Going into freshman year of college is intimidating for any recent high school graduate, so preparing yourself physically and mentally for life at Penn State is the best way to ensure you have an amazing time while keeping your stress levels low. Here’s 20 things no one tells you about freshman year in Happy Valley… now get ready!
This might seem like an obvious statement; Penn State is in the northeast, in the mountains so obviously it is going to be cold. But keep in mind Penn State is a huge campus. Sometimes, it might take you upwards of twenty-five minutes to get to class and the snowfall can be heavy. I made the mistake of waiting until the last minute to purchase winter gear, but be warned: very cold temperatures can hit before Christmas break. So, make sure you are prepared by Thanksgiving. Invest in a parka, weather-proof boots, a hat and gloves, and you’ll be good.
Whether it is a home game or not, Saturdays during the fall semester are all about football. A sea of blue and white floods the Penn State campus and downtown State College for 48 hours of booze, raging, and our beloved Nittany Lions. Stock up on t-shirts, jerseys, sweatshirts and accessories from places downtown like McLanahan’s, The Family Clothesline and The Student Bookstore for the best prices. Make sure you cut and customize your shirts so you’re not completely basic and prepare to have yourself a weekend.
A lot of freshmen and their families make the mistake of purchasing all of their textbooks and supplies at the on-campus bookstore. First-time Penn Staters aren’t aware of the convenient downtown bookstore, The Student Bookstore. Although the two are not affiliated, The Student Bookstore has everything a student needs at incredibly lower prices. Textbooks, notebooks, binders, writing utensils, calculators, apparel, you name it and your total will basically split in half. And if the downtown location does not have what you are looking for, then you can venture to the one on-campus, which is just a short walk away.
This is something that I, and many of my friends, completely forgot about before moving in. All on-campus beds at Penn State are terrible, even in the renovated dorms. Make sure to buy something for your bed or you will be sleeping on a rock until you find out how to get to the nearest Wal-Mart, like me.
Penn State’s dorm floors are made out of gross tiles and are super cold to step on, especially in the morning or after the shower. Invest in a rug for between your roommates and your own bed. It will also be a lot more comfortable for guests to sit or sleep on.
If you meet your roommate before the semester starts, beware that things may not go as planned. You have probably never lived with that person before, so you do not know their living habits and routines. Suddenly living with someone 24/7 will take a lot of adjusting. You have to get to know each other and that will take time. Some will adjust well and some won’t. It’s easy to imagine being best friends with your roommate and wanting to do everything together, but it doesn’t always work out. I am a still best friends with my freshman year roommate, but my other friends had completely different and disappointing experiences. Do not go in with the mindset that it will end badly; however, it is sadly common so don’t get let down if things don’t go like you hoped.
Going to the same college as your friends from high school seems like a great idea and it definitely can be. However, many friends find themselves going in different directions, whether that’s with rushing a sorority/fraternity, sports, THON committees or various other extracurricular activities. It is definitely hard to balance everything on top of your old friends. Don’t be upset if you guys have to go your separate ways for a while. If they mean a lot to you, you will stay in touch and catch up when possible.
I’m sure you’re aware of THON if you’ve been thinking about coming to Penn State for a while. It is the most rewarding and inspiring experience you’ll have during your college career. Whether you are in Greek Life, on a THON committee, on a THON org or donating on your own, you will not regret being involved. Standing for 46 hours may seem impossible but when you are surrounded by so many people who are just as passionate about the cause as you are, it is all worth it in the end.
It may seem like everyone around you has their shit together and knows what they want to major in, but that is far from the truth. Most of my friends have switched their major at least once. Take electives and classes you think you would be interested in. From there, go to a career counselor, if you’re willing, and explore the paths you could go down. I switched my major not once, not twice, but three times before I found what I was looking for. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not sure right away. It’ll come to you.
