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Freshman 101: Your 2016 Penn State Summer To-Do List

Hey there, incoming freshmen! First of all, congratulations on completing the roller coaster ride that is high school. You suffered through SATs, AP exams, and torturous college applications. Pat yourselves on the back.

What you should be most proud of, however, is your decision to attend the greatest university in the world: Penn State. Though classes don’t begin for a few more weeks, you’re probably already getting a bit antsy, nervous, and/or downright excited — all with good reason. The transition from high school to Happy Valley is a big one.

There’s a bit more to the preparation process than a three hour trip to Walmart with the family, but you can rest assured we’ve got you covered. From dorm life preparation to learning the ropes of LionPATH, here’s your to-do list before beginning life as a Nittany Lion.

Brush Up On Your Happy Valley History

Penn State is more than a giant state school that loves football and THON, so get to know the place you’ll soon call home. There’s so much more than what meets the eye. Example: did you know Penn State was originally called The Farmer’s High School of Pennsylvania? While you’re laying around watching Netflix, read up on some university history. Even if you’re just reading the story behind the Lion Shrine or The Creamery, you’re getting one step closer to becoming an expert on blue and white culture.

Downtown Stock
Downtown State College in all its glory.

Know Your Surroundings

University Park is not anything like your quaint high school campus. Though spacious and lovely, it takes time to get to know. Revisit your Fall Semester schedule and highlight the buildings you need to find. Seriously, do it. On that note, get ready to do a lot of walking and know you’ll need plenty of time to get to class. Within a few weeks as a student, you’ll know campus like the back of your hand. Helpful hint: screenshot the campus map or download an app like MyState to avoid pulling out a map like a frazzled tourist on the first day of classes.

bike share

Dorm Rooms, Communal Showers, and Twin Beds – Oh My!

Transitioning from your family’s home to a single bedroom shared with another person will take some getting used to. However, this is the price to pay for living the high energy and exciting life of a college freshman, which is totally worth it (except for the select few of us.) You’ll trade in your comfortable bed at home for a new, humble twin bed, your fully stocked giant fridge for a modest microfridge to share, and transition from your home’s bathroom to the communal ones. Savor every last day living in luxury, but also get excited about moving into your very own place away from your parents and hometown. Read up on the dorm hall you’ll be living in (but also know where you end up doesn’t determine your fate).

East Halls Stock
Beloved East Halls on a fall day.

Meet The Roomie

If you’re like many students, you may have sorted through piles of fellow freshmen on the “Penn State Class of 2020” Facebook page in a desperate attempt to find the perfect roommate. Or maybe you’re taking a leap of faith and “going random,” which can be as exciting as it is nerve-wracking. Either way, get in touch! Don’t wait until you both parade into your room for the first time to have the potentially awkward encounter. Text them regularly, chat with them, or even try to meet up with them to start feeling more comfortable before move-in week. After all, you’ll be sharing the same 100 or so square feet for the next nine months or so.

State College Study Abroad_Dorm_Morton Lin-9472
Photo: Morton Lin

Get Tech-y

As a college student, you’ll spend hours upon hours using technology, social media, and the internet in general. Before diving into your classes, we recommend getting comfortable with at least your Penn State WebMail, and the new and hotly debated LionPATH. Penn State WebMail is your student email address, and you will receive important notifications and information through it. If you can’t stand the interface, you can always forward these messages to your Gmail account. LionPATH is the new software for nearly everything else, including scheduling classes, paying tuition bills, and requesting transcripts or degree audits. Unfortunately, there’s no way around this one. Your computer is an essential resource, but know that your smart phone is an important tool, as well. From Venmo to Uber, make sure you have all the right apps downloaded.

Love it or hate it, LionPATH is here to stay.

Start Gathering Decor

You may be living in a room reminiscent of Harry Potter’s cupboard under the stairs, but you don’t need magic to pimp your new place. With the independence of a college student comes the power of interior decorating. Have you always wanted to hang up a certain risqué poster in your room but didn’t want your mom to see? Now is your chance! Before waiting for the overcrowded poster sale in the HUB or trying to find something decent in the mad move-in rush at Walmart, keep your eyes peeled for inspiration before move-in day — heck, maybe you have some neat decorations collecting dust in your basement.

Get creative and try to not to be too basic. We’ve all seen the Christmas lights and tapestry combination before. Need some inspiration? Check out our Onward State Cribs series for some unique feng shui.

os cribs freshmen
No back yard? No problem. A couple square feet won’t stop Penn Staters from setting up an indoor hammock.

Think About Extra-Curriculars

Though you may still be far away from Penn State, it’s never to early to have a general idea of what you want to be involved in. Academics are crucial, but how you set yourself apart on campus and meet new people is just as important. Don’t wait until the chaotic involvement fair to start thinking about clubs — do some deep research!  Start by writing down a short list of interests most important to you. Love sports? Decide if you want to go the club or intramural route. Are you passionate about philanthropies? Penn State has countless service organizations to become involved in. Feeling particularly #FTK (read: For The Kids)? Consider a THON organization or committee. There are hundreds of clubs and groups to join and you would be foolish not to experiment with at least a handful. From Greek life, club sports, quidditch club, and even the Netflix and Chill Club, there is absolutely something here for you.

Photo by: Bobby Chen
Whether it’s soccer or quidditch, find the club for you. (Photo:Bobby Chen)

Though there is endless information and culture for you to soak up within your first year at Penn State, it doesn’t hurt to hit the ground running. Having at least a few of these grocery list items checked off before driving into State College with 50,000 of your new friends will be a breath of fresh air. Trust me.

Did we forget to cover a topic you were concerned about? Check out the links below from our Freshmen 101 series. By the time you move in, you’ll be such a Penn State pro, hardly anyone will know you’re an underclassmen.

Additional Freshmen Advice Articles:

Your Guide To Freshman Year At Penn State

Freshman 101: Picking Classes That Don’t Suck 

Freshman 101: Academics (Why You’re Here)

Freshman 101: Your First Home Football Weekend 

Freshman 101: Sylly Week Survival Guide 

(and my personal favorite…) Freshman 101: Tips For Partying 


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About the Author

Carolyn Popescu

Current senior studying Advertising and Visual Arts, Carolyn has a passion for entertainment and music. She also loves photography, film, graphic design, social media, and all things in between. She's the current Sony Music Marketing Representative for State College, so be sure to reach out to her with any local music scene questions, ideas, proposals, or if you just need someone to geek out about music with.

(Contact her through [email protected] or [email protected])

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