Nam Le is a PSU student working toward his bachelor’s in business, with a concentration in marketing. Nam is originally from Saigon, Vietnam. He came to Portland State as a freshman student. Here’s his story:
“I first found out about PSU by signing up for a campus tour with my high school. At first, I didn’t know anything about PSU, and I wasn’t considering applying here. But then I learned about PSU’s history and amazing programs. I was attracted to the business program because I learned about how PSU alumni Carolyn Davidson invented the Nike swoosh. I finally made the decision to go into PSU’s business program because it’s the best in Oregon. As a first-generation college student, and someone who is new to American culture, it was important for me to choose a college that has everything a student like me needs, including affordable tuition and a great location in downtown Portland.
I’ve already learned a lot. My favorite classes have been Professional Selling and Business Communication. I learned how to write professional emails and communicate effectively within a team.
I got a lot of support from my professors. Dean Erica Wagner was not as strict and hard on us students as I expected. She was actually really caring and became like a second mother. Professor Daniel Wong was also a mentor to me. He’s a great role model for first-generation college students.
I love all the food places around campus. Phat Cart has the best orange chicken bento, and there are lots of Thai places with delicious Pad Thai. I decompress by getting food from the food carts and reading in the rooftop terraces around the Urban Center. When I want to study, I go to the International Lounge, which is part of the International Student Services.
I lived in campus housing for my first three years so I could be close to the unique community on PSU’s campus. Living on campus helped me grow my connections and adapt to American culture. It also gave me easy access to unlimited on-campus events.
Through all the challenges, I’ve been developing into the person I strove to become. My plan after graduation is to work in the sales and marketing field in Portland. I have one piece of advice for students applying for college: College is an investment. Invest in yourself.”
Sebastian is a junior in PSU’s School of Film. He came to PSU as an IB international student from Mozambique. Here’s what he has to say about his journey to becoming a student at PSU:
“Choosing where to go to college can be extremely daunting. For us international students, having to do it from thousands of miles away can make the entire process much more stressful. When my time came to apply to colleges, I considered all options: big city or small town, large university or small college. When I found Portland State University online, it seemed like that perfect balance of what I wanted for my college experience. Situated in the middle of downtown Portland and surrounded by luscious forests, PSU offers the best of both worlds.
When considering Portland State, whatever questions I had about the campus, city or academics were answered quickly. PSU admissions staff and the Film department were always available to answer my questions in a personalized manner. Unlike the other universities I was considering, my correspondence with PSU actually gave me a good idea of what my college experience was going to be like. Even before I was admitted, I felt valued at Portland State.
Today, I am almost halfway done with my undergraduate degree. I feel settled into a diverse community of international and domestic students alike. My classes at PSU have felt like progress towards a career in the film industry. I am learning useful skills for film production and theoretical writing, as well as developing a strong personal style, which I’m conveying through my portfolio of film and video work.
Living in Portland is a breeze! Portlanders on and off campus are welcoming to everyone, and they always share a smile. Leaving the hustle and bustle of the city is as easy as a 10 minute train ride, where I can unwind in vast urban parks. Food carts and restaurants, with all types of cuisines, are situated all over the city.There is never a shortage of things to do in Portland!”
Writing is something all college students will have to do for most of their classes. That’s why PSU has a Writing Center, which is designed to help students at any writing level, and at any stage in the writing process.
How do you know if you should go to the Writing Center? Well, everyone should go! Whether you’re struggling with grammar, don’t know how to write a particular assignment for a class or want feedback on a scholarship essay, the Writing Center can help.
One unique thing about PSU’s Writing Center is that all consultants have earned or are working toward their Master’s in Writing or English, and many also teach writing classes. There’s even an ESL specialist and dedicated graduate student drop-in hours.
Here’s what you should do to get the most out of your visit.
Step 1: Decide what you want to get out of your session.
When you go into your session, your consultant will ask you what you want to get out of it and will tailor their feedback accordingly. Make sure you have a few specific questions or issues in mind.
Have a tricky essay assignment and don’t know where to start? They can help you brainstorm and write an outline. Finished your paper but think you didn’t use commas correctly? Let your consultant know, and they can point out recurring issues and show you how to fix them.
Step 2: Schedule an appointment or visit drop-in hours.
