Campus Visit Debriefing: University of Pennsylvania

On my way home from IECA Summer Training Institute, I wrapped up my trip in Philadelphia.  I visited the University of Pennsylvania on Saturday, August 1.

University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Fun fact: Charles Addams, whose mind created the characters of The Addams Family, attended the University of Pennsylvania for a few years in the early 1930s.  The rumor mill at Penn claims that he based the Addams Family's house on College Hall.  Apparently, Addams denies this idea.  Judge for yourself!

Ease of application: Penn uses the Common Application plus a writing supplement.  It's an early decision school (deadline November 1) with no option for early action: if you apply early, you better know it's right!  The regular decision deadline is January 5.  While the University does want standardized test scores, it doesn't require the writing portions.  Certain programs do require SAT Subject Tests, so research the requirements for your specific school or program.  You do apply to a school within the University.  The admissions committee is looking for students who will fit well with Penn's combination of specialized/practical education and liberal arts.  There are many opportunities to work among the schools or to have interdisciplinary majors.  The University is also working toward 100% of applicants completing interviews.  It's not quite a requirement yet, but don't be surprised if it's one in the near future.

Overall impression: 

Penn is the first Ivy League school that I have visited. So, going into my visit, I had high expectations. I was primarily interested in how the University of Pennsylvania stands out from its peers: what makes Penn, Penn. I was sorely disappointed in the admissions information session which was delivered to a room of several hundred people by an admissions officer who seemed a little nervous perhaps and not very animated. I didn't really get a very good sense of the unique identity of Penn from him. I left the admissions session rather disappointed.

But then came my tour!  Thanks for a solid tour, Tim! He articulated very well the vision that Benjamin Franklin had for the University of Pennsylvania and the central idea of the four schools working together under one university umbrella. Although we were unable to go inside any buildings because it was a summer Saturday, I still got a sense of the closeness of the Penn community. While located in Philadelphia, the campus is not in Center City; it has a neighborhood feel to it. I particularly like that all of the engineering buildings are connected by underground tunnels. As one who is not a fan of the snow, I can imagine these being a great feature in Philadelphia winters.

Speaking of engineering, this school stood out to me the most.  There are two degrees students can earn from the engineering school: a BS in Engineering degree or a Bachelor of Applied Science degree.  The latter is more generalized for students who aren't ready to commit to a particular field of engineering.  Penn also has a higher-than-average percentage of women engineers, and there are resources specifically for these students. Each engineering student completes a senior design project.  And, finally, this university is the birthplace of ENIAC!

Penn seems to have great school spirit and fun traditions.  Don't forget to bring your toast to the football games!  If you're not sure what that means, go visit the University of Pennsylvania to find out.