The first decisions you will make at Penn involve choosing your fall semester courses. Like ordering at your favorite restaurant, picking what you want from all of the attractive options can be difficult. Even with clear goals in mind, this decision is considerable when faced with the variety of Penn’s courses. Beyond simply deciding what is to your taste, you can attack this problem logically. By assessing your goals, examining your resources, and planning for the future you can make this process both fun and beneficial.
Consider your educational goals. These goals can be of any form: general concepts (“obtain a strong liberal arts background”), specific undertakings (“earn a BAS in computer science”), career plans (“become a lawyer”), or even your personal preferences and desires (“I really like biological sciences, and I want to know more”). Perhaps you are only sure of which subjects you liked in high school. Serious thought should go into what you want from Penn and from life; time spent soul-searching on this matter is time well spent. You should definitely take a look at what the Benjamin Franklin Seminars are offering this semester—we offer a great variety of courses each semester, providing you with a perfect opportunity to try something you’ve never studied before.
If you are interested in many different subject areas, look at majors associated with them. Go to individual departmental web pages and see what the requirements are for the majors that interest you. You might be able to eliminate one or two from your list if they require many courses in an area that you know you don’t enjoy. Find out if there is a small seminar course offered in your chosen area and try to take that course in your first semester. A well-taught course will let you really enjoy the subject and help you make long term decisions (like picking your major) and deep personal connections (like a faculty member who is ready and willing to be your mentor). Look at the Benjamin Franklin Seminars course list as well as the Freshman Seminar and Writing Program lists for potential courses.
If you are even remotely uncertain about your choices and your opportunities, do not hesitate to talk to your Benjamin Franklin Scholars advisor. They are there to answer your questions about requirements, the specific offerings of departments, what level of a subject you should aim for, and much more. Furthermore, they have many contacts around Penn who can answer any questions. BFS advisors work closely with both your school advisor as well as, in later years, your major advisor.
Taking stock of your circumstances is the first step in choosing which courses you will take in the fall. For example, most Benjamin Franklin Scholars have AP credit, have taken A-Levels or International Baccalaureate exams, or have earned credits from other colleges and universities while still in high school. The Placement Office will send you an evaluation in July listing which credits you have been awarded. These credits can play an important role in providing a springboard to higher level studies. In addition, individual departments offer placement tests. If you have questions, please read http://www.college.upenn.edu/freshmen/ap.php.
By now you have probably identified one or two courses that you feel you should take. What about courses in areas that you hadn’t considered before? Reconsider one or two of those seminars that you breezed past while paging through the course descriptions. What makes them intriguing? Allow yourself to explore a wide range of subjects. Dare to explore some alternative, imaginative possibilities and take some risks!
If you have not fulfilled your Language Requirement with a score of 650 or higher on the SAT II or a score of 4 or 5 on the AP exam, you should take a language placement test through the appropriate Penn Language Department. (Check with individual language departments for their specific rules; for example Hebrew requires higher than a 650.) You may take the French or Spanish language placement test online over the summer at http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/roml/. The NSO calendar will have the dates for all placement tests later in the summer. If you do not fulfill the requirement, we encourage you to take the appropriate course(s) during your freshman year. There are many languages offered at Penn, and you may want to consider starting a new language.
COURSE SEARCH & MOCK SCHEDULES
Course Search & Mock Schedule is a tool on the Penn In Touch website designed to help you search through courses being offered during the upcoming term. As you locate interesting courses, you will have the option to save them to a list and then preview them in sample weekly schedules.
Please be careful to review the requirements for each course and to include all parts of multiple-activity courses, such as lecture/recitation or lecture/lab courses when you submit your requests on Penn In Touch. Additional restrictions may be presented during your actual Registration session on Penn In Touch.