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

How common are electric skateboards on campus? What about bikes and scooters? TL;DR what is the best option for not walking between classes and dorm?

I would recommend a normal skateboard or a razor scooter (lol).

Absent Aardvark, 3:27 pm

Is a 1-hr for lunch too short based on your experience?

No, that's a good time.

Absent Aardvark, July 1st 1:13 PM

At McClelland, can you buy food for one swipe and take it out to eat in your room? Also, what's the quality of the food there?

Yeah, you can. The food is okay, but there's not as large of a selection as, for example, Commons.

Absent Aardvark, June 18th, 5:15 pm

Anyone know the class recommendations per score range for the online Math diagnostic exam? (Got a 12/25)

As of 2018-2019:

Absent Aardvark, April 8th 6:02 PM

Is there any advantage of buying a laptop through CampusExpress? Will Penn install all my software like Microsoft and Adobe? And if I break my laptop on campus will they fix it for free?

Someone feel free to correct me on this, but I'm pretty sure there's no benefit whatsoever. Also, did you mean ComputerConnection instead of CampusExpress? Either way, you would still have to pay for software like Microsoft and Adobe, and if you broke it they'd probably either ship it to the laptop provider or make you do it yourself.

Absent Aardvark, June 3rd 5:42 PM

Why do most Quakers recommend taking the BFF dining plan (most dining dollars/least swipes)?

// When I first read the dining plans, my first impression was that the AFK (16 swipes/week & $140 dining dollars) would be the wisest decision. I eat 2-3 meals a day and having 16 swipes would guarantee me that routine.

Upon reading some posts, I noticed that most (not all) Quakers recommend the plan with the most dining dollars & least swipes. I can't help but wonder the reasoning behind this. 8 swipes/week would get me 1 meal a day and $400 dining dollars doesn't seem enough to let me achieve my routine. Won't I end up having to spend out of my allowance/own money to do this? //

Honestly, dining dollars are the best investment because you can use them at anytime, you can buy a good variety of things, and usually you can spend them somewhere that's immediately close to you. Yes, dining halls are nice because the food is unlimited, but they also have weird hours that might not fit with your schedule. And unless it's NCH, the food is pretty meh. Chances are even if you get the plan with the least swipes, you're still not going to use all the swipes because of inconvenience, meh-quality food, or the fact that people at Penn love to eat out and bond over eating out.

Absent Aardvark, June 3rd 5:37 pm

Can anyone share/recommend great sample schedules for an incoming freshman? (not only major-entry courses)

If it's relevant, I plan to take either Economics/Psychology as a major & Chinese as a foreign language.

Can't find any solid sample schedules & the one on the Economics department page only includes major-entry courses.

Tips would also be appreciated!

Although this isn't directly major-specific tips, here are some of the things I keep in mind when picking classes and scheduling each semester:

  1. Be realistic - are you really going to wake up Mondays at 9? If there's a later section, it might be better to pick that one.
  2. Don't jam every day full - leave yourself a less busy day (most people to Fridays) so you can either spend time with friends, explore the city, or just catch up on work!
  3. How long of a day? - this is actually an important question! If you have 3 classes on TR, do you want them 9-6 with breaks, or 10:30-3 straight through? Some people prefer having space to catch a breath between classes, whereas on the other hand I prefer being done earlier and in a shorter amount of time!
  4. Course ratings - of course, ratings aren't everything (ex: a hard professor is definitely worth it if they're really well-rated! Professor quality makes such a difference in the experience), but if you're struggling to decide between different scheduling options maybe ratings can help influence your decisions (and hopefully get a better schedule).
  5. Don't forget to eat - this is actually stupidly easy to do when you have classes especially getting accustomed to Penn and full of excitement. Make sure you plan times to grab breakfast/lunch or have schedules where you can dip by Wawa, a food truck, or Pret in the middle!
Bovine Bear, May 26 2019, 5:58PM

I’m not really a social person, and I know no one who’s attending Penn, are the students at Penn easy to talk to?

You'll be fine! During the first few months of freshman year, everyone is in the same position with no one familiar around them, so everyone is looking for new people to include in their new circle of friends. Even people who have a small group of high school friends with them are looking for new people, since you can't stick with the same two or three people forever. Plus clubs are other orgs on campus are a great way to meet new people.

Zesty Zebra, May 23rd 2019, 5:03 PM

If I get assigned a room (ex. too small) I don't like in the Quad freshman year, can I request to change or relocate to another room?

Yes but I think the chance of the request being granted is pretty low. I think once you see your room in person, regardless of where you're living, you'll find it to be decently sized. I lived in Hill double, which is one of the smallest rooms on campus, and it didn't feel small since you spend so much of your time outside of your room.

Zesty Zebra, May 23 2019, 4:57 PM

I keep getting a lot more Bs than I want to -- should I be worried, or is this normal?

***Freshman perspective, so take it with a grain of salt lol***  I think not performing at our expected level is a normal thing, and I don't think you should be worried so long as you are taking steps to improve your performance in the future. If you're intent on improving your performance, set aside some time to assess your habits throughout the school year and develop a plan to improve with concrete and actionable steps towards progress. It's not enough to just say "study more";  you should say something more like "I'm going to study five hours more per week." These academic decisions we make don't occur in a time vacuum, so it's also important to tell yourself what you're going to sacrifice to reach your goal. Going back to the above example, you could add: "I'm going to take time away from social media usage each week to study..." or something like that. At least for me, when I perform below my expectations it's reassuring to find areas that I faltered since that means I haven't maxed out all my options for success.

Zesty Zebra, May 18th 2019, 2:44 PM

Generally agree that it's good to be honest with yourself about whether you're investing enough time for each class.  But it's also important to strategize not necessarily for studying longer but smarter.  I think one thing that trips people up once they get to college is that their high school study habits aren't as applicable.  For example, does it make sense to spend time making flashcards if a class tests more for understanding than memorization?  Should you spend more time reading the textbook or practicing problems?  Should you try to grind alone or find a study group?  Should you go to office hours or seek one-on-one tutoring?  Each major/class has a different answer to these questions and it's helpful to gauge the best study strategy earlier on by looking at previous exams ahead of time.  For some pre-professional paths (like law and medicine), GPA matters more than others, but other skills like interviewing/networking/leadership may compensate.  

(By the way, there is nothing wrong with getting Bs, especially if you've just started Penn.  It may seem like everyone else is getting As all the time but this is not true – believe in your ability to improve and at least take comfort in the fact that you're being challenged at a prestigious institution, and other employers/schools know that, too.)  

Friendly Fox, May 22 2019, 1:00 PM