Being a Penn student comes with many perks: a beautiful campus, countless resources for student support, stellar faculty, and insightful, inspiring classmates. But it also comes with a hefty price tag. Many undergraduate students feel intimidated by the price of having fun at Penn. There are always events happening on campus and in Philadelphia, but most require tickets or entry fees of anywhere from $10 to $50. Eating out is a wonderful way to socialize with new-found friends but Center City restaurants can be as pricy as they are delicious. What do you do if you want to have fun on campus but don’t want to spend any money? Check out these great options to have fun for free at Penn.
New Student Orientation (NSO)
This is an opportunity available only to freshman and transfer students, but NSO is jam-packed with free fun. From getting to know hall-mates to the late night carnival at Houston Hall, be sure to take advantage of NSO and it’s many offerings. As a freshman, I stocked up on free water bottles, notebooks, hats, and way too many cookies during NSO. It’s a great way to make memories and maximize your first week at Penn without breaking the bank.
Dorms are hubs of free fun. My advice: get to know your RA! Residential Advisors (RA) are there to help you navigate Penn and that often comes with lots of free food and activities. I am an RA in Harrison College house and I host weekly office hours with donuts. During this time, residents come to hang out and catch up with me. I also hold monthly floor dinners where I order tons of food from local restaurants and provide dinner for my residents. Hanging out with your RA can be a good time, and, if nothing else, it’s a free meal before you head out to a student show or a study session.
Dorms also hold dorm-wide events. In Harrison, we have weekly movie nights, Saturday night events that range from D.I.Y. hanging planters to ice cream sundae bars, monthly brunches, and subsidized tickets to arts performances in Philadelphia. I can’t stress enough, get to know your RA and get to know your dorm. We want you to enjoy all that Penn has to offer and it doesn’t need cost your whole savings to make memories on campus.
Take a walk through West Philadelphia
If free food doesn’t entice you, try taking a stroll through your new neighborhood. West Philly has several attractions that can fill an afternoon. Personally, I love the Woodlands, a Victorian cemetery that is also a lovely garden and event space. You can amble down Baltimore Avenue and see the local shops and restaurants or peruse one of West Philly’s used book stores. Be sure to keep an eye out for flyers advertising community events nearby. I’ve been to craft shows, movie nights, and even a dog costume contest, all of which had free entry and were only a few blocks from my dorm.
Around midterms and finals, many clubs and organizations offer study breaks for busy students. It’s not the same as a night on the town, but it’s a great way to decompress after a long afternoon of staring at your econ textbook. Study breaks often have food, and the finals study breaks sometimes bring in therapy animals for stressed-out students. My favorite study break is at the Van Pelt Library during finals, where I can pet dogs, eat a soft pretzel, and grab a “sleep kit”, with eye mask and earplugs, from CAPS representatives.
Start a weekly event with friends
Don’t forget that you can make your own fun! Gather a group of friends for a night in with snacks, movies, crafts, or D.I.Y. karaoke. My friends and I like to get together on Friday nights to eat popcorn and chocolate and catch up on TV shows together. Just because you have a small budget doesn’t mean that you will never enjoy yourself. There are so many ways to have fun, and I think that the most important thing is not what you are doing, but who you do it with. Good friends will support your budget fun ideas and you might just have more fun for $5 than you could ever buy for $50.