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Penn is known for being extremely pre-professional, interdisciplinary, and social (It's nickname is the Social Ivy, after all). It's also known for being urban. At the undergrad level, it's one of the top 10 universities in the US and so anything you study there will be top notch. Academically, at the undergraduate level, it is best known for the Wharton School; Economics, US History and Literature among its other humanities/social science offerings; it's nursing school (usually ranked #1); and increasingly, it's engineering school as well. It has a student to faculty ratio of 6:1 and nearly an equal number of undergraduate and graduate students on campus which ensures that undergrads don't get lost in the mix. 95% of classes in the College are taught by full faculty members and nearly 80% of classes have 25 students or fewer.
Those aren't unfair characterizations or unimportant statistics by any means- though your experience at Penn will depend mostly on what you choose to do there. It can be more or less pre-professional depending on if you are in Nursing or the College, for example, as Penn Nurses are specifically prepared to enter the nursing profession and students in the College have a traditional liberal arts education (though each have access to the other's resources and classes via the One University Policy). It can be more or less interdisciplinary depending on if you limit the number of ways you engage with Penn's One University Policy and the different intra-school interdisciplinary offerings. You can be more or less social for sure-- that is easily calibrated to your own personal preferences. And realistically you can limit your engagement with Philly if you want but that would be a shame because Philly is an incredible place to spend four years (or more!).
My best suggestion is to visit. All of the ivies are great but stereotypes can only take you so far. Growing up, few people thought I would be the kind of person to fall in love with Penn (or any university in a city) and they were extremely wrong. I happily chose Penn over a bunch of other incredible universities and haven't looked back since!
I'm happy to answer any questions you might have about Penn that extend beyond its reputation if you're interested in what the actual student experience is like! Good luck with the college process :)
All of the Ivies are LGBT friendly. Yale, Penn, Brown and Columbia are notoriously LGBT friendly. Penn's LGBT community is especially well supported by the Penn administration as well. Penn was a very early adopter of gender neutral housing options for first years as well as upperclass students (I'm not sure that all ivies have this for first years yet- you'll have to check) and it had the most expansive LGBT inclusive healthcare coverage in the ivy league (though all of the other ivies now have the same or very similar coverage plans I believe). Additionally, Penn's LGBT center is in the heart of campus in a two story, beautifully renovated 1870s Carriage House. Most other (if not all?) Ivies have centers that share space in campus buildings dedicated to other uses, but none are as robust as Penn's LGBT center. But beyond administrative support, you'll find that LGBT students thrive at every Ivy and they participate in an annual event called IvyQ where the students of the eight ivy LGBT communities get together to discuss life as an LGBT person at their respective institutions (and to meet for the social benefits too... :) )
@Cue7 thank you for noticing it's "ivy" smarminess and not just regular smarminess-- i was feeling insecure until you acknowledged it. :)
Also, still waiting on proof that there is a "much higher" percentage of those students at Harvard than Penn. You showed me a link that demonstrated 5.5% of Harvard students had a different national scholar designation than Penn students and that .04% of Harvard students within the last 16 years were demonstrably better at math than Penn students... But much higher? meh... still feeling weird
And I encourage you to look at all of my posts! I am the first person to admit that when choosing between top colleges, fit is what matters! What sets Penn and Harvard apart is not just the top 1% of their students-- it's the fact you are mingling with a combination of the most brilliant minds and the most well connected and richest families in the world, all on 2 of the most well resourced campuses in the history of the universe (as far as we know). When is the last time Emory students were invited to the ivy-only networking event at the Princeton Club? When is the last time that all (not most, all) of the absolutely most elite banking/consulting firms recruited off of Emory's campus? When is the last time that Emory students were able to take classes at a top 10 law school and do research with the most published business faculty in the world all while majoring in English in a department that is consistently considered one of the top 5 english lit departments in the country? When is the last time that Emory students got to do research at a university that receives the second most in funding from the NIH? When is the last time an emory student was able to pursue a dual degree in business and international relations from the best/first undergrad business school in the country and a college at which the former Vice President of the United States is a professor leading a center dedicated to global affairs? These are real institutional differences that can affect every student on campus, not just the extra 5.5% of national merit scholars. Is the average Emory student dumber than the average Penn student? honestly i don't know because, as you know, i live in my ivy-only bubble and I can't see people who didn't go to an ivy undergrad. But if I COULD see an emory student I bet they'd be smart as a whip... also note, i didn't say 'interchangeable' -- i said intellectually identical. Please, PLEASE never exchange the student bodies at Penn and Harvard. I don't think Harvard kids can or should drink that much!! It might damage their genius brains :'(