Do not be scared of your professors. I repeat: Do not be scared of your professors. I was so shy and nervous my freshman year that I rarely reached out for help and barely ever went to office hours. I could have excelled in so many more classes if I had the courage to just ask my professor for help or explain why I am having trouble. They are more understanding than you would think. If anything is wrong or you are struggling, shoot them an email and all will be well.
Do it. Just go. I know how badly you’ll want to sleep in when your alarm is ringing before that 8 a.m. or how those shots from last night feel like they might come back up if you move, but trust me, your grades and GPA will thank you. Missing class is the absolute worst, especially if it’s hard to get notes or you have to make up a ton of work you missed. Also, some professors will take off points if you miss too many classes, so make sure to read the syllabus for each professor’s policy. I made the mistake of missing too many classes my freshman year and my professor took eight percent off my grade, which bumped my GPA down more than I had anticipated. Don’t be like me.
Pay attention to your meal point balance. On-campus students receive a 65 percent discount, but only within the residence areas – North, East, South and West. However, the food served at all the locations in the Hub-Robeson Center and other places around campus – the Business Building, Au Bon Pain, etc. – do not give out a student discount. That means you will be spending the average $4 on a latte from Starbucks when you could get it for about a dollar at the commons.
There used to be this little place in the East Halls commons called Roxy’s that had the best late night. But sadly Roxy’s is no more, so if you are feeling adventurous and want to wander over to the South Halls commons for late night, I assure you that you will not be disappointed. From slices of roast beef to scrambled eggs to mozzarella sticks, South has it all. Enjoy it in the moment because you might regret it in the morning.
A lot of people come into freshman year thinking they have to rush a sorority or fraternity right away. If you are unsure if Greek Life is your thing, wait a year (or until Spring for some chapters). Rushing as a sophomore is just as normal, and even better, than as a freshman. You get to know Penn State as an unbiased individual and learn where you fit in. If you find yourself making friends with people in Greek Life and venturing over to Fratland most nights, then great. And, if not, there’s plenty of other of things to do around State College.
The most common mistake among Penn State freshmen is bringing a jacket you love to wear to parties at fraternities. Just to be clear: If you bring a jacket, there is a very high chance you will never see that article of clothing ever again in your life, mainly because there is nowhere to put it. The brothers do not care how expensive your precious leather jacket is; it’ll be stuffed in a corner and some random drunk girl will steal it on her way out. If you don’t have any old sweatshirts you don’t care about losing, hit up Goodwill and buy a couple for cheap.
I think every Penn State student lives for the spring semester. While the fall is filled with football games and tailgates, the spring is dedicated to pure daging. Get ready to wake up bright and early as daylongs start at about noon on Saturdays. The day is filled with mass amounts of booze, good music and the craziest outfits you will ever see. It is safe to say that Penn State is known for it’s day drinks and you won’t want to miss a single one.
You will blow hundreds by the end of the year on this website, but trust me, it will save you once in a while from the dreaded dining commons’ excuses for food. OrderUp has almost every restaurant in the State College listed on their website and you can have it delivered right to your dorm. Whether it’s sushi for dinner or pokey sticks at 3 a.m., OrderUp will always be there for you.
Although many students have been begging for a second location, there is only one Chipotle in downtown State College and it’s almost constantly packed. The line usually wraps around the restaurant once and will take a good 20 to 30 minutes before you see the front of the line. Order your meal online and pick it up at a designated time at the register instead of waiting in line.
There are multiple, convenient Starbucks locations on campus, so even if you’re downtown, do not waste your precious dollar bills when you can use meal points for that Frappuccino. There’s one in the HUB-Robeson Center, the on-campus bookstore, the library and the Business Building.
Every freshman is told this during orientation and probably by their parents or RA as well. Listen to them. The Penn State campus and State College area is generally a very safe place. But things do happen, so it is better to be safe than sorry. Students receive sexual assault alerts more than we should and that problem can be solved by the buddy system. Especially when you’re drinking, make sure you know where your friends are at all times. You can even share your location on your iPhone if you have it.
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