RealTalk Penn beta is an anonymous Q&A forum for Penn students by The Signal + Friends. Our contributors are Penn undergraduates who do their best to answer your questions. We're not officially affiliated with the University of Pennsylvania.
Ask a question Contributors About us

Why is it that GPA doesn't matter for jobs and engineering recruiting? Doesn't that represent mastery of material? Funnily enough I'm not doing too well in CIS 120 and CIS 160 because I have such a tough schedule but I really like programming and the problems we do in 160. I just wish I had more time to practice and actually do the work.

I think this is more of a CIS phenomenon more than a general engineering trend. Most of the stuff that we do in the classroom isn't really indicative of what industry is looking for from you, so even if you don't find that you're excelling with classroom material, that doesn't truly represent your potential on the job, and recruiters know that. I was in a similar boat as you, with CIS 160 especially, and if you find yourself enjoying the material then I think you're doing just fine.  

CIS Intro Track first semester is definitely a grind, and you'll have plenty more semesters to continue mastering software engineering. I personally found CIS 121 way more enjoyable than 120 and 160 because the application of the material was built into the core of the course. It gets easier as you go through the system :)

Zesty Zebra, 2:55 PM, November 25th 2019

For Penn Labs, as an applicant developer next semester, do I need to know JavaScript and how to use the Git Control System/Github, etc.?

Depends on what role you're applying for, for web frontend you definitely need to know JavaScript and React, but there are different standards for each team (Platform: Python and Django; Android: Kotlin; iOS: Swift). The team leads are mostly looking at your technical skill; Git / Github are easy to teach once you're onboarded. Feel free to email me at for more info :)

Zesty Zebra, 2:50 PM, Nov 25, 2019

Is it true that GPA doesn't matter for some engineering internships? I'm worried that my grades won't be high enough for recruiting :(

Yes, this is true!! Sometimes a higher GPA may get you an interview, but past that, it's totally up to the interviews and most won't consider your GPA after they give you an interview. Also, an okay GPA from Penn will get you a long way, especially in engineering.

If you're computer science, too, lots of companies will send all candidates a coding challenge, and if you do well on that, you'll get an interview. In that case, it's all about what you can do, and not your grades.

Kindred Koala, 2019 11 November, 8:57PM

coolest professors to talk to outside of class?

For CIS: Swapneel Sheth is the BEST. Take that man out to lunch at first possible notice. Also Jeffrey Babin is super cool. Take him to Magic Carpet

Zesty Zebra, November 8, 2019, 11:32 PM

Jeffrey Babin is AWESOME. But also Diana Robertson, Dave Meaney, and Graham Wabiszewski are incredible humans as well

Funky Flamingo, 2019 November 09, 11:30 AM

Rajiv Gandhi! Take him out to lunch! Also Richard Shell

Kindred Koala, 2019 November 11, 8:53PM

Adam Grant, but I realize he might be a bit out of reach... Steven Blum (negotiations professor), Domenic Vitiello (Urban Studies/Design - I never took any of his classes, but he set aside time for me to learn from him), any Nursing professor (tbh they're amazing), Peter DeCherney (Cinema Studies), Jacob Rivkin (Fine Arts/Design), Prasanna Tambe (OID/Analytics), Amy Sepinwall (Legal Studies)... also now I'm a bit sad that most of my professors here have been men :( so, a gender studies professor!!

Wallowing Whale, 2019 November 11, 1:11AM

How important is it for freshmen to get internships? Some of my friends are looking and I feel super lost and overwhelmed, particularly because I don't even know what I'm going to major in.

It is NOT important, please don't stress about this! I think the pre-professional culture at Penn puts a lot of unnecessary pressure on students to recruit for summer internships, but especially freshman year I found that the best thing for me and my mental health was to go home and spend time with my family - and this didn't prevent me from getting jobs later on at all!

Funky Flamingo, 2019 November 09, 11:30 AM

How hard is it to join clubs at Penn?

It's typically dependent on the type of club and role you're interested in. There are plenty of interest-based organizations and cultural groups open to anyone, as well as pre-professional and skill-based organizations that are more selective and require applications.

Definitely don't be afraid to apply to any clubs you're interested in! It's helpful to reach out to upperclassmen who are already a part of those groups for more information on the club and their application process.

Dynamic Dino, November 8, 2019, 6:27 PM

I'm a senior interested in taking courses outside of my engineering major (DMD)! I was wondering if you have taken any interesting/perspective-widening classes that stuck out out to you? Thanks in advance :*)

Here's a list of courses my friends and I have compiled:

OIDD 245

OIDD 291 (Negotiations)

BEPP 284 (Game theory)

Any creative writing course

URBS 178 (ABCS course that culminates in an implementation project in West Philly)

And any ABCS course!

Kindred Koala, 11/8/19, 10:45AM

Any advice with course registration? (ex. should I make my preferred math class my first choice?)

This is the general order I tend to follow:

-small, popular classes (ex. major electives, classes w limited spots, classes that you need to take a certain section of)

-larger, required classes in the time sections I prefer

-required classes (this depends on your major - if major students have trouble getting into these classes, you should list higher)

-gen eds that are flexible (usually don't care too much about taking these during this specific semester, or there are alternates that I could take instead)

I'd also say I'll put A as my first choice, then B as my alternate, then B as my second choice, then C as my alternate, then C as my third choice, and so on...

This has worked fairly well for me, but it's definitely not perfect

Kindred Koala, 11/7/19, 9:36PM

I generally don't register for my required courses during advanced registration (since I know I'll get into them during regular registration) and instead rank fun/harder-to-get-into classes first! I wouldn't stress too much about it though, during the first couple weeks of school there's plenty of time to drop and add classes.

Funky Flamingo, 2019 November 07, 10:15 PM

How prevalent is the party scene/hookup culture at Penn? I'm more of an introvert and prefer serious relationships. I'm worried about feeling left out.

Definitely there if you want it, and absolutely not something you need to be involved in if you don't! It's big in certain circles on campus like Greek life, but there are tons of students who like you are also introverted and prefer other social activities. I'd say surround yourself with people who enjoy doing the same things as you, and you'll never feel left out :) serious relationships are more rare but definitely not uncommon and gets more common as people get older. Again, this probably depends on the social circle.

Kindred Koala, 11/07/19, 9:31PM

Are Penn's Freshman Pre-orientation programs worth it? What are the specific benefits?

Kindred Koala, 11/07/19, 9:26PM

I did the Advancing Women in Engineering pre-orientation program, and I'm definitely glad I did! I think I got to move in 4-5 days early, so I definitely felt like I was more settled in and comfortable by the time other freshmen moved on. My orientation was on campus, so I got to know the city/campus a bit as well. I also got to meet other freshmen and got some great advice for upperclassmen. Overall, I would say the content wasn't anything essential, but the biggest benefit was that it settled my nerves going into freshmen year and gave me a lot of friendly faces in the first few weeks, which can make a big difference.

Some are definitely a bit more intense (PennQuest) and can seem a bit culty lol but definitely give you a great community of people coming in. If you don't do one, you'll also be totally fine, and though it might seem like everyone has friends who did pre-orientation programs when you come in, everyone else catches up in a few days.