Number one, every student at Penn knows you are a prospective student. Not because you are gawking at all the buildings or you’re with your parents (although these are good indicators). It’s because you all walk around with a little white bag with a blue Penn crest on it. If you want to look like you fit in, ditch the bag.
Number two, don’t take pictures next to the Ben Franklin on a Bench on 37th street and locust walk. We giggle when you do so. Frat boys get drunk on the weekends and decide Mr. Franklin would make a great urinal.
Number three, realize that (almost) everyone at Penn is extremely career driven. In Wharton and in Engineering it’s expected that you will get a high-powered internship every summer. Less so, but barely, in the College. A Penn degree is a means, not an end.
Number four, when you are trying to get to know a school, the tour and the admissions lecture should be just a start. You are going to commit four years of your life to one school or another; make sure the choice is the right choice for you. Have a long talk with someone who goes to the school. If you don’t know anyone, ask your parents politely to scram and then find someone to tell you about their experience at Penn. I would suggest going to the dining hall or the library. If you’re a preppy, pick someone wearing Ralph Lauren. If you’re a hipster, find someone who looks like they belong in GQ. If you’re an athlete, find someone wearing sweats. Aim to get this person (or group) to talk to you for at least an hour, but don’t tell them that up front. This is possibly the best way to find out if a school’s right for you: to talk to someone that’s been there. Bullshit testimonials or blogs on an admissions website don’t count.
(I would be more than happy to show you around and talk to you, especially if you are friendly. This is a photo of me:
If you are resourceful you can get in touch with me.)
Number five, make sure you are nice to your parents. They are paying for (most of) you and while they may be embarrassing you in front of your peers it’s probably only because they are freaking out about only being able to coddle you for another year. Your parents have invested a lot in you, be nice to them.
Best of luck! Let me know if you pick Penn for next year.