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So, You’re Finally On Campus: A Guide For New Penn Staters

Look, it’s been a while since we were all on campus together. And now that most classes are in person and most students are back in their dorms, things can get crazy.

Everywhere is crowded, our brains are overwhelmed, and we don’t know what comes next. Especially for you new folks, life in State College can be a bit different than where you came from. If you’re a freshman — or maybe even a sophomore — there’s a good chance you still don’t know your way around campus.

Luckily, we have just the thing for students who need guidance, a helping hand, and a solution to not looking like a total newbie. Below is a carefully curated, totally valid, and entirely professional list of tips that you might need to keep in your back pocket while starting out at Penn State.

Tips & Tricks

First and foremost, we need to cover the tips and tricks necessary to thrive among other Penn Staters. Our goal is to help every reader as possible. Take our suggestions and run with ’em.

If It’s Too Late, Don’t Go

At some point this semester, you might sleep past your alarm and miss a good chunk of class. If you do the math and end up missing 20 to 25 minutes of a 50-minute class, think about what will help you in the long run.

When you take travel time and traffic into consideration, the best decision might be to not go at all. Parents out there are quaking at that thought, but consider the lecture you will interrupt, the material you already missed, and the people you’d need to step over to find an empty seat in the middle of the room.

Create A Routine & Stick With It

High school is quite different than college. Here, you might find more downtime than you expected. Don’t fall into unproductive habits during an extended period of free time. Of course, take the time to relax and enjoy your college years, but make sure you create a routine or knock out some work during open time slots. When time is running out and the semester gets busier, you’ll thank yourself for those built-in breaks.

It is always best to finish work early than two days late, but you guys already know that…right?

Always Walk On The Right Side Of The Sidewalk

Look we’ve all got somewhere to be. Sidewalk traffic often moves too fast, and that’ll only get quicker once people actually have somewhere to be later in the semester. Please don’t be that person moving against the current. Be mindful of the people all around you hustling to class.

Common courtesy is what it comes down to. If you see Pollock Road is packed to the brim, either go with the flow or search for a handy shortcut.

You Can Cheat The HUB Bookstore’s Line

Penn State’s bookstore lines are never short, and that’s a fact. To completely avoid the main line every student migrates toward, head upstairs in the technology checkout section.

This is groundbreaking, folks. To the right of the bookstore’s Starbucks is a section to purchase computers, chargers, cases, and more. There’s even a dedicated line where you can check out books and supplies quickly and efficiently.

If you want to try a different option in general, the Student Bookstore downtown will offer almost the same options in a larger space with more cashiers.

Wanna Eat For Cheap? Get A Meal Plan

Thankfully, there are a few dining commons in each corner of campus. With Findlay Commons (East), Pollock Commons (Pollock), Redifer Commons (South), Waring Commons (West), and Warnock Commons (North), your choices are endless.

Each time you use your campus meal plan at the commons buffets or their affiliated locations, you can save 65%. This is a simple solution to never go hungry and still save some ~real money~. Everywhere you look, on-campus dining offers a chance to eat at a great cost.

Plus, if you run out of meal points, LionCash will still net you that 65%-off discount.

Download myStop To Relieve Your CATABus Worries

The bus schedule is where most newcomers get stumped. The Blue Loop and White Loop, plus the Red Link and Green Link, get mixed up quite often on such a small phone map. A few years back, our staff did an in-depth guide on how to comprehend the CATABus system.

Aside from the helpful guide, there is an app called “myStop” that helps you track each bus as they move in real time. It’s great for timing your walks to bus stops and figuring out exactly how long your commute might take.

Avoid The HUB’s Lunch Rush

During peak hours, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a seat in the HUB. It’s a great place to study when outlets are open and chairs are available, but you’ll wind up with a headache if you make a habit of visiting between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

Of course, there’s nothing wrong with trying your luck or heading in to grab some food. But if you’re pressed for time, you can spend it better somewhere else.

Find a building that has the right vibe to focus and get your work done. If a place full of who-knows-how-many-kids is the right environment for you, maybe a HUB lunch rush is your thing.

Freshman 101

Here at Onward State, we’ve been writing to a young audience for more than a decade now. Lucky for you, we’ve racked up dozens of helpful guides that should answer your burning questions as you start out at Penn State.

Here are a few of our favorites:

Places To Know

Now that we have some core topics covered, we can review the most iconic, well-known locations around campus. Our staffers have covered some ground and provided a comprehensive, no-bullshit tour for all to use. Follow our list to solidify your Penn State know-how.

Nittany Lion Shrine

Located in west campus near Rec Hall, the Nittany Lion Shrine awaits every “First Day of School” snapshot, family photo, or surprise engagement. At all hours of the day, you can take the traditional photo every student lives and breathes for. Once a class gift, this Nittany Lion debuted in 1942 to represent Penn State’s pride.

Beaver Stadium

Essentially, it’s home to our pride and joy in Happy Valley. This stadium houses not only our football team, but Penn State’s one and only Blue Band. The stadium can host more than 107,000 people, which is why you might hear the saying “107K Strong” all the time. If you got lucky, you might call Beaver Stadium home starting on September 11, 2021.

Old Main

Old Main is arguably the most gorgeous building on campus. Throughout every season, this beauty makes the heart of campus look incredible. Old Main houses President Eric Barron’s office, along with more really important workspaces for really important people. Basically, it’s important.

Its bell tower has been in business since 1871. Of course, the bells have been replaced since then, but they remain a quintessential part of Old Main’s presence.

The HUB’s Penn State Seal

We wouldn’t consider this a trademark location, but we do feel obligated to tell you to NOT step on this seal. It made its debut in 2015, and it’s just bad luck to step on the seal. Trust us!

Berkey Creamery

This location is usually the reason parents visit their kids at Penn State. For some, it’s the sole purpose of each day spent in State College. A huge menu of original Penn State-themed flavors keeps families and students wanting more. On top of their homemade ice cream, they provide cream cheese, cheese, and milk!

If you are looking for the Creamery, you can find it right next to the East Parking Deck and across from East Halls. Even better? It takes meal points!

The Corner Room

The Corner Room is a State College classic that many alums swear by. With a recent renovation and menu change, this downtown staple is revamping its style. It debuted as “The Corner Room” in 1926.

If you stop by, the one thing you cannot leave without are its famous grilled stickies!

Pattee & Paterno Library

Is this the front or the back of the library? That’s for you to decide. Anyway, Penn State’s library is ginormous. Inside, you’ll find countless books, computer labs, printers, study nooks, and even a Starbucks.

Because it is so large, the size can be daunting. The best way to know your way around the library is to explore. Look around and find the area you feel best.

Donald P. Bellisario Media Center

This is a new addition to out rite of passages. Right next door to the Willard Building is the brand new media center. The new facility is home to Penn State’s radio programs, broadcasting classes, and more. If that’s not your jam, it’s got plenty of study spaces and lounges, too.

Thomas Building

Last, we have Penn State’s iconic lecture hall. With about 726 seats, Thomas 100 is actually the largest lecture hall on campus. Even though Thomas 100 is overwhelmingly large, it still feels welcoming in a weird way. Even if you do not have a class in Thomas 100, stop by to take in the scenery at least once.

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About the Author

Larkin Richards

Larkin is a third-year majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are "yinz" and "dippy eggs." Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

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