Best thing about Penn - the people. A very interesting and diverse crowd. There's a niche here for everybody. One thing I'd change - David Rittenhouse Labs. It's a miserable building. School size - I like it. It's big enough that there are lots of different types of people but not so big as to be monstrous. How do people react when I tell them I go to Penn? - Yes, many people do think I go to Penn State... Where do I spend most of my time on campus? - At home or in academic buildings. College town - it'd be more correct to say that Penn is a Philadelphia university than to say that Philadelphia is a college town. Opinion of the administration - some things they do well (capital campaigning, security) and some things they don't (speeches, managing conferences). What was the biggest recent controversy on campus? - There was a humor magazine that printed an issue perceived in some quarters as racist. School pride - Not a particularly large amount. There's some. Unusual about Penn - We're pretty vocational for an Ivy League school. Corporate recruiting in Wharton is a very intense experience. The school's most famous strengths overall are in somewhat vocational areas: journalism/communications, business, medicine (including veterinary medicine) and nursing, &c. Also remarkable is the number of donated items named after classes, e.g. the Class of 1920 Commons dining hall. The impression I get is that our alumni haven't historically been rich as individuals necessarily, but that as a community they gave back a lot to the school. One experience I'll always remember - Freshman retreat at Newman. We went on a service trip to an AIDS home in Philly, where I saw one poor invalid whose room was festooned with photographs from his former life. He'd been a highly-trained chef and the photographs showed him in bright white standing in gleaming kitchens at the head of teams of cooks. He'd been on a trip to Africa when a botched blood transfusion infected him. If something like that could happen to him - and he'd been the kind of guy who did his homework, who generally got on in life - it could happen to...anyone. Including me. Most frequent student complaints - Locust Walk is flat. Ergo it does not drain. Also, the high rise dorms are arranged so as to create a vicious wind tunnel.
The University of Pennsylvania is a fantastic place to spend four years. It has a great location--Philadelphia, a thriving city with great resources--and attracts an amazing student body from all over the world. Most of the students have at least one passion that drives their achievements, and most cherish an almost insane amount of involvement on campus. Penn is a place where you can meet lifelong friends and colleagues from a variety of fields, and a place where you work hard AND play hard. The undergraduate part of the college is about 10,000 strong, which can seem a bit intimidating but is very manageable. It is not so small that you know everyone within a few months, nor big enough that you never see anyone you know by accident. The campus itself is a mixture of styles, but is overall very beautiful and united despite its urban location. The layout is fairly compact while retaining some New England and historical charm. Most Penn students are extremely proud to be a part of their school, but a big complaint is a constant need to differentiate between the University of Pennsylvania and Penn State University in State College, PA. Many people (especially older ones who do not have teenaged children) are apt to mix the two up which can be slightly demeaning if you are proud of your academics achievements (though maybe not your athletic ones). You won't find as much UPenn gear in the country as Penn State, but school spirit can still be strong. If you are looking for a Big-10 athletic spirit hub, this isn't a good choice, but events like the Homecoming or Princeton games will bring out some war paint and Penn pride on campus. Philadelphia is a city more than a "college town," but it is home to quite a few universities (like Temple, University of the Sciences, St. Joe's, Drexel, etc) and does cater to them somewhat. Penn is located in West Philadelphia's University City neighborhood, which has the standard group of late night eateries and a good selection of other stores. The heart of Philadelphia is a 10-minute train ride away using public transport, allowing Penn students the full cultural, gastronomic, and historical benefits of living in the city. Philadelphia will not shut down during school holidays so there is always plenty to do, especially if you are inclined to eating out.