If scheduling an appointment won’t work for you, stop in during drop-in hours. Remember to show up early to sign in because drop-in hours fill up fast. The Writing Center (located in 188 Cramer Hall) holds drop-in hours Monday through Friday from 12 to 2 pm.
You can also stop by the Writing Center Outpost on the second floor of the PSU Library. Outpost hours are from 9 am to 12 pm.
Step 3: Come prepared.
Print out two copies of your paper, so both you and your consultant can easily read it. Make sure to also bring in your assignment sheet. Time is limited, so if your paper is long, have a couple of sections you want to focus on, in addition to some specific questions.
Step 4: Become a better writer!
Remember that Writing Center consultants will not “fix” your paper for you. They won’t copy edit your writing, but will point out things you can improve and give you the tools and advice to do it yourself. This means you shouldn’t bring in an assignment an hour before it’s due—you won’t have enough time to work on it before turning it in.
Once you leave your session, revise your work! Consultants even suggest you bring in the same assignment multiple times throughout the writing process. That way, you can really see your growth.
No matter your skill level, it can be helpful to get feedback on your writing, especially if it is from someone experienced.
Live music, mouthwatering food and boisterous conversation beckoned people from all walks of life to come celebrate Nepalese art and tradition at Portland State. Every winter term, the Nepalese Student Association (NSA), one of the many student organizations at PSU, hosts the Nepalese Cultural Night. NSA is made up of both international and domestic students, most of whom have Nepalese roots—all PSU students, regardless of their heritage, can join. And they foster this attitude of inclusivity at the event as well, creating a space for community members, faculty and students and their families to mingle and share their love of Nepalese culture.
This year, the Nepalese Cultural Night took place in the Smith Memorial Student Union. The event space was illuminated with vibrant colors and decorated with traditional banners. Culturally-significant, handmade Nepalese arts and crafts were displayed in an exhibition. There were copper bowls and jewelry passed down for many generations and used in wedding ceremonies. They also displayed instruments, like Nepalese singing bowls and traditional drums, for people to try. Everyone mingled while sipping on hot chai tea and watching Nepalese films play on the projector as they waited for the main events.
Throughout the night, different performers showed off their culture. Music varied from traditional Nepalese music to karaoke songs from popular movies. Dancers floated across the stage in sparkling, cultural garments.
Halfway through the night, students in NSA and their family members filled the stage to lead a performance of Deusi Re. This traditional song is sung during Tihar, the festival of light. In Nepal, folks go to homes around their community to sing Deusi Re and dance. These households give the performers food and money in exchange for blessings.
To top off an already amazing night of entertainment—free food! The catered food included chicken makhani, vegetable khoorma, mixed vegetable pakoras, basmati rice, nan and hot chai tea. The mingling continued, but slowed down, as everyone savored their dinner.
The event gave everyone a taste of Nepalese culture and perfectly exemplified the Nepalese tradition of hospitality. So, if you weren’t able to join in the festivities and get to know the community, check out the Nepalese Cultural Night next year, or join the Nepalese Student Association.
We know the last thing you need to worry about when you come to Portland State University for your first term is where you’ll live. You already have to deal with college applications, financial aid and scholarships essays. Not to mention jobs, chores, assignments and… you know, life.
Here are five reasons why living on campus is a rewarding and irreplaceable experience.
1. Get better grades
National research shows that students who live on campus have higher GPAs and are more likely to graduate on time than their off-campus peers.
Living on campus also means access to a ton of academic support. Academic coaching, Resident Academic Mentors and an after hours in-hall academic support center are all available to help you succeed.
2. Forge lifelong friendships
Living with your peers is an amazing way to meet new people who share your passions. You can even choose to live on floors with your Freshman Inquiry classmates. Part of PSU’s uniqueUniversity Studies program, Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) classes are a theme-based, interdisciplinary approach to education that foster close cohorts of students.
PSU’s diverse student body means you will encounter students from all socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds.
3. Be healthy and happy
PSU has a ton of awesome (and free) ways you can relax and stay stress free on campus. You can see a movie in the 5th Avenue Cinema, a student run cinema that plays films you wouldn’t normally get to see on the big screen—and there’s free popcorn!
