Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Thanks Penn State!

Creamm by FontaineRittelmann
Creamm, a photo by FontaineRittelmann on Flickr.
Last week (things have been busy, sorry for the delay!) Penn State was kind enough to sponsor a trip to their University Park campus for local guidance counselors - let me start by thanking them for their generosity.

We spent the night at the historic Nittany Lion Inn (a hotel located on campus) and had the opportunity to hear President Graham Spanier speak to us during a dinner reception. The following day we participated in the 'Spend a Summer Day' visit opportunity for prospective students and families. This gave us the chance to go on a tour, attend a student panel, and learn more about the specific programs and offerings. It also gave us numerous opportunities to hear about the infamous Creamery and the delicious ice cream that Penn State has been making for years. We even went so far as to ask every UP native we saw (including the session presenters and alumni volunteering on corners around campus) what their favorite flavors were.

One thing is very clear about Penn State - they do many things very very well. Even up to and including the organization of the event, there were calm and informed staff, volunteers, and students EVERYWHERE on campus. I can only imagine the logistics of coordinating such a day, but Penn State made it look easy. Our tour here was smaller in size than some of the private school tours I went on earlier in the month. There was also a very clear Penn State Pride oozing from everyone. The alumni volunteers I'm talking about are not recent grads, they included men and women in their 80s out on a hot summer day to share their love of Penn State. At the student panel, we asked the students where they would be in school if they hadn't come to Penn State. The first respondent (a mineral and earth science major from New York City) looked bewildered for a second then without skipping a beat said: Penn State, Altoona?

Overall, I would say that if you are looking for a school with lots of opportunities (and lots of students) Penn State should make its way on to your list. Keep in mind though, University Park admission is significantly more selective than the other 20 campuses in the Penn State family and it is very common for students to attend one campus for two years and then transfer with ease for their Junior year. Recruiters know Penn State as a stand up institution full of top graduates. Malcolm Gladwell also makes a pretty strong case for it in his piece 'The Order of Things.'

My only reservation about Penn State is that it (like many out of state public schools) has very little wiggle room for financial aid. Yes, the sticker price is lower than a private school and for some families it is a true bargain. But if merit aid is what you are after, have back ups in case Penn State's price tag is an issue.

If that is a con though, the ice cream really is a pro. I had Keeney Beany and it was an investment I can vouch for.