A Day in the Life at The Pennsylvania State University

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach—they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Elizabeth received her bachelor’s degree in biology and her master’s degrees in biology and science education from The Pennsylvania State University. She is currently an online tutor specializing in algebra tutoring, ISEE tutoring, science tutoring, and several other subjects. See what she had to say about her experience at Pennsylvania State University:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options.

Elizabeth: Pennsylvania State University is located in State College, PA. It is a very unique town and campus because even though it is in a rural county, the university and town have almost all of the amenities of a larger city, such as concert events, a bus system, lots of places to eat, and many cultural events.  There is free bus transportation on campus, and the bus system runs throughout the county. All of the university and most of the town is accessible by bike. You would not need a car. The town and campus are extremely safe places, and there is a very low crime rate. There are also many sporting events to attend.

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants at The Pennsylvania State University?

Elizabeth: Pennsylvania State University is an extremely large university, and class sizes can vary from four to about 700 students. The size of Pennsylvania State University has allowed me to choose from hundreds of majors and minors. I was able to fine-tune my program to fit my needs, and I always had regular meetings with my adviser. I have found that faculty and staff are always willing to meet with, help, and guide students, even in the largest of classes. Also, I had numerous research, internship, and job opportunities during my undergraduate experiences, which allowed me to work closely with faculty, staff, and graduate students.

How would you describe the dorm life—rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Elizabeth: I really enjoyed dorm life at Pennsylvania State University. My favorite part was the meal plan. There are more than six different dining halls across the campus, so I could always find one serving something that I liked. There are also many coffee shops and convenience stores on campus that accept the meal plan. My resident assistants always did a great job at helping new students get acclimated to the university. There are hundreds of clubs that students can join, from dance to science education, which allows for socialization, recreation, and service.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Elizabeth: I studied biology with an ecology option, and I minored in wildlife and fisheries sciences. Within biology, students can choose tailored programs, such as ecology, neurology, physiology, etc. You can choose almost any major or minor you can think of at Pennsylvania State University. There is even an option to create your own degree. Pennsylvania State University is also a leading university in online education, so many degrees can be completed online through the World Campus. 

How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Elizabeth: It was very easy for me to meet people and make friends. I came from a very small high school (I graduated with 98 students), and it was wonderful to make new friends from diverse backgrounds. Pennsylvania State University offers many free social events. I met most of my friends in classes, through Pennsylvania State University social events, and in clubs. I was in a science education outreach club that did science lessons and demonstrations for local schools and at special campus events. 

Greek life can play a significant role in campus social life. I was not part of a sorority, but some of my friends were. I went to and participated in some Greek philanthropy events. My brother-in law went to Pennsylvania State University, and he ended up getting his first job because of his fraternity affiliation.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services?

Elizabeth: The career center offers a full suite of career services, such as helping build a resume, holding practice interviews, and helping students and alumni find jobs. Thousands of companies from all over the world come to Pennsylvania State University to recruit future employees. Pennsylvania State University also has numerous career fairs where hundreds of companies come to recruit. We have the largest alumni network in the world. 

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges at The Pennsylvania State University?

Elizabeth: Because of its size, there are many, many study areas. Every dorm has study rooms. Almost every building has studio space for working on group projects. The library and student union are enormous, and they are great places to study. The town has coffee shops, cafes, restaurants, and other spaces, such as religious or group spaces that are good places to study. The study spaces can become crowded during finals, but the library and student union stay open 24 hours a day to accommodate the larger volume of students.

Describe the surrounding town.

Elizabeth: For me, it is the best of both worlds. I have access to all the amenities I want, but it is also very easy to get involved with numerous outdoor activities, such as hiking, mountain biking, kayaking, fishing, and camping. First- and second-year students usually stay around town, but there are small towns nearby which offer new places to eat, study, and have fun. There are many things to do at and around Pennsylvania State University if you are willing to look. There is even a small ski slope which can be reached via bus. 

How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes at The Pennsylvania State University?

Elizabeth: The student body is one of the largest in the country. I was okay with this because I came from a small town and small school, and I was ready for a change. Also, I wanted the freedom to choose any major and meet new people. My first class had 730 students in one lecture hall, but despite the size, I was able to meet personally with the instructor, and I ended up being a teaching assistant for that class. By my senior year, I was in classes that averaged about 15 students. Most of the large classes are introductory courses, and class size gets smaller the longer you are in a program.  

Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.

Elizabeth: My most loved moment is when my Biology 110 professor (where the class size was 730) noticed that I was doing well in the course and helping students around me in class. She asked me to be a teaching assistant for the course. After being a teaching assistant, I knew I wanted to become a science educator. I had never considered a career in education before that experience, and now it has become my passion.   

Check out Elizabeth’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.