I started off with quite the hectic morning. The cohort was to meet at 5:45 AM in the lobby of the hotel, ready to go. I found myself rushing to pack, and I found myself stuffing things into my suitcase crumpled up because I did not have the time to neatly fold all of my clothes. After we checked out of the hotel, we split up and cabbed in two groups of two and three, Shanti and I being in the same cab. One thing I noticed in the taxi was that the drivers in New York City are a lot more aggressive than even those in San Francisco, from what I’ve experienced. I can’t quite see myself living in New York City for an extended amount of time.
Shanti and I were dropped off outside of Penn Station, and we were split up from the rest of the group. We made our way down to find them, though that cost a fair bit of time. Unfortunately, on our way, the handle of one of my bags broke, so I had to use a different handle in an extremely awkward and tiring position. We did not arrive in time to check in our luggage for the Amtrak, though it was not a major concern since we could simply carry our luggage around. We sat around the station while waiting for our train, and Mr. Mannix gave us snacks while we waited, since we were supposed to eat breakfast after we arrived in Philadelphia.
When we arrived, we cabbed over to our hotel. It was still morning, so we could not check in yet, but the hotel (Sheraton Philadelphia University City Hotel) allowed us to drop off our luggage. We grabbed breakfast at the Sang Kee Noodle House inside the hotel. I eat Chinese food extremely often, and eating at a restaurant like this was a bit jarring, since they had a lot of American influence in the way they served food and the type of food that they served. All the students ordered waffles!
After breakfast, we walked over to the University of Pennsylvania (Penn), dropping by Starbucks on the way. (I got a plain black coffee.) When we walked down the street, I was thinking about how the atmosphere of Philadelphia is so distinct from that of New York City. I definitely appreciated Philly’s vibe a lot more.
We made our way into the Office of Undergraduate Admissions just before our tour started. There were a lot of families inside waiting for the tour, too. Seeing all these families together, most likely far from home, made me wish that I went traveling with my family a bit more. On the bright side, I find my own way to travel quite a bit (e.g. this program!).
When the room split up among different tour guides, we were grouped with a rising sophomore named Claire, who was focused on international relations and German (I can’t quite remember if one is a major and if one is a concentration). One of the first things from the tour that stuck out to me was the claim that Penn is the Ivy League school that sends the most students abroad. I am considering studying abroad some time during my undergrad years. Our tour guide also stated that there were language requirements for graduation at Penn, and I do want to develop my skills with other languages.
When I looked at the brochure, one of the first things that caught my eye was the list of majors and concentrations for each of the four colleges in Penn. Penn has the School of Nursing, School of Engineering and Applied Science, School of Arts and Sciences, and Wharton School of Business. Applicants must select one of the four schools, though that selection won’t limit you from accessing the resources and classes from the other schools.
Penn also has some special dual-degree programs, and the one that stood out to me was the Jerome Fisher Program in Management and Technology. If I were selected for this program, I would be enrolled in both the School of Engineering and the Wharton School, and I would graduate with a degree in economics and a degree in engineering. I’ve been relatively certain that I want to double major with a type of engineering with something else either math or business based, and this program seems to fit my needs perfectly.
I spoke to my tour guide about this program, and she said that her roommate was a part of it. She offered to give me her email address so I could get in touch with her roommate and ask about the program. Seeing this program seemed to be the deal breaker in terms of deciding to apply to Penn!
After our tour ended, we had some extra time. We decided to take pictures with some of the touristy landmarks of Penn, and we had fun with that. We had to head over to the info session rather soon, though. When we walked in, we saw the ILC Penn cohort inside! I find it a bit funny how we ran into them again after we departed together. I made some small talk while waiting for the info session to start.
The info session was quite similar to the Columbia one. Sure, a theatre is different from a lecture hall, but this info session also covered colleges in general and applying to them, in addition to specific parts of Penn. I feel like some of the information in these info sessions is rather generic, and hearing facts over and over again has become rather dull for me.
After the info session, the cohort made its way to the White Dog Cafe, where we were to have lunch with a group of Penn students and with the admissions officer that spoke during the info session. I sat at a table with Shanti and three students named Jordyn, Julia, and Ken. Jordan was majoring in urban studies, Julia was majoring in a type of neurological science which I forgot the name of, and Ken was majoring in physics and philosophy. Jordyn was a rising sophomore, Julia was a rising senior, and Ken was a rising junior. Julia and Ken were both confident in the path they wanted to take after they graduated. Julia has been preparing for the MCAT for med school, while Ken wants to go to law school. I did not ask Jordyn what she was going into.
The conversation we had at our table was wonderful. Although the college students did drift off to talk to each other about specific things that had no meaning to Shanti or me, the conversation found its way back into relevant topics. Julia was a part of the Office of Undergraduate Admissions, and she had a lot of useful advice! My composite score for the SAT is in the 98th percentile, so I have a pretty decent score. I could try to improve it if I wanted to, but since I’ve come out here, I’ve heard quite a few times not to waste my time, since the return for attempting to improve my score might not be worth the investment.
I also learned from Ken that teaching assistants and graduate student instructors are not always bad when choosing between colleges, since they can make material more accessible than a professor who is more interested in research than teaching. I’ve been drawn away from schools that make liberal use of teaching assistants, because the concept was not too appealing to me, but Ken made a very good point that completely changed my view.
Ken also suggested that students should apply early decision to a college, since early decision students have higher acceptance rates than regular decision students. I’m conflicted when it comes to this piece of advice, because I don’t feel a significant pull towards any particular college. I do have a list of colleges that I want to apply to, but there hasn’t been one dream school that just rises above all others for me. I don’t know if I can make that sort of commitment.
We checked into the hotel after lunch. Mr. Mannix gave us some free time before we headed out, though I just knocked out as soon as I got into my hotel room. When it was time to head out for dinner, he decided to let me continue napping while the rest of the cohort headed out for dinner, and he was kind enough to bring a cheesesteak back for me!
I had a great experience with Philadelphia and with Penn today. Penn sits in a great environment that integrates well with the city without seeming too hectic. Penn’s programs also sound fantastic for my needs! I am definitely applying to Penn when the time comes.