We met in the lobby of the Empire Hotel at 6:45 AM to catch our train ride to Philadelphia. After grabbing breakfast at the Starbucks around the corner, we took the subway to New York’s Penn Station and arrived on time for our departure. Unlucky for us (and the hundreds of other passengers riding the trains today) the power lines were having difficulties throughout the day. We ended up leaving the station 40 minutes late. The train ride was about an hour and a half long and we arrived in Philadelphia at 10:30 AM, unfortunately missing the admissions talk at the University of Pennsylvania but just in time for a tour of the campus.
|Passengers waiting for the (delayed) times of departure.|
The University of Pennsylvania is spectacular. The campus is beautifully integrated into the city of Philadelphia while still maintaining a defined campus. The buildings are beautifully designed and our tour guide was wonderfully energetic and enthusiastic about his school.
The vast number of extra-curricular activities offered at Penn were mentioned many times today by every student, alum and tour guide we saw today mentioned. They stressed the fact that there are so many activities and groups that everyone can find something they enjoy. But on the rare occasion that Penn does not have a group for a certain activity a student is interested in, the school will allow the student to start their own activity as long as there are at least six members. An example of a student group that began this way is the Penn tree climbing club.
A Penn tradition I found to be very amusing was the story of the toast Zamboni. It begins many, many years ago when the legal drinking age was 18 and the Penn stadium allowed liquor inside the gates. At every home football game, after the 3rd quarter, Penn students would sing their school fight song, and during the line, “Here’s a toast to dear old Penn,” they would raise their champagne glasses in a toast to their school. However, after the new drinking regulations were put in place, this tradition was discontinued. Fortunately, a few years later, some Penn students decided that instead of toasting champagne, they would throw toast onto the actual field. This caught on pretty fast but the massive amounts of toast being thrown on the field soon began delaying the beginning of the 4th quarter because it took so long to clear the toast from the field, thus resulting in multiple overtime penalties for the Penn team. This problem was solved when, for their senior project, a few Penn Engineering students created a Zamboni-like machine that would collect all the toast off the field in a timely manner. Thus the creation of the toast Zamboni.
The Penn campus:
Following our tour, we had the honor of having lunch with Penn admissions officer David Toomer, Director of Pan-Asian Outreach June Chu and Penn students/alums Margaret and Joanna. To further our cultural enrichment, we toured Independence Hall in Philadelphia. We were on a tight schedule so we went directly back to the train station only to find out our train had been delayed. Consequently, our dinner at the Bar Americain restaurant was postponed an hour.
Charlie and Jenny, two rising Penn seniors, were a wealth of information. They spoke candidly and enthusiastically about Penn, college admissions and their college and high school experiences. Charlie emphasized the importance of getting the admissions officer to know a lot about a student through their essay, because it is harder to reject a person than a number. Jenny recommended contacting current Penn students, such as herself, to get a good sense of what school is like at UPenn – which will ultimately help with the “Why Penn?” question on the application.
Overall, I learned a lot about the University of Pennsylvania and got some great tips I will certainly implement during my college applications process.