we don't really call it "UPenn". Most people just say "Penn" the best thing about Penn is the location of the campus. When you walk down Locust Walk, you feel like you're part of a true college environment. The location is wonderful - you have access to a large city, yet the convenience of one unified campus; you have the opportunity to take classes in historic buildings, yet you can also take hands-on classes in the West Philadelphia community. I would change the weather. I hate slush. Also known as "wintry mix" (that awful wet snow that makes the streets brown and gross) I would also add more green space. Fortunately, though, we have close access to the Skuykill River park and Penn is adding a big park in the years to come. My school is just the right size. Large enough that I'm still meeting new people every day, but small enough that I run into people I know every time I enter a class or step outside. I spend most of my time in the Van Pelt library or in my apartment (Harrison high rise). Not a college town, but a college neighborhood within a big city. People's reaction to "I go to Penn"?: people everywhere - "Oh, Penn State?" people everywhere -"Where's that?" people from the south - "Why'd you go to school all the way in Pennsylvania?" (I'm from Georgia) people from philly- "Woahh...UPenn! (said in a way indicating that I'm probably stuck-up and elitist) I'm kind of scared of the administration. I want to know what they do with our ridiculous endowment. And I think they waste too much money on catering and tents for parties. The biggest controversy was last Halloween when Amy Gutmann hosted a halloween costume party and a kid came dressed as a terrorist and Amy Gutmann posed in a picture with him. But that got blown out of proportion. There is a decent amount of school pride. Or at least a strong desire to brand our school's name so that people know we aren't a public school, but rather an Ivy League institution. But we're pretty apathetic about athletics. I will always remember New Student Orientation (NSO) and Spring Fling. Most common complaints are about the dining hall food. But I think that most of the moaning is from whiny brats who think a normal meal is take-out from Stephen Starr restaurants.
The best thing about Penn is its social scene - we have a great mixture of scenes and there's something for everyone. You can go downtown into downtown Philadelphia and party at a club, go to one of the many campus bars, or head to a frat party. Also there's always something going on, regardless of what day of the week it is. When I tell people I go to Penn, what they say really depends. The average person will immediately say, "Oh, Penn State?" or just assume that it's Penn State and ask me something about our football team. However, most people who "matter" (i.e. people who you want to know about Penn such as employers and what not) are always impressed, especially if you're in Wharton. I spend most of time either at the one or two frats in which I know the most guys or at one of two campus bars, Blarney and Smokes (when I go out). University City (aka West Philadelphia, where Penn is) is a great balance of college town/not college town. We have the city right there, within walking distance when it's nice out (or a 5 dollar cab ride when it's not!) so we can do that. But at the same time, Penn has a distinct campus and everyone living in this area is for the most part affiliated with the University. It's great to have bars to go to where everyone is in college. I think the administration of Penn is fine, but they're a little bureaucratic - but then again, what administration isn't? Change tends to take a long time around here, even if it seems it's something that should obviously be done. The biggest recent controversy is the departure of our Dean of Admissions, Lee Stetson. No one was told why he left - it's this giant secret - but everyone kind of assumes it was for something illegal, like sexual harassment or something. it's making the school look really bad because they're doing this giant cover up. I don't think Penn has that much school pride. As far as sports go, there are certain groups of people who get into it, and I definitely like going to football and basketball games(no one cares about any other sport). We have traditions that we do at each game, and Penn itself has some great traditions (i.e. Spring Fling, Hey Day, Senior Week, etc), but in general people are sort of apathetic about school spirit.
I love my school. Going to Penn is actually one of the best decisions I have ever made. Everyone is smart. Plain and simple. But not only are they smart, they're hard-working and actually doing exciting things. I just completed sophomore year. My friends and I are already making amazing things happen. This summer, I am going to study and travel in Argentina and Chile. I have friends that are working on cancer research, managing housing services on campus, travelling to France, working in bio labs, starting their first businesses, and working for nonprofit organizations. They're amazing. One of the most fun parts of going to school there is discovering the things people either have done or are planning to do. It's not about how smart they sound when they talk to you on the way to class... We talk about parties and movies and books like everyone else. It's about realizing that your friend is the Girls State Chess Champ or won national titles playing tennis. The people at Penn are amazing. That being said... if you're looking for constant recognition from others outside of the Ivy League you won't necessarily find it going to Penn. Very few people actually know what (or where) the school is. They all just say "Oh, that's nice." No one is going to gasp or "ooohhhhh" and "aaahhhh" like they will if you tell them you're going to Harvard. If that's the sort of thing you're looking for, you should look elsewhere. Among scholars and those who went to Ivy Leagues, it is well known. That's always a running joke with students. Everyone will think you go to Penn State.
