Total Undergraduate Enrollment: 10,183
Institutional Type: Private
Curricular Flexibility: Somewhat Flexible
Academic Rating: 5
1. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
2. Teach for America
4. Boston Consulting Group
5. JPMorgan Chase
5. Social Services
4. Goldman Sachs
2. New York City
3. San Francisco
4. Washington, DC
College Scorecard (Early Career): $85,900
EOP (Early Career): $91,800
PayScale (Mid-Career): $133,900
Once known for its insecurity about being frequently confused with Penn State and having a reputation in snooty circles as a “second-tier Ivy,” the University of Pennsylvania has long since brushed that dirt off its shoulders. Today, Penn boasts twice as many applicants as a decade ago and, with an acceptance rate that is lower than Dartmouth’s, it is now a dream destination for many of the brightest students around the world. Penn admits the highest percentage of international students of any Ivy by a wide margin. The 10,100+ Quaker undergrads on campus are pursuing ninety distinct degrees across four schools: the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Applied Science and Engineering, the College of Nursing and, of course, arguably the top business school anywhere—Wharton.
The Core Curriculum at UPenn is based on seven Sectors of Knowledge: society, history and tradition, arts and letters, humanities and social sciences, the living world, the physical world, and natural sciences and mathematics. In fulfilling those requirements students take mandatory courses in foreign language, writing (seminar), quantitative data analysis, formal reasoning, cross-cultural analysis, and diversity in the United States. The greatest number of students pursue degrees in business (20 percent), social sciences (15 percent), biology (11 percent), engineering (10 percent), and computer science (5 percent).
Penn has a 6:1 student-to-faculty ratio, but with a focus on research and 15,626 graduate students, not every undergraduate section is a tiny seminar. However, the university does boast an exceptional 30 percent of courses with an enrollment under ten and 71 percent with an enrollment under twenty—quite an achievement for a school of Penn’s massive size. It also offers multiple ways for undergrads to conduct research, whether through independent studies or working side-by-side with faculty members. It is a testament to its focus in this area that the university publishes eleven distinct journals featuring original undergraduate research. Penn ranks first among Ivies and fourteenth among doctoral-granting institutions in study abroad participation rate; each year over 2,300 students head off to earn a semester’s credit in one of eighty-five countries.While Wharton is the ultimate name-drop, the Penn engineering program garners a more quiet respect. Outstanding programs abound throughout the university, in fields ranging from computer science to philosophy. Graduates of UPenn are, in general, met with high-paying jobs at desirable companies and entry into the best graduate and professional schools in existence.
Only 52 percent of students live in university-owned housing at Penn as 71 percent of juniors and 78 percent of seniors elect to live off campus. One reason for the lack of upperclassman interest in dorms is the popular Greek that attracts over one-quarter of undergrads into one of fifty frat and sorority houses. The Quakers compete in thirty-three NCAA Division I sports in the Ivy League; over 1,000 members of the student body are varsity athletes. Many more participate in club and intramural athletics. There are multiple fitness centers including a 120,000- square-foot facility that includes an Olympic-size swimming pool, rock climbing wall, and sauna. The school also hosts the Penn Relays, the longest-running collegiate track meet in the country that draws 100,000 spectators annually. With 450+ student organizations active at Penn, there is a group that caters to wherever your talents and interests lie, whether that is in the performance, community service, or cultural identity realms. The school’s newspaper, the Daily Pennsylvanian, has a staff of 250 students and has garnered many awards. Penn’s West Philly campus comprises 215 buildings on 299 attached acres and contains plenty of green space. The urban setting affords students the benefits of walkability and easy trips to any part of the fifth-largest city in the United States.
The University of Pennsylvania’s Career Services Office has thirty professional staff members who are dedicated to undergraduate counseling, on-campus recruiting, and maintaining digital resources like Handshake. The 354:1 studentto-advisor ratio is average compared to other schools featured in this guide but strong for a school of Penn’s size. Close to twenty annual career fairs are held, some of which are industry specific (engineering, finance, nursing) while others are themed such as the Common Good Career Fair; the Creative Career Fair; or the Startup, VC, and Data Analytics Fair. Rising sophomores, juniors, and seniors find themselves in paid internships at some of the world’s top employers in droves. To quantify that, last year's graduating class members, between their junior and senior year, found positions at a 90 percent clip, including twenty-two at Goldman Sachs, twenty-one at Morgan Stanley, and nine at Google. Penn also excels at facilitating on-campus interviews; more than 300 companies conduct interviews on campus each year. Individualized attention is always available in the form of thirty-minute counseling appointments.
