Imagine this: it is your first semester at Penn State’s University Park campus, but not your first semester of college. It’s not even your first semester “at Penn State,” so to speak.
Transitioning from a commonwealth campus as part of the 2+2 program can be a weird experience. I should know — I had to do it myself after spending two years at the Berks campus.
Even though you’re technically a junior, you feel like a freshman because this campus, these buildings and these professors are completely different from what you’re used to.
Maybe you’re used to commuting because your campus was close to home, and now you’re living on your own for the first time in “the big city.”
Even if you came from a bigger campus like Altoona or Harrisburg, the sudden jump in the sheer amount of people on campus at one time can be jarring.
It’s going to be OK, though. Since you kind of got a jump start on how Penn State likes to do its thing, you’re miles ahead of some other people starting their main campus journey.
The operating systems you spent two years getting to know are still around like Canvas and Lionpath, but scheduling classes can also be a much bigger deal than before, as you’re competing with thousands more people.
Don’t feel like you’re alone, however, as while the transition can be tough, there are a lot of resources and tips to take advantage of during your “second freshman year.”
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Go to everything you can
I know it may seem kind of frustrating that you have to “start over” when it comes to meeting people and joining clubs, but there are infinitely more opportunities for you here than at your branch campus.
Each college has an “orientation event” specifically for commonwealth students transitioning, and you definitely want to make sure you’re there for that. Don’t worry, in most cases it’s not like NSO and you don’t have to play weird, cringey bonding games.
At these sessions, you’ll meet people in the same situation as you as well as some of your advisers and professors for the next two years.
Much like the advice given to every other freshman, go to every club involvement fair you can. Get involved. There is something at Penn State for literally everybody in all kinds of niches, so you don’t have to resort to the smaller clubs from your branch campus.
You’re also making up for lost time. Commonwealth transfers get literally half the time as other students to make connections with other students and professors, so don’t take your time in putting yourself out there if you truly want to do so.
Finding buildings on campus
You’re a long way away from your branch campuses of yore with no more than six buildings maximum.
Do not use Google Maps to try and find your way around campus. I know it may seem like the best possible option, but it will only lead you to disaster.
You will wind up being led down six smaller alleyways to the back entrance of Willard and wonder where you are or what tragic mistakes led you up to this moment.
When in doubt, honestly, look at the physical map stands all around campus. They work, promise. If you know where the library is and how to navigate Pollock and Curtin Roads, you’re pretty much good to go.
Additionally, Penn State released the “Penn State Go” app which includes an interactive map of campus for when you’re really stuck wondering what the heck a “Forum” is.
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Meet with your new adviser as soon as you can
You have a new adviser after two years of getting used to your old one — go meet with them as soon as possible.
You’re in a unique position. Many classes that were not offered at your branch campus are now offered here. It’s probably the reason why you transferred in the first place.
Establishing a relationship with your adviser as early as possible is crucial especially since you’re on lost time. Graduation is shockingly closer around the corner than you think.
Having a set plan of what classes you’re going to be taking and when, especially in the craziness that can be UP scheduling, can be integral to your success as a student at main campus.
Know you are not a “lesser” Penn Stater
This is one of the most important points. You are a Penn Stater, through and through, and you are not any lesser because you didn’t spend all four years at University Park.
If you went to a branch campus because it was less expensive, that’s great. If you went because you were more comfortable starting small, that’s fine too.
It can be hard to transition to UP life, especially after the all-things-considered pretty chill academic life that comes with a commonwealth campus.
Know that you have numerous resources at your disposal, though, to make sure you seamlessly integrate into life in Happy Valley.
At the end of the day, you will graduate from this wonderful institution with the same degree as everyone else who spent all four years here. Be proud of where you came from.
Just, please, don’t wear your key on a lanyard around your neck.