Thursday, March 28, 2013

Why Penn- asking the right questions to find the right fit for you

 Editor's Note: Today is the day students will find out if they were admitted to Penn's Class of 2017.  To celebrate that accomplishment, we have a blog from one of our current Penn engineers about how she choose Penn!
When choosing a University to spend the next four years of your life, it is important to determine what factors you are looking for and how important each one is relative to one another. Some people value the size or location of school, others are looking for a specific program or dual degree opportunity, and many want to get involved with extra-curriculars and organizations. While touring schools and going to school-sponsored information sessions, admitted students can certainly learn about some of the curriculum in the school, the history of the university, and even some various programs available to students. Though, it is also important to realize that there is a vast degree of frank knowledge that can be obtained from current students as well.

Being a Regular Decision Student and having applied to 13 universities across the country, I traveled to several admitted students days, went on countless student tours, and sat through over a dozen info sessions. The questions I found most helpful to ask were posed towards current students and included the following: What do you do for fun? What are you involved in on campus? How easy is it to get the required courses you need to graduate on time? Is Undergraduate Research common? How large is Greek Life on the campus? Where do you live and how good is the food at the dining halls?

Why did I choose Penn? Simple. The philosophy of the university and student body aligned with my personal ideology towards school, life, and growing up. I wanted to go to a university with a strong Bioengineering curriculum that would allow me to pursue science and engineering in conjunction with medicine and healthcare, fields that greatly interested me. I wanted to work hard and gain an education from one of the premier educational institutions in the world. But at the same time, I wanted to get involved and have an amazing four years learning and growing from those around me in both academic and social settings. There are clubs, organizations, societies, and teams for everyone, and the ones that I have gotten involved in over my past three years have positively impacted my life and shaped who I am today. I think I chose right for me, but it is a unique and personal choice for everyone. So ask lots of questions, be knowledgeable, and go with your gut. And if you do, you'll choose right for you.
Questions for Lauren?  Contact her at

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

What if you don't know what you want to do?

Spring semester always feels long – and it is: one week longer than fall, which may not sound like much, but somehow it is. But there is one time when spring semester feels short, and that’s when it comes to internships. The semester is now halfway done and if you don’t know what you’re doing for the summer yet, it feels like you are way behind. Even though it isn’t completely true, it always feels like everyone else knows what they are doing and you don’t.
Looking for an internship is not fun; in fact, it kind of sucks. Wharton kids have OCR all set up for them, and some engineers choose to go through that too, but not everyone wants to do finance or consulting. Sometimes though, I feel like I am in the minority among systems engineers when I say I actually want to do engineering and not go work on Wall Street or something. But on the other hand, not a lot of places have dedicated positions for systems engineers, and if you do end up getting an interview, one of the first questions always seems to be: “so, what exactly is a systems engineer?” A question that I have heard more times than I can count during my last three years at Penn, but I still don’t feel like I have a good answer to.
So where am I going with all this? Truthfully, I don’t exactly know. Maybe I’m trying to convince myself that it’s OK to have no clue about what I want to do and not be sure of how things are going to turn out. If there is one thing I have learned about looking for internships and summer jobs is that things rarely turn out the way you expect them to and that’s fine. I only recently decided what I am going to do this summer, and it was something that I applied to on a whim without much of a hope of succeeding. When I got an email to set up my first interview I actually went back to look at the job description thinking there must be some kind of mistake because why would I have ever thought it would be a good idea to apply for a position as a controls engineer? But now, I am glad I did. There have been so many times when I looked at a job description and thought it wasn’t quite right or I wasn’t fully qualified for the position, and if I had been thinking like that the day I submitted my application, I probably wouldn’t have applied. I think lots of people feel this way, in particular women. We are worried to put ourselves out there because we think we’re not actually good enough or qualified enough. But that’s silly; we are all engineers at Penn, which must count for something. And if we never put ourselves out there and take a chance we won’t get to do some of the things we most want to do.

 Patricia is a junior in Systems Engineering, Questions for Patricia? Contact her at