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The University of Pennsylvania

How this student rated the school
Educational QualityA+ Faculty AccessibilityA
Useful SchoolworkA- Excess CompetitionB-
Academic SuccessA- Creativity/ InnovationA
Individual ValueB University Resource UseA-
Campus Aesthetics/ BeautyA+ FriendlinessA
Campus MaintenanceB+ Social LifeB+
Surrounding CityA+ Extra CurricularsA-
Describes the student body as:
Arrogant, Snooty

Describes the faculty as:
Friendly, Helpful

Super Brilliant
Lowest Rating
Excess Competition
Highest Rating
Educational Quality
He cares more about Excess Competition than the average student.
Date: Jul 04 2015
Major: Physics (This Major's Salary over time)
I'm Chinese, but I've been in the US through all of grade school. I have some (mixed) thoughts to share about this place.

I've found that there are a lot of really dumb people here who got in not because of their true value as human beings or their worth as students, but as a result of where they grew up, their wealth, their ethnicity, and other bits of information which should have been compensated for more or for less by the admissions committee. It's my belief that college for most students is about improving yourself, whether it's academically or socially. However, what happens when the university admits a lot of students who are too self-absorbed yet too wealthy to fail is the disaster that is the student body.

There are some extremely bright students in all four undergraduate schools, yet many of them are content to waste their talents and their parents' money drinking alcohol and partying on weekdays. This causes me great personal offense since I come from a middle-class family in which such frivolity is wasteful, and I know many deserving people who would have made better use of the opportunities available here. A night doesn't pass without some student getting "MERTed", rescued by the volunteer student organization of EMTs from whatever idiocies they've committed. For reference, being MERTed costs around $1000 just for the ambulance ride. That cost is probably not covered since it's the student's own fault for making such poor choices.

Even so, many students don't bat an eye at such a bill, as they come from upper-class families or are rich internationals. There is a sizable portion of the student population which is truly unaware of how advantaged they are compared to the average American. 50% of students apply for financial aid, while 44% or so get it. That means Penn feels that 56% of the student population is perfectly capable of footing a cost of attendance that is 1.3 times the median US household income every year. The 6% of students (i.e. 600 undergraduates) who apply for financial aid and don't receive it are either being bled dry by the university or are utterly unaware of how much their families make.

As for the competition here, it's a joke compared to what there was in public high school. However, that's because my high school was 88% white, where most students' parents are white collar professionals. That being said, people can be very nasty when it comes to grades and curves. There is some amount of cheating, i.e. copying of homework, but overall nothing too serious. If a student deserves to fail a class, she will fail 99.9% of the time. DO NOT CHEAT. I know people in my engineering classes who have gotten instant fails because of cheating. Apparently, you also get a permanent mark on your transcript, making you utterly unhirable and ensuring you will never go to graduate school. If you cheat more after the first time, you might be expelled.

If you come here looking for intelligent yet kind friends, you will find them if you look hard enough. However, you'll also meet tens of arrogant, cutthroat students for every friend you find. My solution thus far has been to ignore the 9,900 other students who I don't know to be the kind of people I would like to be around.

The Quad is very loud. The most obnoxious thing that can happen to you at 3 AM on a weeknight is being woken up by gaggles of drunken freshmen girls returning from their night out. They scream, laugh, hit doors, and clatter up the stairs in their 6 inch high heels until you get out of your room and yell at them or an RA writes them all up. Invest in some high quality in-ear or noise-cancelling headphones.

I have to say that for the most part, the classes here are excellent. While there certainly are professors who are too concerned with their research to care about their students, you just have to be careful which professors you choose. PennCourseReview is a restricted-access site for Penn students to view reviews of courses and of professors before choosing classes. These reviews are based on student evaluations for all classes at the end of each semester.

If you are science-oriented, get involved in a lab early. Start emailing professors December of freshman year and try to get paid for research that summer. If you are pre-med, don't take the lowest level classes. I honestly don't understand how you learn physics without calculus, especially E&M.

The workload is not bad at all if you're efficient and you spread it out over the week. I actually prefer to finish problem sets in a single sitting. Problem sets for math and science classes are usually under 3 hours long (per week). For engineering subjects, prepare to spend a whole lot of time on projects. One of my assignments took 6 hours of typesetting in LaTeX to complete. Be smart about your homework. Most classes have relatively forgiving curves. The exceptions are intro Wharton classes and pre-med filled classes (chem classes especially).

The facilities are not the best. Everything looks beautiful from the outside (the Quad in the fall), but maintenance in the College Houses can be lacking.

For me, academics have been the most important part of college life. Penn has great professors and academic opportunities. If you're going to college for the academics, Penn should be a serious choice. If you're going to college to party, choose Penn. I don't care as long as you don't personally wake me up at 3 AM. If you don't know what to do with your life, go to college anyway. You'll find something to build a career upon. (Yes, you can use a preposition to end your sentence with.)

commentI am impressed by the mature style of your review. It is very well written, and redolent of sincerity and care. You will do well in life and I am sure you will be a great citizen of this world.
There should be a special marker for truthy and unvarnished reviews like this one.
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