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Before You Arrive


Orientation for New Grad Students

Classes for the Fall 2019 semester begin on August 26. There is an important orientation program for new C&I graduate students on Monday, Aug. 19 and Tues., Aug. 20. New students will receive an orientation program outlining the schedule of sessions in early to mid-August.

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Health Insurance

All international students and their dependents are required to have health insurance. The health insurance available through the University is described here. The department pays 80% of the premiums for graduate assistants or fellows enrolled in AETNA's Basic Plan. The remaining 20% is deducted from your paycheck: September through December and January through May. It is very important to realize that if you are required to have insurance, you will be automatically enrolled in AETNA's Basic Plan unless you submit a waiver and can demonstrate that you have an acceptable alternative plan. Students required to have health insurance may choose coverage other than the Penn State Student Insurance Plan. The University does not supplement nor payroll-withhold for insurance policies other than the Penn State Student Insurance Plan. After your graduation from Penn State, you will be eligible for short-term Blue Cross/Blue Shield plans which are offered by the Alumni Association (1-800-922-1245).

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Tuition Bill

About six weeks before the beginning of each semester, you should receive your tuition bill. If you are a graduate assistant (or fellow), write "Graduate Assistant (or Graduate Fellow) in the C I Department'' on your bill, put Tuition balance due of $0.00 and return it by the due date. If you prefer, you may file your bill by phone by calling the Bursar's Office Voice Response System (814-863-2777). Note that if the Registrar's office does not receive your tuition bill before the deadline, your account will be charged $25 (which you are responsible for paying). If you are not on a graduate assistantship, follow the directions on the bill for calculating your tuition, computer fee and activity fee (all adjusted for the number of credits for which you are enrolled). If you need further assistance, call the Department Head Office.

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Your adviser was assigned to you when you were granted admission to the program. During orientation you will be given an opportunity to meet with your adviser regarding course selection. After this meeting, you should register before the first day of classes in order to avoid late registration fees. Courses may be added or dropped during the first 10 calendar days of the 15-week semester. Note that you are permitted to add or drop classes without penalty only during the first week of classes. Then, starting with the seventh day, a $6 fee is charged each day that an add/drop transaction is processed. See your adviser for the appropriate number of credits to take.

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Where to Live

Graduate students and their families can choose between on- and off-campus housing. If you are planning to live off campus, we suggest making a trip to State College in the early summer (at the latest). We have found the best way to find places is to look in the Centre Daily Times (the State College regional newspaper) and The Daily Collegian (the Penn State campus newspaper), to contact realtors, and to visit or call the Office of Off Campus Living in 209 HUB-Robeson Center (814-865-2346). The Office of Off-Campus Living posts lists of people looking for roommates. Also, the Department of Town Affairs in 223 HUB-Robeson Center (814-865-6851) publishes The Apartment Guide. Here you can find a listing of all State College realtors and descriptions of the many apartment complexes in the area. In addition, you may wish to contact the Graduate Secretary to see if other incoming or current graduate students in our department are looking for roommates. If you wish to live on campus, contact the Assignment Office for Campus Residences in 101 Shields at 814-865-7501.

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Additional References

Please visit The Graduate Student Association (GSA) for valuable information and The Guide to Graduate Life.

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As a first-year graduate student, your adviser was assigned by the faculty Program Coordinator for your emphasis area when were admitted. During orientation, you will be given the opportunity to visit with your assigned adviser to decide upon first semester courses and to begin planning your program of study. As the year progresses, you are strongly encouraged to visit with faculty members concerning research opportunities. One suggestion for meeting faculty and gaining insight into possible research areas is to attend department and program-sponsored colloquia. After you decide on a research area, you should choose a faculty member in that field of research to be your adviser. You are responsible for informing the C I Graduate Director of adviser changes.

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Course Load

Students supported by assistantships are required to be registered as full-time students. Full-time status is defined to be:

Credits per semester for Fall and Spring Semesters

  • quarter-time assistantship — 9 to 14 credits
  • half-time assistantship — 9 to 12 credits
  • three-quarter-time assistantship — 6 to 8 credits
  • Fellows and Trainees — at least 9 credits

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Assistantship Responsibilities

Most first year graduate students are given a half-time assistantship and are assigned the responsibility of being either a teaching assistant (TA) or research assistant (RA) for one or more undergraduate classes. Both positions may require up to 20 hours of work per week, but typically amount to less. As a teaching assistant, you will be responsible for grading homework and/or exams, holding office hours, and maintaining grade files. In addition, teaching assistants are responsible for holding two to four recitation sessions per week. A quarter-time assistantship may require up to 10 hours of work per week either as a teaching assistant or research assistant. Assistantship assignments are based upon your interests and the needs of the department.

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Office and Key Assignments

When you arrive, you will be assigned to an office, usually shared with other students. You'll also be assigned a mailbox in 163 Chambers where mail and departmental information is distributed. You may need to obtain several keys to the building because some commonly used rooms are locked after 5 P.M. and on weekends.

Keys are distributed by staff in the department office, 143 Chambers. They should be returned to her office at the end of your assistantship. If lost or not returned, there is a $20 fee per key.

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Copier Code

You should obtain a copier code from the Staff Assistant in your emphasis area. This is a number code which is necessary to use the copiers located in the department. Copiers should only be used for department business, such as assistantship duties.

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Student ID

You must get a student identification card during the first week (orientation) of the fall semester. The ID can be obtained by going to ID+ office at 103 HUB-Robeson Center.

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Computer Accounts

A computer account is available to C&I graduate students. This is a Center for Academic Computing (CAC) Access Account and is assigned to all incoming Penn State students and allows access to the Penn State network. Most of the computers for use by graduate assistants are networked to the CAC system. To get your Access Account, take your current Penn State photo ID card to an automatic signature station and follow the instructions there. Stations are located at 103 Boucke Building, 230 Computer Building, W111 Pattee Library, 2 Willard Building, 6 Findlay Commons, 112 Redifer Commons, 107 Waring Commons, and 108 Warnock Commons. (Note that only the first four locations listed are open during the summer; see the CAC labs Web page for hours.) Your userid and password should be active within 24 hours and will remain active until six months after you graduate. For more information, visit

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First Paycheck

If you will be receiving financial support from the department, you will receive a monthly payment on the last working day of the month via direct deposit to your bank account. You will need to bring a voided check and two forms of identification to the Department Head Staff Assistant as soon as possible in order to complete the necessary paperwork. To ensure a paycheck in August rather than two in September, you should get your paperwork completed before mid-August. Information about banking is available in on the ID+ Card Resource. Many graduate students like to use the Penn State Federal Credit Union.

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