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Credit: Janine Navalta

Dear Class of 2028,

Congratulations, and welcome to Penn! Today, March 28, is Ivy Day, possibly one of the most important days of your life (so far). With the release of admissions decisions from all eight Ivy League institutions, you are one step closer to embarking on your college journey and sculpting the path to a future of success.  

As prospective students, it is important to evaluate key elements that define the Penn undergraduate experience. Using a scale from one to five, one denoting “poor” and five representing “excellent,” we’ve rated each category to offer a nuanced perspective of our Penn experience to help guide you in making your decision. 

Academics: 5/5

Penn is renowned for its rigorous curriculum and distinguished faculty that collectively foster an environment of academic excellence. Penn encourages interdisciplinary studies, offering various opportunities for students to pursue coordinated or accelerated dual degrees, specialized programs, University minors, individualized majors, and even scholar programs where you can take intellectually stimulating classes. These opportunities are a great way of exploring courses across the University's four undergraduate schools. While this interdisciplinary approach is at times quite challenging to pursue, it does allow you to tailor your academic journey to your interests and career goals. 

From Nobel Prize winners to globally known researchers, Penn professors are well known for their contributions to significant advancements in technology and society. This high level of expertise ensures that you receive an education that is closely linked to real-world applications. 

If you’ve never done research prior to college, Penn is the perfect place to start. Through initiatives like the Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, students have the opportunity to pursue independent projects and work closely with faculty who have spent their entire careers dedicated to research

Although Penn provides a wide range of opportunities for involvement, they may not always be readily available. In order to succeed in a competitive environment, you must be proactive to seize these opportunities. This serves as a reminder that the opportunities for a fulfilling academic and research journey at Penn are abundant, but they rely heavily on student’s actively seeking these opportunities.

Campus Environment - 4/5 

From international students to lifelong Philadelphia residents, Penn is extremely diverse. While it can take anywhere from a semester to a year or more to establish yourself on campus and find friends, patience is key. There are roughly 1,200 student clubs on campus, which range in focus from finance to film creation. While some clubs require applications and tend to be competitive, many welcome all members and are excellent places to meet your future community. The array of options may be overwhelming, but resources are available to help guide you through the student experience, which includes joining, and if need be, dropping various extracurriculars to find your niche. 

With nearly 20% of the student body involved, Greek life is ripe with friendship opportunities. Penn also provides ample resources in its cultural centers: the LGBTQ Center, the Penn Women’s Center, and Greenfield Intercultural Center, among others. 

Competitiveness - 2/5

With an admission rate of 5.8%, Penn selects a pool of extremely competitive and qualified students who are high achievers and committed to maintaining the same level of achievement in their new setting. 

Penn is widely recognized for its preprofessional culture, which fosters competitiveness within the campus environment. However, this competitiveness has the potential to dampen the passion one might have for a certain field. Many students enter Penn with no previous interest in the world of business, yet with Penn’s culture of elitism and pressures from your peer’s successes, more than 50% of graduates make the trek to Wall Street

Whether you’re slogging through club applications that feel like college admissions all over again, or struggling to get a spot in a class with only 70 seats, the intense pressure at Penn is impossible to ignore. The so-called “Penn Face” phenomena is one way this pressure shows itself; it’s best described as the facade your peers may put on to appear calm and peaceful while they’re going through a lot.

Penn’s environment offers an opportunity to expand your limits and surpass your own expectations. Through navigating these highs and lows, the true essence of Penn is revealed — a multifaceted blend of ambition, knowledge, and connections that serves as preparation for the real world.

Housing and Dining- 3/5

The complaints about the quality of dining halls and housing options at Penn keep on mounting. However, dining hall criticism is a common theme at many colleges, not just at Penn. It is crucial to understand that serving hundreds of meals every day is a difficult task that includes balancing variety, quality, and logistics. While some of the dining halls and meal plans might not be the most efficient options that Penn can offer, Penn Dining does a decent job in making a range of choices available to students. 

On the other hand, the problem with housing lies in the inequality of the lottery system used by students. Each student’s dormitory — with the exception of upperclassmen who may choose to live off-campus — are chosen through a lottery system. The quality of the dormitory you live in is entirely dependent on obtaining an early room selection time slot that is completely out of your hands. This system places some students in newly-renovated large apartments, while others are forced to share a 11x16 room with a roommate. With a yearly wait-list of 800 students, the housing lottery system is unable to accommodate all students on campus and is in much need of a renovation. Should upperclassmen elect to stay on campus, whether they are placed on a waitlist or not is often a matter of chance, jeopardizing their likelihood of finding housing for the following year.

At the end of the day, we all know that dining and housing at Penn goes beyond the food you eat and the place you live in. No matter how much improvement is needed, the memories you will make with your friends over dinner at 1920 Commons or while studying in the rooftop lounges for finals are priceless parts of the Penn experience that you will remember for years to come. 

City Life - 5/5

As one of the most historically significant cities in the country, Philadelphia is one of the best places to attend college. Just a couple blocks from campus in West Philadelphia, you can explore the Clark Park Farmers’ Market on Saturdays, as well as many restaurants of varying cuisines, from Ethiopian to Thai. Venturing east of the Schuylkill River, you have a myriad of opportunities to explore meals and produce at the Reading Terminal Market, shopping in the Fashion District, or the history of the nation near Independence Hall

To address concerns about student safety in such a large city, the University has taken steps to protect students, including Penn Transit, which runs through campus and beyond after dark, and the placement of police officers on every block after sundown. SEPTA, the regional public transportation system, is very affordable, and Philadelphia is extremely walkable. The many different neighborhoods of Philadelphia — such as Old City, Northern Liberties, Fishtown, and Rittenhouse Square — all host unique attractions. If you venture 45 minutes outside of the city, Pennsylvania is home to Valley Forge and the Wissahickon, where there are hours of hiking paths and historic walking tours. Besides being known for incredible cheesesteaks, Philadelphia boasts some of the best museums in the country: the Rodin Museum, Mütter Museum, and the Barnes Foundation. Between the Birds, Phillies, and 76ers, Philadelphia is the proud home to some of the best sports teams in the country year-round, and our infamously boisterous fans love to shout it from the rooftops. 

From the New Student Orientation carnival to an evening at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, we all remember that mixture of excitement and nervousness when we began our college experience. College challenges us to grow as individuals while simultaneously expanding our worldview. At Penn, you can build a home away from home — a community that, through thick and thin, becomes an integral part of who you are. Despite its ups and downs, Penn will become your home for the next four years in the same way it is now home for us. 

Welcome to your incredible journey ahead, Class of 2028.  

Editorials represent the majority view of members of The Daily Pennsylvanian, Inc. Editorial Board, which meets regularly to discuss issues relevant to Penn’s campus. Participants in these meetings are not involved in the reporting of articles on related topics. Reach us at