Should I Go To University of Pennsylvania?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Brittany is a Miami tutor specializing in Algebra tutoring, MCAT prep tutoring, Chemistry tutoring, and more. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of Pennsylvania with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Check out what she had to say about her alma mater:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Brittany: Penn is like a bubble in the middle of an urban setting. It’s only 15 blocks or so from Center City (downtown) but has its own small collection of shops and restaurants, as well as a movie theater. West of campus isn’t the safest of places but Penn is known to have one of the biggest private police forces in the country and there’s security literally on each block. There’s unbelievable amounts of public transportation (buses, metro, free Penn shuttles) so you don’t need a car or bike.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Brittany: Professors and TAs usually hold their own office hours that one can attend for in-person one-on-one explanations, but if you have a quick question, most professors and TAs are able to tend to your needs via email. I suggest contacting the TA first, though, because they’re usually lightening fast at responding.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Brittany: In terms of dorm life, I suggest living in a dorm that has its own dining hall like English House/King’s Court or Hill because walking to dining halls in the harsh winter isn’t much fun. I liked my dorm in English House because each room had its own sink, the rooms were spacious, and it was just small enough to get acquainted with basically everyone in my hall and in the House.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Brittany: I’d say a lot of majors/programs are well supported at Penn. I studied Psychology because I enjoy learning about why people think and behave the way they do. The Psychology department has its own building with really nice advisors that will keep you on the right track toward fulfilling the Psychology curriculum.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Brittany: I made friends quickly with the people in my dorm hall, and continued to make new friends by joining extracurricular activities. There are plenty of activities a freshman can join, and he or she can learn about the activities via the fall and spring Activities Fairs and the fall Freshman Performing Arts Night. Freshmen interested in Greek life can rush in the spring semester. Greek life plays a big role in campus, but there are definitely many other opportunities to make friends and establish yourself on campus if Greek life isn’t for you.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Brittany: The Career Center is extremely helpful. They revise resumes for you, coach you through your graduate paths, and send you emails of job opportunities and internships all the time. Many reputable firms come to campus to recruit third-year students studying marketing or economics who want to pursue a career as an analyst, trader, or consultant.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Brittany: There are tons of libraries, all of which get pretty crowded around finals, but there are tons of lounges and computer labs all around campus that make great study spots. Also, some dining halls open up after hours as extra study space; you just have to avoid main libraries like VP and explore a little to find a good studying spot.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Brittany: Students go downtown to go to shopping, check out historical buildings and monuments, attend late-night fraternity events, have formals at restaurants, attend concerts and sporting events (to see the Phillies, Eagles, and 76ers!), and even to go grocery shopping at Trader Joe’s. It’s really simple to go downtown as there are a couple of metro stops on campus, and there are a few buses that go directly downtown.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Brittany: Penn has a fairly large student body (10,000 undergraduate and 10,000 graduates). Introductory Science classes are huge (~300 students), so if you come late, it’s hard to find a seat. Once you get past the Intro classes, most classes are a nice size, and seminar courses are more intimate (~15 students max) and usually more relaxed in terms of exams and assignments.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Brittany: My most memorable experience was my Sleep and Psychopathology class. It was my first small seminar class and my lecturer treated us students as adults. He told us the first day that if we came to class prepared by doing the assigned readings the night before that he wouldn’t have to make any graded assignments besides the midterm and final exam. As a mutual agreement, everyone did their part by reading beforehand, and we engaged in riveting discussion during each class. It was honestly one of the best learning experiences I’ve ever had at Penn. 

Check out Brittany’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.