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PennCAS2014 Member

318 Points 408 Visits 358 Posts
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  • Re: Big Schools with Intimate Settings?

    @jellyjam123 If you have the grades/stats for ivy league admissions, UPenn fits your criteria well. It has about 10,000 undergrads, a student to faculty ratio of 6:1, 95% of the classes in the College of Arts and Sciences (which has about 6500-7000 of the undergrads) are taught by full faculty members, about 70% of classes have fewer than 20 students and only 10% of classes over 50 students. Very often, my English classes were just 7-12 students and a professor sitting in comfy armchairs and couches in the professor's office or at a table in Fisher Bennett Hall, discussing Milton, Virginia Woolf, Chaucer, etc.

    A few other things to note:

    Penn also does an exceptional job of making a medium sized university feel very small. The College House system turns the residential system into a community with many activities for residents and faculty members who act as Faculty Deans in each College House to act as a resources, sources of guidance, and friends.

    When you matriculate at Penn, you are given:
    1. A Peer Advisor (an upperclassmen dedicated to helping you navigate College life from a student's perspective)
    2. A Pre-Major Advisor (a faculty member from one of the departments you indicated you were interested in, who will help you navigate course selection, requirements, and everything academic)
    3. A College Office Advisor (to help you navigate everything to do with the more administrative side of the university)
    4. Then, during your sophomore or junior year you will pick a major advisor who will be added to these other resources and act as a guide through your specific fields of interest.
    So in all, you will be assigned 4 advisors to help you navigate the complexities of university life and even after you take on a major advisor, you still keep the other three advisors as well.

    In addition to formal advising, Penn has a number of programs for students who want faculty interaction and smaller communities. As one of the great research universities, Penn really encourages students to get involved in faculty research and to start their own. Thus you can ask any of your professors if you can help them out on projects they're working on or you can ask them to be your research mentor on a project of your own. Alternatively, you can use Penn's Center For Undergraduate Research and Fellowships (CURF) to be assigned to research that interests you.

    Penn also has many smaller communities on campus that exist through extracurricular activities and various "hubs" on campus like the Kelly Writers House (for those interested in creative writing and literature), The Civic House (for community service), the Cultural Houses (for students with ethnic identities that are represented in the school and their supportive friends), the Perry World House, and more! (none of these "houses" are places where you live; they're just called houses because they have physical 'houses' on campus).

    As an undergrad at Penn, I always felt as though I was in a small university even though it is unquestionably medium sized. I was able to form strong bonds with friends and faculty mentors and I always felt extremely supported. I am still in touch with faculty members who wrote me letters of recommendation and continue to be supportive of my professional/educational ambitions even though I have graduated. There are also many more opportunities and communities I didn't mention but that I'm happy to discuss if you come across them or have more specific ideas for types of communities you would like to hear about!

    If you have any questions about Penn, feel free to ask. And good luck!
  • Re: Northwestern or UPenn

    Northwestern is obviously an incredible place and if it is where you want to go, I encourage you to apply ED. However, I caution you to avoid buying into the CC belief that these schools are SO ALIKE that you should just go to the one that is most likely to accept you. Just because students at Duke, Dartmouth, and Princeton are all super intelligent, have amazing professors, and are in quiet neighborhoods doesn't mean that they're all going to make the same students equally happy. Yes, Penn and Northwestern are pre-professional. And so are Dartmouth and Harvard and Stanford. Yes, Penn and Northwestern both have multiple undergraduate schools. And so do Columbia, and Georgetown and Duke, and Vanderbilt. But I can tell you right now I wouldn't have been equally happy at all of them and they would not all have led me to where I am today, even if the other schools might have led me to other wonderful places as well.

    Having participated in a multi-month program through Northwestern, I can promise you that liking one of these schools does not mean you'll like the other. And it's not just suburbs vs city; the atmospheres within the schools are different as well. Yes, partially because of the bigger sports atmosphere at Northwestern (people actually go to NU football games, tailgate, and care if they win or lose- not everyone, but way more than at Penn. It's just not really a *thing* at Penn outside of homecoming and Penn-Princeton), partially because of the suburban nature of Northwestern, partially because of Northwestern's greater emphasis on Greek Life, but also because of the way students are dispersed at Northwestern. Northwestern pulls out certain programs like Communications, Music and Social Policy oriented work from their arts & sciences school, disciplinarily differentiating them from the liberal arts students and approach to education. And Arts & Sciences students make up only about 47% of Northwestern undergrads. Whereas, at Penn, the College of Arts and Sciences in 2016 made up 71% of the undergraduate enrollment.
    People who have never attended Penn don't actually realize that the School of Arts and Sciences and the liberal arts in general actually compose Penn's core. The College is housed in the geographic center of the campus, it enrolls far and away the most students, and students from all four undergrad programs inevitably take classes in the liberal arts & sciences offered through the College as each school's requirements overlap with departments and professors housed in the College.

