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.
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Who are sororities for? Is it hard to get in and would a shy/introvert person be happy in one, generally speaking?

well i don't think sororities are aimed at a specific demographic, but i will say that it tends to favor white/wealthy people. it is hard to "get in," but that applies to most clubs at Penn, too (unfortunately). my roommate rushed her freshman year, and i remember she was gone from like 9am to 11pm for the first day b/c she had to go around all the sororities, talking to them, trying to get her name across. it is a tiring process, esp for introverts, b/c you're shivering in the cold while wearing heels and dresses.

it doesn't hurt to try though b/c it's good to go out of your comfort zone and try new things. you never know what'll happen unless you try. but if you know yourself well enough and know that you would not be happy there, then no need to go through that process.

Hopeful Horse, 04/08/20

Is Quad as bad as people say, so are there rats, a lot of dust? I am trying to choose between hill and quad, but I am not sure if I am willing to give up private bathrooms and clean living for social life.

i lived in ware my freshman year. it's not horrible... but the dorm is quite old. air felt more moldy, saw my fair share of cockroaches (thankfully no rats, but i know others who have), dust collected quickly. people who like to go out more tend to live at the quad. idk about hill, but i'm sure if you want to go out, you'll make the effort to do so. the trek isn't that far. it's only a 5-7 minute walk from hill to quad. plus walking is good for you!!

man, hill's facilities are so nice though. they got it good. private bathrooms, newly renovated, and even though the rooms are smaller, at least it's brighter and cleaner. also they have a good dining hall right there. you'll still see cockroaches and maybe rats/mice, but that's expected b/c it is the city.

Hopeful Horse, 04/08/20 10:13pm

What are some recommended ways for a premed student to finish up the sector requirements/foundational approaches in CAS? For instance, is it better to take easier electives to breeze through these requirements or is it better to pick classes I'm genuinely interested in and/or have a deep connection to the healthcare/medical field for knowledge's sake? Or is it simply better to double count as many of these courses as possible to have less classes and CUs to stress over later on?

Also, some recommended classes for these requirements would be much appreciated :)

kinda hard to give a good answer since i don't know much about you, like your class year, how far along are you with premed reqs, whether you want to take a gap year, how dead set are you on premed, what sector reqs you still need to fulfill, etc. all i can say is: what do you care more about? if you want a higher GPA, then take easier electives (that samba class (MUSC-067 i think??) is really easy and cool). if you want to pick classes you're genuinely interested in, there's no harm in doing so! in fact, you might discover something new. some HCMG, SOCI, and ANTH (e.g. medical anthropology) classes may offer some new/good perspectives on healthcare. even HSOC and ENGL. there's an intriguing fall 2020 english class that explores writing about mental health. try to avoid taking HSOC 010, the introductory class, if you can. all i remember from that class is tropical medicine lol. that's just my experience though.

but i'm sure you can find some less stressful classes that are still interesting to you! i would scour all the class offerings, then look up their level of difficulty on and consider which comes more naturally to you, test taking or writing papers, when you're choosing classes.

my two cents? follow your c u r i o s i t y. take classes that pique your attention. college is about exploring and getting to know yourself better.

don't know what reqs you want to double count, but this is a realllly helpful guide:

Hopeful Horse, 04/08/20 9:59pm

When do PURM programs usually end? Im looking for places to stay through sublet and a lot of places have the sublet until the end of July and I was wondering when a lot of the 10-week research programs end. I know that its different for each professor, but whats the average ending date?

From the website: "All projects take place in the summer and are expected to extend for 10 weeks. Students and faculty mentors negotiate the precise logistics between themselves, taking into account the needs of the project."

I never did PURM, but I'd assume that this is correct ^^

Zesty Zebra, 4/6/20, 11:20 AM

What's the best strategy for picking a dining plan on campus (i.e. between dining dollars and swipes, which is more important, from your experience)? Also, personally, I'd like to eat healthily in general, so are there a lot of healthy/wholesome meal options (i.e. not just Dunkin- or Starbucks-like food) that are covered by dining dollars besides those options in the dining halls/covered by swipes? Reason I'm asking is, the availability of really healthy food options outside the dining halls would be important to me in picking a dining plan.

I was never a big fan of the food in the dining halls, and so I ended up getting the plan with the least swipes and that was the best option for me.

