Top 12 Questions We Get About Orientation

So, you’ve been admitted to Portland State University and decided it’s the right college for you. Now what?

Attend New Student Orientation! All undergraduate students must attend Orientation before they can start their journey as a PSU student. But attending Orientation isn’t a chore—it’s a celebration of you joining our community and taking the next step in your academic journey! Orientation will help get you familiar with everything PSU has to offer and start connecting with fellow students.

We’ve compiled a list of the most commonly asked questions and the answers, so you know what to expect. If you have more questions, email us at orientation@pdx.edu.


When can I sign up?

Students who are starting in fall term can sign up for orientation starting May 8. You must confirm your enrollment prior to signing up for orientation.

Do I have to go to Orientation?

You sure do! You will not be able to register for classes until you complete an Orientation program. Besides, there’s no better way to start off your PSU experience. You’ll meet academic advisors, who are ready to support you towards graduation, and current and incoming students. You’ll also learn about PSU’s many resource centers and student groups.

How do I sign up?

Sign up online. Before you can sign up for Orientation, you must confirm your enrollment. There are many Orientation sessions to choose from, so sign up early to get the session that works best for you.

What if I’m an out-of-state student and can’t make it to an Orientation session in Portland?

If you’re from Hawaii or California, we are hosting sessions in your state! Sign up online as soon as possible, because these sessions are quickly approaching. If you are coming from another state besides Hawaii or California, or from outside of the US, contact us at orientation@pdx.edu. International students are required to attend the International Student Orientation.

What if I can’t attend any Orientation sessions?

Contact orientation@pdx.edu as soon as possible to make arrangements.

How long is Orientation?

Freshman Orientation sessions taking place on campus are full day programs. Transfer sessions are half day programs, with morning and afternoon sessions available. Out-of-State Orientations are also full day programs. You will not be able to register for classes if you do not attend the entire session. You must arrive and check in at the beginning of the session. If you miss check-in, you will have to attend another session, otherwise you will not be allowed to register for classes.

What do I need to do to attend Orientation?

After you sign up, make sure you’re ready for Orientation. Check our list of things to do to prepare for Orientation.

Do I need to bring anything?

Yes! Bring a government-issued ID, as you use this to get your PSU ID card at orientation, if you should choose to do so. We strongly suggest you bring a laptop or tablet for course registration (smartphones are not recommended). We’ve made a list of everything you’ll need to attend orientation including how to get to campus, where to park, what you’ll be doing at Orientation, answers to many of your questions and sample agendas!

Can I bring someone with me to Orientation, like a parent or guardian?

Of course! While not required, you may certainly bring a guest or two. Beginning this new chapter in your life is exciting, and we want you to share that experience.

Does it cost anything?

Incoming students attending on-campus sessions do not pay a fee to attend Orientation. However, there is a $20 fee for each guest, which helps to cover the cost of the provided meal and materials. This can be paid in advance during the session sign-up process. Incoming freshman and transfers students (and their guests) attending out-of-state sessions in Hawaii and California are each required to pay a $50 fee. These fees support the cost of hosting orientation in your area.

Will I register for classes at Orientation?

Yes! This is why attending Orientation is required. You’ll meet with advisors in your academic area of interest who will give you direction on what courses you should take. You will walk away from Orientation with a completed first-term schedule!

Will I get to tour campus?

Absolutely! We offer campus tours to our incoming students and guests at all on-campus sessions. PSU is about to be your new home, and we want you get a feel for campus!

Will I get to tour the dorms?

Yes. We offer optional housing tours at all our on-campus sessions. Tour times will be on the agenda you receive at check-in.

I’m worried because I don’t know anyone else. Am I going to meet anyone?

Since it’s Orientation, no one knows anyone else yet! You’ll meet tons of other students who will start at the same time as you. You’ll even get to spend time with others who share your major. This is the perfect opportunity to connect with peers you’ll see again on campus in September!

