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.

Veteran Explores Trauma in Writing and Comics

Dustin Rozier

Portland State’s urban campus is a big departure from home for many students. Growing up in a small town of about 5,000 in Georgia, Dustin Rozier never imagined he’d end up in Portland, let alone go to college.

“Where I grew up, I didn’t know anyone who went to college. No one in my family went to college, and very few graduated from high school. The idea of college didn’t seem like a feasible option,” says Dustin. And now, he’s making the most out of being a student at PSU, following his interests across many programs. He couldn’t settle on just one! Dustin is a senior finishing his bachelor’s in English and Creative Writing in fiction, with minors in French and Philosophy and a Comics Studies certificate.

Dustin’s path to PSU was not simple. Right out of high school, he enlisted in the Marine Corps. “At that time, we were at war in Iraq and Afghanistan. I thought I had this duty to serve, but it was also a way for me to get out of my small town. I left when I was 18, then spent six and a half years in the Marines.” Joining the Marines and seeing many parts of the world exposed Dustin to people from diverse backgrounds. His mind was opened to new ideas. It got him thinking about going to college.

“I had never lived in a city outside of the military. While I was on leave, I visited Portland and really liked the Pacific Northwest. I identify more with the social and political environment here. I’m vegan, for example.” Dustin initially planned on working security jobs. He knew he would get money for college from GI Bill Benefits, so he decided to take the plunge and apply to PSU.

Dustin got involved with the community of veterans at PSU by working in the Veterans Resource Center. The VRC provides a comfortable and supportive environment for veterans, including a student lounge, computer space, leadership opportunities, student employment and programs.

Students who think they qualify for benefits should connect with Veterans Services. In addition to the VRC, PSU’s Veterans Services includes the Veterans Certification office, which can help you process and certify your Veterans Affairs (VA) or Department of Defense (DoD) benefits, including the GI Bill. There are several different GI Bill programs with different eligibility under the VA Education Benefits. Keep in mind that before you can apply to use VA Education Benefits, you must apply to PSU and contact the Veterans Certification office.

Visit the Veterans Services website for information about how to start getting benefits.

Dustin lives in an apartment on campus with his dog, Bear.

Like many students, Dustin wasn’t sure what major he wanted. He tried the Anthropology program and enjoyed it. But when he took College Writing (an introductory writing class), he found the right fit for him. He was always a big reader and did some writing. His professor helped him connect with the English department and suggested he meet with his advisor. PSU has Advising Pathways that groups similar majors together, so students can stay with their advisor, even if they switch majors. “I definitely wouldn’t be where I am today without the support from my advisor, Roxanne James, and the amazing faculty in the English department.” Says Dustin, “They helped me figure out what topics I was interested in and pushed me to pursue them.”

Dustin’s passions moved from wanting to help veterans through social work to helping them deal with trauma through his writing and scholarly work. “I’m interested in trauma theory and ecocriticism,” says Dustin, “like looking at how comics can display personal and environmental trauma, and how that helps people cope.” He decided to study Creative Writing and Comics Studies, in addition to English, so he could both learn about comics and write them.

He even joined the University Honors College, so he could connect with other dedicated students. Honors students work one-on-one with faculty on research projects, internships and a senior thesis.

His dreams just kept getting bigger. “When I first started, I had no idea I would even get a degree. Then it slowly formed into the idea of getting a PhD in English Literature. I decided I wanted to teach in a university.”

When Dustin found out about the Peer Mentor program, he thought it was the perfect opportunity to gain teaching experience and get more involved with PSU students. Peer Mentors are part of PSU’s unique University Studies program. University Studies is a nationally recognized approach to education that gives students an integrated learning experience, critical job skills and lifelong connections. Students choose a theme-based class and work on a project that addresses a real problem in the Portland community. Peer Mentors work with professors to design lesson plans and lead small group sessions with students outside of the main class. These group sessions help students get more individualized feedback and build community.

