First-Year: Frequently Asked Questions

External Exam Credit

Which requirements will my AP/IB credits fulfill?

Refer to the External Exam Credit page to determine which Wharton requirements your credits can fulfill.

How do I get my IB credits on my transcript?

Matriculating students seeking credit for IB exams must have official score reports sent directly to the Office of Admissions by the International Baccalaureate Organization. Visit the admissions external exam credit page for more information.


Which courses do Wharton first-years typically take in the fall semester?

Please refer to the sample schedule on the curriculum page. You are required to take Wharton 1010 during your first semester – your other courses will depend on AP/IB/A-level credit or waivers, placement results, and your individual interests. Please note that you may take the Writing Seminar in either semester of your first year.

What special course opportunities are available to first-year students?

  • First-Year Seminars are an excellent introduction to academic life and provide students with the opportunity for direct personal engagement with a faculty member in a small-class setting devoted to a significant intellectual endeavor. Certain First-Year Seminars can also fulfill General Education and Cross-Cultural Perspective requirements.
  • Academically Based Community Service courses (ABCS courses) provide opportunities for students and faculty to work with West Philadelphia public schools, local communities of faith, and community organizations to solve critical campus and community issues in a variety of areas related to the environment, health, arts, and education. Certain ABCS courses can also fulfill General Education and Cross Cultural Perspective requirements.

What is the difference between Math 1400 and Math 1070?

MATH 1400, Calculus 1 is recommended for Engineering dual-degree students, students who are interested in pursuing a statistics concentration or quantitative minors such as math, or any student who plans to take MATH 1410: Calculus 2.

MATH 1070: Mathematics of Change 1 is recommended for Wharton students who do not plan to take further math courses.

Learn more about Math 1400 and 1070 >>

Do I have to take the Math Diagnostic Placement Exam?

If you are planning to take a math course in the fall, you must complete the Math Diagnostic Placement Exam.

Please note the following:

  • You should complete the exam before you reach out to your advisor.
  • Once you have taken the exam, you should discuss your score and previous math preparation with your advisor to determine appropriate course placement.
  • If you will be receiving AP/IB exam credit for MATH 1400 and plan on registering for a statistics course in the fall, you do not need to take the math diagnostic exam.

What is the difference between a Writing Seminar and a First-Year Seminar?

The writing seminar fulfills the Writing requirement and is designed to prepare students for college-level writing and research. Visit the Critical Writing Program page for more information.

First-Year Seminars are an excellent introduction to academic life and provide students with the opportunity for personal engagement with a faculty member in a small-class setting devoted to a significant intellectual endeavor. Certain  seminars can also fulfill General Education and Cross-Cultural Perspective requirements.

Which Writing Seminar should I take?

The Critical Writing Program has put together in-depth information on choosing the right seminar. You can also consult with your academic advisor about this choice as well.

How do I find out what courses fulfill Liberal Arts and Sciences requirements?

You can check the section attributes in Path@Penn and the Liberal Arts and Sciences Course List on Undergrad Inside. If you have a question about a particular course, you may ask your advisor.

Are there any courses I can’t take as a first-year student?

First-year students may not take any finance or accounting courses or any Wharton courses that are numbered 2000 or higher.* First-years also should not take OIDD 1010, MGMT 1010 or MKTG 1010 in their first semester.

* First-year students may take BEPP 2500 or ECON 2100 in the spring semester.

What is a recitation?

Many of Penn’s larger introductory-level courses require enrollment in both a lecture section and a recitation section. The recitation section is designed to be a smaller break-out session from the larger lecture (typically no more than 25-30 students per recitation) to provide an opportunity for students to engage with the course material in a smaller group setting. The Course Search feature of Path@Penn will note when a course requires enrollment in both a lecture and a recitation section.

Can I take a course pass/fail?

No.  All of your first-semester courses must be taken for a letter grade.

How and when do I take a language placement exam?

Students who do not place out of the language requirement must take a language placement exam to determine their level of competency in a foreign language.

