I'm involved with both the feminist and Christian communities at Penn. They are both very vibrant communities with growing influence on campus. The African-American population does not have a very big presence, but it is growing. Unfortunately, I think that students from lower socioeconomic classes might feel out of place or at least intimidated by some of the absurdly/disgustingly wealthy students on campus. Students wear anything and everything to class. The Wharton kids wear suits. The sorority girls wear leggings. The athletes wear Penn athletic sweats. Everyone else wears jeans or sweatpants. Different types of students do interact, but then everyone regresses back to their cliques. Four tables: 1) Jewish community - subdivided into Orthodox, Conservative and Reform 2) Sororities and Fraternities - drunk. doing rush rituals. 3) "Secret" societies - Oz and Tabard. Trying not to get people to steal their lunch boxes 4) Students - the academics. kids here to learn and have fun. most penn kids are from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania Penn kids are generally rich. Penn Dems is huge. Penn kids are generally left. Wharton kids are generally right. But there isn't a very big activist community. students talk about salaries a lot. too much, in fact.q
Penn is a pretty diverse place, with attendees from places like Kenya and Switzerland as well as across the country. Racially it is also diverse, but Caucasian students are the majority--and many of them are Jewish. The campus is overall friendly to different nationalities, ethnicity, and sexual orientations; most have specific groups on campus for members to gather if they wish. The most underrepresented groups are Native American Indians, African Americans, and Hispanics, but their presence on campus is still visible. Many Penn students do come from affluent backgrounds, and some students may find that extracurricular activities strain their budget. There is some self-segregation, facilitated by campus groups with a special focus (Black Whartonites, Chinese a Capella, Indian dance, etc) but also interaction between different people. Classes, dorms, and other groups serve to bring different people together, so the interaction is as extensive as students want. Penn students are generally well-put-together, but are hardly formal for classes. There is always a fair share of PJs/sweatpants, especially during crunch times, but there is not an overwhelming style that dominates.
I think any student would fit in comfortably at Penn. I myself am multiracial and have found no problem fitting in. There are definitely distinct groups for every kind of race, religion, etc. There is a huge dichotomy in what kids wear to class - a lot of people show up in sweatpants and a fleece, but then there are the girls in skirts and heels. I'd say the average student just wears jeans and a tee shirt. Some groups at Penn definitely self-segregate. For example, there is a dorm that is predominantly African American, and I feel like that community sticks to itself. The same holds true for a lot of the Asians, South Asians, and Jewish people on campus. This is why I've avoided getting stuck in one group. In the dining hall, the four tables would be: a table of athletes, because they tend to stick together; a table of nerdy kids with textbooks out; a table of African American students; a table of random kids with seemingly nothing in common. I'd say the majority of people are from New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. California, Texas, and Florida also have a large representation.
While Penn has a widespread mix of students, the general population is pretty socially conservative (although politically the school is liberal). As a Southern Californian I have never quite felt at home at Penn. The students seem very preppy to me and had a much different high school experience than I did. The best way to explain this is: when I am with Penn students I feel like I am with my younger brother or sister. Most of the things they experience for the first time when coming to college- drinking, being away from home, going out, relationships etc.- the kids where I'm from experienced at 15. While this is not true for everyone, overall the maturity level here is a little low compared with other schools. That being said, there is a large enough population that people tend to find their place. A lot of students wear sweats to class, a college thing I will never understand. Uggs and leggings seems to be a pretty popular combo among the northerners. The rest wear jeans, various outfits...it varies. You can wear anything to class and it won't seem strange.
Because we're a relatively big school, there's enough of a cross-section of people that you won't get stuck hanging out with future investment bankers unless you want to. The douchebag stereotype is alive and well in many Wharton (business) or econ classes; psychology & sociology classes are at least 50% high-strung, high-pitched, high-income girls; the engineers tend to be as nerdy here as anywhere; and the occasional political extremist (from either side) preaches obnoxious views from any available venue. I'm not sure that anyone would be quite out of place. We had a guy who rode a unicycle around campus a few years ago... I guess that was weird.
Very diverse, but self-segregating. It sort of defeats the purpose of diversity when you see people in large groups of people who are all the same. In addition, there are many classes and departments that focus on regions of the world and cultures, but the vast majority of people who take those classes are a part of those cultures and backgrounds. It is an overwhelmingly liberal campus, but political dialogue is very civil and is encouraged by professors and the administration. I have never felt uncomfortable as a Republican at Penn, and it was a privilege to coordinate and participate in debates and seminars with my Democratic colleagues.
I came to Penn excited about the life that I would have as a gay student here. I had heard much about the gay scene and looked forward to being a part of it. I arrived and we slapped in the face by the fact that I'm black. The fact of the matter is that if you are not white, the great gay scene will not be open to you. Unless you're so attractive that others are willing to overlook your minority status, your time at Penn as a gay person of color will be characterized by frustration, loneliness and feelings of misprision toward white gay men inspired by your own indignity.
Everyone here finds a group sooner or later and will have a great time with that group, but cross-talk is much to infrequent. I've had a blast and know tons of people, but I also know just how many I have never/will never see because we run with different crowds. I encourage everyone to break out a little bit, because it makes things much more interesting. And yes, "trapped in the library day and night" is, in fact, a social group. By the end of the first round of midterms they all know each other. Backgound wise, there is a complete variance in all things.
Students here are highly diverse hailing from international and local places and being of all walks of life. No one would seem out of place. Mostly, people wear jeans and t-shirts, the usual attire, but the Wharton students might be clad in suits or business attire. The types of students are more or less divided according to the 4 schools within UPenn - College, Engineering, Nursing, and Wharton. They correlate more or less with Gryfindor, Ravenclaw, Hufflepuff, and Slytherin for those who are Potter saavy.
Most students expect to receive A's while doing the minimal amount of work and incessantly complaining about the workload. All students are concerned about following the pre-professional track and spend a great deal of time looking for internships and other activities to pad their resumes. The social scene is dominated by fraternity parties and serves as a training ground for alcoholism as most students engage in heavy amounts of drinking whenever they go out.