Established in 1740 by inventor, printer, and future founding father of the United States Benjamin Franklin, the University of Pennsylvania is a private institution for undergraduate and graduate education.
The fifth oldest university in the United States and the first to offer both undergraduate and postgraduate programs, Penn was initially intended to double as a charity school and a house of worship.
Throughout its nearly three centuries-long history, the University of Pennsylvania has developed a strong reputation as one of the nation’s foremost educational institutions.
In fact, Penn is a part of the group of eight elite private universities known as the Ivy League.
The University of Pennsylvania’s urban campus spans 299 acres and is located in the heart of historic downtown Philadelphia.
As of the fall of 2021, the total full-time undergraduate enrollment at the school is 10,106 students. With 12,924 full-time graduate students and an additional 5,008 part-time students, UPenn’s entire student body includes nearly 30,000 — or more precisely, 28,038 — currently enrolled individuals.
Given its long-standing reputation for being one of the best schools in the country, if not the entire world, it is more likely than not that you have heard of the University of Pennsylvania.
The following article is intended for those who are interested in learning more about just what it is that sets this prestigious institution apart from other schools, including its most well-known academic programs, its most prominent extracurricular activities, its distinctive traditions, and much more.
What Majors & Academics Are UPenn Known For?
UPenn has been named the top school nationwide in terms of undergraduate business programs. More specifically, UPenn has also been ranked first for its program offerings in the areas of business management, finance, and real estate, coming in second place for its business marketing programs.
The University of Pennsylvania also offers world-class programs outside the business world.
One of these is their Bachelor of Science in Nursing program, which has been ranked the #1 program of its kind in the country.
In addition to its many highly-ranked academic programs, Penn is also well-known as one of the nation’s foremost research institutions. The university boasts an annual research budget exceeding $1 billion.
With more than 5,000 current active faculty members, many of whom have been internationally recognized for their immense expertise and innovation through prestigious awards, Penn is widely-known for placing a significant focus on undergraduate teaching.
Is UPenn a Good School?
The University of Pennsylvania is not just a good school — it is one of the best schools in the world, boasting membership in the prestigious Ivy League.
Every year without fail, Penn consistently makes an appearance in the top ten in national university rankings.
As of 2022, Penn occupies the #8 spot on the US News and World Report’s annual ranked list of the best universities in the country.
In addition, UPenn has come in first place concerning many of its specific academic program offerings.
The median unweighted high school GPA for those who are accepted as first-year students at the University of Pennsylvania is 3.9 on a 4.0 scale.
This means that to be a competitive applicant to this university, students must strive to maintain nearly straight As in all courses.
With an acceptance rate in the single digits — or 9%, to be more precise — UPenn’s admissions process can be considered highly competitive.
From the above data, one can see that UPenn accepts only the best of the best to become a part of the school’s learning community.
At UPenn, a large majority of 86% of first-time, full-time students can earn a degree within four years of study. Including an additional two years of data, an astonishing 96.2% of undergraduate students at UPenn complete a bachelor’s degree within six years.
These considerably high graduation rates place the University of Pennsylvania among the best schools in the country.
Since its founding, the University of Pennsylvania has come to establish many unique traditions.
One of the school’s longest-standing traditions is Alumni Weekend, a yearly celebration taking place in May.
The weekend-long event offers current students the opportunity to connect with Penn alumni, a network of over 17,000 individuals located in 95 countries worldwide.
The celebration includes various events, from campus tours to parties, receptions, and many other forms of entertainment.
One of the most widely-cherished Alumni Weekend events is the traditional Parade of Classes, during which Penn alumni gather according to class year, marching down Locust walk behind their classes’ flags.
One of the most distinctive, unique fixtures of the UPenn campus is the Split Button statue, a 5,000-pound, 13 feet by 6.5 feet aluminum structure created by artist Claes Oldenburg of an actual clothing button.
Installed in 1981, the Button is placed directly in front of the Van Pelt Library.
The Split Button initially caused significant controversy, with critics of the piece claiming it was an unsightly addition to the school’s historic campus. Over time, however, the Button has established itself as somewhat of a focal point on campus.
Further speaking to the statue’s iconic status, the Button has even been featured in an episode of the Simpsons.
Prominent Clubs & Extracurricular Activities at UPenn
The University of Pennsylvania is home to more than 450 student-run clubs and extracurricular activities, with options in the areas of performance, media, community service, sports, and so many more.
One of the most prominent extracurriculars at the school is Penn Hillel, a Jewish religious and cultural organization that has chapters at more than 550 universities across the world.
At Penn, over 85% of Jewish students are involved with Hillel, making it one of the largest clubs on campus.
Open to all students regardless of Jewish background or degree of familiarity with Judaism, Penn Hillel offers many different ways for members to connect with one another and engage with Jewish culture.
The club hosts a variety of events relating to Judaism, including kosher dinners, cultural celebrations, opportunities for community service, and educational events like workshops and lectures.
Greek life is also a prominent element of student life at Penn, with over 3,000 students who are current members of a fraternity or sorority. The school is home to more than 40 different Greek life organizations.
What Sports Are UPenn Known For?
The University of Pennsylvania’s athletic teams are members of the NCAA’s Division I, competing in the Ivy League conference.
The school is home to 33 intercollegiate varsity sports teams, and athletes are known as the Penn Quakers.
One of UPenn’s well-known sports teams is the men’s basketball team.
Within its division, the Penn Basketball Quakers’ fiercest, longest-standing rivalry is with the Princeton Tigers.
Penn is currently on the winning side of this traditional antagonism, claiming 126 victories to Princeton’s 113 throughout the 239 times the two Ivy League schools have faced off against one another.
Another sport in which Penn’s teams are widely-known to be strong competitors is lacrosse. The college’s men’s lacrosse team has five NCAA championship victories under its belt, the first of which was back in 1983 and the most recent of which occurred in 2019.
The women’s lacrosse team has an even stronger record, having made NCAA tournament appearances in 1983, 1984, and every year from 2007 to 2019.
Penn’s women’s lacrosse Quakers have claimed three conference tournament championships, first in 2010, then in 2013 and 2014 consecutively. Additionally, they have won 13 regular season championships, including an eight-year winning streak starting in 2007 and lasting up until 2014.
There are many different reasons why students select the University of Pennsylvania as their undergraduate or graduate institution of choice.
Beyond its stellar academic program offerings and prestigious reputation, the school offers students numerous opportunities for academic and professional development over their years of study.
With a student-to-faculty ratio of just 6:1, UPenn students have the benefit of working closely with the college’s esteemed faculty, offering invaluable expertise and insights from some of the world’s foremost experts in various areas of study.
On top of that, nearly 70% of classes at the school have fewer than 20 students. Thus, for students who flourish in a more intimate, tight-knit classroom environment, UPenn is an excellent choice.
UPenn’s first-year retention rate, a widely acknowledged indication of how satisfied students at a given school are — is one of the highest in the United States, with an impressive 98% of first-year students opting to return to the school for an additional year of study.
Thus, although there is no definitive guide to determining whether a given college is suitable for a particular student, it is safe to say that many students who choose UPenn are happy to have done so.