UPENN question for current students or alumni...


I just got admitted to Upenn and I am researching ways of financing my education since I only recieved $4,500 in scholarships. I was wondering if any students or alumni could share how they funded their education: loans, scholarships, work? Does Penn offer other scholarships for continuing students? Thanks!

Mar 19, 14 9:39 pm

I'm in the exact boat as Hp87, if anyone can offer advice, I'd appreciate it as well. Aloha.

Mar 24, 14 10:11 pm

I took out loans and did work study (laser cutter operator). Mostly I just took out loans/relied on my parents though. There are a few chances to win more scholarships in the middle of first year, second year and third year (in house competitions), but I wouldn't count too much on those. 

Mar 25, 14 8:04 pm
C. Watts
What did you think about the open house?

The facilities were of course amazing (better be for that amount of tuition). And I really like the range of courses, including the dual degree/certificate programs. They cover a wide range of skills and programs at the school (maya, grasshopper, revit, Python, millipede, etc) and they have a class that is completely dedicated to detail drawings. And while I would not be going for landscape, the MLA work was absolutely gorgeous.

Not sure how I felt about the M.arch work. It wasn't very diverse and I'm not sure if I want to attend somewhere that focuses so much on parametrics. Winka seems to be making some cool changes though.
Mar 25, 14 11:12 pm

I went to the Open House too, just got home tonight (flight change added 4 hours.. grr).

Here are my notes:

Campus: Absolutely Gorgeous. UPenn has some beautiful sights, 2 libraries (one for arts and one for everything else), the world's best business school, and a crazy obsession with Ben Franklin. Best campus I've ever visited (although its the only eastern school I've ever been too as well.)

Meyerson Hall: Also pretty cool but nothing too special. I come from UIC in Chicago and our Arch building seemed to have a bigger presence on campus. Meyerson is actually rather small in comparison, but then again there are no undergrads either. Easy to get around (circles around a core), good gallery space, very high-level equipment (3 laser cutters I think, each studio has their own 3D bots, giant fab-lab, lots of plotters scattered around, etc.)

M.Arch program: Exceeded my expectations. I have a good friend who is a 3rd year at PennDesign and he explained to me that the school fell in output and rankings because it was missing an Arch chair for around 5 years (Winka was appointed last March). Given that, its pretty impressive how much the school has gotten their shit together after one year. Apparently they restructured most of their programs, especially first-year grad, so those coming in now are kind of the new generation. Give them another 2-3 years and they will be considered top 5 in those annual rankings (for those of you who care about that). As far as the actual material, the program is definitely leaning more and more towards parametrics and even formalism. There were quite a few space-ship like design that you would expect out of SCI-arc and the renderings were breathtaking. The school is so digital-based that it is very rare to see a big-model and most Arch students have their desktops in the building in addition to two large monitors (where as UIC students only had laptops..) However, there are quite a few construction-based courses and the engineering building is literally across the street. Finally, the faculty was top-notch. By that I mean they were all very sincere and honest about the program. Not very many starchitects (who needs them, anyway?) but most of the faculty comes from other Ivy's and pretty much everyone are founders of their own firms as usual and are award winners with their own Wikipedia page to show the world how badass they are.

Other programs: This is where PennDesign shines. This is what the dean and all the professors I talked to stressed: there is the world-class MLA program, the urban/city-planning program, environmental design, etc etc, in addition to certificates that are very easy to acquire (certificate in real-estate design, certificate of landscape studies, etc). I guess gearing your electives towards a few of those classes gets you a certificate. Dual majoring is very popular and encouraged, and it is very common to see people deciding to dual-major after their first year (provided they get accepted). It is also possible to dual-major with the Wharton's MBA program, but, well, you can guess that getting accepted to do that is hard as shit.

Other notes: The school seems to be 2/3 female.. I saw maybe 15 guys at the open house and 25+ girls. Most of those year-end class pictures are majority women. Interesting how that works. Also, they have a happy-hour every Friday after classes, where all the students and sometimes professors gather outside Meyerson for free drinks. Finally, PennDesign offers LOTS of study-abroad opportunities for M.Arch, including 3-4 different summer studios (Paris, Greece, etc) and a 1-semester London studio through the AA (pretty selective though.)

