Each year, Campus Philly, a non-profit organization, puts on a free event for all college students in the surrounding Philadelphia area called CollegeFest.
This annual event is a way for college students to familiarize themselves with the booming city life and historical sites in Philadelphia. With affordable discounts, a free train ride on the Septa, and free admission to museums and other sites, CollegeFest provides easy access for students to learn about the culture of Philadelphia.
This year, CollegeFest occurred on Saturday, Sept. 10, and Sunday, Sept. 11. Students were able to ride on Septa for free between the hours of 10 a.m to 5 p.m.
In an email from Campus Philly on Sept. 12, it was estimated that roughly 17,000+ new and returning students attended CollegeFest this year. Students from Philadelphia area schools such as Swarthmore, Drexel, Bryn Mawr, Haverford, University of Pennsylvania, and Temple were encouraged to attend at least one day.
Campus Philly also puts on a local block party for attendees of CollegeFest. This year, they partnered with multiple companies such as Dunkin’ Donuts, Insomnia Cookies, and Haagen Daz Ice cream. The party also featured live music from local artists, food, and merchandise. Students were encouraged to stop by as they toured around the city to meet with the organizers of CollegeFest and learn more about Campus Philly’s mission.
Sara Fakhry ’26, a student from Haverford College, attended CollegeFest for the first time this year. In an interview with The Phoenix, Fakhry shared her thoughts on the opportunities presented through CollegeFest.
“[CollegeFest] gave us a reason to leave campus for the day and take some time to enjoy the museums that are in Philadelphia. Knowing that it was free and this was the one-weekend opportunity we had, [CollegeFest] encouraged us to take the time to make the trip. I definitely would come back next year.”
Fakhry only got to spend a limited amount of time in Philly visiting tourist sites. She is already planning what she’ll do next year and getting to explore the city even more.
“Next time, I will be spending more time in the Philadelphia Museum of Art,” said Fakhry.
Although CollegeFest has existed since the early 2000s, some upperclassmen students have yet to attend.
Abel Zeng ’23, a student at Swarthmore College, was eager to adventure into the city and enjoy the event, free of obstacles in years past.
“It was my first time [attending CollegeFest]. I didn’t go my freshman year because I either didn’t have a group of friends to go with; or I was too busy; and I wasn’t familiar with the event. After that, the COVID-19 pandemic started, and in my junior year, I studied abroad,” she said.
Zeng was pleased with her CollegeFest experience and gladly took some time to step outside of the Swarthmore bubble. Zeng also offered her a perspective of the event as an FLI (First-generation/Low-Income) student.
“Yes, it was beneficial. As an FLI student, a trip out to Philly can be a financial burden, so having transportation and tickets covered was a good opportunity to explore Philly. It’s also fun to get off campus with friends and see other Swatties/college students enjoying the city. I only went to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It was nice because I usually visit museums on my own. Being able to see and experience art with my friends was a valuable bonding moment,” said Zeng.
In an interview with The Phoenix, Malavika Eby ’25 commented on her appreciation for the Philadelphia Museum of Art and her experiences at CollegeFest, which have made her grow fond of the event.
“This was my first time attending CollegeFest. It was really awesome because the affordability aspect made it much more accessible. On any other given weekend, I would say I wouldn’t have time, but once I went, I was really glad about my decision,” she said. “It was a nice break from studying, and it gave me time to bond with my friends. We went to the Rodin Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA). The PMA was my favorite — — we could have spent the whole weekend there! There was a really wide variety of exhibitions, which was very cool.”
All three students emphasized similar highlights from the weekend, including the ability to spend quality time with friends, take a break from schoolwork, and visit local Philadelphia museums. CollegeFest also provided a safe space for students to tour Philadelphia, free from financial restraints.