4 Things You Won’t Know Until You Go to UPenn

July 26, 2016

You’ve done all your research. You applied to the school of your dreams, but what if it’s not what you imagined? No matter how thorough your college research was, there are just a few things you won’t know until you’re a student. See what these 4 students from the University of Pennsylvania was surprised to find after enrolling:


UPenn ‘18

One tip of advice I would give to incoming students is to not compare yourself to others. I found this really hard not to do when I first came to Penn because I was surrounded by such accomplished and intelligent people, and this made me question why I was at Penn and how did I belong with such a class. Try not to make comparisons like this. You are at Penn for a reason. Set goals, try your best, and don’t be discouraged by numerical or letter grades especially in comparison to others. Focus on your own holistic growth and know that with the right, positive mindset, you are capable of achieving anything.


UPenn ‘18

Before I came to Penn, I was nervous that I wouldn’t fit in. Penn has a reputation for being a very pre-professional type school, and in truth, this is not altogether unfounded. We have Wharton, the Engineering School, the Nursing school…I’ve met many students who plan on becoming lawyers, doctors, dentists, and consultants. I, on the other hand, am an artsy academic type with eclectic and unusual interests—Flamenco dancing? French avante grade poetry? Egyptian Hieroglyphs? I’m not exactly bound for wall street. 

Luckily, I found that I don’t need to fit in to the dominant culture to be happy here. Penn is huge, and even if a lot of people are hyper-focused on networking and on campus recruiting, not everyone is. We have artists, writers, dancers, singers, actors, historians, and philosophers aplenty. This school has amazing faculty and resources to help you pursue any topic you can imagine, and if you can’t find something on campus, you can certainly find it in Philly. I enjoy swing dancing on campus, but I’m also part of a larger dance community in the city. If you are a pre-professional type, Penn will be great for you, and if you’re not, Penn will be great for you too! Any college is what you make of it, but Penn especially is so flexible and so diverse that I can promise you you’ll find your crowd in no time.

Matthew Hanna


As with any Ivy, I now know how competitive the students are. Courses on curves are very difficult because there is no way to know how the other students are doing. Big Tip: focus on yourself and you will grow- the rest will work itself out. It’s about learning, NOT GRADES.


UPenn ‘19

I never knew about the “work hard, play hard” environment. Or rather, I’d heard of it, but only in the same way that I’d heard people say “Berkeley has hippies” or “UIllinois is where fun goes to die.” It was just a silly colloquialism that was left unverified, and probably not true of the general population…that is, until I visited. The alumni network at UPenn is exceptional. And since it’s such a selective school, only about 30 people from Washington state get in per year. Thus, the Washington network is pretty-close knit, and some of the alumni helped me organize my visit—they even connected me with a host who was currently a freshman at Penn, and from my area. Once there, I talked with her and her friends, scheduled interviews with professers to garner information and research opportunities, and explored the campus. 

And I learned it was true (granted, I did visit the day after the infamous Spring Fling): Penn works you hard; the academics are rigorous; the standards are high. But in the midst of it all, people really let go. There’s no shame in hardcore partying or casual…anything. People can be fairly free-spirited and fun as well as driven and professional. It just depends on the time of day and week you catch them at. Penn is also called the “Social Ivy,” and it really is. The social life there is great, which is one of the reasons I chose it over the University of Washington - Seattle. It’s less stressful than many other Ivies and schools, but not any easier. People just know how to find balance here. A little tip, though: don’t mention the phrase “work hard, play hard” to anyone at Penn. It’s super cliche and annoying.

Are you looking to apply to UPenn or just starting to build out your college list? Make sure to search through profiles of students accepted to see essays, stats, and advice. See how they got in, and how you can too!

About The Author

Frances Wong
Frances Wong

Frances was born in Hong Kong and received her bachelor’s degree from Georgetown University. She loves super sad drama television, cooking, and reading. Her favorite person on Earth isn’t actually a member of the AdmitSee team - it’s her dog Cooper.


Browse Successful Application Files

UPenn ‘19

Accepted to UPenn, Babson

I am a determined perfectionist who realizes that perfection is not achievable.
UPenn ‘19

Accepted to UPenn, GWU, NYU, Alabama, UDel

Junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying Art History and Fine Arts.
UPenn ‘18

Accepted to UPenn, Babson, UT Austin

Hey guys! I'm a sophomore at the University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School of Business, and I love all things finance and entrepreneurship.
UPenn ‘18

Accepted to UPenn, Cornell, UT Austin, CMU, Columbia

I'm just a girl from Dallas, TX who wants to manage her own tech firm in the future and retire as a safari park ranger.

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