Pennsylvania State University-Main Campus


Pennsylvania State University, colloquially known as Penn State, is a public research university that awards associate, bachelor’s, master’s, doctoral, and professional degrees and offers continuing education programs. Penn State’s main campus is located in the city of University Park; nineteen branch campuses are spread throughout the state. There is also a medical school in Hershey, a law school in Dickinson, a school of graduate and professional studies in Malvern, and the Pennsylvania College of Technology in Williamsport.

The university’s mission is one “that improves the lives of the people of Pennsylvania, the nation, and the world through integrated, high-quality programs in teaching, research, and service.”


Information Summary

Ranks 11th in Pennsylvania and 70th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 96.1
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $36,652
Admission Success rate N/A
ACT / SAT 75%ile scores 30 / 1360
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 15 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 93% / 68%
Enrollment Total (all students) 46,810


Although the school was not officially established until 1863, the idea of it was born in the 1850’s. Like many land grant universities, the school began as an agricultural college. A local iron worker donated 200 acres of farmland to the new institution, and the first president conceived a broad education based on his own European education.

Over the decades, the school grew as an agricultural research institution while developing a respected scientific research community. The United States’ involvement in the space race, along with national concerns for the quality of education, among other hot topics, have guided it to develop leading educational and research programs. The school received full university status in 1953.


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The university’s strongest academic programs are in the technical and scientific fields, primarily life sciences, engineering, agriculture, and the earth sciences. These are also some of the tougher disciplines on campus. Other quality programs include geography, chemistry, mathematics, and business. Some of the more popular lectures can have class sizes of 300 or more. Overall, Penn State offers more than 225 programs of study for undergraduates. All undergraduates are required to take a certain allotment of “diversity-focused” courses that teach minority and cultural awareness.

The University Park Campus is comprised of several different schools and colleges:

  • College of Agricultural Sciences
  • College of Arts and Architecture
  • Smeal College of Business
  • College of Communications
  • College of Earth and Mineral Sciences
  • College of Education
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Health and Human Development
  • School of Information Sciences and Technology
  • College of the Liberal Arts
  • College of Medicine
  • College of Nursing
  • Eberly College of Science
  • School of Law
  • Schreyer Honors College
  • The Graduate School
  • Pennsylvania College of Technology
  • Division of Undergraduate Studies

Bachelor’s degrees are awarded in a number of different disciplines, including of accounting, administration of justice, agriculture, a wide range of the sciences and humanities, classics and ancient Mediterranean studies, creative writing, business, engineering, education, forensic science, hotel restaurant and institutional management, information sciences and technology, mathematics, music, nursing, plastics engineering technology, psychology, Russian, statistics, theatre, and women’s studies.

Graduate programs at the University Park campus also cover a wide range of fields, including acoustics, apply statistics, as your biology, counselor education, educational leadership, fuel science, health policy and administration, industrial engineering, mathematics, music, nursing, plant pathology, world sociology, teacher certification, wildlife and fisheries science, and youth and family education. There are graduate minor programs in gerontology, high-performance computing, language acquisition, linguistics, literary theory, criticism and aesthetics, medieval studies, religious studies, science, technology, and society, and social thought.

Graduate programs are also offered at the Erie campus, the Harrisburg campus, the School of Graduate and Professional Studies campus, and the College of Medicine. A few graduate programs, primarily in education, are also available through the online world campus. The law school is a partnership with the Dickinson school of Law.

Most Popular Fields of Study

Unique Programs

The meteorology program is home to AccuWeather, a system used to make accurate weather forecasts. In fact, the system’s designer is an alum. Other unique academic programs include Industrial Health and Safety and a focus on electrical engineering.

One beneficial offering is the L.E.A.P. (Learning Edge Academic Program). This intensive program immerses freshmen in the lifestyle of a large university, but teams them with like-minded students who have similar interests. Students study and attend class together and, in some cases, even live together. They also have access to career counselors to determine exactly how their degree can be put to use.


