Great Advice from Advisors

Being proactive, informed and thoughtful is the best way to approach your undergraduate education. Below is some of the best advice from the College assistant deans to help you think through what your approach will be.

When you explore, it’s best to have a map in hand. For example, many majors require that you take preparatory courses in their own and other departments. If you want to study abroad you should think about your language courses. Your academic advisors and faculty stand ready to guide you.

One of Penn’s strengths is the breadth of its academic programs, in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the professional schools. Go beyond the subjects you studied in high school and explore new territory: try a new language, explore an unfamiliar part of the world, or follow new directions in science with researchers who are making ground-breaking discoveries.

Seek the most challenging courses and programs of study, and never assume that you aren’t good enough to succeed in them. The College advisors and faculty are there to help you stretch your intellectual muscles and train them. If you get in over your head we can help.

In partnership with your academic advisor, you will work to create an academic plan that explores all of your interests and satisfies all of your intellectual goals.

  • The College Office (120 Cohen Hall) is the central academic office for the College of Arts and Sciences. All students are welcome.
  • Academic Advising provides an overview of the advising system.
  • Consult faculty advisors in the departments and programs whose majors interest you.  They can give you further insight into their disciplines and what the structure, expectations and opportunities are in their major. 

Make it a priority to get to know at least one of your professors each semester. Your professors can help you discover your intellectual passions, give insight into their field, help you to strategize about major selection, and generally enhance your academic experience at Penn.

It’s one thing to learn about discoveries in science, social science or the humanities. It’s quite another thing to make your own discoveries. Graduates report that one of the most valuable aspects of their Penn education was engaging in a research project, whether an experiment in cognitive neuroscience, a study of a rare manuscript, or an analysis of South American trade policies (just to give a few examples). The Center for Undergraduate Research and Fellowships can help.

Learning at Penn happens everywhere: in the classroom, to be sure, but also in the college houses, at lectures from world-renowned speakers, in concert halls and museums, and in the Philadelphia community. Take advantage of the resources available only at a great university like Penn, set in an extraordinary city. Here are some examples:

Keeping a healthy balance between your academic work and your other obligations and activities can be challenging.  There are many resources at Penn that can help you achieve and maintain that balance. 

  • Weingarten Center The Weingarten Center is a good resource for help with study skills, time management and much more.
  • Writing Specialists The writing specialists in the Marks Family Writing Center are available to help you perfect your papers.
  • Public Speaking Communication Within the Curriculum (CWiC) advisors can help students become more effective speakers.
  • Penn Libraries In addition to the vast collection, Penn's library system offers a wide range of invaluable resources and workshops.
  • Penn Campus Recreation and Dining Services Sleep, exercise and eat well. Nourish your mind and your body. Whether it's working out in the gym, playing intramurals or taking yoga - there are innumerable opportunities for enjoyable exercise at Penn.
  • Public Health and Wellbeing For valuable information about managing stress, diet, sleep and other health concerns.
  • Student Health and Counseling For help managing stress and other student psychological concerns.

You are living in one of the most culturally rich, exciting cities in the country! Take time to get to know it. 

During your first three semesters at Penn, concentrate on exploring all of your interests. Use the General Education Curriculum to explore, and use your academic advising network to discuss your ideas. Here are some additional ways to explore majors: