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Turning 21 At Penn State: Your Official Survival Guide

Turning 21 as a Penn State student isn’t just an event. It’s a right of passage: the beloved pre-game, the dressing up, being showered with free drinks, The Phyrst, and of course — trying to piece together the puzzle of the night the following morning.

For the sake of things we are going to assume you enjoy imbibing alcohol and would like to do so on this cherished night. If you don’t drink, that’s totally cool. Consider bowling, karaoke, laser tag, or a nice evening dinner with your loved ones. But if you’re planning on a soberpalooza, no need to continue reading this guide.

There are endless ways to celebrate your 21st birthday in State College, but we thought we’d give you a tried and true, blue-and-white, classic breakdown of how your night should go if you’re in town. Alterations are allowed, but heed our advice and you’ll have one heluva night.

The Pre-Game

Part of the magic of turning 21 is the anticipation beforehand. Instead of being Cinderella fleeing her ball at midnight, that’s precisely when you head on out and turn up. Not having a pre-game for your 21st is like not having an appetizer at a 5-star restaraunt. You’re already going big, so don’t skimp out.

Your pre-game doesn’t have to be legendary or the the highlight of the night, but here are some pro tips:

  • Make a Facebook event! With social media consuming us at all times, there is no reason not to make a measly little event inviting your closest friends at the very least. Don’t be afraid the event will be too low-key, you don’t want things to get out-of-hand or too messy anyway. You’ve got places to go, people to see, and drinks to drink.
  • Don’t drink too much! You need to actually make it to the bar. Use this prime opportunity to take dignified and insta-worthy pictures, have civil conversation, whatever your heart desires. But once it’s midnight, you and your squad should be out on the town and singing loudly.
  • Don’t go overboard with planning Remember, this night is about you. One of your roommates should assist with the planning, Facebook event, and supplies accordingly. You are the prince/princess tonight.
If you’re planning a 21st pregame for you friend, consider a creative theme.
Here is an example of a Facebook event description I whipped up for my roommate. The pirate theme isn’t necessary, but add some personality to it.


(If planning a pre-game is unfathomable to you, just sip a few beers with a friend in your room or find someone else’s.)

The Phyrst:

You’ve gotta go to the Phyrst. It’s your twenty-phyrst. You go to Penn State. It’s what you do. The venue is smaller but undoubtedly full of character. Here’s why you have to go :

  • You get an awesome green hat sanctifying your 21st. This is excellent proof that you had fun for the next day.
  • You’ll get attention Whether you’re a flamboyant toucan or a hermit crab, it’s not the night to be meek. Even if you just stop by The Phyrst, it’s a great feeling to have strangers and fellow Penn Staters acknowledging your birth.
  • Live music It’ll feel like the band is there for you, which you can totally pretend. The live tunes and bands is what makes The Phyrst so unique and special.
Steffen Blanco
The Next Stop 

If you’ve made it this far, congratulate yourself! Perhaps you weren’t vibing with The Phyrst or just felt like spreading your legal wings and flying to a new bar. We totally get it. Before your celebration, do some research on which bars in State College actually let you in within 24 hours of your 21st. Don’t think too hard about it and just see where the night takes you.

The Grand Finale 

After your night of festivities it’s crucial you eat something. Whether it’s some tried and true Canyon Pizza or an order of Pokey Sticks delivered right to your apartment, make sure you inhale some carbs before putting your 21st birthday to rest. Being hungover is inevitable, but you might as well attempt to soak up those Irish trash cans with some cheesy starchy goodness.

Canyon Pizza


Alas, that’s all we have! The rest is up to you. Though turning 21 is revolved around alcohol, it’s your friends and mindset that will really make or break your night. Make sure you have some loyal pals or family members by your side, and be safe!

Happy drinking, Penn Stater.

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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