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Freshman 101: New Student Orientation

Welcome to the best four years of your life, freshmen.

As you anxiously await move-in day for the fall semester, there are countless things you have to do to prepare for what’s ahead. Soon you’ll be buying shower shoes, exchanging a few awkward text messages with your future froomie, and waking up bright and early to secure your spot in the best student section in the country for the upcoming football season. But the list doesn’t end there.

You’ll also need to attend New Student Orientation at some point this summer. And unfortunately, this isn’t entirely optional. So buckle up for the ride, because here is your crash course to anything and everything NSO.

What is NSO?

I’m assuming most of you have heard or read something about NSO by now unless you’ve been 1. living under a rock or 2. putting off the dreaded ALEKS Math Assessment that haunts incoming Penn State freshmen everywhere.

If the latter applies to you, there’s no reason to stress about it now. Here are the basics of what you need to know:

  • NSO is a two-day program that incoming freshmen are required to attend. The purpose of the program is to allow students to familiarize themselves with life at Penn State in addition to what is expected of them academically.
  • You will be assigned to a group of roughly twenty students who will be by your side for the entirety of NSO. Your group will also have its own orientation leader, who’s a current student who will guide you through the program and oversee — yep, you guessed it — countless icebreakers.
  • Over the course of two days, you’ll be forced to sit through several lectures related to the transition process from high school to college, educational planning, and the many opportunities that exist at Penn State for you to explore and take advantage of. Pro tip: drink plenty of coffee because I fell asleep during a few of these lectures when I was in your position last year.
  • You’ll also experience what it’s like to sleep in Penn State’s shoe-box sized dorms and eat in the dining halls while handling other important business such as scheduling classes for your first semester and taking the picture for your Penn State ID+ card.

How Do You Make A Reservation To Attend?

Making a reservation for NSO is fairly simple. One day after you finish the ALEKS assessment, you’ll receive an email from the university. This email will contain all of the information you need to successfully complete the reservation process.

Follow the directions in the email and click on the required links to select the dates you want to attend NSO. After doing so, you will be asked to fill out certain information about yourself and anyone else who is planning on coming with you. After hitting submit, you can expect to receive a confirmation email that you surely won’t want to delete.

More information about the reservation process can be found here.

Do I Have To Do My Pre-NSO Homework?

The Pre-NSO checklist is about as long as they come, but not all of it is absolutely mandatory.

Important tasks that require attention before orientation include filling out and submitting the required immunization verification forms, submitting your final high school transcript to make your acceptance to Penn State official, filling out the Educational Planning Survey online, and completing the Pre-Registration Activity Guide on LionPath, as you will need this in order to schedule your first semester of classes.

Other tasks like printing out the transfer credit worksheet, can save some time when you’re working with your advisor to create your schedule. But if you already have an idea of what classes you want to take and which credits you’re coming into college with, don’t waste time filling anything out. You’ll have the opportunity to relay this information to your advisor, regardless if you did your “homework” or not.

Other tasks such as “See What’s Coming in Office 365,” “Familiarize Yourself With LionPath,” and “The Cost of Your Penn State Education” are certainly helpful, but don’t feel guilty if you simply check them off as complete without actually doing them. You’ll have plenty of time to familiarize yourself with these things throughout the rest of the summer. And if you’re anything like me, why not procrastinate when given the opportunity?

Helpful Tips To Keep In Mind

Overall, NSO is a learning experience just like most other things you will endure as a freshman at Penn State. But I would be doing you all a disservice if I didn’t include some useful tips to help you along the way.

  1. Don’t be afraid to get to know the people in your orientation group and befriend them. A classic excuse many people make is “I’ll never see these people again.” But you’d be surprised. You’ll run into your NSO pals several times throughout the semester, so it’s definitely worthwhile to at least make an effort. I know a lot of people at Penn State who met some of their best friends at NSO.
  2. Don’t forget to pack your favorite outfit and comb your hair. You’ll be rushed into taking a picture for your ID card that will haunt you for the next four years. Oh, and thanks to a new LionPath update, you and your professors now have access to this picture when logging onto the website, so make sure it’s a good one.
  3. While sheets and pillows are provided, it doesn’t hurt to bring your own set from home — especially if you want to avoid experiencing the maximum level of discomfort.
  4. Don’t be shocked if you never formally meet your NSO roomie. It’s unlikely that the two of you will be in the same orientation group, so you may never cross paths (especially if you go to bed at different times). This is a common experience during NSO, so don’t let it freak you out for the fall semester. It’s highly unlikely you’ll go an entire year without speaking to your actual froomie.
  5. You’ll be given some free time after all the scheduled activities are finished on Day 1. While most people choose to stay in the IM Building, feel free to venture off and go to the Creamery or explore campus a little. There’s something magical about a summer night in Happy Valley. Just don’t get too used to the warm weather.

While NSO might not be the most exciting part about going to Penn State, it never hurts to go in with an open mind. After all, there’s never anything disappointing about spending two days in Happy Valley, so enjoy every second of it while you can.

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About the Author

Rory Pelella

Rory is a senior from Binghamton, New York majoring in Spanish and journalism. She's been bleeding blue and white ever since her older siblings decided to create a family dynasty in Happy Valley in 2006. So, as you can imagine, she loves absolutely everything Penn State (especially the Cheese Shoppe downtown). She's also a die-hard Yankees, Knicks, and Giants fan (it's brutal), and would do anything for a good old fashioned New York slice. Feel free to email her at [email protected] or follow her on twitter @rorypelella.

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