Philly: I am very spoiled having studied and worked in Chicago, so Philly is a downgrade for me on all sorts of levels. The food trucks are a big plus though.

Most of the students I met there were also accepted to GSAPP, other east-coast top-dogs, waiting on SCI-arc, and usually accepted to a couple state-schools. Biggest complaints I heard were obviously the high tuition and low scholarships.

Hope that helps to anyone interested!

Mar 26, 14 2:35 am


As a fellow Chicagoan, let me tell you that Philly is awesome and will grow on you. Let me also say that Meyerson Happy Hour is the University of Pennsylvania's best kept secret.

Mar 26, 14 8:33 am

That is great to hear. I actually need a break from a large city like Chicago so Philly might just do me some good.

Are you a current/past student of PennDesign? Would you agree with my observations?

Mar 26, 14 10:06 am

I was an undergraduate in a program that allowed seniors to take most of the 500-level courses. I think you've gotten a good impression of the school. I hope that you're prediction about future rankings proves true!

Mar 26, 14 10:50 am

I have also been accepted to Penn and am sorting through the financial pro's and con's. I'm curious if this was a topic at the Open House or within the program in general.

Being a native of the West, I've always heard that Penn and other Ivy League schools will open the doors needed to potential make the financial burden worth it (if you take them). But I'd hate to speculate on account of old boys club mythology.

Without expecting handouts or an easy ride by attending Penn, I'm curious if folks more acquainted with the North East and Penn could shed light on this.

Mar 26, 14 10:00 pm

@Roshi - your observations sound pretty accurate - except the mostly female part - it seemed pretty equal in my year at least. Also should add - in addition to the study abroad programs in your last year, your studios include travel (unless something changes between now and your 3rd year) for a week or two. These locations have included cities in Iceland, Brazil, Hong Kong, Japan, Turkey, Cuba, Estonia, Italy, Austria... to name a few. Also the competition in your 2nd year - a huge chunk of the class will receive money to put towards a short summer trip abroad, which is awesome. 

Mar 26, 14 11:43 pm

Thank you all for responding, anyone else who wants to contribute, it would be welcomed for sure! Aloha!

Mar 27, 14 5:26 am

@G**** I think that these schools do open a lot of doors simply by virtue of their geographic density in the Northeast. You will be exposed to high-profile people [faculty, lecturers, visitors, jurors] on a regular basis at a place like Penn. But I don't think PennDesign qualifies as an "old boys' club." It's filled with too many young, diverse, progressive, and ecologically-minded people to be considered such. Maybe that sounds like an overly generous description of the people, but I don't believe that any "old boy" mechanisms govern how the school works.

Mar 27, 14 9:08 am
C. Watts

I will most likely be declining my acceptance to Penn.  I just don't think connections are worth 120K, especially when you will be making the same amount of income as a student from another, less prestigious university.  If you got a great scholarship, go for it. 

Mar 27, 14 9:15 am

@ C.Watts

The work in the exhibit space was definitely parametric dominated, which I wasn't a fan of. However, the Pressing Matters issue, which was beautifully done, had a wider variety of projects. I think that the parametric work exhibited was meant to show off the technological potential / experimental side that the program can provide. I also wouldn't say you're paying 120k for just networking but for the equipment available to you (3D printers in studios, free laser cutting, free plotting, etc.) an amazing diverse education full of interdisciplinary opportunities, top-notch faculty, geographic location without breaking the bank living in NYC, and travel imbedded into the cost of the studio curriculum. Needless to say, I already accepted my offer and will be headed to Philly in the fall. 

Mar 27, 14 1:59 pm
C. Watts

I was looking through the Pressing Matters book and it is much more diverse than what was displayed which makes me feel better.  Really if it wasn't for the $$ I would be very interested in UPenn, but the future of the profession is just too clouded right now (i've been watching too much starwars...)

I stayed in Philly with my friend (500 lvl at Penn) for a few days and the city is great and you will probably love it!  Had my philly cheese steak as Abners!

