The Pennsylvania State University 1997Twelve Things All College Freshmen Should Know

University Park, Pa. -- As Penn State readies itself to greet one of its largest-ever freshmen classes, parents will attempt to ready their sons and daughters for the transition ahead -- life as college freshmen. As a supplement to those parental words of wisdom, Penn State faculty and staff have prepared their own list of tips for college freshmen:

1. Go to class regularly. Seems like common sense, right? According to Carol German, director of the AT&T Center for Service-Leadership at Penn State, many first-year students think they can pass the course just by reading the books. Not true. Most professors add a significant amount of new material through the lectures and class discussions. For most students, college work requires a different learning style from the one they used in high school when they just studied for tests. In college, regular attendance and preparation before each class is necessary in order to keep up with the material.

2. Contact your new roommate or roommates prior to arrival. Get to know them and find out what they're bringing so you don't end up with two or three of everything, advises Gail Hurley, director of residence life at Penn State. "Once you get to campus, take time to share habits, likes and dislikes with your roommates. Setting ground rules about lights out, visitors and study hours can avoid problems down the road," she says.

3. Get involved in at least one out-of-class activity, says German. Look for the many opportunities to help professors with their research or become active in clubs or organizations. Students who have out-of-class interests make better and more long-lasting friendships, are more satisfied in their college environment and are more likely to stay in school until graduation. Many students discover their career paths through out-of-class activities.

4. Get to know your resident assistant or student counselor. These upper-class students know the ropes and can help with everything from where to find things to homesickness and roommate problems, according to Hurley.

5. Be ready for new experiences. You will meet people who have different customs, beliefs, values and habits. Remember that learning takes place both in and out of the classroom, she adds.

6. Treat the university or college and surrounding community as you would treat your home and your family. German reminds freshmen, "Remember that for many people, the college community is their year-round home. Behave here as you would want others to behave in your parents' yard."

7. Get to know at least one professor well each semester. (Going to class is a big part of this one.) Eventually, you will need references from professors for summer internships, graduate school and employment. German says too many students find themselves in a scramble their senior year, trying to find someone who knows them well enough to write a letter of recommendation. Professors who know you and know your interests and strengths can help you identify job opportunities.

8. Although the campus will do all it can to make college life safe and secure, you must assume some responsibility for your own well-being. Follow well-lit paths and don't walk alone at night. Penn State offers free maps of well-lit walking paths and a student-run evening escort service, says Dave Stormer, assistant vice president for safety and environmental services. Report lost or stolen keys and ID cards immediately and don't let strangers into your residence hall or apartment.

9. Check out study abroad programs, resident assistants recommend. An international learning experience is a valuable commodity, personally and professionally.

10. Anna Griswold, assistant vice provost for student aid, and her client services team advise freshmen to keep in touch with the student aid office -- know what applications are required and know the deadlines. Griswold's staff encourages students to keep their families informed and know the school's academic progress requirements to retain student aid eligibility.

11. Let your parents, family and friends back home know they can stay in touch with Penn State every day, says Bill Mahon, director of public information. All students have access to e-mail and Penn State news is posted daily on the University, Daily Collegian and Centre Daily Times web sites. The Department of Public Information also offers a daily e-mail news service called the Penn State Newswire for interested students, parents and friends. Just send an e-mail note to to subscribe.

12. And finally, a general piece of good advice for all students: Learn to use the word "no." Learn to respect the word "no."


Contact: Karen I. Wagner (814) 865-7517 (office), (814) 867-0797 (home)