“I worked with one professor on a class with the theme ‘Portland,’ then another with the theme ‘The Work of Art.’” Says Dustin, “Being a Peer Mentor helped me learn how I could transfer a lot of my skills I developed in the military, like leading people, public speaking and problem solving, to the educational environment at PSU.”

When Dustin decided to apply for grad school, he knew Portland State was the only place he wanted to go. He felt supported by the faculty and staff at PSU, but he also knew he would be still be challenged in the English program. And he was accepted! Next fall, Dustin will be starting his master’s degree in English and teaching at PSU as a Graduate Assistant.

“I’m not in the same demographic as most undergrads,” says Dustin, “being a veteran and a first-generation college student. Going to PSU and living in Portland has helped me look back on my past in a different way. It helped me realize how I can use my background and interests to teach others.”

Dustin is excited he gets to stay at PSU and explore the Pacific Northwest more. When he’s not busy with classwork, Dustin is a part of the motorcycle culture in Oregon. He builds motorcycles and rides them around the state, taking in Oregon’s natural beauty.

Check out PSU’s Advising Pathways, so you can start figuring out what major is your right fit.

Dustin poses with his motorcycle against the Oregon landscape.
Dustin on a writing research trip during wildfire season in Southern Oregon.

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.

 

5 Ways to Ease Homesickness

5 Ways to Ease Homesickness

For many students, going to college might be the first time they’ve been away from home for more than a couple of weeks. And when students finally have some free time from their school work, they might be unable to afford that plane ticket back home. All that extra time to think means more dwelling on what they’re missing.

If you’re feeling that homesickness bug, we have some helpful suggestions for you.


Find Community on Campus

One of the best ways to beat homesickness is to find a community of like-minded people and form friendships. Joining a PSU student group that matches your interests is an easy way to find that community—a whole group of people passionate about the same thing as you! With everything from a PC gaming club to an environmental club, you’re bound to find something that peaks your interest.

At PSU, there are thriving communities you can connect with in our many Resource Centers. In addition to fostering community, these centers provide services to students in their population that make PSU accessible. Check them out:

At many of these Resource Centers, you can even become a volunteer. In fact, there are many volunteer opportunities at PSU—check out the Student Community Engagement Center for more information and their event calendar. If you want to connect with fellow students while making some money, getting an on-campus job could be a great option too.

If the big groups intimidate you, reach out to a peer or roommate to see if they’re interested in seeing a movie at the 5th Avenue Cinema, a student-run cinema on campus that’s free for PSU students.

Stay Active

It’s widely known that getting exercise helps release chemicals in the brain that boost your mood, so get active! PSU has a large Campus Rec Center that’s free for students to use at any fitness level or ability—all you need to do is sign an electronic release form and bring your PSU ID when you go. Campus Rec offers exercise equipment, a pool, a rock climbing wall, a hot tub and more.  In addition to having awesome gym equipment, Campus Rec hosts classes and special events on and off campus. You can even sign up for trips to explore Oregon’s beautiful landscape.

Sometimes all it takes is getting out of the house. Traveling around Portland can be tricky—there’s all the bridges, traffic and weather to deal with—but fortunately the public transit options can get you around town without the stress. A day pass that works on all Trimet vehicles costs about the same as a fancy-coffee-shop drink, and the Portland Streetcar is always free for PSU students. Students can even get reduced-rate transit passes.

Eat Familiar Foods

Missing that Frito pie, breakfast taco or latke? Portland may be a foodie city, but it may be hard to find your favorite foods from back home. Fortunately, there are so many restaurants and food carts around Portland and on campus that cater to every type of food, so you’ll find something that hits the spot.

For students, money’s can be sparse, so making familiar foods at home may be the best option. Grab some free food from the PSU Food Pantry and the Harvest Share Free Food Market, both programs dedicated to making nutritious food available to students at no cost. With all that great food, you can plan a potluck to connect with friends. It’s the perfect opportunity to have everyone fix their favorites from back home.

