Emma McClure | What is “The Penn Experience”?

A Letter From The Social Ivy Editor | A space to explore student life and culture

Photo credit: Design by Lexi Boccuzzi

By Emma McClure

Before applying to college, we all spent endless hours scrolling through colleges’ social media—we researched universities to decide where to apply, which were our top choices, what to write in the infamous “Why Penn” essay, and where to commit. Even after enrolling at Penn, we continued to seek information about campus life and school culture as a way of preparing for the next stage of our lives. 

We’ve all watched at least one video captioned “a day in the life of a Penn student” as we fantasized about college life during our high school years. These videos, usually a compilation of calming walks between classes and aesthetic study sessions in the library, gave us an idealized expectation of the so-called “Ivy League experience.”

For all the research we did in high school, we didn’t keep up with it much once we got here. I would argue that a knowledge of campus happenings and an understanding of school culture are far more important to those who are already on campus than to those who are applying. Perhaps we think that there isn’t much to learn about our school culture now that we are a part of it. This mentality would explain why we don’t often reflect on how accurate these media depictions really are. 

Is the “Penn experience” just about pretty campus views and studying in Fisher Fine Arts Library or Huntsman Hall? In these videos, even Penn’s unique reputation as the “social Ivy” seems to manifest itself primarily in eating lunch at Commons with some friends or stopping to chat on Locust Walk between classes. 

In reality, Penn’s especially social atmosphere makes campus life vibrant; however, like any academically rigorous institution, Penn is also competitive and sometimes cutthroat. Consequently, the campus culture is equally as pre-professional as it is social. In fact, the two often merge together to take on a new meaning of “the social ivy”—an environment filled with chronic networking, where LinkedIn takes the stage as the primary social media platform. 

Media also tends not to showcase the prevalence of the less glamorous aspects of life at Penn, such as imposter syndrome, or academic pressure. If you think about it, how many other schools have their own name for pretending your life isn’t a chaotic and sleepless mess and then warn you about it during orientation? I’m guessing not many. So, why is it that I’d never heard of “Penn Face” before NSO?

The Pennsylvania Post seeks to establish itself as an outlet of expression and free speech for the students of Penn’s campus. As such, we created The Social Ivy as a space dedicated to taking a deeper look at the student experience here at Penn. We hope that this section will provide space for current and prospective students alike to have an inside view into campus culture and student life at Penn. I invite you to reconsider if your high school research prepared you for your experiences on Penn’s campus. 

To all those who were not expecting Penn’s unique pre-professional spin on the “party school,” or were not prepared for the vibrancy and pressure of extracurricular involvement, The Social Ivy is a space to publish your honest experiences. To everyone on campus, The Social Ivy is a space to learn about the nitty-gritty of the multifaceted aspects of life at Penn directly from the unique voices of our campus. Reading about school culture is important for more than just preparing us for college; this media allows us to stay up to date on campus happenings and relevant social issues that can impact us or our peers. 

Articles in The Social Ivy will cover socially relevant topics such as multicultural affairs, Greek life, dating culture, religious life, and much more. From the light-hearted top Sidechat posts to more serious opinions about social stratification on campus, students are invited to contribute their honest experiences and opinions about Penn. 

Emma McClure is a freshman in the College studying Criminology from Columbus, GA. Emma is also The Social Ivy editor at The Pennsylvania Post. Her email is efmcc@sas.upenn.edu.

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