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Columnist Mert Kayabas asks the incoming class of 2028 to reflect on their desires and expectations for their years at Penn. 

Credit: Abhiram Juvvadi


We are Penn's Class of 2028. Now what? 

Like many other incoming first years, I have spent countless hours scrolling through admitted student forums, attending long virtual info sessions, doing research on TikTok, and occasionally engaging with other students on Instagram. If there's anything I have gathered through these countless hours, it's that everyone has their own opinion on what the first-year experience should entail. 

So, here I am, with my freshly minted Penn email address and hundreds of dorm decor ideas saved, ready to join you all on campus. But before we get to that, here is what I want out of my first-year experience. 

I want a community. Not a superficial “What's your LinkedIn?” networking type of connection, but a real, supportive, help-me-with-my-math-problems-at-2 a.m. kind of camaraderie. We are all aware that Penn is known for its daunting pre-professional culture, with so many people just out to climb the ladder, but wouldn't it be nice if we could mix a little humanity into all that ambition? I'm talking about making the type of friends who will get you halal food from that late-night food truck while you're deep in your studies the evening before a big exam. 

I want to thrive academically, but let's keep it real. I suspect that my first finals season will transform me into a caffeine-fueled zombie who will eventually question every life choice that led me to this Ivy League institution. I don't want to walk around with the infamous Penn Face, the facade of effortless perfection everyone seems to wear. It has to be exhausting trying to look like you've got everything under control when you're just trying to figure out if you can fit a nap between econ and bio. 

We're here to learn, not just memorize. What will make it worth it in the end are those moments where my coursework clicks and it feels like I’ve unlocked a new area in my brain, instead of just slogging through the class for the grade. 

I want to ditch the toxic comparison culture I’ve heard so much about. At Penn, we’re surrounded by overachievers and the best of the best. So, why don't we celebrate each other's successes instead of treating college like a zero-sum game? 

I want my campus life to be lively and chaotic. I want to get lost in the study spots of Van Pelt or attend those backyard music festivals I got a glimpse of on one of my campus visits. I want to embrace the cringe traditions of our school while also creating some of our own. I'm prepared for the corny icebreakers we will have to endure our first week on campus that will hopefully turn into meaningful connections. I chose Penn because of its reputation as the “Social Ivy.” I choose to join Greek life or a book club, I want to have fun. 

I want food that's enjoyable, something Penn isn't known for. I've heard stories about food trucks that rival Michelin-starred restaurants and dining halls that simply don’t. We are going to live in Philadelphia, a city known for its diverse cuisine. Instead of eating every meal at Commons or Houston Market, I am making it my mission to explore every culinary option around, whether it's gourmet dining or that renowned family-owned breakfast truck I’ve heard about. 

I want my first year to be balanced. Throughout my social life, classes, clubs, and the fleeting hours of free time I expect to have, I want to make memories that will, unironically, last a lifetime. 

It's funny how much power the word “want” carries, isn't it? Whether it's the motivating factor behind our passion to succeed, pushing us to achieve what we desire, or leading to disappointment, one word can influence everything. 

So, fellow Class of 2028 students, what do you want?

MERT KAYABAS is an incoming College first year studying politics and economics from Dover, De. His email is