However, plotting is not free and you have to buy the materials for your maker bot.  As far as living goes, I recommend trying to stay in center city instead of west philly.  Multiple students told me that those who live in west philly their first year usually end up moving to center city (west philly is more undergraduate apparently.)

Good luck at UPenn Hp87, you'll have a great time.  Sci-arc just called me with an acceptance, so now I have another school to consider. Gah!

Mar 27, 14 2:18 pm

Good luck to you too! Make the best decision for you, and remember there's always scholarships to apply for! You just got to find them :)

Mar 27, 14 2:21 pm

Have you found any scholarships, HP?

Mar 28, 14 4:48 pm

Hi guys,

I have a few questions myself around the subject.

I have been accepted to UPenn, Sciarc, Washington is Stlous, Virginia and Pratt.

Upenn and Washington are offering some scholarship too.

At the moment I am thinking about UPenn and Sciarc. I have a hard time deciding between the two for a number of reasons. I would like to go to a university that is challenging, innovating but will also open more doors in finding a job. The two are so different but both interesting.

Can anyone share some thoughts or advice.

Thanks in advance.


Mar 31, 14 6:17 am
C. Watts

I don't think UPenn and Sci-arc are too dramatically different considering style and experimentation.  However, are you doing 2 or 3 years at sci-arc?

Mar 31, 14 8:35 am

3 years for both.

Do any of these rankings matter?

I understand that UPENN is an ivy league university and SciArc is an institute but it seems that SciArc is recognized a lot for its design. But does it really lack in other aspects?

Plus for both I will need to do physics as a prerequisite.




Mar 31, 14 8:56 am

I'm going through the exact same decision right now, but a SCI-arc 2 year vs a UPenn 3 year. To be honest I am leaning towards Penn because of so much more opportunities with dual-degrees, certifications, electives at Wharton, growth/restructuring vibe, abroad study, etc.

Mar 31, 14 10:21 am

is anyone also doing the MAKING + MEANING at SciArc? Do you think it will be helpful?

Mar 31, 14 10:29 am

@Tauros - It doesn't seem as important now, but it's actually pretty important to also think about where you want to end up after graduation. If you want to be in NYC/East Coast after you graduate, go for Penn. The connections will carry you far. If you want to be in LA after you graduate, absolutely go for Sci-Arc. Education-wise, I think you'll learn a lot at both in terms of design. As Roshi mentioned, Penn is great if you're thinking you'd like a broader approach to architecture (in specific interaction with other design disciplines - and I want to say travel, but I have no idea what Sci-Arc's travel opportunities are, so maybe those are just as good). 

Mar 31, 14 2:51 pm

Thanks Hayelle. I dont mind to be honest if I am in LA or NY. But I would like to go where most opportunities are. Is it very difficult for someone to move from LA to NY if they have studied at Sciarc? I am an international student and I dont know very well how it works in the states.

Plus you do get to travel or study abroad with sciarc


Apr 1, 14 10:34 am

It isn't super difficult for someone to move from LA to NY or vice versa, but you just end up with way fewer connections. A lot of students end up working with their professors and when you move to another city, those professors have got their own students that they favor. You'll find something, but it may not be exactly what you want. 

Also, I know you can study abroad w other programs, but I was really impressed with the number of opportunities at Penn - you can actually end up travelling to 3+ places/countries for short trips/one of them is a semester long, depending on your degree program and what you choose. 

I definitely recommend looking at professors' work and their previous students' work to see whose work you (at least for now) prefer. Also, even having gone through everything, I have no idea if rankings matter. Have you visited both? 

Apr 1, 14 12:37 pm

Did you get lots of interviews coming from UPenn for summer interships? Or even full time job after graduating?

I have looked at some of the work from both Unies and they both have something to offer.

At the moment I live in London and I didnt get the chance to visit yet. I know visting will make it a bit easier to decide.

Apr 1, 14 12:51 pm

Also look at course listings and studio syllabi if you can to see if you're interested. 

I wouldn't say I had lots of interviews, but I had a handful each summer and had one both summers without too much panic. For my classmates - most had internships, though some chose to do Penn's summer study abroad programs.