Who should I contact if my question hasn’t been answered here?

If you have any remaining questions after this list, get in touch with us at orientation@pdx.edu. Keep an eye out for Orientation emails. We will send you details about your Orientation session via email, so check your @pdx.edu email account.


Sign up for New Student Orientation!

Top 5 Reasons to Live On Campus at Portland State

Campus Housing

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.

So we’ve made it easy. Simply apply for housing by the priority deadline, May 1, and you’ll have easy access to all the beauty and excitement downtown Portland has to offer.

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 unique University Studies program, Freshman Inquiry (FRINQ) classes are a theme-based, interdisciplinary approach to education that foster close cohorts of students.

Applying to the Honors College? There are Honors-only housing, so you can be part of that dedicated, close-knit community. Are you an international student? You can live with other international students who will relate to your experience. Are you a transfer student? Well, you can live with other transfer and upperclass students as well. PSU strives to house students with people in their community.

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!

Stay fit and have fun at Campus Rec. You can take a dip in the on-campus pool or hot tub, climb the rock climbing wall, attend a Zumba class and much more.

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 of Portland’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.

Apply for on-campus housing!

Snow at PSU

Snow Sculpture

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 Alert

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.

Class Cancellations

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.

Transportation

Stay off the roads by taking public transit. Inclement weather can cause the transit to run behind, but the Portland’s public transit is so extensive that it can help get you to class and back home safely. Check out our blog all about TriMet’s public transit options.

The Campus Public Safety office stays open during closures, so you can reach out to them for help.

 

New Student Guide to Portland Transit

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.

Transportation Options

PSU’s Transportation & Parking Services is an excellent source of information. Check out their outline of all the ways new students can get to campus.

By Car

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

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.

Streetcar

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.

Other Transportation

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.

Cost

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.

Navigating

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.

TriMet has an extensive list of third-party apps that can help show real-time arrivals and plan trips.

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.

Check out PSU’s Transportation & Parking Services to learn more.

Tips for How to Choose a Major

What fuels you?

It’s a big question, and one that you don’t need to have all figured out right now. College is, above all things, an opportunity to explore your passions and discover for yourself what kind of impact you want to make on the world around you.

The first step in that journey is choosing a major. Picking a major can be  intimidating but what’s important to remember is that it’s not permanent. At Portland State you can double major, major and minor, or even change your major part way through your education.  At PSU there are more than 120 majors, minors and concentrations for you to choose from. We’ll help you find your passion.

So, how do you choose? Here’s our tips.


1.  Ask yourself: What are my interests?

For most students, choosing a major isn’t just about career options. Rather, the choice is based on what they are passionate about. Looking back on which subjects you loved in school, volunteer opportunities that influenced you, or even the jobs of your role models can help make the choice a lot easier. What’s most important is what YOU want, not what others want for you.

2.  Compare your interests with PSU’s list of degree programs.

PSU has tons of majors to choose from, and thinking about which programs will best match up with your interests is a good way to narrow down your choices.

Love comic books and graphic novels? Try our Comics Studies program, one of the few programs of its kind in the country. Into nature? Try Geology or Environmental Science. Want to help people? We have some of the most involved Social Work and Pre-Health programs in the Pacific Northwest.

3.  Get out of your comfort zone.

Because PSU offers so many different fields of study, there are thousands of unique, interesting classes to take regardless of major or degree track. Most majors on campus encourage exploring electives and courses outside of one specific degree program so that students can gain a broader range of experiences and knowledge.

4.  Don’t worry if you haven’t figured it out just yet.

Entering as an Undecided/Exploratory major is not something that will keep you from graduating in four years. It’s not uncommon for new students to be unsure of what they want to study, and we understand this. The University Studies programs provides Undecided majors the opportunity to explore classes in a wide range of majors, but never pressures students to choose a program if they are not ready.

