The University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1740, when evangelist George Whitefield decided to build a school that offered free instruction on Christianity and “useful literature” to low income children. Unfortunately, the school went unfinished due to a lack of funds. Ten years later, Benjamin Franklin bought Whitefield’s building and opened the Academy and Charitable School of the Province of Pennsylvania, based on the principles in his famous essay, “Proposals Relating to the Education of Youth.” The school aimed to train leaders in business, government and public service with a curriculum very similar to that of modern day liberal arts, an innovative idea at the time. In 1749, Franklin’s school would become the first institution of higher education to be named a university: the University of Pennsylvania.
Like all of the Ivies, Penn is home to many impressive “firsts,” including the country’s first hospital and subscription library, and the world’s first collegiate business school (Wharton) and general-purpose computer (ENIAC). Penn was not only the first Ivy League to have a female president, Judith Rodin, but also the first to have a female succeeded by another female, Amy Gutmann, who is currently the president of the school.
For undergraduate students interested in studying business, the Wharton school at Penn is consistently ranked as the number one business school in the US and the world. Wharton offers over 20 concentrations for undergraduates, including Finance, Business Ethics, Health Care Management & Policy and more, and all of which integrate coursework from many departments. Wharton offers students “the best of both worlds,” with 40% of coursework taking place outside of Wharton at one of Penn’s three other undergraduate schools. In fact, 30% of undergraduate Wharton students graduate with more than one degree. Going to Wharton pays off in more ways than one, with the average starting salary for the Wharton class of 2015 being $76,231. Moreover, the education at Wharton is so rigorous that roughly two thirds of its alumni find they don’t need to return to school for an MBA to advance in their careers.
Penn is also one of the leading research institutions in the world. Last year, Penn had a research budget of over $800 million and 4,000 active faculty members. Penn is also a great school for undergraduates interested in studying medicine. With opportunities at the Perelman School of Medicine, one of the top NIH-funding recipients, and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the largest pediatric research programs in the country, there are many ways to get involved as a research assistant, staff member or volunteer at the medical school and hospitals.
Students can also get involved in the Kelly Writers House, a one of its kind facility that hosts over 150 public programs and projects. Events like poetry readings, lectures, and radio broadcasts bring roughly 500 visitors to KWH each week and give students, faculty and alumni opportunities to hone and showcase their creative work. Through KWH’s Alumni Mentors Program, aspiring writers can have the opportunity to meet and receive informal professional guidance from alumni who are successful novelists, screenplay writers, poets, news reporters and more.
And for students who have an idea that might change the world, Penn has a prize (or two) for that. In 2015, Dr. Gutmann announced the President’s Engagement Prize, which provides graduating seniors with up to $150,000 to implement a local, national or global community engagement project the year after graduation. Last year, Dr. Gutmann awarded four, and this year she also added the President’s Innovation Prize, which will provide a graduating senior or team of seniors up to $150,000 to implement an innovative, commercial venture that aims to have a positive impact.
Outside of academics, Penn students can witness first-hand the incredible energy of the Penn Relays, the oldest and largest amateur track and field competition in the US, every spring. Off campus in Philadelphia, Penn students have access to a wealth of culture and American history. Visit the Philadelphia Museum of Art (and take a picture with the Rocky statue) or the greatest (and most controversial) collection of post-impressionist and modern art at the Barnes Foundation. Across town, there’s Independence National Park, featuring the LIberty Bell, as well as Independence Hall where Penn’s founder Ben Franklin signed the Declaration of Independence and the US Constitution.