Executive Summary

The freshman transition to Penn, especially Penn Engineering, can be extremely confusing for incoming students. Because of this, the University has provided incoming freshman with the opportunity to garner more information about academics and life at Penn from a  variety of outlets including the OPA program, AWE pre-orientation program, and other NSO (beginning of the year) events. The OPA program has many flaws, including unresponsive student advisors and lack of sufficient information given. EDAB recommends a set schedule for the program so that advising is properly received and completed on time. Because of the success of the AWE pre-orientation program and potential for other engineering orientation events, more activities, events, and programs should be implemented for incoming Penn Engineering Freshman.

1. Advancing Women in Engineering

Offered for the first time in 2012, the Advancing Women in Engineering Program (AWE) had an overwhelming and positive response. During the program new students will have a variety of opportunities to learn about Penn Engineering and the city of Philadelphia including:

  • Meeting fellow incoming, and resident women engineers in Penn Engineering undergraduate/graduate programs.

  • Learning about student clubs and leadership opportunities in the Engineering

Student Responses

Survey responses indicated that many students found this program extremely useful, and credit it  for making their transition into Penn Engineering a easier process. However, some students mentioned that the pre-orientation program could be longer and more involved to allow for more guided exposure and networking opportunities. Because of the success of the event, many expressed interest in other pre-orientation programs.

2. Engineering Orientation

Dean Kumar provides an opportunity for incoming Engineering Freshman to ask questions about each department with select faculty. This event includes:

  • Break-out sessions for each Engineering Department, lunch, and networking time

  • A short Speech about Penn Engineering presented by Dean Kumar

Student Responses

There was not an overwhelming response in regards to this portion of New Student Orientation. Only about 4% of current freshman students responded to a survey about the  event. Many students did not reach out to most departments regarding their experiences. This is mostly because of the short, one hour time span of the event.

3. OPA program

The Orientation Peer Advisors program was established so that incoming freshman could raise concerns or ask questions on what it’s like to be an engineering student. Students are assigned an OPA once they arrive on campus.

Student Responses

While most students have had a great experience with their OPA, it was noted that some of the advice given was not helpful for course planning. Some experiences highlighted that OPA’s were unresponsive and did not reply in a timely manner, conflicting with scheduling and other important deadlines. OPA’s became more involved when students arrive on campus, but were not as responsive during the summer before. For instance,


  • Considering the success of the AWE program, we recommend Penn Engineering implement more group focused pre-orientation programs (i.e. programs for each major or programs for those interested in leadership/entrepreneurship).

  • Increase the number of engineering major-specific New Student Orientation events. Students expressed

  • EDAB recommends having a set schedule for the OPA program will ensure that students are receiving the proper advising before beginning classes and selecting classes during advanced registration. Without a plan, it is easy for an OPA to be unresponsive and not helpful for incoming students. The current flexibility of the program is  attributed to much of the dissatisfaction.