    Additionally, the number of grad students and professional school students at Penn are nearly equal to the number of undergrads. Northwestern's Evanston campus, however, is majority undergrad. Some people will love not connecting with students from the law school and the med school, which aren't on the Evanston campus. For me, that would have severely detracted from my undergraduate experience as graduate and professional school students and professors ended up being mentors to me as I traveled through my undergraduate career and post grad options with an eye towards returning to get a professional/graduate degree later on.

    Northwestern undergrads don't seem to be eligible to take classes at Northwestern Law School and they can only take four Kellogg Business School courses. With Northwestern's medical and law campuses both in Chicago, away from the undergrad campus, it's also unlikely that many undergrads will be able to participate in serious research at either institution. In contrast, Penn's One University Policy and centralized campus for all its undergrad/grad/professional schools allows students to take classes, do research, meet professors, sit in on lectures, attend speaking events and more across the entire university, as well as at Penn's many other institutes on campus. I was fortunate enough to take classes in the Law School and Wharton as well as do research through the graduate school of government all without leaving Penn's campus. Students at Penn also aren't limited in the number of classes they can take in the other programs (you are limited in how many can count towards your degree but you are free to enroll in as many wharton, nursing, law, fels institute of government, etc. etc. etc. courses you want).

    Housing options are also different. Penn only has College Houses with Faculty Deans in each College house. Almost every freshman at Penn is in the Quad houses, Hill House, and Kings Court English House, making for a pretty uniform experience. In contrast, Northwestern has a majority of normal dorms that are mixed with some residential communities and then some residential colleges like those at Penn. Northwestern dorms can also be as small as 40 students and some have hundreds of students in them, making for a more diversified array of on campus housing options.

    There are also certain recruiters that will only recruit at Penn, Yale, Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton, which one should be mindful of if they want to pursue such a career. Yes, these employers are drawn to Penn over other fantastic schools because Penn has the Wharton School on campus-- there's no question about it. But Penn's One University Policy ensures that students from all four of Penn's undergrad programs have access to EXACTLY the same career services and on campus recruiting activities. Consequently, students in engineering have the same exact chance as a student in Wharton or the College to get a job with a firm that isn't even stopping by Northwestern. As a student in the College who took one of these jobs after graduation, I was a major beneficiary of this unique advantage.

    Penn's location on the east coast also makes it easy to get to New York or DC for any number of educational, social, professional, etc. activities. And its membership in the Ivy League places its students in an incomparable network of similarly excellent students and alums. The Ivy League Alumni Clubs all host ivy-only networking events for alums and Penn, Harvard, Cornell, Princeton and Yale all have actual alumni club houses within a few blocks of each other in midtown Manhattan (Columbia, Brown, and Dartmouth all colocate in the other ivy clubs as they do not have clubhouses of their own). For example, I have personally attended Penn-Princeton alumni events held on the same day as Penn and Princeton play each other in basketball. I have also gone to the Columbia-Penn football game in Manhattan with members of the Penn and Columbia Alum clubs. I have gone to a young alum wine tasting event for ivy alums. Additionally, I have not attended these but I saw them advertised in the membership emails/instagrams/websites: alums from Penn, Columbia, Harvard, Yale and MIT got together for a panel on "The Current State of #Digital #Media" and the Penn Club and the Brown Alumni Club cohosted an event for alums on shifting trends in childhood education. Access to this network has been invaluable for me as I've relied on it for professional advice and I was even assisted by a Princeton alum I met while networking as I made some tweaks to my career path not too long ago.

    Northwestern is an incredible school and one I really, reaaaally like. That being said, it is not going to provide you with the same experiences that Penn would because I'm sure Northwestern also offers a million things that Penn doesn't that I didn't list here. You need to decide for yourself how much each experience matters. And don't be fooled by the broad brush of CC painters who like to say "they're all pre-professional!" There are genuine differences even between great schools- consider them carefully.
  • Re: Northwestern or UPenn

    If you don't care about whether you're *in* a city versus being *near* a city, then both seem to satisfy your desires. As a legacy I imagine Northwestern ED would give you your best chance at acceptance.

    If you *do* want to be in a city, then Northwestern will be a very disappointing experience because Evanston is definitively suburban and at least 20 minutes from downtown Chicago (that doesn't seem like a lot of time until you have a ton of reading on a Tuesday night but you really want to swing by your favorite banh mi place for dinner before going to the library and you can't because heading into the city isn't realistic or an intelligent way to spend your time).

