University of Pennsylvania

In early September, I visited the University of Pennsylvania (UPenn), a member of the Ivy League.  While the college is in a busy part of Philadelphia, the layout of the campus gives you a sense that you are away from the hustle and bustle of the city.  UPenn has about 10,000 undergrads in 4 colleges and about another 10,000 graduate students.  The university was founded by Benjamin Franklin with the idea that the university would provide a practical, diverse, well-rounded, broad-based education with a liberal arts foundation.
Academics – Undergraduate students apply to one of four colleges:

  • College of Arts and Sciences (known as “the College”) – In “the College” students have general education requirements in seven sectors of knowledge and can take two years before they pick one of the 55 available majors.
  • Engineering and Applied Sciences – The Engineering and Applied Sciences offers both a Bachelors of Engineering and a Bachelors of Applied Science.  Those pursuing the Bachelor of Applied Science have more electives.  Those pursuing a Bachelors of Engineering must pick a major after the freshman year and need to do a Senior design project.
  • Wharton School of Business – At the Wharton School, there are 20 different concentrations.  Forty percent of the classes students take are outside of the Business school.  Freshmen participate on teams of ten to solve a business problem for a company.
  • Nursing – The Nursing School takes 90 – 100 Freshmen each year.  The nursing students begin their clinical rotation in the second semester of their Sophomore year.  There are four hospitals within five blocks of UPenn.  Many nursing students pursue a Bachelors/Masters degree in five years.

Undergrads can take classes in all four undergraduate colleges.  They can double major or major/minor in multiple undergraduate colleges, and they can take classes in all the grad schools (except the Vet school).  Students have both an academic advisor and a peer advisor.  Many of the majors are interdisciplinary.  Study abroad is popular in the Junior year, the summers, and the Fall of the Senior year.  The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships helps students find research opportunities or identify funding for research they wish to do.
The average class size is 26 students.  There are large lecture classes of up to 600 students, like Intro to Chemistry, Intro to Psychology, and Intro to Political Science.  These classes also have smaller recitation sections.
Applying – Early Decision applications are due by 11/1 and students hear if they are accepted by 12/15.  The Early Decision admit rate is 24%.  Regular Decision applications are due by 1/1 and students hear if they are accepted by 4/1.  The overall admit rate is 10%.  Students apply using the Common App plus a supplement which includes a “Why UPenn?” essay.  Students need to submit the ACT with Writing or the SAT with two Subject Tests.  Two letters of recommendation from core subject teachers are required.
Since Wharton is quantitative-heavy, they expect you have taken the highest level calculus offered by your high school.  The Engineering School is looking to see you have taken high level Physics and the Nursing School is looking to see you have taken advanced Chemistry while in high school.
Financial Aid – UPenn offers need-based aid, but does not offer merit aid.  They meet 100 percent of a student’s need and determine that need from the FAFSA, CSS PROFILE and their own supplement. Their financial aid packages do not include loans.  Their Net Price Calculator does not work well for divorced parents, parents who own a business, and self-employed parents.  If you are in one of these situations, call the financial aid office to get a better early estimate of your net price. The school is need-blind for citizens and residents of North America, and need-aware for others.

What is your experience visiting or attending the University of Pennsylvania?

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