Freshman Year at PSU: What to Expect

Freshman Year at PSU

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 freshman 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 freshman at PSU compare to being in high school?

Overwhelmingly, the PSU 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, so find one you’re interested in and join! 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 safe spaces to work on homework or relax.

Check them out:

Favorite part about being a freshman at PSU?

PSU offers many resources for students to adjust to college life.

‘I loved being able to explore the endless amounts of resources at PSU, like the tutoring services and 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 fit 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 SHAC 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 space for relaxation through meditation, yoga, biofeedback, massage and light therapy.

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.

Don’t be nervous about your classes. 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.’

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 freshman 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 at PSU and through the connections you’ll make here to find jobs and internships.

‘I wish I had known more 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. PSU also has an extensive list of scholarships. October 1 is the scholarship application deadline, so get a head start. Scholarships have different requirements, like essays and references.

Read our blog about understanding financial aid.

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.

‘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.

Know Your Dates: Freshmen

Of all 365 days in the year, there are some that tend to carry more weight. You’ve got your birthday (that’s a big one), the first day of summer (can’t forget that), and of course 7/11’s Free Slurpee Day (we know that’s really important).

At PSU, we can think of a few more. The college application process can be confusing—so many dates and deadlines swirling around. But we will make it easy.

We’ve compiled a list of all the dates you should have on your calendar. Save them in your phone now (or on paper, if you’re old school).


AUGUST 1

The PSU Admissions Application is available! This is where it all begins. We start accepting applications early so you can have as much time as possible to complete yours. Even though the deadline seems far away now, it will sneak up on you. You should get a head start on your application, so you can focus on connecting with an advisor, deciding where you’ll live and figuring out how you’ll pay for college.

OCTOBER 1

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is available. This is the form that lets you know what financial aid options you are eligible for—you’ll also need to fill out a FAFSA in order to submit a scholarship application at PSU. This is a crucial step in getting the money you need to pay for college. When you fill out a FAFSA, remember to add PSU as one of your colleges.

The PSU Scholarship Application. If you haven’t already started your Scholarship Application, now is the time. The scholarships have different requirements, like essays and references, so you won’t be able to wait until the last minute to complete it. Apply early so you can be sure you get the most money possible to help pay for college.

DECEMBER 1

Your Honors College Application. This is a priority deadline for freshmen. Students who apply by the priority deadline will get an Honors College admission decision by March 1. Though this is not a hard deadline, applying after December 1 makes students far less likely to get Honors scholarships.

FEBRUARY 1

Your PSU Scholarship Application, essays and references. This is a hard deadline, so you must get all your documents in by February 1. Get started early!

The FAFSA. We have a rolling deadline for FAFSA, but like all parts of the application process, it’s best to do this early. February 1 is also the deadline to submit the FAFSA to be eligible for Four Years Free (Oregon residents only).

Last day to apply to PSU to be eligible for the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE). Luckily, there is no separate application required—you will automatically be considered for WUE when you turn in your PSU Admissions Application.

Admitted Student Reception sign ups open!

The hard part’s done, but once you get an admission decision, there are a few important dates you’ll need to know!

APRIL 1

New Student Orientation sign ups open. We recommend signing up for Orientation as early as possible. To gain access to sign ups, you’ll have to confirm your enrollment.

MAY 1

Last day to apply to PSU to be considered for Four Years Free (Oregon residents only). There’s no separate application—you will be automatically considered when you submit your Admissions Application.

Confirm your enrollment to PSU. May 1 is National College Decision Day, so students all around the country are making the big decision about where they will attend college. Apply early so you have enough time to weigh your options and make the choice that’s right for you. As soon as you confirm your enrollment, you can sign up for New Student Orientation and start preparing for your first term as a PSU Viking!

Apply for on-campus housing during your first year. This is the final deadline.

AUGUST 1

Final high school transcripts are due.

YOU’RE DONE!

Now you can sit back, relax and take a big sigh of relief. As long as you start early, completing your PSU application is painless. Applying to PSU is quick and easy because we do not require an essay or letters of recommendation!

Review PSU’s freshman admissions requirements.