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A vibrant community of students at Penn who share a passion for broad intellectual exploration

Pursuit of Knowledge

BFS offers small, challenging classes that reach out to non-specialists, facilitate close engagement with faculty, promote independent thinking, stimulate research, and encourage curiosity outside the box.

A Sense of Community

BFS fosters a community within one of the world's great universities through its distinctive curriculum, shared housing in Hill College House, and a bustling calendar of BFS events. BFS is an umbrella program covering scholars programs for students in all four undergraduate schools: the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, the School of Nursing, and The Wharton School.


BFS is a campus-wide program, building bridges among all four Undergraduate schools.  We encourage exploration beyond the concentration, and even outside the home college. Special BFS programs bring in world-renowned speakers, and provide support for under- or unfunded internships.

BFS Administrative Staff

Academic Coordinator for Scholar Programs
Christine Muller

All BFS students take at least 3 BFS seminars during their time at Penn. These are the heart of the BFS program and bring together students and faculty who jointly pursue powerful questions of mutual interest. In addition, the four undergraduate schools – Nursing, Engineering, Wharton, and the College – have their own additional requirements for their BFS students. We also host joint plenary events to which the entire BFS community is invited to hear speakers or just get to know one another better.

There are many extraordinary and intensive opportunities at Penn, each with their own rigors. Amazing educational experiences here are simply the norm, and it’s true that worthwhile things tend to be demanding, and sometime force us to make choices. For example, students whose home school is the College and who are doing Integrated Studies will be unable simultaneously to complete the requirements for the College’s intensive biological science program, the Vagelos Scholars Program. Students who are pursuing a dual degree with a professional school may be able to simultaneously complete an intensive or dual-degree program (such as Huntsman, LSM, or Nursing and Health Care Management) while also being able to complete the requirements for BFS in their professional school. These students will NOT be eligible for Integrated Studies. Contact your pre-major advisor for more information.

No, any undergraduate at Penn can request a seat in a BFS seminar. Roughly a third of the seats in BFS seminars are reserved for program participants, and the rest are open to BFS students or for general enrollment. Some BFS seminars may have seats reserved for majors in that department (for example, History usually reserves some seats in BFS seminars for their majors). Some BFS seminars may require a permit for all students, whether or not the student is in the BFS program.

No, all aid from Student Financial Services is need based; there are no merit based scholarships administered by Penn’s Student Financial Services.

No. Students can “bank” courses in advance, so if you have completed 2 BFS seminars by the end of your sophomore year, you can go abroad all of junior year and take your third BFS seminar senior year. If, however, you haven’t taken any BFS seminars by the end of your sophomore year and plan to be abroad all of junior year, it is not realistic to expect to take all your BFS seminars as a senior.

No, BFS is not a degree program or a major.  The BFS distinction is noted on your transcript. 

Some BFS courses are introductory, appropriate for students interested in a subject in which they have no prior experience; others require some knowledge going in.

You may have semesters in which you take no BFS seminars, and others in which you take more than one.