Scholars Programs

The following programs are available to all undergraduate students.

Benjamin Franklin Scholars

The Benjamin Franklin Scholars (BFS) program is one of Penn’s most distinctive undergraduate communities. Each year we welcome a group of extraordinary incoming students, who are committed to the transformative power of ideas.

Benjamin Franklin Scholars are selected based on their interest in, and demonstrated capacity for, a deep engagement in the liberal arts and sciences, both as ends in themselves and as engines of change in the world. By offering unique courses, and the guidance of extraordinary faculty and advisors, we encourage our students to pursue, in the spirit of Franklin himself, our guiding principles of breadth, curiosity, and a tinkering habit of mind.

BFS is a home for students who seek the advantages of wide-ranging knowledge, whatever particular educational path they choose. We look for spirited, independent people who find their own passions and are predisposed to explore their own ideas, wherever they might lead. We welcome restless minds who are not content just to appreciate great ideas as abstractions up on a shelf, but who see them as transformative: changing minds and so changing the world. We are a community of students and faculty who find value in the saying of the great classical writer Plutarch, whom Franklin himself claims to have “read abundantly,” that a truly great education is a kind of playing with fire.

BFS welcomes students in all the undergraduate schools: the College, Engineering, Wharton, and Nursing. Parts of the program, including admissions, work a bit differently in the different schools. For all our scholars, though, the BFS experience includes support for unpaid or underpaid internships, a presentation of research to the BFS community, and our Seminars, which engage a breadth of intellectually challenging topics, without requiring extensive prerequisites, both inside and outside of students' major fields of study.

University Scholars

The University Scholars program provides undergraduates with mentored opportunities for innovation, conversation, and collaboration within and across the disciplinary boundaries of their curiosity-based inquiries.

Through these opportunities, students develop the ability to conduct consequential independent research projects; to communicate their work’s premises, approaches, outcomes, and implications to both expert and non-expert audiences; and to participate in and contribute to professional settings within and beyond their specific fields of interest.

UScholars is premised on a definition of “research” in its broadest sense, which enables students to explore meaningful intellectual questions in all areas of study at Penn; to satisfy their curiosity through rigorous, evidence-based investigative methodologies; and to think critically about how their work is contextualized within broader scholarship as well as within the wider world.


  • supports long-term, in-depth, original, independent, passion-driven undergraduate research;
  • cultivates diversity, including across subject areas, methodologies, and faculty and student participants; and
  • advances cross-disciplinarity, including the ability of students working within their own respective areas of burgeoning expertise to communicate and collaborate with others within and beyond their own disciplines.

Civic Scholars

Penn Civic Scholars is a unique program providing undergraduates with a sustained four-year experience in civic engagement and scholarship.  The program culminates in certification upon graduation and designation as a Civic Scholar on the student's transcript.  

The Civic Scholars program is based on a few basic principles:

  • Civic engagement and academic work are mutually reinforcing.
  • Meaningful and sustained involvement in community affairs while at Penn is the base for life-long civic commitments and contributions.
  • Undergraduates can conduct significant applied social and public policy research through a multi-year preparatory process.
  • Forming a community of dedicated students and faculty will encourage distinctive civic service and scholarship.

SNF Paideia Fellows Program

The SNF Paideia Fellows Program provides a select group of Penn undergraduates the opportunity to integrate wellness, service, citizenship, and dialogue through a structured combination of academic courses, co-curricular events, and hands-on leadership experiences. Students from any of the four undergraduate schools can apply to the SNF Paideia Fellows program in the spring of their first year. SNF Paideia Fellows participate in the program for three years, sophomore through senior year.

The SNF Paideia Fellowship supports students’ ability to integrate their public roles as community members into their academic, personal, and professional lives in healthy, sustainable, and fulfilling ways. The program organizes and highlights curricular and co-curricular experiences where students can acquire the tools necessary for effectively contributing to the local, national, and global communities of which they are a part. It also provides opportunities for students to practice robust and respectful civil dialogue with others across a wide range of political, social, and cultural differences.

SNF Paideia Fellows:

  • enroll in a sophomore year and junior year seminar designed to build skills and community among the Fellows;
  • take (3) Paideia designated courses focusing on relevant aspects of dialogue across differences, public service, and personal and social wellness; and
  • complete a Senior Capstone project that integrates a Fellow’s major with civic dialogue, service, and/or wellness.

