Any Penn State student is understandably tense right now. As we wait in anticipation of June 15th, the all-important coronavirus decision day, our Class of 2024 might have the most to hope for.
The Penn State experience is like no other, and there are some thing you just can't learn from a website or a Zoom class. I'm entering my senior year with hope I'll get to experience this magic again. With that magic in mind, here's a list of 18 things Penn Staters need to live through to truly understand.
1. You can't mix flavors at the Creamery.
This is probably the one rule every Penn Stater knows by heart. At the Berkey Creamery (the best creamery in the world), you can only order blue and white sprinkles, and you can't mix flavors (unless you're President Bill Clinton). No one's stopping you from buying your own pints and mixing them in secret, but really, that's just wrong.
2. The White Out is the best atmosphere in college football.
"Unreal." A "once-in-a-lifetime experience." If you've never been to a Penn State White Out -- the largest, loudest game of the season -- you don't know what you're missing. Once a year, over 110,000 fans fill Beaver Stadium beyond capacity, all dressed head-to-toe in white. We're loud, we're proud, and our stadium chants are definitely cooler than any other BIG 10 team. It's known as the best atmosphere in college football for a reason.
3. You can spend hours at the Fall Involvement Fair and you STILL won't get to talk to every club.
From THON special interest orgs to PSU sport student sections, Penn State offers over 1,000 clubs offering any activity you can imagine. Each fall, the HUB-Robeson Center lawn becomes home to each of these organizations, club teams, and activities for the Involvement Fair. Here, you can talk to representatives from different orgs and collect an unreasonable amount of flyers.
4. Your tour "WE ARE" is nothing like the real chant.
Sorry, freshmen: when you were on your campus tour, and someone yelled "WE ARE" your way, it was just because we all know how awkward it is. That first uncomfortable WE ARE is your first Penn State rite of passage, just like riding the Whoop drunk during Sylly Week or borrowing a stranger's fracket in the Canyon line.
But hearing a true WE ARE chant at Beaver Stadium or during THON? There's nothing like it.
5. THON's impact reaches all across campus every day, and it's beautiful.
Every single day, you'll see countless pieces of THON merch across campus, shown off by the 16,500 volunteers who dedicate themselves to THON's mission. So many of us strive to create a better life For The Kids™, and THON's impact on campus is clear every day in our clothes, canvassers, and fundraisers.
6. The family-owned restaurants downtown become your home-away-from-home.
Places like Sower's Harvest Cafe or Webster's are the friendliest places you'll find on campus. Our locally-owned restaurants are the heart of our campus, and you'll learn that after you make some of your best memories at The Waffle Shop, Baby's, and countless others.
7. No pose is too awkward at the Lion Shrine.
That's because the pics you'll take at the WE ARE installation will be ten times worse. Plus, there's no such thing as too many Lion Shrine pictures.
8. Hiking Mt. Nittany is a total PSU bucket list item, but it kills your calves.
Throwback to the time my younger sister thought she could do this hike wearing a sundress.
The views from the Mt. Nittany stations are absolutely gorgeous, and it's an amazing feeling to look across on the town you'll grow to adore. But be warned: this climb definitely shreds your calves.
9. I'm not sure if the Willard Preacher ever stops talking.
You might've heard about the ole WP on your tour, but to understand Gary, you really have to hear him rant.
10. State Patty's Day makes Saint Patrick's Day look like a Tuesday night at your grandparents' house.
Remember when I said THON is a beautiful tradition across campus? In honor of the weekend (and to stay as healthy as possible), hundreds of students take part in an unofficial "dry period" from January to the end of February. The weekend after THON, though, is the unofficial "dayge period" known as State Patty's, and it'll put your summer daylongs to shame.
That is, only if you're 21+.
11. There are an unreasonable amount of coffee shops on campus.
There's a Starbucks in the library. There's a Starbucks across from Hammond. There's a Starbucks in the HUB. There's a second Starbucks in the HUB. There's a Dunkin' also across from Hammond. There's an Edge in East and an Edge in Pollock. Downtown you've got Webster's, Irving's, Abba Java… need I say more?
12. Two words to keep you from passing out in the stands at Beaver Stadium: Chicken. Basket.
Chicken baskets are nothing short of godly. This will be the best $10 you spend every Saturday before the post-tailgate hangover starts to hit around the 3rd quarter. Do yourself a favor and grab a chicken basket at halftime -- you won't regret it.
13. Shortlidge hill is where you burn off those chicken baskets.
I genuinely believe that Penn State's original architects intended Shortlidge Road as the answer to chicken basket carbs.
14. Whatever you need, McLanahan's has it.
McLanahan's has your lion ears for a football game, your drawstring bag and tennis balls for THON, your princess crown for your 21st and all your groceries for the week. It's a real one-stop-shop for everything Penn State has to offer.
15. Penn State is so unbelievably dedicated to your career development.
From the one of the top-ranked career centers to the largest career fairs on the east coast, Penn State has such a strong commitment to career development and job placement. Plus, our alumni association is the largest in the world and was recently named the No. 1 most powerful alumni network in the country. Penn State pride carries a lot of weight in the world, and it'll definitely help you in your search for a career.
16. Penn Staters are almost always kind to one another on the street.
They call it "Happy Valley" for a reason. Penn Staters are so connected by our school pride that all 40,000 of us have become inherently kind to one another, and that kindness is evident every day. Everywhere you look, you'll see someone wearing PSU gear, students volunteering in a fundraiser for their nonprofit, or a group of strangers playing lawn games. It's that happiness and camaraderie that make this campus feel like home.
17. You'll meet your best friends here.
With all of the organizations to join, causes to dedicate yourself to, and social experiences in the dorms, you'll quickly make bonds like you've never had before. Penn State's beauty is something upperclassmen absolutely love to illuminate to you -- you'll quickly find friends who love showing you Penn State's secrets as much as you love discovering them. Our experiences are truly once-in-a-lifetime, and those experiences build indescribably strong friendships.
18. When this passes, your true college experience will be like no other.
Yes, the world is full of pain right now. It's hard to dive confidently into the newest chapter of your life. But if you close your eyes and take your chances, if you engage in every opportunity you face and you live fully and completely, your Penn State experience will be unmatched. This university offers such an amazing future if you make the most of your time here.
You won't learn that from a Zoom call.
P.S. One more thing you'll need to know: no matter where you are, or what time it is, always remember that Michigan still sucks.