Through Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), you can also get accessible, on-campus mental and physical health services from a team of dedicated professionals. The counseling services are free for all students taking five or more credits. You can even use the Mind Spa, a space where you can meditate, do yoga, play biofeedback games, relax in a massage chair and use the light therapy alcove.
4. Stay safe
Public safety officers patrol our neighborhoods 24/7, keeping our campus community safe. Our buildings require special access, only granted to building residents. You can even use one of the call boxes throughout campus or call Campus Dispatch directly if you would like a safe walk home late at night.
Since you’ll already be on campus, you can get to class without driving in stressful rush-hour traffic. To top it off, you have easy access to all ofPortland’s public transit options.
5. Save money
Living on campus means no credit checks, no worrying about paying utilities, no landlord disputes and no hassle about complicated contracts and fine print. And of course, it’s cheaper than living anywhere else downtown. Not to mention that payment plans are also available.
There are so many on-campus housing options, which range from vintage flair to modern chic. So stop worrying about where you’ll live and focus instead on what’s important: which food cart has the best gyros.
If you’re worried about moving to campus as a first year student, check out our blog all about easing homesickness—it lays out even more resources to make your transition to living on campus easy and enjoyable.
For many people, getting a degree can seem just out of reach. This can be especially true for low-income, immigrant and first-generation college students.
Nabin Dhimal fits all of these descriptions. Despite many challenges, he graduated from Portland State in 2018, with a degree in Social Science and a double minor in Sociology and Psychology. But that wasn’t enough for Nabin—he’s currently pursuing a Master’s at PSU in Educational Leadership and Policy through the College of Education.
Nabin was just one of more than 100,000 Nepali-speaking Bhutanese living in refugee camps in Nepal. The “One Nation, One People” policy in Bhutan forced the Nepali-speaking Lhotshampas to dress, speak and act like the majority Drukpas culture. Lhotshampas who protested this ethnic cleansing were imprisoned and tortured. Eventually, the majority of Lhotshampas were forced out of Bhutan into Nepal, and Nabin’s family was part of that group.
“My family lived in Bhutan for six generations,” says Nabin. “The government would select Lhotshampas to leave, accusing them, saying they weren’t Bhutanese, in order to split up families. My father was selected. If you refused to leave, they would attack or imprison you, sometimes even burn your house down. My whole family fled together.”
The Nepali government refused to integrate the Lhotshampas and allow them to work, so they were stuck living in a refugee camp for 18 years. Nabin was born in that camp. “I was fortunate because we were not bombed or shot at in the refugee camp, but there were very few resources to go around. We had no documents to work and no money. At six, I started working as a cashier in a food truck to make enough money to buy my own school supplies and watch DVDs on a small battery-powered TV.”
One of Nabin’s biggest joys growing up was school. “When I was five, I followed my siblings to school. I wanted to go to school so bad. My uncle broke the law by telling the school I was a year older so I could go. I loved learning, but there were few resources or qualified teachers. There were 50-60 students in each class, and we only had outdated, used textbooks. There were no opportunities for you to pursue a higher education.”
To escape these circumstances, Nabin and his family emigrated in 2008 with the help of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), the leading inter-governmental organization that helps migrants in need. IOM placed Nabin and his family in the United States, and they have lived in Oregon since. “Coming to the U.S. was hard at first. We didn’t know any Nepali people in Portland, and my extended family was placed in other states and countries. We used to be only five minutes away. Life is much easier for people who have an education, especially for people living in the United States—you can learn the language and get good jobs.”
“School is a privilege. I wanted to break the cycle of poverty and set an example for people in my community by earning a degree.”
In high school, Nabin started thinking about how he could make this happen, but finding the support he needed was difficult. “I think people expected me to go to community college because of negative perceptions of English language learners. I didn’t want to go far from home, so I could still support my family. My Speech and Debate coach, Patrick Gonzales, saw I had potential and encouraged me to apply to PSU.”
But paying for college was still a major concern for Nabin. He applied for the Diversity Scholarship, a program that promotes diversity and student participation at PSU. This scholarship awards a renewable tuition remission to students in financial need from diverse backgrounds. Not only did the scholarship help him afford to go to school full time but it got him involved with people from other cultures and marginalized communities.
