As I prepare to enter my junior year at Penn State, I think back to the feelings I had during the summer before I started college. I was really nervous that I wouldn’t know what to do or how to make friends at a HUGE school and looked everywhere I could to get the insider tips on surviving my freshman year. Most of the advice I came across was generic and largely consisted of things I already knew.
I’m sharing my best advice on freshman life, in an attempt to provide some sort of peace of mind to freshman who’ll be starting their first semester of college at Penn State (the school I have come to know and love) this fall.
Tip #1: Live in East Halls and if you can’t live there, make friends who live there
East Residence Halls are the powerhouse of all freshman activity. I know that they are pretty much the shittiest dorms on campus, but it’s a sacrifice worth making because you end up finding friends who stay with you throughout college and get a chance to meet a bunch of other people who are in the same boat as you. Some of my best freshman memories came from east hall dorm room pregames and being able to walk across the hall anytime I needed to ask a friend for outfit or homework advice.
Here’s me and one of my best friends , Andrea, who I’m living with this year and met on my floor in Pennypacker freshman year.
Tip #2: Don’t be afraid to venture out alone and find your tribe
This is probably the most important piece of advice I could give to a freshman. Instead of just going along with what it seems like you SHOULD be doing and venture towards clubs or groups that actually do things YOU like. I felt really pressured to join Greek life as a freshman, but instead I went to a snowboarding club meeting alone, where I ended up making a ton of friends who I’m most close with to this day. Sometimes I was really nervous and didn’t know a lot of people but I put myself out there and it ended up paying off. And side note: I joined a sorority this year and they aren’t really that great in my opinion.
Here are some awesome snowboard club homies that I mentioned:
Tip #3: Get a campus gym membership because drinking makes you fat
First of all there’s nothing wrong with being fat but if you’re like me and you like to nap and watch Netflix often, the freshman lifestyle might result in a bit of a weight gain. If you’re drinking every weekend (which you probably will be LBH) you WILL gain a few pounds. Curb that weight gain by at least making an attempt to go to the gym. Rec Hall is my personal favorite but the new rock wall at the IM building should be super cool as well.
Tip #4: Keep a supply of Sudafed, Tylenol and tissues at all times
As a freshman you will get sick all the time. Even though Penn State is huge, sickness spreads so easily on campus. I can’t even remember how many times I got sick as a freshman. And unlike high school, you can’t just stay home sick and have mommy take care of you. That’s why I suggest Sudafed (for a decongestant and a burst of energy), Tylenol (for headache and pain relief) and tissues (for all the tears you’ll cry because you failed your exam and also so you can blow your nose).
Tip #5: (For Girls) Make sure you bring some shitty hoodies you don’t mind losing and heels you don’t mind getting dirty
You will be going to house parties, apartment parties, frat parties, etc … and you will end up losing the jacket you wear there and spill a drink or have a drink spilled on your shoes. For night parties you should have a go to pair of heeled sandals and boots and for daylongs a pair of old converse or timberland boots. It seems like a sort of “juice” accumulates on the floor of any party you go to, especially in the winter when it snows.
See these examples:
Heeled Sandals HERE
Over the knee Boots HERE
Tip #6: Just go to class
When you’re a freshman, most of your classes will be big and mostly easy. It’s going to take a bit of adjustment to get used to sitting in the Forum building with a class of 200 kids, but you’ll get the hang of it. If you skip those classes, you are screwing yourself over. You are paying for this shit, so go to class, even if it’s just to nap at the back of the room. Also if you don’t pay attention in the basic classes for your major, you might end up realizing you hate it further down the line and by then it’ll be too late to switch majors.
Tip #7: Get used to guys (or girls) saying they “don’t want a relationship right now”
I don’t know if this is just a thing at Penn State or if it’s like this at Big 10 schools all over the country, but it seems like most relationships on campus aren’t serious. Penn State has a hookup culture and that’s that. If you get attached easily (like me) try to be careful about who you trust and don’t let anyone take advantage of you. If you’re a guy or girl who loves to be sexually adventurous, then you will do just fine. Stay single and have a good time, and if the right guy or girl comes along, then so be it.
Tip #8: When you party, don’t have more than 3 drinks in an hour, especially in the first few weeks
I have heard A LOT of stories about freshman drinking nightmares. I even had an experience of my own where I woke up in my dorm one morning, covered in vomit debris only to find my two friends asleep on the floor because they had to bring my blacked out ass home from a horrible frat that I will not mention where I drank too much to impress a horrible frat boy who I also will not mention. Moral of the story is: don’t drink more than 2 or 3 drinks per hour because you will blackout and do something stupid or get arrested or die.
Tip #9: Write everything down in a planner
When you first get your class syllabuses go through and write down all the due dates and exams and what not in a planner or notebook. In college, your professors won’t always announce things or remind you so it helps to be self-sufficient.
See THIS ARTICLE for what planners and agendas are the best for college life
Tip #10: Put down your phone and make friends with everyone
When I was a freshman, I made a lot of friends by just talking to people in my classes and introducing myself to new people at parties. Don’t bury your face into your phone and pretend to be busy, because you’ll never meet people like that. I know this might be really hard for the more shy people but if you never go out of your comfort zone in life, you’ll never get anywhere.
Here are some conversation starters:
Waiting for class to start: You could say “Hey have you heard anything about this professor?” or “How do you think the exams are going to be in here this semester?”
At a pregame: Ask if someone wants to take a shot with you and start a convo.
At a party: Ask if someone is good at beer pong and see if they wanna jump in on the next game.
At a club meeting: Ask one of the current members why they joined and what they like about it.
I hope that these tips were helpful and make you feel a little bit better about the upcoming semester. You aren’t the only nervous one and you will be fine. If things get overwhelming just remember that at Penn State we work hard and play hard and we’re all family here. WE ARE (sorry I had to).