Oh good, a thread mostly full of people who never attended Penn as an undergrad commenting on what they think of the undergraduate experience at Penn... That will surely add great value to prospective students trying to consider whether or not to go to Penn and its peers... 8-|
When i was considering whether or not to matriculate at Penn i was happily and primarily choosing between Penn, Yale, and Columbia. I considered Northwestern (and actually spent the better part of 5 months there during high school) but ultimately it was too dissimilar from the other three because it's suburban location and participation in the Big 10. To compare evanston to west philadelphia/NYC/New Haven is one of the most absurd things I've ever seen. Evanston is not urban and by any city dweller's standards, it's not even 'near' Chicago-- which is to say that it's in a rich, primarily white suburb of Chicago. West Philly, on the other hand, is a vibrant and integral component of the city's fabric. Let's not compare taking public transportation/a shuttle to Chicago every once in a while with living in America's 5th largest city every day of your life. And being in the big 10 gives northwestern a very different vibe. Granted, Northwestern is NOT michigan or Ohio State. But the Penn Quakers would literally break their vow against violence to get a turnout to their football games that looked ANYTHING like what happens at Northwestern. Yes, northwestern has a school of journalism and a certificate in business or whatever-- so what? Georgetown actually has almost the exact same schools as Penn (nursing, college, business and then Gtown has SFS) and it's actually IN a city (well.. it's basically in a city)-- there's much more fertile ground for cultural comparisons there. But Penn just isn't like schools that aren't embedded in America's Acela Corridor-- the geography is just too powerful an influence on how students interact and what they do with their free time. It even influences the way they see their campuses and educations in the context of the world outside.
On the other hand, culturally Penn was most similar to Columbia in the ways that mattered to me. Both were products of the cities that housed them and they both had gorgeous urban campuses. Columbia/Barnard has 11,286 full time undergrad students and Penn has 10,468 full time undergraduate students making them near twins in size (you can't discount Barnard students when considering campus culture since they are a prominent part of Columbia's culture. They take classes at, join clubs at, and use Columbia's resources and Columbia students do the same at Barnard). Both schools were exceptionally pre-professional (a disproportionate number of grads go into finance, consulting, engineering and professional school at both) but centered around two of the most robust liberal arts colleges in higher education. The students were smart and social but not nerdy in that ~Princeton~ way. They were acutely aware that their educations were in the context of a world that preexisted the creation of their institutions and that had profound affects beyond the boundaries of their campuses on a map. Both schools had a proud tradition of being home to some of the absolute best and historically significant professional schools in the world (Wharton, Columbia Law, Penn Med, SIPA) and each school was clearly influenced by the strength of those grad schools in genuinely enriching ways. Yet both had undergraduate student bodies that remained central foci of the universities as wholes. Both student bodies felt like they were full of self-starters and go-getters. There was just an energy and enthusiasm that permeated their bustling, pre-professional, urban campuses full of rock-star students with ambition and an eye for what was happening in the real world as much as for what was happening in the classroom.
Ultimately I felt Penn was a better fit for me because while it shared those cultural and structural commonalities with Columbia, it had more of the campus oriented feel and community oriented atmosphere that I associate more with Yale. I felt like Penn was the perfect balance between Columbia and Yale and increasingly I'm surprised by how right I was!
Also lol @ the people talking about the special geniuses gracing the halls of Harvard and Stanford and "maybe Yale and Princeton." Y'all are talking about 17-22 year olds with basically identical SAT scores, GPAs, and high school accomplishments... Sure Harvard has its zuckerbergs and Penn has its Elon Musks... but the vast majority of kids at these schools (yup, all of 'em) are intellectually identical. It's their attitudes, personalities and ambitions that set them apart.
Seems like this thread is conflating "having to" extol a university's virtues and 'wanting to.' I know Penn's reputation precedes it. It's one of only a handful of the most famous and well regarded universities in the world providing an undergraduate education that is second to none. I don't 'have' to write long posts about it; I just *want* to talk about it because I love it. Every school should have alums so passionate.