The office recommends a progression of exploration/involvement/experience/transition as undergraduates rise through their four years, and the university puts loads of resources into supporting all four phases. Ample support is also provided for those applying to medical, law, or graduate school. An equal emphasis on large-scale events such as industry-specific job fairs and one-on-one counseling leads to phenomenal graduate outcomes.
Seventy-two percent of last year's Quaker grads were employed six months following degree completion, another 18 percent were in graduate school, and 5 percent were still planning their next educational/career move. Finance was the sector attracting the highest percentage of grads (27 percent) followed by consulting (19 percent), technology (14 percent), and health care (7 percent). Employers hiring the greatest number of graduates included Goldman Sachs (27), Deloitte (26), JPMorgan (25), McKinsey & Company (23), Google (22), IBM (21), Capital One (20), Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (18), and Bain & Company (12). The median starting salary for all graduates is just shy of $75,000 plus an average sign-on bonus of $13,000. Among elite colleges, Penn alumni enjoy the highest midcareer salaries of any school except MIT. Unsurprisingly, the Philadelphia Metro area has the strongest concentration of alumni, but New York is a close second. San Francisco and DC also have a strong Quaker presence.
For those continuing their educational journeys, the most popular move is to remain at Penn—107 members of last year's class made that decision. The next most attended graduate schools were Columbia (15), Harvard (10), University of California (10), Oxford (8), and Yale (7). Students gain acceptance to medical school at a terrific rate—78 percent versus the national average of 43 percent. Medical schools that have taken more than five Penn grads since 2016-17 include Emory University, Temple University, Harvard Medical School, the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai, and Penn’s own uber-elite Perelman School of Medicine that sports a 4 percent acceptance rate. The acceptance rate into law school is 84 percent, which is made lower by the fact that the vast majority are aiming for top-tier schools. The most attended law schools in recent years are NYU School of Law, Penn Law School, Fordham University School of Law, Columbia University School of Law, and Harvard Law School.
• “There’s so much to do in the city. It opens up a lot of options for students on top of recreational activities, like, I’m able to tutor once a week and a lot of people have had internships downtown or work with an organization.”
• “There’s really good food.”
• “I like that it’s not directly in the city because I don’t like hectic areas but it’s really convenient to go to Center City if I want to.”
• “You’re near some other colleges so you can meet a lot of different people and go to different places.”
• “The expenses of living in a city. I think the rent I pay is very expensive.”
• “Because of the way the city is built, the houses are pretty close together. We do have green space, but as the university is building up, that area is going away. I prefer more spread out spaces with green areas that the city sometimes lacks.”
• “In general, at night it is less safe. You can’t go out alone unless you’re taking a pretty short walk.”
• “The gloomy weather.” Students' Voice: Reasons to attend and not to attend
• “My favorite thing about Penn is there are four undergraduate schools and all the resources available at those schools apply to all the students. I can take any of my elective classes at any of the schools, including Wharton, and I can go to their career events too. Besides the nursing school, I’ve had classes in every school that have counted towards my degree in the College [of Arts & Sciences].”
• “You’re so close to Center City and you can get away from Penn easily if you want, even if you want to get away to study. It’s really nice to have the option to go somewhere new so you’re not at the same place every day.”
• “One big reason is the people you meet. It’s an extremely diverse school and you get to meet people from different backgrounds, so you get to make connections with people you wouldn’t meet at many other places and the connection will last a long time.”
• “There are really strong resources outside of academics. I think a lot of people don’t think that much about the resources outside of academics, but there are so many opportunities to join clubs and pursue your own projects.
• “Penn is very diverse in terms of actual demographics, but I don’t think Greek life and the social life [I participate in] has not been that diverse for me. It’s a lot of very wealthy students and revolves around money because a lot of the events that are really popular cost money.” [Socioeconomically, 19% of students come from the top 1% and 3.6% come from the top 0.1%.]
• “When it comes to career-oriented things, people are very, very competitive.”
• “If you’re not that into Greek life and want [the stereotypical college social scene], you won’t have a good time here. I know people for whom Greek life didn’t work out and they’re pretty unhappy.”
• “I don’t like how the clubs and organizations are competitive to get into. I also think it’s unnecessary because even the more fun things to do, like dance teams, are competitive and it doesn’t give people the opportunity to branch out because it requires applications and auditions and stuff like that.”
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