French and Spanish offer online exams. Spanish offers additional guidelines for selecting the appropriate level based on the student’s language experience. Other language departments offer written exams at the beginning of each semester. The schedule and location of these exams in the fall will appear on the New Student Orientation website.

Students wishing to be evaluated in a modern language other than those taught by the language departments should consult the Penn Language Center.

Students who feel their placement scores do not accurately reflect their language level, or students who have other questions about their language study, should make an appointment to speak with the coordinator of their particular language program.

Where/when do I buy my textbooks?

You will likely be buying two types of instructional materials for your classes: textbooks and bulkpacks.

Textbooks are available at the Penn Bookstore, located at 36th and Walnut Streets. It may be possible to view and/or purchase some of the textbooks you need in advance via the Penn Bookstore website (textbooks tab). Alternatively, textbooks may be purchased at the Penn Bookstore once you arrive on campus in the fall. Websites like and may have less expensive options and used books as well.

Bulkpacks are a compilation of reading materials that are necessary for the course. If you need a bulkpack, it will be listed on the course syllabus. Your instructor will tell you where you can purchase the course bulkpack.


How do I register for courses?

Students register online using the Path@Penn system. You can find more information on the Advance Registration and Course Selection page.

How many courses should I register for?

Incoming Wharton first-years are allowed to take up to 5.5 CUs.  You should register for 4 – 5 courses in addition to Wharton 1010.

Can I take more than 5.5 CUs?

No. The maximum number of CUs in your first semester is 5.5.

Can I register for two courses that overlap in time?

No.  The registration system will not permit you to register for two courses for which there is a time conflict, even if the overlap is minimal.

Academic Opportunities

Do I need to know my concentration now?

No. The timeline to declare a concentration is flexible, and students can first declare a concentration at the end of sophomore year. Consider the classes you take during your first two years as opportunities to evaluate and explore your interests. First-years should focus on getting adjusted to Penn and completing the first-year requirements in economics, math, and the liberal arts.

I am interested in a minor/dual degree/study abroad/other academic opportunity. When should I start planning?

It is not necessary to know which options you want to pursue when planning courses for your first semester. First-years have plenty of time to explore their interests and research academic opportunities. For those students who know they wish to pursue a specific minor or dual-degree program, talk with your academic advisor about your interests. This website provides additional information about study abroad, research, and other academic opportunities.

I’m interested in research. When should I start thinking about it?

You can start as early as first semester once you have a decent handle on your classes and any extracurricular involvements. One of the better ways for first-years to get involved is to explore Research Assistant (RA) positions. These positions can be found with individual faculty in the departments across Wharton and Penn in general, with researchers in the many centers and institutes at Penn, and on the job search site. Alternatively, you can gear up to apply for one of a series of opportunities over the summer after your first year including PURM, SPUR, SIRE, and WRAP. To learn more, ask your advisor, attend an information session, or ask other students how they got involved!


How do I find out who my advisor is?

Your advisor will email you on June 17. You can also find your assigned advisor listed in your profile on Path@Penn.

How do I schedule an appointment with my advisor?

Once you have completed the required Canvas modules, you will be able to sign up for an online group advising session through Canvas. In the session, you’ll learn more about the  advising system and meet your academic advisor. One-on-one appointments will be available to first-year students starting in the fall semester.

Where can I find more information about tutoring, academic support, and other resources?

Many students utilize tutoring and other academic support services, especially during their first year. Information on academic support programs, tutoring, learning resources, Student Disabilities Services, Student Counseling, Student Health, international programs, cultural resources, and security and safety services can be found on our resources pages.

With whom can I talk about non-academic concerns I may have?

In addition to your Wharton academic advisor, peer advisors, and cohort directors, your college house dean is a great resource to discuss both academic and non-academic matters. Your house dean is a full-time staff member who lives in your college house and has been trained to assist you with any issues that may arise.

Another great resource is to talk to a counselor at Student Health and Counseling: Counseling Services, which provides free professional counseling to students