I had a full time job upon graduating - some people took a couple of months to take a break or keep job searching, and some people had secured one before graduating to start a right away or a month after graduation, but by fall everyone I knew of was employed (though that's only what I know so obviously take that with a grain of salt - I wasn't really rigorous in my survey haha). 

Apr 1, 14 1:01 pm

Thanks Hayelle. How is the work environment for a new grad?

Apr 1, 14 1:27 pm


can someone provide some information around estimated expenses, lets say if you live in a studio or 1 bed flat, plus books etc.



Apr 3, 14 12:46 pm

The work environment is as expected - it just depends where you're working. It's not uncommon for new grads to shift around every year/couple of years at first until you find a place that suits you. Right now the economy isn't doing horribly, so things aren't too bad, luckily. 

Rent isn't too bad in Philly - you can get a reasonably decent studio for about $820/month in center city (though things may be different now). It's only expensive if you want to live in a newer loft building nearby campus. If you have roommates it can be even cheaper. Book expenses were not much - we had a few readers ($60-$70) and a few textbooks (buy used if you can) - so maybe a few hundred total for books (for me at least). The actual big expenses are modeling materials, plotting, buying a powerful computer and sending things to be 3d printed. These can add up to thousands over the course of the 3 years - but I guess that can be said of any architecture school. 

Apr 3, 14 2:15 pm


UPenn's website has a couple neat transcripts from past Webinars that I read which helped me learn a lot. Here is the most recent one that actually touched on living expenses etc:

There is also a live webinar tomorrow that they emailed me about, maybe you can log in and ask a few questions.

Apr 3, 14 5:09 pm


thanks for the info.

I have also received the link, i will try and login tomorrow.

I was also wondering if anyone is doing any calculus online course as a prerequisite and if you can share any info. I am not sure exactly what they are looking for. 

Thanks in advance.


Apr 3, 14 5:21 pm


I'm taking the online calculus course that penn offers over the summer. They want it to consist of integrals and differentials. Also will be taking the Physics class they offer since they are somewhat specific about the subjects they want it to cover. 

We'll see how online calculus goes for me lol

Apr 3, 14 5:59 pm

Thanks HP87

something like this one:

I dont think that this is graded though.

Will also be doing the Physics they offer.

Apr 3, 14 6:14 pm

I think it is graded. Physics is Pass/Fail. When you register Calculus I online comes up as "regular" and physics "pass/fail"

Can't believe I have two months to move to Philly! 

Also, keep in mind that the digi blast offered the second summer sessions conflicts with the physics course so you have to do the digi blast the first summer session. I'm taking Calculus the first summer session too so I don't have to take it at the same time as physics. 

Apr 3, 14 7:48 pm

If it helps anyone, I found an enroll anytime online calculus course through the University of North Dakota. It sounds like it should work, but I'm waiting for the official word from UPENN (I'll repost when I do). 

It'd be nice to get this course out of the way before we start in June!

Also, for those doing the summer course work, what is your housing plan? 

Apr 3, 14 8:35 pm


I'm taking the online one through Penn so I can have access to tutoring on campus. I'm going to definitely need, being an online class and all. 

I'm just renting a studio for the academic year. You?

Apr 3, 14 9:29 pm


That's not a bad idea. I'm still looking into the housing part. It'll all be sorted out soon enough.

I'm sure we'll meet this summer. Good luck with your planning.

Apr 4, 14 1:08 am

Hp87 how long is the calculus course you are doing? Do you have a link to post, that would be helpful.

And you have already sorted out your accommodation, that is fast. I currently live in London and I have not yet visited Philly. Do you know of any good agents I can speak to for accommodation?



Apr 4, 14 2:47 am


The Calculus class I signed up for is for the first summer session only. 

I visited Philly for the open house only and didn't have time to explore the neighborhoods. I went on to the off campus housing website at Penn and there is a landlord ranking section on their website. I found New Horizons Housing and rented a 600 studio on the penn shuttle line. It's in pretty good condition and the company has an average rating. Moving June 1st, too excited!

Apr 9, 14 2:04 pm

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