    And it could also depend on what you want to study. Penn doesn't have an undergraduate school of music, just a music major. Northwestern's law school isn't on campus so you won't be able to take classes there/do research with the same ease you would at Penn (i'm not sure if Northwestern allows you to take classes in their grad schools at all, but Penn does thanks to the One University Policy). Some departments like the English Department at Penn are full of the best faculty members in the field and the quality of the research you might participate in and the quality/breadth of classes offered might be better in those departments.

    Sports culture is going to be different. Northwestern is not going to be Ohio State but sports are way more popular at Northwestern than at the ivies. They have a real football team and a real marching band and they really play in a competitive league. Penn students rarely know when there's a football game and they really only show up for the Penn-Princeton games in basketball and football.

    Finally, Northwestern is more fraterinty/sorority focused. About 40% of Northwestern students are in Fraternities/Sororities (http://www.northwestern.edu/fsl/). In contrast about 25-30% of Penn students join greek life. Additionally because Northwestern is in a suburb, greek life has a more central social role for partying as compared to Penn which is in a city and partying is more evenly distributed between bars, greek houses, cultural events in philly, etc etc.

    Good luck. Feel free to reach out about any questions you might have about Penn or how I chose Penn over other schools (in the RD round). :)
  • Re: UPenn Versus Claremont McKenna College for a government-oriented kid

    @Raemi11 Nope, I wouldn't say that Wharton dominates the campus by any means. If anything, the College is the most obvious presence on campus because it houses about half of all undergrad students and every person at Penn will end up interacting with the College at some point (whether they realize it or not! For example, several science and math classes in the engineering requirements are actually housed in the College or taught by College faculty, along with the language classes that Wharton students take, etc.). In terms of campus leadership, you'll find that CAS students tend to make up the majority of club memberships and many leadership positions, again because of CAS's larger representation in the school. All of Penn's schools are doing tons of research and getting a ton of press for it as well-- especially the Med School. Of course Wharton has the best name recognition among the laypeople and outside of the Northeast - that's certainly no secret. But the campus experience is characterized by cohesive interaction among students from all four schools. I'm not exaggerating when I say that within a month of coming to campus, you'll all feel more like Penn students than CAS or Wharton students. I lived with, ate with, partied with, studied with, took classes with, exercised with, etc. etc. students from across Penn's four undergrad schools. You see each other so often and in so many different contexts that any preconceived notions about what "types" of people go to which undergrad school melt away very, very quickly. The idea that "wharton dominates" is just a misconception.

    It is true that a lot of students end up going into Ibanking and Finance. But that's true across the ivies. Several years ago, the Ivy's quintessential liberal arts college, Dartmouth, had 4 valedictorians and all of them took jobs in banking/finance. It's a very popular career for high achieving students from the most elite colleges because they're the low hanging fruit: most people who want them can get them and the employers come right to campus and recruit us so it makes it easy for us to get prestigious careers. That being said, there are tons of resources to help students who do not want to go into those fields at all. The reality, however, is that other industries don't recruit the same way and so some of the most coveted jobs in politics, for example, will require you to pursue a different, less obvious path to attain them (but that would be true anywhere, not just at Penn). Penn DEFINITELY has the resources to help you get those jobs though. From my graduating class alone I know at least a handful of people who currently work on the Hill, several in the White House, and several in executive departments (like state, treasury, DOD, DHS, etc). I can't think of anyone with whom I graduated that went to work for a think tank but I looked at the alum directory and I see people from my class at the Brookings Institution and at AEI. I don't know them personally but they are around!

    As for law school admissions, I cannot think of a better school for undergrad. Here's the link to the Penn Pre Law statistics website: https://www.vpul.upenn.edu/careerservices/20152016lawstats -- as you can see the top 5 schools at which Penn undergrads matriculated for Law School last year were Penn, NYU, Harvard, Columbia, and Stanford. If law school is the goal, I can personally assure you that Penn will do wonders in connecting you to that goal.

    And yes, you can definitely run for office one day. Penn alums have been in politics since the country was created! But voters care very little where you went to college to be honest. People say voters don't like ivy league grads but the last 5 Presidents have all been ivy grads and of the opposing candidates, 4 were ivy grads. Penn has had alums become president, governors, mayors, congresspeople, state attorneys general, and many other elected positions all within the last 10 years (adding to its long history of political alums). In addition to all of the elected officials, Penn alums have gone on to appointed positions as well and behind the scenes jobs at places like the SEC and in campaigns and more.

