Utilizing the tools of the internet has been an increasingly important part of helping incoming Penn State freshmen find like-minded Nittany Lions. But amid the coronavirus pandemic, it's their only option.
One popular platform for making new friends is Facebook, where students can access the Penn State Class of 2024 group page.
Bryan Daniels believes Facebook is key for freshmen who are looking to start socializing.
“Facebook is where it’s at in terms of making new friends,” Daniels (freshman-environmental systems engineering) said via email. “Everyone is on there because everyone has Facebook.”
Daniels used the platform to find new people he could take part in Penn State traditions with, like tailgating and attending football games.
Tori Kovalchick joined the page to find a roommate she would get along with.
“Many people post bios and pictures on there, which allowed me to reach out to like-minded people on Instagram or Snapchat,” Kovalchick (freshman-chemical engineering) said via email. “I was able to find my roommate through the group by reaching out to someone with the same major and similar interests.”
For Lily Mastrobattista, Facebook's chat feature was also a way to get a feel for the school before deciding to find a roommate.
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“From joining the Facebook chat alone, I was able to meet lots of different people,” Mastrobattista (freshman-communications) said. “It definitely took some time talking with multiple people, but once you create a bond with someone and have similar interests, it’s easy to choose your roommate.”
Through Facebook, Mastrobattista was able to choose a roommate with lots of common interests, similar schedules and matching personalities.
Facebook posts often lead to the next step in friendship — a follow on Instagram. A page for the class of 2024 exists on Instagram with the account @pennstateclassof2024.
This page allows incoming freshmen to send in pictures and a biography of themselves, much like what many of them do on the Facebook page.
But Instagram is viewed as a more “accessible” site for many, including Mandoline Bhuiyan.
“Practically every incoming freshman I know follows the Instagram page or at least has heard about it,” Bhuiyan (freshman-psychology) said via email. “Most of us don’t really use Facebook. Sometimes I scroll through the people looking for roommates and send them to a few friends who are still looking.”
Bhuiyan said whenever an “intriguing” person from the page shows up on her feed, she takes the time to reach out.
“People, especially introverts, tend to be more confident and break out of their shells when they are typing behind a screen,” Bhuiyan said. “There is no awkward eye contact or silence when it comes to texting and even when you don’t know how to respond to something, you can always send an emoji.”
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But the most successful group chats may be those that target certain interests. With these, freshmen can quickly get to know like-minded people to surround themselves with in the fall.
“Personally, I am most actively involved in a dank meme group chat as well as a Harry Potter one,” Bhuiyan said.
Both the meme and Harry Potter group chats are on Snapchat.
Students also may find that joining academics-based group chats can help them connect to peers with similar schedules.
Kovalchick is in multiple group chats for Schreyer’s Honors College, which she will be enrolled in come the fall. She said in addition to groups with fellow incoming freshmen, GroupMe chats with current Penn State students are available to help the freshmen learn about classes and student life.
“We coordinate Zoom meetings together where we play virtual games and discuss our hopes for meeting up in the fall,” Kovalchick said. “That has been a great way to connect with people more personally and talk about events at Penn State that we're excited to be a part of together.”
Mastrobattista has also found herself drawn to other students in the same academic group as her, as she recently joined a chat for fellow communications majors.
“It was really nice to meet some people that I could potentially have classes with,” Mastrobattista said. “Obviously right now, due to the circumstances, we can’t have an in-person orientation to meet each other. Taking the time to get to know each other on Snapchat and Instagram has been mind-easing.”