Earlier this month, we recapped visits to Goucher College and Johns Hopkins University. Here, we share thoughts on the University of Pennsylvania and Villanova University. (View all photos from the trip.)
University of Pennsylvania (Abdur Sajid, Scholars ’12, Wardlaw-Hartridge ’16)
“The perfect combination.” That is how I would describe UPenn. We entered the campus from the busy streets of downtown Philadelphia. The bustling traffic and array of lined skyscrapers truly brought the city to life. I could feel the heart of Philadelphia in every step I took. However, as we walked deeper into the campus through the intricately layered turns, we came upon the original building of the UPenn campus, around which the entire educational community was founded. It seemed so distant from the city. This area was where the tour started.
As I followed the tour guide, the larger part of my focus was on my own exploring. I took in the campus, or rather the miniature world of UPenn, by letting my eyes and mind wander. In the heart of campus, a serene calm permeated the grounds, the foliage was greener, the noise of the city had been completely cut out, and the architecture had a timeless feel. It was reminiscent of how Thoreau must have felt at Walden Pond. The UPenn community perfectly interweaves city life with a traditional college setting. UPenn left such a memorable mark because I could see myself there. I was able to picture myself rushing to class though the engineering quad or enjoying a good read on the lush green field in front of the residential halls. I felt like the campus could never get old.
The info session itself was held in the largest amphitheater on campus, which I am sure left every prospect impressed. The admissions representative made the school feel like a fit for every student. The admissions process is very competitive, but what stood out the most was the holistic review aspect of the admissions process. A holistic review means that an admissions officer will take into consideration all aspects of a student’s academic and extracurricular profile. Every distinct characteristic is used to define the student, rather than writing a prospect off for factors like a less than desirable SAT scores. It really showed that the admissions office takes extra care in deciding if the school is a fit for the student.
Another highlight was the way the representative presented the curriculum of the school. His descriptions of each of the different schools on campus (the Business, the Engineering, the Nursing and Liberal Arts schools) were clear-cut. He presented what each offered and gave recommendations on how to apply for each. For example, he recommended Math 2 Subject tests for the Business school and an additional Physics Subject test for the Engineering school. Our tour and information session solidified my feelings towards UPenn. I had a great experience on campus and I really enjoyed our visit.
Villanova University (Nathali Madrid, Scholars ’13, Westminster School ’17)
Stepping onto the Villanova campus this August, I immediately noticed the school’s quiet atmosphere. However, during the information session, I was able to see the true Villanova, despite the absence of the 7,000 students who were away on summer break. In the Admissions video presentation, the students were genuinely happy to be a part of the Villanova community. The students, or “Villanovans,” were laughing and helping each other. Even in interviews with students, they spoke about their first day at Villanova, not with anxiety, but as if remembering the best day of their lives. They felt like Villanova was the best school for them and there was no doubt in their mind about the decision. This sense of certainty is what makes Villanova University special.
During our time on campus, I was struck by more than the school’s strong sense of community. Villanova’s solid sense of community trickles into the classroom. The school offers more than 50 majors within 4 colleges. Best known for their Business & Nursing programs, students describe their classes as engaging, collaborative, and challenging. I love that Villanova’s “family atmosphere” is felt in the classroom too. While it’s an academically rigorous place, it truly seems like Villanova students and faculty are rooting for each other.
Villanova has many breathtaking buildings with unique stories behind them. One of the most unforgettable places were the arches at the chapel. The arches are surrounded by a romantic legend and, as a hopeless romantic, it was an interesting story to hear. The legend combines a sense of hope, joy, and a way to connect students. The chapel’s arches were designed with a really special feature. If someone whispers into the corner of the arches, their whisper can be heard clearly from the other side. According to Villanova legend, if a couple whispers to one another under these arches, they will fall in love and get married.
While this legend might not be true (though I hope it is!), I love that it reinforces Villanovan’s connection to their school and each other. If students are looking for a strong school with an amazing sense of community, Villanova is definitely worth checking out.