Resources for Incoming Students

Resources for Incoming Students

Frequently Asked Questions


Can I study part time?

No, international students cannot study part time. U.S. immigration law requires that international students on F-1 and J-1 student visas maintain full-time enrollment during the regular academic year. To be considered full time, undergraduate students must be registered for a minimum of 12 credits for each FALL or SPRING semester. Graduate students must be registered for a minimum of 9 credits for the FALL or SPRING semester to be considered full time. During the summer months, however, enrollment is not required or you may enroll part time.

What kind of academic support does the University offer?

Penn State Harrisburg has a comprehensive student  learning center. The Russell E. Horn, Sr. Learning Center has several locations on campus. You will be able to find help with your writing assignments. In particular, you can go to the learning center to get advice and feedback on your essays, reports, and other assignments. There are many tutors available for various subjects, from language assistance to math assistance. In addition, professors have office hours that you can visit for questions.

How can I schedule courses?

During the orientation sessions, you will meet with an academic adviser and schedule your courses with him/her. If you have any questions about your courses, you can ask your adviser.

Who is an academic adviser?

An adviser is a faculty member who can help you with choosing your courses. He or she will also be able to provide you with advice on other academic issues.

Will my degree from Penn State Harrisburg be acknowledged as a Pennsylvania State University degree? What is shown on my diploma?

Yes, your degree is granted by the Pennsylvania State University. Your diploma will show that Pennsylvania State University conferred the degree upon you and will also list the college which administers this degree, such as the Eberly College of Science or The Capital College.

University Park
Example of diploma from Penn State main campus
Example of diploma from Penn State Harrisburg campus

Arrival and Orientation

What is the orientation for new international students? Do I have to come to the orientation?

The orientation is designed to give new international students fundamental, but comprehensive, information about campus and academic resources. Yes, new international students are required to attend the orientation sessions. During orientation, you will obtain Penn State student ID and schedule your semester’s classes. As a result, it is necessary and beneficial for new international students to attend the orientation sessions.

When should I arrive at Penn State Harrisburg?

The United States Department of Homeland security regulations specify that students with a valid F-1 or J-1 visa may enter the United States not earlier than 30 days prior to the beginning of the University semester, as noted on your I-20 OR DS-2019. However, you should arrive in time for the new international student orientation. Students living on campus should refer to the orientation schedule to see when they are permitted to move in.

What shall I bring for the airport check-in?

Be sure to travel with all your important documents (I-20, passport with a valid visa), and a small amount of money (a few dollars and some coins) to rent a cart or other services after you arrive. Do not put your important documents in your checked luggage.

Advising & Support Services

Where do I go if I need any information related to international students?

For any information related to international students, you should start with the International Student Advisers on campus (E131 Olmsted Building). For general information, the Global Lion Ambassadors and Global Lion Mentors may be able to help you.

Does Penn State Harrisburg offer special services for international students?

Yes. The office of International Student Support Services provides numerous programs and activities designed specifically for international students, including workshops/seminars on tax filing, Curricular Practical Training (CPT), and Optional Practical Training (OPT).

Other programs include social events such as Coffee/Lunch with an International Flavor and International festivals celebration (Holi, Lunar New Year, Diwali, Eid, etc.). Based on the input from our growing international student population, more events are being added to the roster each year.


Where can I purchase a cell phone or obtain a phone number?

You can place your order online. The four major carriers are AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Sprint, or you can go to the Harrisburg Mall to visit stores. Other options are services at Target and Wal-Mart.


How can I open a new account at a local bank and what is the nearest bank to the campus?

There are several banks in the local area. The nearest bank to the campus is Wells Fargo Bank. In order to open a new account, you need to take your Penn State student ID, I-20, passport, and I-94 to verify your identification and benefit from student account features. Also PNC bank is nearby and it provides ATM services on campus.

Should I bring a large amount of cash from my home country, or should money for tuition and living expenses be transferred?

