Executive Summary

Compared to Engineers, Wharton students have, on average, 5 more courses that they can freely take outside of their home school. This amounts to an entire additional semester of classes. Reconfiguring the engineering curriculum to allow more course flexibility could contribute to Penn’s interdisciplinary ethos, promoting Penn Engineers’ interests, and lessening academic burden on Engineering students whose curricula are often filled with heavier and more challenging courses.

Quantifying Flexibility

Wharton is used as our baseline here due to its reputation for being a high-quality yet straightforward curriculum. Flexibility is defined as the number of courses that can be freely chosen outside of one’s homes school (e.g. Engineering for Engineers, and Wharton for those in Wharton). Comparisons were then conducted between majors, and between Schools.

Key Findings

In Engineering, the number of flexible non-Engineering classes were, respectively, 9 for MSE, 9 for BE, 9 for MEAM, 10 for CIS, 9 for CBE, and 9 for ESE. We can thus see that variation between engineering majors is fairly small. However, comparison to Wharton shows that the engineering curriculum is significantly less flexible. Wharton allows students to choose a total of 14 classes outside of their home school. This translates to an entire semester more of outside classes than most Engineers have. This problem is especially severe for students who are in pre-med, as they have multiple extra requirements, such as organic chemistry, biochemistry and additional lab courses.

Furthermore, on face value, the Engineering curriculum also has significantly more CU requirements than other notable majors. For example, Bioengineering has a requirement of 40.5 CU, whereas economics has a credit requirement of only 32 CU.


Interdisciplinary learning is a core aspect of Penn, and the perspectives gained from taking outside classes can help shape Engineers into more socially conscious, well-rounded individuals. Hence, a readjustment towards greater flexibility would be prudent. Allowing students more flexibility in their course-load could also improve the sense of ownership they have over their studies, thus improving how much they enjoy their time at Penn. In turn, this could be a valuable way to improve mental health.