Portland State offers many other Multicultural Retention Services for students like Nabin to help them achieve their goals. “TRIO reached out to me the summer before school started. They let me know about the programs and resources available. I took Summer Bridge, a class for TRIO students before the term starts. I learned how to find classrooms on campus, use the PSU Library and navigate D2L, PSU’s online learning platform,” says Nabin. TRIO is a program that provides educational opportunities to help students overcome barriers to higher education, like ethnic background or economic circumstance.
TRIO was the first place Nabin went when he was struggling with classes. “Andrea Griggs, my TRIO advisor, connected me to academic support on campus. But she totally changed my path when she helped me realize I needed to change my major. I wanted a major that would allow me to fight for equity and uplift others in underserved communities. I decided a degree in Social Sciences was the right path.”
Though he didn’t realize it at first, the challenging ideas he was exposed to in his Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) class would change his career goals. “I took a race and social justice themed FRINQ class, and it ended up being my favorite class. It made me aware of a lot of systemic issues.” Freshman and Sophomore Inquiry classes are part of PSU’s unique University Studies program, which uses theme-based classes and an interdisciplinary approach to get students involved with peers and the larger Portland community.
It didn’t take long for Nabin to be a force for positive change.
Nabin began working as a Peer Mentor in the Diversity Scholarship program, serving as a resource for other students. He realized that if he was going to make getting an education more equitable, he needed to earn a graduate degree. With the support of TRIO, his advisor and faculty, Nabin applied to PSU’s Educational Leadership & Policy program. Now, he’s working toward his Master’s degree and is specializing in Leadership for Sustainability Education.
Nabin helps prospective international students in PSU’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions. He’s also a Career Coach for NW Promise at IRCO, a nonprofit immigrant and refugee organization dedicated helping underserved students earn college credit and get into high-paying careers.
Nabin’s next goal is to earn a Ph.D and work in an educational nonprofit, where he can challenge policies to be more equitable. “I want to be that lens, looking at the education system to see if it’s serving different populations of students as well as it should.”
Nabin has one important piece of advice for low-income, immigrant and first-generation students: “Find out what resources are available to you and use them. PSU has a diverse student body and wants to make getting a degree accessible to everyone. The more people from diverse backgrounds successfully completing college means more influence to make the policy changes that will better serve those populations.”
All Portlanders have their fingers crossed that we won’t get another snow storm like 2016, which is still referred to as the “Snowpocalypse.” Even though snow in Portland is uncommon—the campus has only been closed a few times over the years—it’s important for PSU students to know how to deal with snow if it happens.
PSU’s first priority is keeping students safe. If the weather conditions make getting to and from campus dangerous, PSU will close for part of the day or completely, canceling classes and events. Notification of closures will be posted to the website, notified to the media and sent through the PSU Alert system to all students, faculty and staff. The PSU Alert system will send you updates through the contact information you provide in Banweb (PSU’s information system where students find their records, register for classes and manage their financial aid information), so make sure your information and contact preferences are up to date.
Keep an eye on the weather reports and check your pdx.edu email frequently. Even if PSU does not close, some professors cancel class preemptively or because they can’t make it to campus. If campus is open, but you can’t make it to class safely, contact your professor ASAP—professors will accommodate students who miss class because of the weather. You should prioritize your safety and comfort over getting to class. Check out PSU’s list of emergency and public safety resources.
The beauty of Portland State’s location in the center of one of the best cities for public transportation in the U.S. is that students have easy and affordable access to all that Portland has to offer. And Portland’s public transit system (TriMet) is not limited to downtown, but stretches far and wide—from Forest Park to the Portland International Airport to the many towns surrounding Portland. With all of the buses, the trains and even a bike sharing system, PSU students can get around without the hassle or expense of a car.
TriMet is an easy system to use, but it can be confusing at first. That’s why we’ve compiled everything PSU students should know about TriMet and the transportation options in the Portland metro area.
Commuting by car can be the most expensive transportation option—since PSU is located in downtown Portland, parking is extremely limited. PSU has a variety of parking permit options.
Carpooling: Students can reduce costs and emissions by carpooling, signing up for a Carpool Permit or sharing rides with Drive Less Connect (a free service offered by the State of Oregon that helps coordinate carpooling).
