What to Expect: Your First Year AT PSU

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So, you’re thinking about going to college. Everyone talks about how different it is from high school, but it’s hard to imagine what it will actually be like. To help you know what to expect from your first year at Portland State, we’ve asked some current PSU students what their experience was like when they first started out.


How does being a first year at PSU compare to being in high school?

Overwhelmingly, the students we talked to said being in college is liberating. You have more freedom, both in your schoolwork and personal life. It can feel like an daunting change at first, but once you find community on campus, you’ll have a support network.

'It felt more liberating and like I could be my own person and take care of myself. But I felt like I still had support from PSU.'

Check out PSU's extensive list of student groups and go to an event! This is a perfect way to find a like-minded community on campus.

There are also many resource centers that provide students with services and a safe community to work on homework or relax. Here's just a few:

Whats your favorite part about being a first year at PSU?

PSU offers many resources for students to adjust to college life and have a fulfilling experience while they're here.

'I loved being able to explore the endless amounts of resources, like the tutoring services at the Learning Center and the gym at the Rec Center. They helped me see everything with fresh eyes and take it all in.'

Even though college coursework can be challenging at first, you never have to feel overwhelmed. You can get help with most subjects in the Learning Center, which offers both in-person and online tutoring.

If you need help with any stage in the writing process (brainstorming and understanding assignments included), visit the Writing Center. Schedule an appointment online or visit during drop-in hours to meet with a tutor.

Stay active by visiting PSU’s Rec Center. Climb the rock wall, swim in the pool, relax in the hot tub, use fitness equipment, take classes (like yoga or Zumba) and much more. You can even explore the Pacific Northwest by going on a backpacking or kayaking trip with the Outdoor Program.

Keep your mind and body healthy by using the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC). All students taking five or more credits pay a Student Health Fee, which gives them access to medical, counseling and dental services, regardless of whether they have PSU insurance. The Student Health Fee covers most medical and counseling services, including the Mind Spa, a relaxing space for meditation, yoga, biofeedback, massage and light therapy.

What's something unexpected about being a PSU student?

In high school, you rarely get to choose what classes you take. Of course, students have to take prerequisites at Portland State, but there’s so much more freedom to choose classes that interest you. The students we talked to were surprised by how much they loved their classes.

'I didn’t expect that I would love my classes as much as I have. You get out of it what you put in and I truly enjoy learning now.'

One of the unique things about PSU is that we have advising pathways. Similar majors are grouped together, so you can pick an area you’re interested in and stick with that advisor, even if you change majors. Your advisor can help you figure out your future career and suggest classes for you to take. Find your advisor and schedule an appointment.

It's totally fine if you're nervous about balancing classes in college, a lot of people are. Advisors, tutors, resource center staff and your professors are here to help you succeed.

'I didn’t expect to succeed as well as I am. It’s nice to know that passing classes isn’t as hard as I thought it’d be, especially since all professors have office hours and are willing to help students whenever they need extra assistance or clarification.'

We hear a lot about how going to office hours can make a huge difference in your class experience. Professors are there to help you and love talking about their subject! It is really beneficial to get some face-to-face with your teachers, especially if you are struggling in the class. In some cases, they may be able to connect you with job or internship opportunities, or write a reference letter in the future. It's important to start building relationships now.

You can find your professor’s office hours and contact information on their syllabus. If you can’t make their office hours, don’t hesitate to contact them to schedule an appointment.

What do PSU students wish they knew during their first year?

When you’re worried about getting settled in, it can be stressful figuring out how you’ll pay for college. But there are so many opportunities to find jobs and internships.

'I wish I had known about Handshake and other resources for finding jobs and internships.'

Handshake is an online application that helps you apply for jobs and internships at PSU and beyond. Getting a job on campus is a great way to connect with other student workers. And the best part is that on-campus jobs work with your school schedule—their first priority is helping you succeed as a student.

There are many other opportunities for you to pay for college at PSU.

'I wish I knew more about how to get the most financial aid!'

Connect with the Financial Aid office and apply for financial aid every year. You can also read our blog about understanding financial aid for a broad explanation of financial aid and how it works.

We can't stress this enough: apply for scholarships! PSU has an extensive scholarship database and makes it easy to apply for multiple scholarships at once. October 1 is the scholarship application deadline, so get a head start. We've written about creating your scholarship strategy and how to write a memorable scholarship essay.

Major takeaway?

College is worth it! At Portland State, you’ll make lasting connections with people from diverse backgrounds. You’ll learn and grow as a student and person and start your professional career in a great place.

'College is worth it, not just the academics, but the whole experience of meeting new people and gaining new experiences.'


Worried you’ll be homesick your first year? Check out our blog outlining all the PSU resources that can help ease homesickness.