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UPenn vs Occidental: Which University is Right for You?

July 13, 2023
By AdmissionSight
Group of students smiling at the camera.

UPenn vs Occidental: Which University is Right for You?

If you’re a high school senior or junior planning to go to college and can’t decide between UPenn and Occidental, you’re not alone. Both schools have their unique qualities and advantages that make them attractive to students. This article compares UPenn vs Occidental on factors such as location, academics, student life, housing options, cost, financial aid, career services, research opportunities, athletics, diversity, and campus safety to help you make an informed decision.

Location and Campus Size: How Do UPenn and Occidental Measure Up?

One of the most significant differences between the University of Pennsylvania and Occidental College is their location. The University of Pennsylvania is located in the heart of Philadelphia, which is a bustling city with a vibrant culture, while Occidental is situated in a suburban area of Los Angeles. UPenn’s campus spreads over 299 acres, while Occidental College’s campus covers around 120 acres. The location and campus size can affect your lifestyle and experience during college. If you prefer a big-city feel with a diverse culture, you’ll probably enjoy UPenn’s campus. However, if you want a more laid-back experience in a calm suburban setting, Occidental might be more your style. Both campuses offer many green spaces and are safe, secure, and peaceful places to learn.

Another factor to consider when comparing UPenn and Occidental is the weather. Philadelphia experiences all four seasons, with hot summers and cold winters, while Los Angeles has a more temperate climate with mild winters and warm summers. This can impact your daily life on campus, as you may need to dress differently and adjust your activities based on the weather. Additionally, UPenn’s location in the Northeast means that it is closer to other major cities like New York and Boston, which can provide more opportunities for weekend trips and cultural experiences.

Young teacher talking to a group of students.

When it comes to campus facilities, both UPenn and Occidental offer state-of-the-art resources for students. UPenn has a large research library, multiple museums, and a variety of athletic facilities, including a rock-climbing wall and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. Occidental also has a library, art museum, and fitness center, as well as a performing arts center and a sustainable garden. Both campuses have a range of dining options, from casual cafes to upscale restaurants, and offer a variety of extracurricular activities, clubs, and organizations for students to get involved in.

Academics and Programs: Which University Offers the Best Fit for Your Interests?

The academic programs and resources available to you at a university can play a significant role in how well you do while you’re there. UPenn has a broad range of undergraduate programs in four undergraduate schools, including the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the School of Nursing, and the Wharton School of Business. Wharton is one of the best business schools globally, featuring programs such as finance, accounting, and entrepreneurial management. At Occidental, the most popular majors are social sciences, biological and biomedical sciences, visual and performing arts, interdisciplinary studies, and psychology. If you’re looking for a more intimate learning experience, Occidental’s small class sizes and student-to-faculty ratio of 9:1 are worth considering. UPenn has a higher student-to-faculty ratio of 6:1, but it offers a more extensive range of academic and research opportunities.

Aside from the undergraduate programs, both UPenn and Occidental offer graduate programs in various fields. UPenn has graduate schools in law, medicine, education, and social policy & practice, among others. Occidental, on the other hand, has graduate programs in education and diplomacy & world affairs. If you’re considering pursuing a graduate degree, it’s worth looking into the specific programs offered by each university.

Another factor to consider when choosing a university is the availability of resources and support services. Both UPenn and Occidental have extensive resources for students, including career centers, counseling services, and academic support programs. UPenn also has a robust research program, with opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students to participate in research projects across various fields. Occidental has a strong emphasis on community engagement and social justice, with programs such as the Urban & Environmental Policy Institute and the Center for Community-Based Learning.

Student Life: Comparing the Social Scene, Clubs, and Organizations at UPenn and Occidental

When it comes to student life and social scene, both UPenn and Occidental have plenty to offer. UPenn has over 600 student-run clubs and organizations, ranging from cultural and religious affiliations to academic, political, arts, and sports groups. The campus has a lively social scene, with fraternities and sororities providing an active social life for students. At Occidental, you’ll find around 100 student clubs, ranging from academic, pre-professional, recreational, and service-oriented groups. Occidental also has a Greek system, which encompasses six sororities and six fraternities. The social scene at Occidental is more laid-back and low-key, with students engaging in outdoor activities, attending guest speaker lectures, and participating in community service events.

