Penn State

State College opens arms to new residents, and parents

Penn State students move back to campus for the school year on Friday.
Penn State students move back to campus for the school year on Friday.

In a college town, there is one weekend that draws a line in the sand.

It’s a time when things go from being “town” to “town and gown” in a heartbeat.

Penn State’s calendar lists Friday and Saturday simply as “arrival days.” Locals know it as “move-in weekend,” the time when all of the 46,000 or so Nittany Lion undergraduates come back to town in preparation for classes to start Monday.

Roads jam with traffic as parents bring their kids to dorms or student apartments for the start of the fall semester, and this year, there will be more of those than ever before.

Penn State, when you add up all of its campuses, is traditionally one of the most applied-to universities in the country. Some people get accepted and some don’t, but this year, University Park had a record number of students who got acceptance letters and made the flagship campus their pick. An all-time high of about 8,600 freshmen are starting this year.

“Leading up to the May 1 admissions deadline, Penn State saw a surge in paid acceptances,” said Vice President and Dean for Undergraduate Education Rob Pangborn. “While there is always some flux in class sizes year to year, Penn State’s popularity has grown. This year, a higher than normal percentage of students who were offered admission chose to accept — a clear sign of the value that students and their parents attach to a Penn State degree.”

Some parents weren’t just dropping kids off. Some were hanging around to help.

The Penn State Parents Program urges mom and dad to “stay connected, be a partner, get involved.” They did that on campus by handing out fliers to help the new students navigate school both physically and virtually.

A Penn State app cheat sheet pointed students toward the digital helping hands that will make getting to know University Park a lot easier than it was when their parents might have been new to campus. There is the Penn State Life app, the CATA app, the apps for the dining halls and the bookstore and downtown parking. Oh, there’s also the Newspaper Readership Program — the Centre Daily Times, Daily Collegian and New York Times are readily available for free to every student on campus “to provide students with broader perspectives on world and national views, and the need to create opportunities to be more engaged citizens in their local community.”

So welcome, Penn Staters. And State College, be careful. The U.S. Census Bureau’s estimate of a 42,161 people means the population has more than doubled in days, and at least a quarter of those residents are just learning to navigate the area.

Lori Falce: 814-235-3910, @LoriFalce