Adjusting to College

Now that you're a student at Penn State, how is college life different than you expected it to be? The items listed below address some common concerns of students who see differences between their expectations and what's happening in their lives at Penn State.

  • I thought I would know who my adviser is right away, but I've been here for a while and I still don't know who my adviser is. How can I find out?

    You can identify your adviser on eLion using Adviser Information. If there is no adviser listed for you, contact the advising center in your college or at your campus.

    Academic Advising Centers at University Park
    Academic Advising and Information Centers at Commonwealth Campuses


  • I expected to do as well academically in college as I did in high school, but I'm getting lower grades and I feel like I'm falling behind. What am I doing wrong?

    Many college students experience the same feelings. You may need to learn new strategies for studying in college. Start by reviewing Academic Skills.


  • I don't understand my instructor's academic expectations. My high school teachers were very specific about readings, assignments, projects, and grading. I don't think a syllabus tells me enough. How can I know what my instructors expect?

    Make a list of questions to ask you instructor and meet with him or her to discuss your concerns. Your adviser can help you generate some helpful questions to ask your instructors.


  • I expected to be happy at Penn State, but right now I don't enjoy my classes and I'm having trouble making friends. I sleep a lot and I don't feel like going to class. What can I do to feel better?

    Sometimes these feeling can be alleviated by getting more involved in a variety of activities. If these feelings persist, however, you may want to meet with a counselor to discuss other ways to overcome feelings of unhappiness and lack of motivation. Counseling services are available at University Park and at other campuses.


  • I don't really get along with my roommate. At first, I was excited about rooming with someone, but now I don't like sharing this small room with someone I hardly know.

    The first step is to talk to your resident assistant (RA) to try to help you resolve the problems with your roommate and discuss other options. You can also check the following resources for suggestions about getting along with your roommate.

    Penn State Residence Life: Roommates

    Under certain circumstances, you may be able to change roommates/rooms during the semester. Contact the Housing Office at your campus for details.


  • My family's academic expectations for me are different than mine are. They want me to choose a major because they think it will get me a good job, even if I'm not at all interested in it, but I'm more concerned about studying something that I enjoy. What should I do?

    One thing you can do is to learn more about the career opportunities that are available for any major so that you can educate your parents about job possibilities. You may want to use the resources at Career Services or any academic advising center to get this type of information. Your academic adviser might also be able to give you some suggestions about how to discuss this situation with your family.

    Academic Advising Centers at University Park
    Academic Advising and Information Centers at Commonwealth Campuses
    Career Services at University Park
    Career Services at other campuses

    If this situation with your family is causing you a great deal of emotional stress, you may want to meet with a counselor. Counseling services are available at University Park through Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) or the Multicultural Resource Center (MRC) and at other campuses.


  • I expected to graduate in four years, but I've heard that many students take longer. I don't think I can afford to be a student for more than four years.

    Most majors are designed to be completed in four years. However, some students take longer because they enrich their educational experience by participating in internships and co-ops and/or study abroad, completing more than one major, adding one or more minors, and choosing to take extra courses. Academic Advising and Information Centers at Commonwealth Campuses

    Some students take longer than four years because they experience academic difficulties by not completing required courses (failing courses, dropping courses, withdrawing from a semester, etc.) or by scheduling inappropriate courses. These problems can be lessened by improving study skills and working carefully with an adviser to plan appropriate schedules.

    Check Penn State's University Bulletin to see how many credits each major requires. You will need to take a minimum of 120 credits, but some majors require more. Meet with your adviser to discuss your plans and concerns.


  • Now that I'm living away from home, I can't spend as much time with my family as they would like me to.

    Sometimes students are needed at home to help out with a family business, to baby-sit younger brothers and sisters, or to take care of a sick parent or other family member. If your family expects you to go home often for these or similar reasons, you may want to think about reducing your credit load for the semester. You should also let your adviser and your instructors know so they can help you make necessary adjustments. If you need to travel home often and/or for extended periods of time, you may want to think about transferring to a Penn State campus that is closer to home, at least for a semester or two.

    If, on the other hand, your family would just like to have you home more often for social reasons, you may need to talk to them about your need to spend more time studying than you did in high school as well as wanting to spend most of your free time with your friends. You can still stay in touch with your family by calling or texting them on the phone, sending e-mail, instant messaging, or through social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.


  • I don't see why I have to take courses that don't relate to my major.

    When students talk about courses that they think don't relate to their major, they usually mean General Education courses. There might not be any reason to take these courses if the purpose of a university education were just to train you for a job. But a university education is more than about preparing for a career. It's about helping you to learn more about yourself and others, to think critically, to solve problems, to prepare to become a knowledgeable citizen in a democracy, to help you learn about the wide range of educational opportunities at Penn State, to value the contributions of other cultures and societies, and to provide other information and experiences that will help you become a better-educated person.

    Check out the websites below to learn more about Penn State's General Education program.

    What is General Education?