Aside from clubs and organizations, both UPenn and Occidental offer a variety of events and activities for students to participate in. UPenn hosts an annual Spring Fling, which is a weekend-long festival featuring live music, food trucks, and carnival rides. Occidental has a similar event called Springfest, which includes live music, food, and games. Additionally, both schools have a strong emphasis on community service and offer opportunities for students to get involved in volunteer work.

Students talking near the school grounds.

When it comes to sports, UPenn is a Division I school with 33 varsity sports teams, while Occidental is a Division III school with 21 varsity sports teams. However, both schools offer a variety of intramural and club sports for students who want to stay active and compete in a more casual setting. UPenn also has a state-of-the-art gym and fitness center, while Occidental has a fitness center and outdoor recreation facilities.

Housing Options: What are the Differences between On-Campus Housing and Off-Campus Housing?

Another significant factor to consider while comparing UPenn and Occidental is the housing options available to students. Both universities provide on-campus housing, but UPenn guarantees housing to all its first-year undergraduate students, while Occidental does not. UPenn’s on-campus housing is more expensive but provides more convenience and opportunity for interactions with fellow students. In contrast, Occidental’s off-campus housing, which is significantly cheaper, offers more flexibility to students who do not want to stay on campus throughout their college career.

It is important to note that living off-campus can also come with additional responsibilities, such as finding and signing a lease, paying rent and utilities, and commuting to campus. Students who choose to live off-campus must also consider the safety of the neighborhood and the distance from campus. On the other hand, living on-campus can provide a sense of community and access to campus resources, such as dining halls, libraries, and fitness centers.

Furthermore, some universities offer specialized housing options, such as gender-neutral housing, substance-free housing, or themed housing based on academic interests or cultural backgrounds. These options can provide a more tailored living experience for students who may not feel comfortable in traditional on-campus housing. It is important for students to research and consider all available housing options before making a decision.

Cost of Attendance: How Much Will You Spend to Attend UPenn or Occidental?

The cost of attending a university is one of the most crucial factors to consider when choosing between two colleges. It’s worth noting that both UPenn and Occidental are private universities, so their costs will be higher than those of public institutions. The estimated cost of attendance at UPenn for the 2021-2022 academic year is $78,970, while the estimated cost of attending Occidental for the same period is $76,880. However, these are just rough estimates, and the final amount you spend will be influenced by factors such as financial aid, scholarships, and grants.

It’s important to keep in mind that the cost of attendance is not just limited to tuition fees. Other expenses such as room and board, textbooks, transportation, and personal expenses can add up quickly. At UPenn, the estimated cost of room and board is $17,182, while at Occidental, it is $16,200. Textbook costs can also vary depending on the courses you take, with some textbooks costing hundreds of dollars each. It’s essential to factor in all of these expenses when considering the overall cost of attending a university.

Financial Aid and Scholarships: Which University Offers Better Financial Support?

When it comes to financial aid and scholarships, it’s essential to understand the policies of the two universities. Both UPenn and Occidental offer financial aid and scholarships to their students, but UPenn is more generous with its aid packages. UPenn meets 100% of the demonstrated need for all its undergraduate students, while Occidental meets around 90% of the need. Moreover, UPenn has a no-loan policy, which means that students do not have to take out loans to cover their costs.

However, it’s important to note that Occidental offers a wider range of scholarships and grants than UPenn. Occidental has a variety of merit-based scholarships, including the President’s Scholarship, which covers full tuition for four years. Additionally, Occidental offers need-based grants, such as the Occidental Grant, which can cover up to the full cost of attendance. UPenn, on the other hand, primarily offers need-based aid.

Career Services: Which University Helps Students Secure the Best Job Opportunities?

Career services are essential for college students, and both UPenn and Occidental have top-notch career service centers. UPenn has the largest career center, and it offers comprehensive career exploration, job search, interview preparation, resume building, and networking opportunities to its students. Occidental’s career development center offers counseling, workshops, career fairs, and mentoring to help students explore their career interests, cultivate their skills and find job opportunities.

Group of students talking in a classroom.

However, while both universities have excellent career services, there are some differences in their approach. UPenn’s career center focuses more on corporate job opportunities, with a strong emphasis on finance, consulting, and technology. On the other hand, Occidental’s career development center places a greater emphasis on non-profit and public sector opportunities, with a focus on social justice and community engagement. Therefore, students should consider their career goals and interests when choosing which university’s career services will best suit their needs.

Research Opportunities: Does UPenn or Occidental Offer More Opportunities for Research and Innovation?

