The feedback I received from one of my students who finished his freshman year as a Penn biomedical engineer was stellar. When I asked him whether the school conformed with his expectations, the answer was, “Really, really everything I could have imagined and more; a really positive first year experience.” He told me that his classes were interesting and that he had learned a lot. Here are excerpts from the rest of our conversation:
What most surprised you about the school?
I was surprised in a positive way how easy it was to make friends at the beginning – people of similar values. At the end of the day, everyone is trying to have the best first year possible, so it makes it easy.
Also, how central the fraternity culture is to social life. Like very. They tell you, oh 40%, but definitely very central. I knew it was a big part but it’s pretty dominating, especially first year. As you get older, I have heard that it gets less of a defining factor.
What are the students like?
In general, a good word is everyone being nice and it’s easy to make friends. Everyone is very motivated, career oriented, has goals they want to achieve. I kind of knew that and kind of liked being in that environment. There is a big work hard, play hard culture. At the end of the day, people are able to enjoy themselves and be very motivated when it comes to school and their future.
What do you love most about the school?
The balance of work and play was very nice. So many smart people able to have that balance. My program of study. I was happy in bioengineering.
What do you like the least?
I wish they introduced more hands-on the first year. At the same time, I know that’s coming. All the knowledge I learned this year will be important when it does come. They know what they’re doing. I did enjoy my classes.
Socially, I wish that it wasn’t so frat centered. It’s a cool culture but I find that now I am in a frat, it will be more difficult to see and hang out with others not in my frat. I am going to live in the frat house and am excited about that. I have friends in other frats, friends who didn’t join frats. We’ll see how it goes.
What is your biggest class? How big?
Chem lab lecture, like 275 people. A typical class size for chem lecture is a little less than 100; math lecture, a little more than 100. Labs: my lab partner and I were at a table with three other pairs so maybe 30 or so. Writing classes are 20 if that.
What is your favorite class? Why?
Bioengineering 100, 101. They were very theoretical. Even in engineering, not super hands-on but they exposed me to what bioengineering is, the breadth of it,and there were cool guest speakers. One cool hands-on thing we did at the end of second semester: We had a final project where we were put into groups and had to build a rudimentary prototype of a medical device – a Care Cube, an all-in-one portable device with a temperature probe and a pulse sensor; press a button and a pill would come out of the tube. Pretty compact; it could fit in a backpack.
How challenging are your classes?
Challenging but manageable. It depends on the class. Multivariable math class was the hardest of the entire year.
What advice would you give to a student who is interested in or applying to your school?
Hit all parts of your application. Hire Betsy!