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Student Requirements

In order to graduate as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar, students in all four schools must:  

Graduate with a minimum cumulative Penn GPA of 3.40. 

Complete at least three (3) credit units (CUs) of BFS seminars for a letter grade (i.e., not Pass/Fail). Most BFS seminars are full CU courses. This will typically mean three BFS seminars.  But we also offer a handful of half credit (.5 CU) BFS seminars.  These will contribute only .5 CU to the BFS total.  So, for example, a student who takes two seminars, each for a full CU, and another for .5 CU, will be required to take at least another .5 CU BFS seminar to complete the requirement. There is no upper limit on the number of BFS credits a person may enroll in.  The current record among alums is 15 BFS seminars by graduation!  

In the spring semester prior to graduating in the spring, summer, or fall, all prospective BFS graduates present to their BFS peers a Ben Talk on their most intriguing research findings.   

Each student must also meet all requirements of the student’s home school, as well as additional BFS requirements specific to BFS within that school: 

In order to graduate as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar, students in the College must also complete the ISP sequence of courses. 

In order to graduate as a Benjamin Franklin Scholar, students in the School of Nursing must also submit an E-Portfolio. 


The e-portfolio displays highlights of students’ academic and clinical work along with their community service across all four years of their time in BFS. BFS-N director Professor Sarah Kagan is available to discuss the portfolio and the program as a whole.  

Ben Talks 

The Ben Talk is a 6- to 8-minute video that begins with the question: "What has been your most intriguing research discovery at Penn?" Your Ben Talk, based on work from a course or Penn-sponsored research, will explain that finding and its importance to a non-specialist.  

Examples of Penn-sponsored research work (eligible):

  • Paper that was part of Penn coursework (could be a BFS seminar but doesn’t have to be) 
  • Senior Thesis 
  • Research work with Penn faculty/staff (paid or unpaid)
  • Research work with non-Penn researchers that was funded through a grant from Penn  
  • Paper that was part of coursework you did at another university that was part of study abroad 
  • Work on a summer internship sponsored by Penn (Global Internship Program, e.g.) 

Examples of non-Penn-sponsored research work (ineligible): 

  • Work on a summer internship that was not sponsored by Penn 
  • Independent research that does not fall into the eligible categories listed above  

View Ruth Lee's 2020 award winning Ben Talk here!  

The BFS Faculty Council reviews Ben Talks are reviewed. Production bells and whistles are not as important as substance. Ben Talks that fulfill the requirements – that is, they a) explain your chosen research finding and b) tell why it is important – will be considered for the Ben Talks prize 
Submitted Ben Talks are uploaded to the BFS Canvas course site, which will be a legacy of our scholars’ exploration and discovery for the coming years. 

One Ben Talk will be selected for the Ben Talks Prize, which will be announced and awarded at the end of the school year. 

Ben Talks Timeline: 

  • Fall semester
  • November: Prepare 
    • Visit the BFS Canvas course site, where you’ll learn how to submit your talk. 
      • Contact Nick Myers at if you will graduate this spring, summer, or fall, but you do not have access to the Canvas site. 
    • Register your topic for optional pre-approval on Canvas. 
    • Start working on your Ben Talk 
  • Feb. 5: Register your Ben Talk topic to get OPTIONAL pre-approval. 
  • April 1 – Ben Talks submission deadline 
    • Complete the Video Consent Form on Canvas. 
    • Upload your Ben Talk to Canvas 
  • May - Ben Talks Prize winner announced