What’s the point of Penn?

Alexander Swick“What’s the purpose of college?” If you ask this to professors, parents, and students, you’re likely to encounter some typical responses.

“To get a good job.”

“To expand your horizons.”

“Make the friends of a lifetime.”

While all these phrases have been true for me at Penn, they are so frequently used that they border on the insipid. I was recently asked to give a talk about college at my high school, and the best, least clichéd advice I can give is “be awesome.” Don’t overanalyze my word choice, and don’t overthink this as a philosophical motto. Instead, whenever you get caught up in getting into Club X or College Y or Job Z, simply “be awesome.”

In my time at Penn, I’ve met some amazing people. My freshman year friends turned out to be Olympians, Broadway stars, and soon-to-be Grand Masters in chess. My favorite part of Penn has always been the amazing people, but it wasn’t until I tried to give advice to high school students that I realized the true benefit of surrounding myself with the greatest people I’ve met.

We can almost unanimously say things such as, “Oh, he was on ‘The Voice’; that’s amazing!” Certain things in society just seem to be ubiquitously incredible. However, society’s definition and your definition of “amazing” will not be completely overlapping. The beauty of being a part of the Penn community is seeing the incredible feats performed by your hall mate or hearing the passionate rhetoric of your group-project team member. You get to see what makes them passionate; you get to see a part of their definition of “awesome.” Being able to compare definitions allows you to grow your own!

While some are building their definitions, others are striving to embody it. Everyone chases their passions at Penn, and it is contagious! I’ve been literally inspired by just grabbing coffee with someone who wears their passion on their sleeve. Almost every aspect of Penn has been designed for you to chase that passion. Whether it’s MBA mentorship, the ability to start a new club, or career/personal counseling from the University, Penn is engineered to allow you to become your own definition of awesome.

So in closing, you can create your very own definition of “awesome,” and the University is constructed to make it easy to become that definition. Remember, after four years at Penn:

  • You will have a good job.
  • You will have expanded your horizons.
  • You will have made friends for a lifetime.

Those are three, wonderful givens that we are blessed to have at this school.  However, the real point of Penn and your college experience is to achieve your own definition of “awesome.”

Alex, W17, is from Lima, Ohio and is concentrating in Finance and Operations, Information and Decisions. Around campus, Alex consults for both Social Impact Consulting and the Small Business Development Center, researches for Wharton’s business radio show on Sirius XM, plays club tennis, and is a member of the Wharton Investment and Trading Group. Alex came to Wharton because of social impact and is currently working on a mobile phone application start up with that goal in mind.