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Freshmen 101: Summer Session Do’s and Don’ts

Summer, alcohol, flip flop

Summers at Penn State really are a different beast, as this fine site often notes. There’s no more crappy winter weather to endure while walking to class. Best or worst of all, depending on how you look at it, State College becomes a ghost town with townfolk (“townies”) outnumbering students.

For freshmen, navigating campus and figuring out what to do for fun can be extremely challenging, particularly during a season when there are far fewer people to ask questions. So, Onward State’s upperclassmen compiled a list of summer do’s and don’ts, taken from past observations. (We were all freshmen once, too). For more guidance, from sorority recruitment to downtown eateries, our Freshmen 101 series is also a treasure trove of information.


  • Go anywhere without an umbrella. While there’s no snow in sight, State College weather remains completely unpredictable. Even when confidently swearing on your farmer’s almanac that it won’t end up raining today, it ends up happening. The weatherman says torrential downpours are expected? Oh, no rain today, just kiddin’.
  • Expect to get anywhere on time. During the summer, one might expect a quiet, idyllic Penn State campus. Not so. From the Nittany Lion Shrine to the IM Building, this season is a construction boom time, so buses can often be unpredictable and detours are aplenty.
  • Head home every weekend. The weekends are when the weirdest stuff happens. After all, thousands of freshmen are away from home, many of them for the very first time. Why squander a first summer here by spending it with friends from high school?
  • Skip Arts Fest.  Held in 2014 from July 9-13, the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts remains Penn State’s unofficial homecoming weekend. Beyond that, excellent food, music, and art in downtown State College. It doesn’t get much better. And, don’t forget to keep abreast of Arts Fest happenings with Onward State in July.

Empty Gym


  • Explore beyond dorms, academic buildings. The University Park campus is large enough to harbor many interesting secret locales. Revealing them would ruin the mystique, so search far and wide.
  • Take advantage of the bar scene. No more Mortal Kombat-style fighting over patio seats at Café, nor comically long lines outside Indigo. Unfortunately for traditional freshmen, this is probably advice to heed three years from now. Sorry guys.
  • Chase ducks, squirrels, and rabbits with friends. Some theorize that there are more critters on campus than people, and taking a quick look around the library lawn confirms this as truth. Prime spots for tailing creature mobs include the Hintz Family Alumni Center pond and Allen Street, where legends like the Penn State squirrel whisperer and duck feeding guy roam.
  • Actually go to class. While it’s possible to pull off one or two sick days, attending class during summer session is a must because professors compress information usually taught in fifteen weeks to six weeks of lecture.
  • Take breaks. That being said, it’s summer — a magical time for both study and experiencing new things.
  • Find ways to cool off. Dorm rooms can get unbearably hot; you’ve inevitably realized the lack of air conditioning by now. Buying a couple fans will aid sometimes-difficult sleeping, but here are some other options: freezing wet wash cloths to put on hot spots, wearing cold socks, and using all-cotton bedding.
  • Capitalize on the gym. Check out this site that lists wait times for gyms across campus. You’ll notice that the current wait time for all facilities is zero minutes, which is stunning when compared to normal semester peaks. More gym membership information is here.
  • Hang out with your LEAP mentor/ LEAPers. And now, for some LEAP-specific advice because we didn’t forget about you. Your LEAP mentor can be as wise a person as any, getting free room and board for the sole purpose of being a 24/7 resource for LEAPers. And, fellow LEAPers ALWAYS look after their own. It’s an unspoken trust.

About the Author


Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.


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