Carsharing: Students can use car-sharing services rather than own their own cars. Zipcar has nearly 30 cars, trucks and vans available for rent by the hour, day or weekend. PSU students are eligible for discounted membership. Car2Go and ReachNow also provide on-demand carshare vehicles in Portland.
TriMet provides bus, light rail and commuter rail service in the Portland metro region. TriMet’s transportation options connect people with their community, while easing traffic congestion and reducing air pollution—making the region a better place to live.
Buses: TriMet offers almost 80 bus lines, with many buses running every 15 minutes or less during most of the day. There are multiple bus lines with stops at PSU.
MAX (Metropolitan Area Express) Light Rail: Like the buses and streetcar, the MAX lines run frequently throughout the day. The five color-coded MAX lines connect the far corners of Portland and surrounding suburbs. There are even convenient park and ride locations that make it easy to drive part way and hop on the MAX, enabling commuters to avoid the struggle of limited downtown parking. The Orange Milwaukie line, Yellow Expo Center line and Green Clackamas Town Center line make stops at the South end of campus and at Urban Center. Riders can connect to the Blue Hillsboro/Gresham line and Red Beaverton/Airport line just North of campus.
Portland Streetcar: This streetcar system offers two loop routes around downtown Portland, with streetcars running both clockwise and counterclockwise. The Portland Streetcar runs through the center of PSU campus, including stops in the Urban Center Plaza and Park Blocks. The Portland Streetcar is FREE to all PSU students—the PSU ID card is valid fare.
BIKETOWN: This bike-sharing program has 1,000 bikes at over 100 stations around Portland available for rent. PSU students get 90 minutes of ride time on BIKETOWN bikes per day FREE. To take advantage of this, students must sign up for a PSU Student Plan.
Portland Aerial Tram: This tram is as much a tourist destination as it is practical transportation, carrying riders 500 feet above the city with breathtaking views. It connects the South Waterfront district to the main Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) campus.
LIFT Paratransit Service: TriMet offers shared-ride public transportation services for people with a disability or disabling health condition that makes them unable to use regular buses or trains. Rides are arranged in advance by reservation.
WES (Westside Express Service) Commuter Rail: Unlike the MAX, this rail line only serves commuters West of the Willamette (Beaverton, Tigard, Tualatin and Wilsonville), running during morning and afternoon rush hours every 30 minutes.
The TriMet system allows people to ride all buses, Streetcar, MAX and WES with a single valid TriMet fare. Individual adult tickets can be purchased at $2.50 for 2.5 hours or $5.00 for all day.
The TriMet Hop card allows riders to tap their card on the green Hop reader when they get on. The Hop card charges riders and keeps track of their fares—Hop card users never pay more than a day pass in a day or month pass in a month ($100 per month). A monthly pass is also valid on the Aerial Tram. The Honored Citizen Hop card gives reduced fare to low-income riders, seniors and riders with disabilities. Honored Citizens pay up to 50% less than standard adult fare.
The Hop card can be purchased and reloaded at hundreds of local stores, including supermarkets, pharmacies and convenience stores. They can also be reloaded online or by app, making them convenient and easy to use. Android users can also download a virtual Hop card, so they can tap their phone on the Hop reader to purchase fare. The TriMet Tickets app allows users to purchase single day tickets on their phone.
PSU students can also get the Student FlexPass, a reduced-rate, quarterly transit pass valid on all TriMet buses, MAX trains, Streetcars, WES train, Aerial Tram and C-Tran local bus services (buses running in Clark County, Washington, and into Portland). The 3-month FlexPass costs $174, compared to $100 per month for public TriMet rate. The pass is a sticker applied directly to the PSU ID. The FlexPass, unlike the Hop card, is not scanned when riders enter transit, it just needs to be displayed to show valid fare.
The PSU Campus Map is a good place to start to get a sense for the transit options and where they stop on campus.
Google Maps is an excellent app to use in determining your the best route to campus. It has fairly up-to-date arrival times and allows for trip customization, like prioritizing shortest walking distance or fewest transfers.
The BIKETOWN app allows users to find bike stations and pay as they ride—remember PSU students get 90 minutes per day free.
Tips and Tricks
TriMet buses often have many small stops along their routes, so they do not announce every stop. Riders unfamiliar with the area may find it helpful to watch their movement and track stops on a map app or tell the bus driver where they want to get off.