Please DO NOT travel with large sums of money. We suggest using traveler’s checks for your travel money. Tuition and fees can be paid via international wire transfer directly to Penn State. Additionally, once you open a local bank account, funds from home can be electronically transferred into your account.

Am I eligible for financial assistance?

International students coming to the United States on non-immigrant student visas are only eligible for merit-based scholarships or a fellowship. For more information, contact your academic department or the Financial Aid Office at

Health Insurance

Do I have to purchase health insurance and what are the options?

International students are required to purchase health insurance. Penn State has only one option for you to purchase. You can find more information about the health insurance requirement and plan here

Housing and Food

Where can I go to do my grocery shopping?

There are several options in the local area. The closest grocery store to campus is Karn’s (15-minute-walk). Additionally, the Family Dollar Store (10-minute-walk) provides a small selection of grocery items. Penn State Harrisburg provides a free shopping shuttle on Tuesday evenings during the academic semester, and this is organized services of the campus Student Support Services Office. The shuttle takes students to Target or Wal-Mart for their grocery, household, and personal shopping. The local bus (Capital Area Transit [CAT]) is also available if you would like to travel on your own.

Can I cook myself if I am a new student who lives on campus?

First year (freshmen) housing does not have the facilities needed to prepare meals; therefore, they are required to purchase meal plan. Upper division student housing is apartment style and does have a fully equipped kitchen. Please visit the on-campus housing website for more information

What options are available for off-campus housing?

Penn State Harrisburg has limited on-campus housing. However, there are several off-campus options you can choose from. The off-campus housing options are not owned by the University and you will need to sign a lease with a landlord. You can find a listing of off-campus housing options at this web site You should familiarize yourself with the options and the terminology of a lease. A lease is a binding legal document.

Are there food options on campus?

Yes. Penn State Harrisburg currently has two on-campus food options, Biscotti’s Coffee Shop or Stacks Market. Biscotti’s offers quick “grab and go” food options and Starbuck’s coffees and teas. Stacks Market offers a variety of options from brick oven pizzas, to a deli counter, salad bar. Additionally, they offer hot grill items and full dinners as well.

Student Activities

Are there student organizations or clubs that I can join?

Yes! Penn State Harrisburg has over 75 clubs and organizations ranging from academic based clubs to sports clubs to social clubs and organizations. Be sure to attend the Involvement Fair at the beginning of each semester.

Does the school have a fitness center/gymnasium?

Yes. The fitness and aquatic centers are located in the Capital Union Building


What are the major public transportation options close by the campus?

Two major public transportation services are available, The CAT bus and Amtrak Train. The local CAT bus route runs from Middletown into the Harrisburg transfer stop and back. At the transfer stop you can hop on another bus to take you where you need to go. Also the Amtrak train stop is located in Middletown. Amtrak can take you to the major cities in the region such as New York City (3-hour away), Philadelphia (2-hour away), and Washington DC (2-hour away). If you live off campus, during the day, there is a bus that is available for students and at night, Penn State Harrisburg provides a free shuttle to transport students from the campus to their residences in Middletown and Highspire at 9:15pm and 10:15pm.

How can I get a driver’s license?

To apply for the driver license, firstly you will need to have a full-time student status, be in good academic standing, have paid the bill and updated your local and permanent addresses in eLion. Then you may come to E131, Olmsted to make a letter request for the driver license.

After we process your letter request, we will email you and ask you to come with your student ID to pick up the letter in E131, Olmsted.

Can I drive with my foreign drivers’ license?

Students who do not qualify for a Pennsylvania Driver's license can drive for one year if they have a valid foreign driver's license and an international driving permit.

Work on Campus

Am I permitted to work?

International students in valid F-1 or J-1 visa status have the eligibility, with approval from campus officials, to work on campus as a wage payroll. For more details on the jobs available, please visit and choose your campus.

Do I need a social security card to apply for a job?

Yes. You need a social security card to work on campus. If you have a job offer, office of the International Student Support Services can help you obtain a Social Security Number (SSN).