Beautiful, cohesive campus in the middle of big city. People worry that the amount of people at Penn inherently means that the student body is fragmented, but in reality the number of people does not detract from the campus' unity. Locust walk is where most students spend their time: either walking between classes, sitting at a table or on the green eating lunch, or flyering for their club. The college town is amazing. Each day you have the choice of enjoying activities on-campus at university city or off-campus in the city of Philadelphia. Everyone loves Penn's administration, ask anyone on Locust how they feel about Amy Guttman and you'll understand. She hosts an unforgettable halloween party every year. The biggest recent controversy was last year when a person dressed as a suicide bomber for halloween party wanted to take a picture with his "gun" at Guttman's head. There is a lot of school pride! Everyone camps out for season tickets to the basketball games and makes toast to throw on the field at football games. I will always remember when I was at Penn for accepted student days, one of the guys flyering for a party invited my mom. If that isn't exemplary of the student body, I don't know what is. We love to have fun.
The first thing to understand about Penn is that its in Philadelphia- WEST Philadelphia. While Philadelphia has a lot to offer as a city, West Philadelphia has never felt like the nicest nor safest area to live in, despite Penn's efforts to increase public safety. It is also separated from center city Philadelphia by a river, so a lot of students tend to stay near campus. The neighborhood and its separation from the city action are probably the biggest downsides of Penn (tied with the fact that most of the kids here are pretty sheltered and freshman year think that drinking themselves into a stupor constitutes "fun")... The good news is that the school is a perfect size and the campus is nice. There is a central walk so you often run into people you know on the way to class, and never feel lost in the crowd. There is a pretty good amount of internal school pride, but unfortunately a lot of people outside the Penn community seem to have never heard of Penn. We have t-shirts that say "Not Penn State" for this exact reason. If I could change anything at Penn I would change this. It has proven to be a setback when applying for jobs to be lumped in with all the other state school applicants.
The best thing about Penn is the opportunity to do just about everything. My activities range from costume designing for musicals to singing light opera to the sport of curling to being a big sister for a student in West Philly. Being in the city provides a great outlet for many of the classes and extra curriculars - there are classes about the art, music, and architecture just to start. But there is enough going on on campus that you needn't go into center Philly if you don't want to. Penn is an Ivy, and a good one at that, so the work load is consistantly heavy. But, as evidenced from how involved everyone is, work rarely gets too overwhelming. And activity groups know that school wrok comes first, exxpecially during Mid-terms and Finals. One of the things I love most about Penn is the sense of community. The dorms have a lot of programming to get the Halls together and involved. Also, each activity gets you involved in a community. It's really easy to make really strong friendships this way.
I love love love Penn! I love seeing friends on Locust Walk. I love the English Department classes and Professors. I like that everyone here has different passions that they follow. Even though Penn is technically large, it definitely doesn't feel it - I run into people I know all the time! The things I would change would be the housing options - I don't like that people move off-campus as sophomores. I love that we have the city so close to campus - I have an internship downtown, and walk downtown when I need a change of pace. The only thing I would complain about the student body is that everyone works very very hard, which creates a lot of pressure. You can guarantee that come finals time you'll see everyone you know in the library. People are also intense in their extracurricular responsibilities. Basically, everyone has a type A personality.
Overall, I find my school to be a great environment for college students. The University of Pennsylvania academically is one of the best schools in the world, but unlike its Ivy League counterparts it has and is known for its strong social culture. This makes for the work hard, play hard attitude that so many of its students have. Many top tier schools have strong perceptions as being overly stressful and too work oriented. At Penn, we pride ourselves on having a strong work-life or school-fun balance. Also, the location is great as well. Penn is located in Philadelphia, but the school has its own campus, which many colleges in cities do not. So, if you are looking for the city life, you can walk just a few blocks off campus and be in the heart of Philly. But, if you prefer a traditional campus and college community, Penn offers that as well.