Bus drivers check fares as riders get on, but there is no consistent system for checking fares on MAX and Portland Streetcars. Transit police officers periodically check fares and issue warnings, citations and exclusions for riders without a valid fare, so riders should remember to always have valid fare on them.
Most of Portland’s public transit does not run between midnight and 5 a.m., so riders should make sure to understand the schedules and know how they will get to their destination ahead of time.
TriMet periodically offers free transit rides and extended late-night hours on holidays to keep Portlanders safe, so stay informed about these offers by following TriMet on Twitter.
Why sugarcoat it? College is expensive and financial aid can be confusing. But rather than thinking of it as an expense, it may more be more useful to think about it as an investment in your future.
But investments still need funding.
And while PSU is Oregon’s most affordable public university, 60% of PSU students receive some kind of financial aid during their undergrad.
Now is the perfect time to start thinking about financial aid because PSU’s scholarship applications and FAFSA have just opened for the 2019-20 academic year.
So what is financial aid? To put it simply, financial aid is any money not provided by you or your family that helps you pay for college. This money can cover anything from tuition and student fees to housing, food, books and transportation. If you need it to succeed in school, financial aid can cover it.
Let’s take a closer look at the financial aid offered at Portland State, and what they mean for you.
PSU offers nearly 450 scholarships every year to students from all backgrounds! These scholarships range from awards based on academics to athletics to activism, and they can be used to pay tuition, student fees, housing and much more. Scholarships are not loans, and thus never need to be paid back to the university. It’s essentially free money. You heard that right. Free. Money.
There are also a lot of national scholarships not specific to Portland State. For more information on these scholarships, visit thePSU scholarships home page.
Many universities (PSU included) receive grants from the Federal Government that they can use to help students pay for college. These grants are split up into two categories: need-based and merit-based. Like scholarships, federal grants do not require to be repaid. More. Free. Money.
The most common federal grant is the Pell Grant. Pell Grants are need-based financial awards that are distributed to students based on the information provided in their FAFSA. To be considered for federal grants, you only need to fill out your FAFSA. When your FAFSA information is processed, you will be notified if you are eligible for federal grants. Learn more about federal grants and see the list of awards available.
Unlike federal grants or scholarships, student loans (from either the federal government or private companies) are expected to be repaid. The amount of student loans you are eligible to receive is based, like all things financial, on the information you provide in your FAFSA.
It is important to only take out loans for what you think you will need, and no more. If you have questions about applying for or accepting student loans, feel free to reach out to the Financial Wellness Center and learn more about their services in our Resource Breakdown. Prospective students and their families are welcome.
You do not pay back student loans while you are a student. Instead, you begin paying for them roughly about six months after the final term you are in school.
Finding out how you are going to pay for college can be a complicated process, but there is a network of support at PSU. Through theOffice of Financial Aid andFinancial Wellness Center, there are always professionals excited to help you navigate the cost of college.
So feel free to drop by and introduce yourself or shoot us an email. No question is too small, and we want you to succeed.
Though we have a rolling admissions deadline it’s important to remember that the earlier you apply the more likely you are to get into certain courses and receive PSU-specific scholarships (deadlines for which are always in the fall term).
You hear back fast. We know how stressful it can be to wait. Our submission window means that before the priority deadlines (Dec. 1 for Freshman and Feb. 1 For Transfers) you’ll hear from us in about two weeks! Even past those deadlines you can expect a response in less than a month.
Always accessible. Our rolling application deadline means that you can apply early or late in the admissions process. Want to apply a year in advance of your start term? Perfect. What about just a few months before? Works for us. All we care about is you applying and getting one step closer to that dream career.
Immediate action.A rolling application process means that your applications is looked at as soon as it is received by our admissions team. This means a faster response and an almost immediate notification if your application is missing any components. We want you to have the most possible time to get everything together before any financial aid deadlines.
At PSU, supporting our students and prospective students is the number one priority, and our rolling admissions deadline ensures that applicants have ample time to apply and get into college. You want to make a difference, and our job is to help make that happen.
*Did you know that students interested in transferring to PSU don’t have to finish up their summer term before applying? You can apply while taking classes at another institution and submit transcripts later! Just another way PSU makes applying easy.