Well, I'm very interested in all things Penn, so I guess I'd start with a general "how are you liking it so far?" question. What are the best and worst things you've found about Penn, academically and socially? How about housing? How has the 1L job search been going, and what does Penn do to help 1Ls find jobs?
So I guess I like it as much as I can like law school. 1L is just hard, no matter how you slice it, but I cant imagine any place that makes it easier, with no rankings, very few bad grades handed out (you really got to work your ass off to get a C, "prove me you know nothing" as one prof put it before the final last semester) and a generally friendly atmosphere. There are some bad professors, its definitely not fun that Penn stacks 4 hard classes PLUS a legal writing section in your first semester, but again, its impossible to really screw it up. Its such a non-competitive environment. I hear horror stories from Columbia, Chicago, Harvard - and they just would never ever ever happen at Penn.
Housing... theres grad housing. Ive never seen it, it looks pretty crappy from the outside but its very close to the law building. Youll likely want to find an overpriced apt in Center City tho- buses run up and down Chestnut/Walnut all the time so its not bad to get to school. Its friggin cold in Philly tho, lot of wind tunnels. Was not expecting that.
1L job search: they prepare you and prepare you, provide workshops and training for interviews and resumes... but getting a 1L firm job is just hard, esp in NY. I can tell you that lots of ppl got offers before they got their grades- ie the Penn name was enough of a sell. I got an offer from a Fed judge for the summer without so much a single grade. But others who are holding out for firms, are having a hard time. Penn has on campus recruitment for summer 1L jobs with some impressive firms and employers but those results are not in. Well see.
for people interested in public interest law, are they well-supported by penn? (i don't just mean financially--i mean, is there a supportive program in place?)
Theres a public interest office that works solely on public interest opportunities. They are constantly sending out job opps and summer program info, thye have lunchtime workshops dealing with public interest... i have no idea how this stacks up in comparison with other schools though.
I assume that you had multiple LS admissions offers. What sold you on Penn?
Can you speak a bit about the school culture? Penn's admissions materials seem to really emphasize its commitment to diversity. What is your perspective as to how welcoming/inclusive the school really is?
What extra-curriculars have you been able to take part in this year?
How are the academics? Are you stressed/burned out?
How helpful has Career Services been in helping you with IL summer employment?
Talk a bit about your favorite class/prof so far.
1- I chose Penn over Columbia, Cornell, GW and full ride at Cardozo. I def recommend going to a top 15 school if you can. Youll make the $ back and the job opp (and therefore the level of pressure) is just 10x better. I chose Penn, plain and simple bec of the friendly/non competitive reputation, which has prove itself to be true, and its reputation. Ie i did not want to go to Col bec its supp to be a nightmare, and I did not want to go to GW (even tho ppl love it there) bec its not as well respected by employers. I think Penn offers the best combo there, on par with maybe NYU and Harvard.
2- Diversity- as diverse as anyplace, lots of Penn undergrad and Cornell undergrad, but racially/religiously like anyplace else. Dont come to Penn bec its especially diverse, dont pass it up for not being so.
3- Social culture: like I said, absolutely wondereful. I cant stress how chilled out and relaxed and warm and friendly the atmosphere is here. As good as it gets for law school.
4- Academics- I had a really bad professor last semester, and another who was visiting from a less reputable school who was great but gave an awful confused final. Its not perfect, though the other sections were generally much luckier in terms of that. Im learning alot- its the same textbooks as everywhere else. its the same occasionally dull, occasionally interesting professors as everywhere else. I think the level of intellectual understanding and class discussion is pretty impressive amongst the students, Im learning a ton from my legal writing section... the 1L curriculum is similar everywhere so Im not sure how much I can comment on this- i can say i am loving the two electives I am taking this semester, most schools dont let you take more than one, if any.
5- Heres a Penn complaint: theres a TON of extra curricular stuff but I dont know much about them- i dont feel like theres an organized method of getting that info out there. I know a ton of ppl in clinics and awesome programs, but i dont know how they found them, got involved... the opportunities are abundant but i havent found it easy to get involved.
i also dont have alot of extra time with my legal writing and my 4 classes... anyway the opp is out there but i really think they could make it easier for 1Ls to get involved.
6- Favorite professor was probably my Civpro prof, a Penn tradition of brilliant bitchiness. I also love Prof Johnston who teaches Contracts 1st semester and a bunch of electives. And the IP program at penn is considered one of the best- i love Prof Wagner, who im taking for intro to IP.
Anyway Im not sure how helpful this is... more specific questions, PM me?
I am strongly considering Penn, but I will likely be living off-campus (in Queen Village) should I enroll. Will this hurt me very much with respect to social opportunities/studying?
I haaate to say this, but I have no idea where Queen Village is. I mean I think I know Philly somewhat well- but is that a suburb?
In any event, most 1Ls live in Center City, in the grad housing up the block from the law school, or randomly all over University City. The social epicentre is 100% Center City, which is relatively easy to get to from the law school and is full of bars/restaurants/supermarkets... its also expensive.
But your 1L year is going to revolve around the law school, so the answer lies in how you would be getting to/from Penn Law to your house... and while it might be more annoying to get together with friends if youre far away, its not impossible.
Im trying to think what else I wanted to know last year- i think the most important point is that its a really relaxed fun group of ppl... (the admissions office really knows what its doing!) combined with a law school that is well respected enough to place EVERYONE with amazing jobs. Yale places better at big NY firms. But its reputation is... well, a buncha dorks. And Im sure its a lot more fun over at Pepperdine on the beach but they dont place at any firm you could ever imagine like Penn does.
Or, in short- Im happy, doing OK and confident Penn's got my back in terms of career prospets.