Nine Tips for New Students: Making the Most of Your Penn and Philly Experience

Author: Gabriela Coya, C’14

A week ago, I uttered the words “I’m a senior” for the first time and freaked out.

I don’t think I ever felt uncomfortable mentioning my sophomore or junior status, but something about saying the word “senior” felt overwhelming. The real world is officially looming in the background and I’m not sure what I’m going to do once I leave this place I’ve come to call home.

I can’t believe my time at Penn is almost up, but this campus has so much to offer, and before I graduate, I want to be sure I share a few pieces of advice I’ve learned (sometimes the hard way).

1. Explore the campus. There are so many hidden nooks and crannies in this place that it’s easy to limit your knowledge of campus to your dining halls, dorm, and classroom building. But explore! Places like the newly remodeled sixth floor of Van Pelt are gorgeous, and the Penn Museum has awesome exhibits and events for just about anyone; you don’t have to be an anthropology major to enjoy what they offer.


2. If you live in a college house, attend the house-wide events. I’ve lived on campus the last three years and would only sporadically go to a college house event until last year. I really regret this, as they’re often free and always turn out to be fun. While living in Rodin College House last year, I  had the opportunity to go to New York City for dinner and a show, venture into Old City, and even learn how to cook authentic Chinese food. Attending house events is also a great way to meet the people you live with.

3. Get tickets for the performing arts shows. Despite being best known for its academics, Penn has a vibrant performing arts community — you might be surprised to find out how many talented people are among us. During your four years at Penn, you must go to at least one Mask & Wig show at their clubhouse in Center City, and during the school year, make sure you check out productions of famous plays and Broadway shows (last year, they put on Legally Blonde and Next to Normal and both shows were amazing!). And best of all, you don’t have to pay Broadway prices.


4. Read the DP (Daily Pennsylvanian) and Under the Button. Both formats offer great ways to find out what’s happening on campus and in Philadelphia, so make sure you pick up your copy from one of the friendly people handing them out all over campus or go online between classes.

5. Take part in restaurant week. Between September 15-20 and 22-27, some of the top restaurants in Philly are offering three-course lunches at $20 and dinners at $35. It’s a great chance to appreciate all the great food Philly has to offer without having to pay the normal much higher price tag.

6. Give back and do community service. Look into possibly joining Community School Student Partnerships (CSSP), Big Brothers Big Sisters, or even a community service frat like Alpha Phi Omega (APO). I was a “Big Sister” to a young girl at a school a few blocks away, and it was so nice to be able to meet people outside of the “Penn Bubble” and make a difference.

7. Join a club to enjoy yourself and meet great people, not just to put something on your resume. It’s great if you find something that’s both entertaining and resume-worthy, but don’t fret if you want to sing in an a cappella group and are not sure how that fits into your pre-med plans. I assure you that by the time you graduate, you will have more than enough things to put on your resume.

8. Get Venmo. It’s a phone app that makes splitting the bill at dinnertime or sharing costs for furniture with your roommate so much easier.

9. And lastly, have fun. Take school seriously, of course, but take the opportunity to meet as many people as possible. You are surrounded by such bright and wonderful people – professors and peers included – so try to learn as much from them, whether it be in office hours or during late 2 a.m. conversations.


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Filed under Gabriela C., Student Perspective

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