Research opportunities are essential for students who want to pursue higher education or careers in research and innovation. UPenn has nine interdisciplinary research centers and institutes, including the Penn Institute for Urban Research, the Penn Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and the Penn Institute for Immunology. In contrast, Occidental’s Undergraduate Research Center offers a structured research program to students interested in conducting independent research. Both universities offer many opportunities for students to participate in research programs, present their work at conferences, and publish papers.

However, there are some differences in the types of research opportunities offered by UPenn and Occidental. UPenn’s research centers and institutes focus on a wide range of fields, including medicine, urban studies, and immunology. On the other hand, Occidental’s Undergraduate Research Center focuses on providing students with opportunities to conduct research in the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences. This means that students at Occidental may have more opportunities to conduct research in fields such as history, sociology, and environmental studies, while students at UPenn may have more opportunities in fields such as biomedicine and engineering.

Athletics and Sports: Which University Has a Stronger Athletic Program?

Athletics and sports can play an important role in university culture and student life. UPenn has a rich athletic tradition, with 33 varsity sports teams that compete in the Ivy League. The Quakers have won numerous national championships in football, fencing, and squash, among others. Occidental, on the other hand, has 21 varsity sports teams that compete in NCAA Division III. The Tigers participate in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference and have won multiple championships in cross country, swimming, and track and field.

Despite the differences in the number of varsity sports teams, both UPenn and Occidental offer a wide range of intramural and club sports for students to participate in. UPenn has over 40 club sports teams, including ultimate frisbee, rugby, and ice hockey. Occidental also offers a variety of club sports, such as ultimate frisbee, volleyball, and water polo.

Additionally, both universities prioritize the academic success of their student-athletes. UPenn has a graduation success rate of 98% for its student-athletes, while Occidental has a 91% graduation success rate. Both universities also have academic support programs in place to help student-athletes balance their athletic and academic commitments.

Diversity and Inclusion: Comparing the Student Body Diversity at UPenn and Occidental.

Both UPenn and Occidental are committed to creating and maintaining a diverse and inclusive campus. UPenn’s undergraduate student body is 48% White, 7% Black, 22% Asian, and 31% international or unreported. On the other hand, Occidental’s student body is 38% White, 5% Black, 10% Asian, 29% Hispanic/Latinx, and 13% multiracial. Both universities have active student organizations dedicated to promoting diversity and inclusion, along with offices of diversity, inclusion, and community engagement.

Group of students looking at a laptop in a table.

It is important to note that while both universities have made strides in promoting diversity and inclusion, there is still work to be done. UPenn has faced criticism for its lack of diversity among faculty members, with only 6% of tenured faculty being Black or Hispanic/Latinx. Occidental has also faced criticism for its handling of incidents of racism on campus, leading to student-led protests and demands for change. Both universities continue to work towards creating a truly inclusive environment for all students, faculty, and staff.

Campus Safety: How Safe Are the Campuses of UPenn and Occidental?

Campus safety is one of the essential aspects of university life. Both UPenn and Occidental have a robust safety and security program. UPenn’s Division of Public Safety includes the Penn Police Department, Emergency Communications Center, and Campus Safety Services. Occidental’s Campus Safety department provides a 24/7 response to emergencies, escort services, and vehicle assistance. Additionally, both campuses have programs to promote safety and prevent campus crimes.

Students walking around the school campus.

Ultimately, the decision to choose between UPenn and Occidental will depend on your preferences and priorities. While UPenn may be a better fit for students who seek a big-city feel, extensive research opportunities, and access to top-notch career services, Occidental may be ideal for those who prefer a more intimate and supportive learning environment, a small class size, and a diverse student body. We hope this article has provided you with the information you need to make an informed decision about which university to choose.

It is important to note that campus safety is not just the responsibility of the university. Students also play a crucial role in maintaining a safe campus environment. Both UPenn and Occidental have programs that encourage students to be proactive in promoting safety. These programs include self-defense classes, safety awareness campaigns, and reporting mechanisms for suspicious behavior. By working together, the university and students can create a safer and more secure campus community.

If you’re set on getting into a world-class college but aren’t sure how to make it happen, we can help! AdmissionSight is a leading college entrance expert with over a decade of experience helping students just like you get into the schools of their dreams.

At AdmissionSight, we focus on offering a wide range of services, all aimed at helping students perfect their applications to catch the attention of admissions officers. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and learn more about what we offer.

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