Should I Go To The Pennsylvania State University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Jaclyn is a Houston tutor who specializes in AP English tutoring, Essay Editing tutoring, Writing tutoring, and more. She graduated from The Pennsylvania State University in 2012 where she earned her Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. Check out her review of her time at The Pennsylvania State University:

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Jaclyn: Pennsylvania State University was nestled in the country, where the community was built up around the school. While the school itself was large, the community surrounding it was your typical cozy, spirited college town. Many students biked, but I chose to either walk or use the bus system that was in place.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Jaclyn: This depended on the size and nature of the class. I preferred classes that were more discussion-based, but the sizes ranged based on your major and interests. Academic advisers, while accommodating, saw such a high influx of students that it was sometimes hard to get an immediate appointment. Professors held office hours, and most would accommodate your schedule if you could not make their meeting times.

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

Jaclyn: Dorms were available on- or off-campus in a variety of styles. Living on-campus was popular the first two years, but most students ventured off-campus for less strict, more independent living. Dining halls offered a variety of food that sometimes was overpriced, but the buffets proved the most fruitful and popular. Pennsylvania State University was huge, and it placed an emphasis on student-developed organizations. Everything from intramural sports, government, and volunteering opportunities were available.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Jaclyn: I chose to study sociology because of the emphasis on research within my program. Pennsylvania State University was best known for engineering and education, which attracted the most students each year. The liberal arts, while also quite popular, were under-represented at events like career fairs and guest lectures.

VT: 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?

Jaclyn: Greek life was a large part of campus—there were service fraternities focused on volunteering, Greek life specific to your major, etc. I was not involved, but I did not have much trouble meeting anyone. I know it is hard to get out of your comfort zone with all the change occurring, but I truly believe that was how I met the majority of people. I got involved in a lot of random activities that I typically would not have because I knew it was important to give new things a chance.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Jaclyn: I did not take advantage of the career center until much later on in college. Some professors and majors did more with career research, from having guest lecturers, advisers speak to classes, etc. I did not have that luck with my major. Specifically within the STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) fields, we had a lot of interest from companies that were proud of hiring our graduates in the past. I highly recommend utilizing the tutoring and career centers early on. Even something as simple as editing an essay or completing a mock interview can do a world of good.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Jaclyn: It depends on the type of atmosphere you want. While some liked the dead quiet of the library, I preferred to have background noise, so I gravitated toward the group study halls. Study halls, libraries, and other venues were easily accessible and usually open 24 hours a day, specifically within high volume exam times like finals week.

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments / things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus? 

Jaclyn: Downtown was across the street from campus, and it had everything from outlets, to music stores, to bars for all interests. The surrounding town did not offer much, and most cities were a drive, so we stayed mainly within campus. Athletics were a huge part of Pennsylvania State University, so the school and town alike joined together for parades, fundraisers, etc. I really enjoyed it because there was a strong focus on engaging the community in our school spirit, as well.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Jaclyn: I began at a small school and ended up transferring because I was honestly bored. There were few chances to meet people, not enough clubs/activities, and everyone went home on the weekends. After transferring, I found myself in a school of 50,000+ students where you had to actually try and be bored. My major was one of the smaller ones, so my class sizes were relatively small. I really think the people make the class. I have had smaller classes where the students and professor were engaging, but I have had the same experience in large lectures, too. I have also had small classes where the students did not show up or rarely participated, and similar in large lectures. There was definitely a range, specifically when you got to the core classes in your major.

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

Jaclyn: I personally do not do well in online classes. I prefer the face-to-face interaction and benefit from engaging with others in the class. I took an online science course where the material was boring, the professor was hardly available, and the homework was extensive. My most memorable class was with a professor that enjoyed causing ripples in the university—for the better. He enjoyed giving students the ability to voice their opinions and engage in conversations with each other about literature, current events, etc. He had us challenge themes and ideas, and I ultimately learned not only about myself, but to really hear others out before jumping to a conclusion.

Check out Jaclyn’s tutoring profile.

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