I'm also someone who likes to eat healthy, but I have a bit of a sweet tooth. With that being said, I didn't find the junk food / non-healthy food in the dining halls to be super good. My philosophy was that if I were to eat some junk food and wreck my body, I'd at least like it to be the best-tasting junk food possible, not something out of convenience. This approach kept me mostly stuck to salads and omelettes since those were the things whose lower bounds on quality were highest least lol. The food in Houston Hall, Pret, and more is worth having more dining dollars. These non-dining hall options are really what you make of it; there are some healthy options and some not-so-healthy options. It's up to you.

A couple weeks before the end of the semester, you can actually convert several of your swipes to dining dollars, so even if you have a bunch of stocked up swipes left to use, you can still cash them out for some dining $$$$$.

Not to self-plug, but Penn Mobile has an upcoming feature which will help you choose the best plan for you based on your spending habits. At the start of each semester, you have a grace period lasting a couple weeks where you can change your dining plan, so once you get a feel for your trajectory for the semester the app can recommend the best plan based on your habits! Feature is coming out before next semester; you can check out the article in the DP here:

Hope this has been helpful in some way :)

Zesty Zebra, 4/5/20 11:49 PM

What is the best weekend to have a friend from out of town come and visit me?

Depends what you want to do! If you want a chill weekend to just hangout, explore Philly, catch up, then I'd say a weekend in the fall or later spring is the best in terms of weather. It's also good to check your academic schedule and see if there's a weekend that will be lighter for your workload so you don't have to stress about that.

If you're looking for a really social weekend at Penn, the weekends that tend to be the most social are NSO, Homecoming, Halloween weekend, St. Patty's, and Spring Fling.

Kindred Koala, 3/31/20, 12:02pm

What's it like being a TA for CIS 160?

It is a good time! The TA communities in general for CIS are generally pretty close-knit and really helpful; the other TAs have been supportive in helping give advice with classes, jobs, etc, and it's a group of people who are passionate about the material and really want to help the students succeed.

I was a TA for two semesters. Even though I really enjoyed taking CIS160, I was very nervous to TA at first. I worried about knowing everything / having all the answers and messing up, since the material is really difficult and there's not always one clear answer. However, being a shadow TA with a head TA helped, as well as always having other TAs in office hours and to help over Slack. Teaching and answering and grading questions was a great way to become more comfortable with the material as well as just a better and more thoughtful presenter and teacher. Overall, I felt like it helped me grow a lot as well as find a community within CIS.

However, it is very time consuming. A lot of preparation goes into office hours and teaching recitation, and we grade for most of Fridays. I would say it usually ranged from 10-15 hours a week. It is a really good way to make money, but it felt like taking an additional course or two in terms of time commitment.

Kindred Koala, 3/31/20, 11:54am

Can you take NETS 212 without CIS 121? I'd be in CIS 120 at the time

I'd recommend against this, unless you have previous programming experience.

Zesty Zebra, 3/27/2020 8:01 PM

Thoughts on CIS 120 + CIS 240 in the fall together?

Hm. From a work standpoint it would definitely be manageable, but I think it would be useful to have knowledge about CIS 120 - level data structures before taking on 240.

240 has a lot of programming-heavy homeworks, and so I also think it would be worthwhile to have a semester or so of 120-level programming under your belt before taking on 240 homeworks, which are much more open-ended.

Doable? Yes. Good for your own sanity? Probably not.

Zesty Zebra, 3/16/2020 12:45 PM

I was looking through PURM, and was wondering how exactly it works? Are all first and second year undergrads guaranteed summer research this way, or is there still chance/luck in submitting an application?

Also, do many undergrads get funding through CURF, or is it extremely competitive to the point where only a very select few get it?

no, not all first/second year undergrads are guaranteed summer research positions, but you still have a chance when you submit an application (basically you have nothing to lose)!

it's a mutual process: researchers need students interested in their project in order to receive funding and move forward, and students apply to PURM because most of them want research experience. first you look through a (really long) list of research projects, identify up to 3 preferences, and submit a brief application for each one.

then, if you're selected by a researcher(s), you'll receive an email telling you who's considering your application. typically they hold interviews after this round, and you'll find out later if you receive an offer.

i think CURF has many opportunities for funding that you should take advantage of, but i'm not sure how competitive each one is. don't hesitate to work with CURF advisors! i met with dr. vernon-grey (, and she was really helpful with directing me to the proper resources.

Hopeful Horse, 3/22/20 1:08pm