University of Pennsylvania

Philadelphia, PA

Overall Rating

133 Ratings
716 Questions Answered

Mark's review of University of Pennsylvania


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The new Civic Scholars and Engineering Scholars programs are making a splash on campus, exemplifying Penn’s active dedication to integrating community engagement with academics. Campus security was recently rated number six in Security Magazine’s Security 500, the top 500 security executives and their organizations. Of all educational institutions, Penn ranked first by far. While crime in Philadelphia is high, the Penn community can easily avoid any potential danger by using common sense. Penn provides free walking and driving escort services with a simple call, lighting virtually everywhere, emergency calling booths at every block, and a team of security so that you will spot someone in a fluorescent yellow vest at every corner. Dining is excellent, especially for vegetarians. As a vegetarian, I find more options than one who can’t have a meal without meat. Especially recently, the dining company, Aramark, has made an increased effort to change up the menu every day, with great success. Hillel, the Jewish center and best kept secret, has arguably the best on campus food. The slew of off-campus is so enormous that I still haven’t been to many restaurants a couple blocks away. Best things: The central location, the “One University” policy, Academically Based Community Service Courses, excellent financial aid (especially with the new policy to begin implementation in Fall 2008), the dynamic and rich history of Philadelphia, the cultural aspect of Philly, amazing professors, interdisciplinary and integrative learning, a rapidly growing vision and endowment thanks to a charismatic and dedicated president.

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Is the stereotype of students at your school accurate?

(the above are true)

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What are the academics like at your school?

With so many different paths of study to choose from, the peer competition widely varies. The Wharton School, beginning with the required Management 100 for Freshmen, is especially cutthroat. Many large introductory courses (notoriously Math and Economics) are also viciously curved. However, you can easily choose to sit back and observe your peers claw their way up to the top while you take one of the countless classes that foster discussion-based learning. At a research university as well-endowed as Penn, you can shape your own education to be whatever you want it to be. In the College of Arts & Sciences, the general requirements are, well, general—you have plenty options across various departments available to fulfill a requirement so that you never have to take math to fulfill the “math” requirement. If you want to be taught by full-time professors, you will be. If you want to be taught by a world-renowned professor, you will be, even in your freshmen year. Especially with the recent advent of the Freshmen Seminars, top faculty often teach freshmen in their areas of specialty. I took five classes my first semester as a freshmen, and the largest class I had was 16 students.

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What are the most popular student activities/groups?

The social life in Philadelphia is great. There are plenty of parties, performances, etc. on campus, and even more a short bus ride away. Philadelphia is incredibly central to many places such as New York and Washington DC, making weekend trips there very common. With 10,000 undergraduates, political activism is definitely present and active, but usually within a small percentage of those undergraduates. Like most campuses, there are significant numbers of liberals and conservatives; however, unlike most campuses, people everywhere on the political spectrum are respected for their opinion.

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What is the stereotype of students at your school?

People want to be here. There are very few students who still can’t get over the fact that they were rejected at their number one school; instead, the vast majority of people chose Penn as their number one. Furthermore, the people who had Penn as their first choice are/were incredibly in love with the school, as opposed to having Penn at the top of their list for non-substantive reasons. While many people tend to think of Wharton as the best thing Penn has to offer academically, that thought couldn’t be more wrong. Penn’s nursing, anthropology, English, psychology, and urban studies are top in the nation as well, though the pre-professional atmosphere can often cloud other non-professional areas of study.

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