Freshman 101: Getting Involved With THON

From the moment I set foot on campus freshman year, I noticed the way people’s eyes lit up when they talked about THON. It was the word that seemed to roll off everyone’s tongue more than anything. There was no doubt in my mind that I had to get involved.

However, I was the less than ideal mix of total freshman newbie and out-of-stater — I had absolutely no idea where to begin. I relied solely on word of mouth to try to figure this whole thing out and it resulted in me not only being tragically unorganized and unaware, but missing all the important deadlines completely. Now I want to make sure none of that happens to you.

At first, the different ways to get involved appear jumbled and overwhelming. But don’t be fooled – three main categories are pretty much all you need to be aware of for starters.


Committees are responsible for a large portion of the planning, organization, and behind-the-scenes work during THON. Your committee is your team for the year – you’ll typically meet with them once per week or so depending on which one you join. Different committees have different roles to play, and the cool thing about joining one is that you can request to be on a committee that’s geared toward a specific interest you have. Thinking about working in the media or even majoring in public relations? The Public Relations committee is responsible for informing the public about all aspects of THON. Do you want to serve others during the event? Check out the Hospitality committee, who serves and supports families, volunteers, and dancers. Interested in enforcing rules and providing safety during the event? This is what the Rules and Regulations committee is all about (This is also the largest committee on the list and many freshmen will likely be placed in it. If you’re looking to meet as many of your fellow classmates as possible, this might be the right committee for you.)

It’s important to keep in mind that you may get the committee you request first, but you very well may not. Regardless, try to keep an open mind. Being on any committee provides you with an awesome opportunity to help with the cause. And if you don’t get placed on a committee at all this year, don’t sweat it. As you’ll see below, you can easily get involved in other ways.

Applications for potential THON committee members go live and are due in September. I’m not one to talk, but seriously do not miss this deadline. You’ll be able to find the application at When you’re ready to turn yours in, make sure to hand in a copy both online and in person to Alumni Hall in the HUB — the large room you were in during the beginning of NSO.

Special Interest Organizations:

Penn State has more than 400 individual organizations involved with THON. While committees primarily focus on specific behind-the-scenes work, these organizations contribute to THON mainly through fundraising efforts during the school year. Some of these (Atlas, Ohana, and Springfield, to name a few), are special interest organizations completely THON-centric and solely dedicated to fundraising for the event. Organization sizes vary from smaller, tight-knit groups to giant communities. If you’re passionate about the cause and have a feeling THON involvement is going to be your main extracurricular focus, I’d recommend checking one of these out.

Special interest organizations may have individual deadlines and requirements for involvement. Check out their Twitter and Facebook pages to find that out.  

Clubs That Are Not Centered Around THON, But Still Participate In It:

While all of the above sound great, they’re undeniably time consuming. If you’re a busy person or afraid of spreading yourself too thin, there are still ways to get involved with THON. Club sports, Lion Scouts, academic organizations, and multiple other clubs on campus pride themselves on satisfying students’ specific interests while also making sure to stay involved in THON. For those who want to go Greek, Penn State’s sororities and fraternities are known for exceptional involvement in the cause as well – you won’t have to sacrifice involvement in one for a spot in the other. Whether it be partnering with another club, planning fundraisers, or hosting fun events throughout the year, various organizations have found ways to balance two sides and create the best of both worlds. If you know you want to be involved with THON in some way but there are also a few additional clubs that catch your eye, it might be in your best interest (and the interest of your already busy schedule) to keep an eye out for organizations that are known for doing both.

Clubs on campus may have individual deadlines and requirements for involvement. You can check out important information for each club (as well as which category each one falls under) here.

Bonus tips:

Don’t cling to friends. It’s easy to pick a certain committee or organization simply because you know a friend is in it, but let me try to dissuade you from doing so. You are only in the dawn of your social adventures at Penn State. Take a deep breath, choose for yourself, and get ready to meet some really cool people.

Stay woke and stay organized. Take note of deadlines and keep an eye out for dates and times for THON-related events that are sometimes held off campus. These events are great ways to expand your involvement and are undoubtedly a great way to meet others as well. I’ll help you out with your first one – The State College Spikes baseball team is hosting THON Night on August 30. You can get tickets in person at the THON office in the HUB or at Medlar Field.

Keep an open mind. If a club looks interesting, check it out. If you’ve joined an organization but something else suddenly catches your eye, listen to that. Don’t limit yourself to what you think you should be involved in. Penn State does a fantastic job of ensuring everyone can find a way to THON.

Confide in upperclassmen. Sometimes the most valuable advice comes from someone who has done it before you. Older students can help guide you in a direction you didn’t know you wanted to take or introduce you to an organization you never would have known existed. Upperclassmen are an underrated resource – use them.

Start now. What are you waiting for? This could very well be the greatest thing you choose to do at Penn State.

Updated August 22, 2018

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About the Author

Claire Fountas

Claire Fountas is the student life editor for Onward State, as well as a junior pursuing a double major in journalism and psychology. She lives in a suburb of Chicago and strongly disagrees with anyone who hates the Cubs or the Blackhawks (so, pretty much anyone at Penn State). You can follow her @ClaireFountas or email her at [email protected]

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