narratives, presenting myriad opportunities (whether through classes, housing, or clubs) to broaden your worldviews. Take advantage of these!
  2. The schools aren’t as separate as they seem. If you want to switch from the College to Engineering or Wharton, you can; just get started early. 
  3. Beware of mold in the Quad! There are a wide variety of college houses to consider when deciding on your first-year housing. Explore them all. The Quad is not the be-all-end-all of social interaction at Penn. 
  4. Think long and hard about your feelings regarding greek life. While it’s not the only social scene at Penn, it is featured very prominently on campus and does account for a significant portion of students' weekend (and weekday) activities.
  5. Expect a healthy dose of pre-professionalism. Club applications can be quite competitive and there certainly is a strong LinkedIn culture at Penn. While this does foster strong networks, it can also be stressful to those who are unsure of what they want to do and need some time to explore.
  6. Don’t be disheartened by rejection. Whether it’s during club applications, job interviews, or even class registration, rejection is part of life — and especially life at Penn. Don’t let it define you.
  7. “Penn Face” is real. This term references Penn students’ tendency to hide any struggles behind a mask of success. Though it may seem at times like everyone is ~thriving at Penn~ more than you are, remember to have perspective. 
  8. Explore! You can learn so much here. If you’re a biology major who loves Miles Davis, take a jazz course or join Penn Jazz Ensembles. You will not have the same opportunity to indulge your passions once you graduate.
  9. “Work hard, play hard” is accurate. Moderation and balance are determined by your own ability to set limits for yourself.
  10. You will benefit from the Penn brand and network. Having Penn’s prestigious name on your resume and an impressive range of alumni to turn to will be advantageous to you at one point or another.

Congratulations on your acceptance to Penn’s Class of 2026; we look forward to welcoming you on campus in the fall!

AGATHA ADVINCULA is a senior studying health and societies and computer science from New York City, N.Y. Her email is