Make Video Chat Dates

Even though these are all great options, there’s nothing that beats spending time with your parents, siblings or friends who live far away. When you can’t travel to see them, video chatting is often more personal than just a phone call. Most phones now have the ability to make video calls, and there are so many free services to use: Facebook Messenger, Google Hangouts and Skype, just to name a few. Schedule a time to talk with a family member or friend (accounting for any time difference, of course). You can even plan a movie date, starting the movie at the same time and talking while you watch.

Use Mental Health Resources

Sometimes homesickness stems from deeper issues. In that case, these little comforts can only do so much. You should take advantage of any counseling services available. PSU students taking five or more credits have access to free counseling services through the Center for Student Health and Counseling (SHAC), regardless of whether they have PSU insurance. SHAC offers individual and group counseling, crisis counseling, LD/ADHD testing and more. When PSU is in session, they even have a Mind Spa, a space for relaxation through meditation, yoga, biofeedback, massage and light therapy—during those rainy Portland months, getting a little extra light can help a lot.

If you can’t make it to SHAC during their office hours, you can reach out to the Multnomah County Crisis Line or check out more Portland-based or national resources.


At PSU, we have a diverse, accepting population of students, faculty and staff. So even though homesickness happens when you’re away from family, friends and that familiar environment, we know you’ll be able to make a home at PSU as well.

Mother’s Day-Resources for Students with Children

Happy Mother’s Day! We know that parenthood can be both rewarding and challenging experience, especially when juggling multiple responsibilities and roles. At PSU, we strive to support our students with children through various programs and resources so that they can be effective parents and achieve academic success. In dedication to all of the hardworking parents who are also students, we asked Lisa Wittorff, Director of Services for Students with Children, to share the support services offered here on campus.

PSU Admissions (PA): Tell us a little bit about how the program was started.

Lisa Wittorff (LW): Student parent services initially started in 1989 through various grants given to the school. A major improvement occurred between 2010 and 2011 when the president of PSU conducted a study to see how families on campus were doing. The results showed that more services were needed, so services were expanded to build up the program allowing the university to serve the needs of more students and their families. Today, we have more resources for students than children than most campuses in the Pacific Northwest and serve a wide variety of family needs.

PA: What are some of the resources offered here on campus for students with children?

LW: We offer a wide variety of programs and resources, let’s start with here in our office. Our office is place that students can come for help if they have questions about financial aid, admissions, or outside social resources. We offer a physical space here that serves as a study lounge and play area with computers so that students can study while keeping an eye on their children. Additionally, we have a children’s clothing closet and a library of parenting books that work on a donation basis.

PA: What childcare programs do you offer?

LW: Our main program called Little Vikings. It’s a flexible childcare service that can be reserved online although we also take walk-ins when there is room. It can be used 5 hours per day for 20 hours per week. Its main purpose is to cover gaps in childcare. For example, a student could have class when other child care programs or school are not in session. There are special camps on days that PSU is in session but Portland Public Schools are not. We also offer the Jim Sells Childcare subsidy program that can pay for up to 50% of childcare costs based on financial need. We have many other resources as well, including a list of recommended child care facilities around PSU, other financing child care programs on and off campus, and a database of babysitters.

PA: Are there events for students with children?

LW: We want children and their student parents to feel that they are an important part of the PSU community so we offer multiple events throughout the year. Our main events are Winter Wonder, an annual giving event before Winter Break and a Family Friendly Commencement featuring a bounce house and a cap and gown for the little ones to match their parents. Other activities include parent social hours, happy hours, game nights, and a Dad’s breakfast.

Lisa Wittorff, LCSW is the Director of Services for Students with Children. Lisa has her Master of Social Work from California State University Sacramento. Her favorite childhood memory is of using a piece of rope and her dad’s old Army blanket to make a “tent” between 2 trees in the backyard and “camping” in it with her sister. Her mother brought out some warm gingerbread for them to share. It was a perfect summer day. Lisa loves helping students with children find the resources they need to stay in school and complete their degrees. She also loves to see the students’ children grow and change. She has a fantastic staff who make her work possible


Want to know more? Visit them onlinestop by Smith Memorial Student Union, Suite 462 or call (503)725-9878.