The following programs are available to students in a particular school.

College of Arts and Sciences

Integrated Studies Program

The Integrated Studies Program (ISP) is the first-year curriculum for Benjamin Franklin Scholars pursuing degrees in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Deeply rooted in the liberal arts tradition of acquiring and applying expansive knowledge, this residential academic program invites highly-motivated students to examine complex themes through the integration of multiple academic disciplines and methodologies.

Students are guided through the semester by some of Penn’s leading faculty. By investigating the same ideas under three distinct lenses, drawing simultaneously from the humanities, social sciences and sciences, students sharpen their focus on the similarities—and differences—between the disciplines’ habits of mind.

School of Engineering and Applied Science

Rachleff Scholars

The School Of Engineering and Applied Science is pleased to announce the Rachleff Scholars Program. The Program offers Penn Engineering undergraduates the opportunity to gain valuable research experiences with standing faculty and to participate in a community of peers who share a common interest in research and scholarly inquiry.

The Rachleff Scholars Program is open to rising sophomores with at least a 3.4 Cumulative GPA and strong interests in engineering research. Each student accepted into the Rachleff Program is required to complete work in three separate areas: summer research experience, honors coursework, and scholarly community activities.

School of Nursing

Benjamin Franklin Scholar- Nursing

As a Benjamin Franklin Scholar - Nursing, you will engage in an intensive academic experience, along with peers in the College of Arts and Sciences, the Wharton School and in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, to complete the undergraduate Nursing major with an intensive liberal arts component. In addition to a variety of campus-wide programs as part of BFS, you will be able to enroll in BFS Seminars – courses taught by expert faculty from across campus in a variety of topics.

The Wharton School

Joseph Wharton Scholars

Founded in 1988, the Joseph Wharton Scholars program is designed to emphasize the importance of scholarly research and the liberal arts and sciences within the framework of a business education. Students in the program are required to take scholars courses both in Wharton and outside of Wharton (in the College of Arts & Sciences, Nursing, and/or Engineering), engage in a significant research project, and participate in a variety of academic, career-oriented, and social activities.

The JWS program is the Wharton component of the Penn-wide Benjamin Franklin Scholars program, through which students gain access to BFS Seminars. In addition to the course requirements, students must maintain a minimum 3.4 GPA..

Public Policy Research Scholars

The Public Policy Research Scholars (PPRS) offers a unique opportunity for students to study and explore public policy.

PPRS is an interdisciplinary certificate program intended for undergraduates with a background in economics, who want to explore the impact of U.S. public policy on the domestic economy.

The PPRS program is not a major. Instead, it offers a supplemental course of study, focusing on the quantitative analysis of public policy at the federal level, that can be pursued alongside any major, in any of Penn’s undergraduate schools. Beyond the curriculum, students also are required to do at least one public policy summer internship, for which they will receive funding from the Penn Wharton Public Policy Initiative. They also will have opportunities to assist with faculty-led policy research on campus. Through PPRS, we aim to create a tight-knit cohort of undergraduates from across the University who are committed to gaining the skills and experience necessary to critically assess U.S. public policy, as well as to prepare for graduate study and career opportunities in the field.

The core skills at the heart of PPRS include:

  • Economic and political analysis of public policy, for assessing why, how, and with what degree of success the government designs and implements policy.
  • Statistical thinking and quantitative analysis of economic data.
  • Knowledge of the policymaking process.
  • The application of theoretical and quantitative tools to practical, real-life policy questions.

Students that complete the program will have the designation “Public Policy Research Scholar” noted as an honor on their transcripts and will receive a certificate upon graduation.

Wharton Research Scholars

Wharton Research Scholars is an intensive one-year research program for a select group of students who are interested in conducting research under the supervision of some of Wharton’s preeminent faculty members. As part of the program, participants complete an honors thesis.

Students apply to work on a specific project they propose in consultation with a Wharton faculty member who agrees to act as their faculty mentor. Students are allowed to have more than one faculty mentor provided at least one is a member of the Wharton faculty.

Throughout the year, students convene to discuss progress, strategies, and challenges within their projects. This interaction fosters a strong scholarly community where students can learn from each other’s experience. The research scholars also meet regularly with their faculty mentors who advise the students throughout the year. The program culminates with final presentations and publication of research papers on the University of Pennsylvania Libraries’ ScholarlyCommons.