5.  Check out Advising and Career Services.

The Office of Advising and Career Services is an on-campus resource specifically designed to help students find their passions and land careers that use the skills they learn in the classroom.

Counselors in Advising and Career Services can help put you in touch with programs on campus that share your interests, as well as help you get started on a specific degree track. They are there to help you, and meeting with them is covered by your student fees.


No need for anxiety! Picking a major doesn’t have to be a stressful decision for you. Whether you are ready to dive into your field of study and know exactly what your major is going to work towards, or if you need some more time and want to get in the rhythm of college life, Portland State is here to support you.

Explore PSU’s 120+ majors, minors and certifications!

Surprise in the Unexpected

Sometimes a plan comes together in the shadow of uncertainty. For Hayley Pritchard, a first year School Health Education major from Nevada City, California, the decision to pursue college was never so clear. “College wasn’t really on my radar.”

It wasn’t until she visited Portland and learned that PSU had a degree that interested her, that college became a possibility in her mind. “I’ve been interested in health education ever since I started volunteering with health organizations in the seventh grade, so I was thrilled to learn that PSU had a School Health Education degree.”

Hayley is wasting no time in making her mark on campus. She is going to be an RA next year, and she sees a lot of potential to use what she is learning in her classes to help incoming students.

“What I’m learning in my Stress Management (PHE 275) and Community Health (PHE 446) classes I can apply to working with students living on my residence floor and help get them through their first year.”

Transitioning from living at home to living on campus in a big city can be a big change for some, but Hayley sees living in the heart of Portland to be an amazing chance to explore. “I love how connected all the student housing is with the city. It really allows you to explore and go everywhere. It’s unrestrictive.”

Hayley is exploring all that the city has to offer. “I feel like I’ve been all over Portland this year, tasting all the amazing food and experiencing all the amazing culture the city has to offer. I even found a place I can go blues dancing, a passion of mine.”

Getting around Portland from PSU is easy since the Max (light rail), streetcar, bus and BIKETOWN (bike share) all have a presence on campus. “You can even walk to most places you want to go.”

Don’t think that living downtown means you’ll be living in cramped spaces. PSU has a wide range of on-campus housing options, all of which, from the modern residence halls to the historic ones, include everything students need to thrive in their first year.

“Living in the dorms really helps create a community, too. You’ll get to meet a really diverse set of people.”

Hayley’s advice to students coming to campus this fall? “Make sure you are proactive. Not just in school, but to yourself as well. Make sure you take care of yourself and do what makes you comfortable. Surround yourself with everything you need to be successful, it makes all the difference.”

Learn more about Housing at PSU and sign-up to take a Housing tour!

The Guide to Campus Life for a Successful 1st Term

Campus Housing

For many students, moving into a dorm may be their first time living on their own. Here are a few of the Orientation Team’s tips to make that transition less overwhelming, and will make it much smoother.

Communicate

Swap school and work schedules with your roommate as soon as possible. The better communication you have with your roommate early on, the better your relationship will be throughout the year.

Know your Neighbors

Make an effort to know your neighbors. This may be easy if you are living on a First-Year-Experience floor because you will have a year-long class with the people on your floor. Knowing the people living near you may just get you an automatic study group and you all can watch Netflix and play video games later.

Connect to Home

If this is the first time away from home, it may be a good idea to have a conversation with parents or loved ones back home about making scheduled time to call or text. For many parents, not knowing what their student is doing and having poor communication may stress them and their student out. To avoid over or under communication, scheduling a weekly check-in may be helpful.

Know your Skills

The first time you go grocery shopping for yourself, you may feel the urge to test your inner MasterChef. Take it easy. A common problem for students is buying a huge amount of groceries their first week that ends up expiring before they can use it. Most dorms only allow microwaves so maybe for special occasions, you could try out some of these mug recipes.

Sleep

Get acclimated to your new sleep schedule during Viking Days. You will thank yourself later.


Read about more resources in our blog about ways to ease homesickness on campus.

