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Freshman 101: Getting Used to Penn State

You’re about to be plopped down into the middle of 44,000 people, roughly ages 18-22, all within a 4.5-square mile area, without many friends. It’s daunting, but exciting too. There are limitless possibilities at Penn State… if you can’t find an organization, academic subject, or other pursuit that keeps you occupied, you can just start something that interests you. Odds are there are dozens of other students who have the same passion and just don’t know where to pursue it.

Try things on a whim early in the year just to see you who meet. That’s the best way to get through any feelings of being overwhelmed by the sheer number of people here. If you actively try to explore what Penn State has to offer, you’ll love Happy Valley in no time.

Here are a few other tips for making the best of your first year at Penn State.

1. Eliminate “Awkward” from your vocabulary.
All freshmen are inherently awkward… Get over it. Pointing out that the situation is awkward doesn’t make it any less awkward. Try to talk to whoever you meet and find out something interesting about them. If you engage them, you can try to find common ground between the two of you, even if it’s just the fact that you’re both at Penn State.

2. Take advantage of anonymity and keep an open mind.
It’s a clean slate. There are 44,000 students here who have no idea who you were in high school, and you can start off with a brand new reputation. Do what you want and define yourself however you would like. Be yourself and you’ll end up discovering what you’re passionate about over these next four years.

3. Get involved.
I can’t stress this enough: You may become great friends with everyone on your floor, but it probably won’t happen. The best way to meet people at Penn State is to get involved with a club or another student organization. It helps break down the overwhelming size of the campus and gives you a jumpstart in finding new friends. Trust me, if you’re taking 15 credits and aren’t involved in anything else, you’re going to end up spending a lot of time alone in your room, even on weekends.

Go to the involvement fairs at the HUB, check out the spread of all the clubs, check out the Greek system to see if that’s your scene, and force yourself to sign up for at least a few listservs… you can always unsubscribe later. Try walking downtown and see if anything interests you… part-time jobs are another way to meet people and earn some cash at the same time. By the way, even if you don’t get THON now, check it out this year. Like Joe Paterno said at THON 2009, when people say “We Are,” they are talking about moments like THON.

More than anything, get excited about what this year has in store for you! Your time at Penn State will go quicker than you can imagine now, so make the most of it from the beginning and you’ll be glad you did.

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About the Author

Dan McCool

Dan is a senior and has been writing for Onward State since January 2010. Did you miss him? Nah, neither did we. He's returning after a semester abroad in England and will be serving as Arts Editor. Favorite things in life include references to The Big Lebowski.

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