An impressive eighty percent of undergraduates ranked in the top quarter of their high school class. For first year admissions, applicants must have a high school diploma or equivalent. The average entrant has a high school GPA of 3.51 to 3.90, a SAT score of 1180 to 1340, and an ACT score of 26 to 30. High school GPA accounts for two-thirds of an applicant’s results, while all other factors contribute to the other third. While these are all factors in determining admission, each student is considered on his or her own individual merit and how he or she might contribute to the greater university community.

It is strongly recommended that applicants for the fall semester have complete applications filed by November 30 of the prior year. In addition to the application form and fee, students must provide high school transcripts and test scores. Programs such as architecture, music, theatre, visual arts, pre-medicine, the joint science BS/MBA, and the golf management program have special additional requirements. Applications can be submitted online.

Graduate students should consult the individual program for instructions for applications. Students applying to the Dickinson school of Law or the College of Medicine at Hershey should consult those schools specifically for information about the requirements. Applicants may only apply to one graduate program/campus at a time. Nondegree admission is available.

Financial Aid

Financial aid is available with a combination of grants, scholarships, loans, and work-study programs. For all undergraduates, the FAFSA should be submitted as early as possible. The Office of Student Aid offers university-wide scholarships, for which students are automatically considered when the apply for admission. Scholarships that are based in particular fields must be applied for through the department that offers them. Athletes are especially welcomed in the scholarship programs, which offers over 500 different athletic scholarships in various NCAA sports.

Over seventy percent of students with financial aid received loans. The Office of Student Aid can facilitate application for the appropriate loan program for each student, including Perkins Loans, Stafford Loans, and the PLUS loan for parents of undergraduates.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 321st for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Pennsylvania.


Dormitory living is a requirement for all first year students. While the university is fairly well known for its academics, it also has quite a reputation for parties and celebrations on campus. Greeks make up a significant portion of the student body, and offer regular partying options. The student union, aptly named The Hub, is open 24 hours for students who are looking for some kind of entertainment besides partying.

The university’s location among some of the country’s most beautiful countryside offers students various options for outdoor activity. Skiing, hiking, and sailing are favorite pastimes. Local events include the arts, as well as symphonies, rock concerts, and ballet.

In addition to the numerous classroom, dormitory, and administration buildings, the campus features a theatre, two auditoriums, an art museum, and several other galleries. There are a number of research institutes on campus.

The library offers electronic catalogs and online databases, in additional to physical volumes stored on site. There are a number of smaller libraries devoted to particular programs. Special collections include rare books and manuscripts, the university archives, and the historical collection and labor archives.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


The athletic department fields twenty-nine varsity teams in NCAA Division I, with baseball, basketball, cross-country, diving, fencing, football, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, tennis, track & field, volleyball, and wrestling for men and basketball, cross-country, diving, fencing, field hockey, golf, gymnastics, lacrosse, soccer, softball, swimming, tennis, track & field, and volleyball for women. National titles have been captured in field hockey, fencing, and volleyball.

The Nittany Lions have almost a cult following. Tailgate parties—both pregame and postgame—prevail on game day. Some of the University’s biggest rivals include Michigan and Ohio, and tickets for those games are highly coveted. Recent renovations to the University stadium have made it much friendlier and more comfortable.

Sports facilities include Beaver Stadium, which has capacity of 107,282 seats, a multipurpose building, golf courses, baseball and softball fields, a tennis center, and a center for basketball. (The Jordan Center also hosts entertainment and other activities.) The University has a sports museum with 10,000 square feet.


The Nittany Lion mascot dates back to the early 1900s, when the term “nittany” (which means ‘mountain’ in a native American language) was applied to a local wildcat. The campus is home to the Nittany Lion Shrine, a likeness of the lion carved into limestone, where students gather for spirit events. For visitors to the university and the local community, the Nittany Lion Inn offers visitors a spirited and historic location with all the comforts of the northeast.

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