The Commuter’s Guide to a Successful 1st Term

 

One of the most unique things about Portland State is that it’s a commuter campus. A huge fraction of students drive, bike or use public transportation to get to class. Here are the orientation team’s top 5 tips to make your first term a success!

Storage

You can rent out a locker for $30 per term, or $65 per academic year (they are large lockers so split it with a friend). It can be convenient to store workout clothes, extra chargers, books, supplies and a pillow and blanket.

Scheduling

For commuters, drivers specifically – if you can schedule your classes to be on the same two or three days you can buy a Tuesday Thursday or Monday Wednesday Friday pass and save quite a bit of money! However, they sell out so always buy passes on the day they go on sale. Both of those passes also include weekend parking!

Early Means On-time

Whether you are driving or using public transportation, always account for MAX delays, traffic, and time for finding parking. Even though you have a parking pass, you never know when an extra large truck will park in an extra small parking spot, taking up two spots. Also, parking structures will be really packed for the first few weeks so make sure you account for more time than you think for parking. Leaving a little early will ensure you are on time to class and if it takes you less time than you thought, then you have time to get coffee, tea or breakfast.

Sleep

Commuters may have to start their day a little earlier than those who are living on campus. During Viking Days, its a great idea to get acclimated to the new sleep schedule. You will thank yourself later. You may also want to start getting used to getting to campus how you plan to during the school year and attend some awesome Viking Days events!

Connect

For some, living away from campus may seem like finding a connection and making friends would be difficult. Attending Viking Days events the week before classes begin is a great start. Make friends in classes by finding or forming weekly study groups in some of your classes. Getting a job on campus is also an easy way to make friends.


Check out our blog: New Student Guide to Portland Transit.

Top 3 Tips for Time Management

 

Preparing for college classes can be daunting, but establishing a time management system early on, or even before classes begin, can help quite a bit. This system can commonly change, based on what classes you are enrolled in, or what other responsibilities you may be juggling in any given term. Here are the top 3 Tips from students that can help you succeed in your first term of college.

Find a planner that works for you:

Planners come in all shapes, sizes and styles. It’s important to keep in mind what you need from a planner. If you want to writing quite a bit of information, a larger planner is probably the best option. If all you need is a place to compile due dates, a smaller journal may work best.There are all sorts of options at stores like Target, Barns & Noble and office supply stores. At Orientation, all new students receive a student planner will all sorts of important information about PSU. Free online sources like The Passion Planner are also a great option where you just print out your pages and can customize them to how you like. Many students rely on Google Calendar either as a complete planner, or as a supplemental aid for the alerts option.

Situate the syllabi:

Most professors use D2L to post their course material. Either a professor will email the syllabus in advance, or it will be available through D2L on the Sunday before the term starts, or the first day of class. Once you get your hands on the syllabus, put all exams and major project deadlines in your planner of choice. Some professors will go into major detail of everything that is due, but some assignments will be subject to change so you may want to wait until class starts.

It is also important to keep all syllabi available by either attaching it to your planner, taping it into the inside of your note taking notebook for each class, or pin them to your wall. You never know when you will need to look at it.

Color your day:

Color coordinating your planner is a great way to stay organized. If you are new to color coding, the best thing to do is start with maybe 3 color categories. One common split is doing a color for Work, School, and Other. Once you get used to color coordinating these three, you can start moving up to splitting these categories and adding more colors if necessary. Make a color key on an index card to act as a bookmark so you can keep track of your spot in your planner as well as keep track of your color code.

Sticky notes are also really handy for adding additional notes about assignments directly into your planner if there is not enough room. Another way to use sticky notes is to use different colors to mark the things you are working on. For example, use three colors for ‘done’, ‘urgent’ and ‘turn in’.

6 PSU Outdoor Study Spots – Ranked

When the sun is shining, it can be hard to study indoors. Here are 6 places, ranked, to study when you want some fresh air.