Tell Me About Philadelphia Academics

It’s that time of year again. I’m currently applying for a Masters in Social Work, hoping for a program that emphasizes the management of nonprofits that serve the needs of immigrants. I am focusing on schools within a decent radius of my current home in New Brunswick, New Jersey, particularly schools located close to urban immigrant populations. I have almost completed my application to Columbia in New York City and Rutgers in New Brunswick… now I’m just widening the scope of my search.

Two schools in Pennsylvania have caught my eye-- Bryn Mawr College, and University of Pennsylvania. Bryn Mawr is about 10 miles from Philly and UPenn is actually in Philly. To be honest, I’m slightly leaning toward Bryn Mawr. I went to a ginormous undergraduate school (University of Michigan) and I find the idea of an intimate, academically rigorous educational environment extremely appealing. Bryn Mawr also has a deal set up with UPenn that allows their students to attend classes at UPenn in addition to Bryn Mawr. So this sounds like the best of both worlds to me.

However, since I’ve lived on the East Coast all of two months, I know nothing about Philadelphia. Wikipedia tells me that it is 8% Latino, which could be a good thing, particularly if the Latinos are recent immigrants and concentrated in a particular area of the city.

I also know very little about either of these schools except for the information provided on their website and wikipedia – both are highly selective and Bryn Mawr has the most actively political mission statement I think I’ve ever seen for a college, but since I agree very strongly with its liberal ideology, that actually works in its favor for me.

Thus I appeal to you, O Dopers – what’s the Latino scene like in Philadelphia? What is Philadelphia like as a whole? What do you know about these schools? What sort of reputation (bad or good) do they carry? Any other good schools in the area I’ve not considered?

Thanks very much.

Reasonably active Latino community – check “Northern Liberties” as a neighborhood where I know there are a bunch. There’s a local free paper called Al Dia that serves the community. (That’s all I know off the top of my head, sorry.)

Penn and Bryn Mawr are both first class schools – very competitive to get in, very expensive if you do get in. Members of my family have attended both; I currently have a niece at Bryn Mawr undergrad.

Philly is a great town – I live here by choice.

Beyond that – whaddya want to know?

Thanks for the input, twix. I’m curious–what about Philadelphia specifically appeals to you? Why do you live there by choice?

As a grad student, you’re going to view your university in two parts: your program, and a bunch of other stuff that you’re only vaguely aware of. The intimacy of Penn’s program is going to depend entirely on its size and not on the size of the rest of the university. I’m a current Penn student, and while I can’t speak specifically about the social work program, I can attempt to answer any other questions you have.

All the amenities of a big city, in terms of arts, culture, social life, politics, sports, etc., but at what I consider a very livable scale. New York is too big, it completely freaks me out every single time I go.

Let me know when you’re coming down for a scouting visit – I’d be happy to at least get together for coffee and a chat, or do a meal or a full tour as your time allows.

BMC is mostly an undergraduate program. They do give higher degrees, but only a few per year. If you want to be in an environment where there are lots of other grad students around, that may not be the place. That said, living is probably a bit cheaper in the 'burbs (although Bryn Mawr itself is pretty posh). The SEPTA train runs right through the town if you do want to get into Philly. The BMC campus is beautiful. The young women who make up the undergrad population are brilliant. The student body is pretty diverse, but I don’t know about the non-students Hispanic population. Oh, google says it’s tiny, ~3%. Just note that the town is also tiny, so you could walk 10 minutes and be in a different population.

And yes, you can take classes elsewhere, at least as an undergrad. You may want to check out how that works for grad school. BMC, Haverford, and Swarthmore students can all easily take classes at the other schools. Sometimes they have to, e.g. if they’re majoring in something like linguistics that only has a full department at Swat. They also let the undergrads take classes at UPenn, but that was a sort of last-resort situation, as the classes there were looked upon as not being rigorous enough (although I personally think it was a money issue–I’m assuming UPenn got some money in those situations.) Like I said, check out how it works for grad school. Even if they do in theory allow classes there, it also depends how flexible your particular program is.

That’s all I can think of at the moment. Good luck!

(I went to Swarthmore and a sibling went to BMC)