One of the biggest party schools in the United States is situated in the middle of central Pennsylvania?
Believe it or not, Penn State gives colleges in bigger, more bustling cities a run for their money!
From watching the Penn State Nittany Lions play football at Beaver Stadium to hopping from bar to bar on South Garner Street and Beaver Avenue, State College has the perfect setting for all types of socializing.
Most events on campus center around Greek life or varsity sports, but there is also plenty to do outside of those realms. There are hundreds of clubs that students can join in addition to intramural and club sports teams, performing art troupes, and activist groups.
According to the 2021 Times Higher Education University Impact Rankings, Penn State is ranked #4 in the U.S. and #32 in the world out of 1115 institutions. Clearly, students can maintain an excellent social life while making a difference within their communities and excelling academically.
Reading ahead, you’ll learn more about what makes Penn State a school where students party with a purpose. We will share insight into PSU fraternities and sororities as well as details on nightlife in State College, PA.
Is Penn State a Party School
Penn State certainly has a positive reputation as an excellent party school.
Students’ social lives center largely around football games and events like Homecoming, State Patty’s, and THON.
In the fall, tens of thousands of Penn State students and alumni descend upon campus to celebrate Homecoming for an entire week! The revelry includes parade float and dance competitions, carnivals, concerts, and free food. Naturally, the homecoming football game is the main event.
The Blue and White Game is the spring semester’s answer to Homecoming. The Penn State football team separates into two groups that play each other as tens of thousands of student and alumni fans cheer on.
State Patty’s is one of Penn State’s biggest parties of the year. A student-created holiday based on St. Patrick’s Day, the Penn State campus celebrates it during the weekend after THON.
We’ll talk more about THON in the sections that follow – it’s kind of a big deal.
For now, know that THON is a student-organized philanthropy event designed to positively impact the lives of children living with cancer and their family members. There are many clubs whose mission connects to THON and whose members participate in the dance marathon.
Off the football field and dance floor, outdoor enthusiasts will have a blast climbing at the Climb Nittany indoor rock climbing facility, mountain biking through the Harvest Fields community trails, or visiting the Millbrook Marsh Nature Center. The Rothrock State Forest is also about half an hour from campus.
Arts lovers will enjoy festivals throughout the year, such as the Central Pennsylvania Festival of the Arts. Each July, over 100,000 people converge upon State College to attend live productions and art sessions.
Those who are more musically inclined will flock to Movin On, the annual spring music festival celebrating the end of the semester and school year.
Movin On happens to be one of the largest student-organized music festivals in the United States, and the event draws in top performers like Ludacris and Reel Big Fish.
What Kinds of Clubs are at Penn State?
What do budding writers, Disney lovers, future investors, stand-up comedians, and Quidditch players have in common? At Penn State, there’s a club just for people like them!
The Collegian is an independently published newspaper run completely by Penn State Students. Writers and performers may be interested in joining Statespeare – a community dedicated to recreating Shakespearean performances through a modern lens.
More interested in comedy than tragedy? Second Floor Stand-Up is a campus comedy troupe that does regular performances. Members practice together and focus on helping each other improve their stand-up skills.
Lovers of a particular brand of performances – Disney – can join the Disney Club and attend Disney-themed trivia nights, movie nights, and philosophical discussions that spark from Disney films.
One of the most interesting clubs on campus is the PSU Club Quidditch team. Quidditch is a game featured in the Harry Potter book series; essentially, it is a contact, co-ed contact sport that combines elements of rugby, dodgeball, and handball.
While characters in the Harry Potter series flew hundreds of feet in the air on broomsticks, PSU students have to be a bit more creative.
This group is not to be underestimated! Penn State has qualified for the national championship game each year for over a decade.
Finally, one of the coolest (and potentially most lucrative) organizations at Penn State is Penn State Investment Association, which oversees the Nittany Lion Fund.
The NLF is a student-run investment fund made up of over $10 million and serving more than 70 different investors.
The NLF gives students a safe environment to explore the investing world. As one can imagine, strategic discussions are frequent, and there are many learning opportunities. Who said it doesn’t pay to be social?
Penn State Sororities
14% of the Penn State student body population belongs to a fraternity or sorority. 19 of Penn State’s 27 sororities are housed in South Proper, which contributes to a tightly-knit and heavily involved sisterhood.
PSU sororities put on a variety of social events each year, many of which are meant to have a positive impact on a charitable cause, and we can’t talk about philanthropy at Penn State without talking about THON.
Sponsored by the Penn State Panhellenic Council and Interfraternity Council, THON is the biggest student-run philanthropy event in the entire world!
There are upwards of one hundred organizations on campus that are dedicated solely to raising funds for THON.
Sorority members begin organizing fundraising events as early as fall and dress up for the 46-hour dance marathon where no one is allowed to sit or sleep. While THON is an anomaly, most sorority members spend about 2-8 hours per week assisting with a community service task, organizing an event, attending meetings, etc.
Many sorority events are created with a charitable cause in mind. Delta Zeta hosts regular social events like the Fall Festival to benefit the Starkey Hearing Foundation, or the Amazing Race to raise funds for their national service project, The Painted Turtle Camp.
Alpha Delta Pi also hosts regular events that benefit charities like the Ronald McDonald House, such as the “Cheesin for Children” grilled cheese cook-off and the ADSpies assassins game.
Outside of philanthropy-related events, sisters in sororities like Kappa Kappa Gamma spend a good amount of time with their sisters doing leisurely activities like ice skating, attending movie nights, and attending sports events.
Penn State Fraternities
Penn State has one of the largest Greek communities on the continent with over 44 fraternities – many inhabit a residential dwelling near campus, unlike the majority of sororities that are housed on campus.
Sigma Pi has one of the most beautiful homes among the fraternities. Their expansive front porch is well set up for tailgating and pre-gaming sessions.
Delta Sigma has also been known to put on raging parties. Their Sailor’s Ball is a day-long event that includes a gigantic fish tank, musical acts, and yacht wear.
Fraternities regularly compete in friendly intramural sports matches. Tau Kappa Epsilon recently won the Fraternity Dodgeball Championship.
Often, the IFC will put on events like the Turkey Bowl canned food drive, NBA 2K Tournament, or Fall Carnival – all of which seek to raise funds for a positive force.
Nightlife in State College – What Is There to Do?
There’s a party or event happening every night of the week in State College, where Penn State is located.
Quintessential college dive bars like The Phyrst are an essential 21st birthday celebration stop, and they also serve huge portions of food.
The Shandygaff – also known as “The Gaff” – and Champs Sports Grill are two other popular spots where students hang out on weeknights and weekends.
In addition to restaurants, there are plenty of popular eateries, including the University Creamery.
Happy Valley, Pennsylvania boasts that they are home to some of the best ice cream in the nation – it’s every Penn State student’s responsibility to make that call for themselves!
The Bryce Jordan Center regularly hosts popular music acts such as Breaking Benjamin, while those looking to spend a night outside of State College are about halfway between Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. It will take about three hours, give or take half an hour, to get to either city by car.
All in all, Penn State students’ dedication to partying with a purpose and their proximity to some of Pennsylvania’s coolest cities make the school a top choice for those seeking an epic college social scene.