    Yes, people do take internships over the school term. I know a person who worked in the Philadelphia DA's office during the school year. Another friend did the Penn In Washington Semester where you take classes and have an internship. (She's currently pursuing graduate work at Harvard and intends to run for office one day). Don't forget the Factcheck.org is actually a Penn creation and you can likely become involved with that as well (among the many other politically oriented institutes and organizations on campus that might allow you to intern with them). And while I'm name dropping, Mary Frances Berry, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell, John DiIulio, and Vice President Joe Biden are all professors at Penn (though Biden's role as a professor has not been fully fleshed out yet). Being able to interact with these political figures, learn from them, and potentially cultivate relationships with them while on campus will be meaningful experiences as well (disclaimer: you are unlikely to cultivate a relationship with Vice President Joe Biden as he is very busy ;) but the rest are there!).

    And now feels like a good time to bring up Penn's Program on Opinion Research and Election Studies:
    "As a part of a collaboration with the NBC, PORES staff and a select undergraduate students will be staffing the NBC Decision Desk the nights of the primaries. They’ll be working alongside analysts who will write the results of the exit polls for broadcast journalists and Web writers connected to NBC News and MSNBC."

    At the end of the day, if you're main concern is running for office then your major concern should be about building the best possible network you can. College degrees don't win elections, but ivy league networks certainly influence them and fund them. Going to Penn grants you membership to an exclusive club with a disproportionate affect on local, national, and international politics. It won't make you into the type of person who can get elected but it will put at your fingertips all of the resources necessary to start working towards your goals in ways that other universities simply can't. Finally, this is all especially true along the Northeast Corridor. If your political ambitions will intersect with that region at all, be sure to keep in mind the benefits of building your network close to there.

    I hope you enjoy your visit to Penn! Let me know how it goes!!
  • Re: UPenn Versus Claremont McKenna College for a government-oriented kid

    That's true- doing ED that way would give you the best shot at getting into either-- but that's only useful if you think you would be equally happy at each.

    I personally received a lot of hand holding from career services but I also sought it out. I think this is true across the board at Penn: there are more resources than you could possibly take advantage of but if you never seek them out then they won't be of much use to you. So if you want to benefit you have to be the one to set up appointments with career services and you have to come with questions so they can help guide you. I don't know how it is at CMC but at Penn there is definitely the expectation that you are going to take the lead in deciding what you want and Career Services will help you outline the path to achieve your goals. So for example, I spoke with the head of the Penn in Washington program before applying to my internships so that she could assist me in tailoring my applications to the specific branches, offices, executive departments (state, homeland security, treasury, etc., think tanks, and more,) that interested me. But I never would have received that advice had I not taken the time to consider my goals and bring my questions to the resources I knew would provide me with advice. I did the same when it came time to find a job and I wanted to translate my humanities majors into a more business oriented position. Career Services was INVALUABLE in helping me craft my narrative for interviews and in helping me to identify the marketable skills my majors had given me.

    And once you've graduated, career services is STILL a resource to you. I remained in contact with them after graduation and they have helped me in my career and most recently they helped me as I applied to and eventually chose a graduate program. They revised my personal statements for professional school and helped me perfect my resume. They helped me brainstorm topic ideas for the personal statement as well. For me, they were very hands on. For a student that chose not to reach out and ask for help, perhaps they wouldn't feel the same way.

    Also just on the topic of advising at Penn--- The College is genuinely a LAC within a large research university. From the moment you accept a seat at Penn you are assigned a Peer Advisor, a Pre-Major Advisor (a faculty member selected from the departments you're most interested in or, if you're undecided, from a department at random), and a College Office Advisor (someone to help you navigate any challenges within the university. So for example, my sophomore year I had a health problem and my College Office Advisor coordinated with my professors and student health services to ensure that I was able to miss class while still having access to notes and recorded lectures, allowing me to stay enrolled for the semester even while missing a month of class). Once you're a sophomore or junior, you will choose a major and you will also be assigned (or you will choose) a major advisor. So by the time you are a sophomore or junior you will have 4 officially assigned advisors to help you navigate everything from social life at Penn to your major requirements and career goals. In addition to those advisors who are assigned to you, there are MANY opportunities to find informal advisors that you can identify through taking classes with a professor you like, finding a research mentor through the Center For Undergraduate Research and Fellowships, or participating in one of Penn's many centers and programs like the Kelly Writers House or the Penn Center for International Politics. Needless to say, you'll have advisors for everything and your responsibility is to reach out to them and use them as resources when you need them!

    Hope that helps as well :)