If you were a high school student thinking about applying to Penn’s College of Arts and Sciences, whom would you most want to talk to?
a. A guidance counselor
b. An admissions officer
c. A College student
Enter the College Cognoscenti, a group of student volunteers who can give prospective students (and their parents) the inside scoop on what it’s like to be a student at Penn.
Their impact can be huge. Hannah Riordan, C’19, went to a Cognoscenti presentation when she was a junior in high school, and it was a big reason she decided to apply to the College early decision. Now a “Cogno” herself, she says, “We’ve gotten lots of amazing feedback from students who say that going to a Cognoscenti presentation sealed the deal in getting them to apply to Penn. That’s a great feeling, to know that we’re really making a difference for these prospective students.”
The Cognoscenti complement the traditional Penn campus tour and admissions presentation with in-depth knowledge about what it means to be a student in the College. They give daily presentations to small groups of families, covering student interactions with faculty, getting help when needed, and balancing classes with extracurricular and other activities. Each team has representatives of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences, and each Cogno speaks about his or her personal experiences.
“I’ve learned that it’s really important to be genuine and honest about why I love being a part of the College,” says Angela Ip, C’18. “As student ambassadors, it’s important for us to be open resources. We’ll talk about if there are some classes we didn’t enjoy or tough experiences we’ve had.”
“Students and their parents will approach us individually to ask questions, and it brings me back to the not-so-distant past because I was that kid who had a million questions,” says Nathan Schor, C’19. “I try to be as helpful and open as possible with them.”
The most frequent questions include whether Penn is as hyper-competitive as its reputation suggests. “I give examples of times I’ve collaborated with other students in my classes to study or work on group projects and talk about how friendly the academic environment is,” says Riordan.
“Since I’m a mathematical economics major, the most common question I get is ‘Why not Wharton?’” says Matthew Strahan, C’18. “My answer is essentially because I wanted a strong liberal arts foundation and to develop broad problem-solving, analytical, and communications skills.”
All the Cognoscenti encourage other college students to get involved. “It’s a great way to bolster your public speaking skills, and the presentations are a lot of fun and very rewarding,” says Schor of the experience. “How often do you have an entire room full of people that just want to hear about your classes and then give you a round of applause?”
The Cognoscenti also keep a student blog to provide additional inside perspective for students who can’t make it to the campus, or who want to keep learning more. To see the blog and learn more about the group and how to see a presentation, go to: collegecognoscenti.com