Admissions Q&A with Alumni Ambassador, Heather Mitterer: Part One

November 20th, 2015 by

The Penn State World Campus Admissions team held a question-and-answer–style webinar for prospective students to connect with our Alumni Ambassadors. These ambassadors serve a critical role by sharing their first-hand experiences as recent graduates for those who are considering applying to a degree program. Following are some of the questions asked at the webinar — and responses from one of our ambassadors, Heather Mitterer, about her experiences as an online learner.

Topic: Admissions Process

What attracted you to Penn State World Campus and online learning?

I’m an adult learner and have worked in the manufacturing industry for 10–15 years. I needed a flexible curriculum for my busy life. I chose Penn State because it is a respected university, and I was impressed that a Penn State World Campus student would obtain the same degree as a student on campus.

Did you have previous experience with online learning and how did Penn State compare?

I earned my associate degree online at a local community college, so I have extensive experience in the online learning environment. I felt that Penn State’s online setup was comprehensive and user-friendly, offering engaging discussions and group projects.

Topic: Involvement Opportunities

How was your interaction with professors and other students?

In my opinion, you’re going to get out of online learning what you put into it. It is important to step out of your comfort zone and make connections in the online environment. If you’re in a discussion room and you find someone who has a mindset or goals similar to yours, reach out to that person. Some of my greatest friends and colleagues have come from interactions in the classroom. I even found some people in class who live down the street from me! My peers have also told me that they had similar experiences from making the smallest effort to form connections. With professors, look at them as professionals in the area you are interested in. If you want input on your career goals, ask them for their opinion and guidance. They are happy to help.

Did you find it easy to get involved as a Penn State World Campus student?

I did. I was invited to participate in the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society, which was a wonderful surprise. I also worked with the Career Services team, and they helped provide a fresh set of eyes on my résumé while also providing some great job search options.

Tell us more about your experience with Penn State World Campus Career Services.

I scheduled an appointment with a career counselor, and she reviewed my résumé point by point. She provided a highly observant second set of eyes for my outdated job search documents.

She offered recommendations on setting up my LinkedIn page and key points to think about with my professional contacts. She guided me through both an online career fair and the on-campus recruitment process and showed me how to log in to the job search system (as a student and alum) to view all opportunities and resource connections.

I cannot say enough about this process. As an adult student, I felt that I had a good grasp of my résumé and social media approach to job searching, but her insight presented a fresh opinion on things to think about and adjust. She took her time with me and really cared about helping me.

Heather Mitterer

Heather Mitterer


About Heather
Heather Mitterer is a 2014 Penn State World Campus graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree in Organizational Leadership and a Minor in Psychology. She lives in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, with her husband.

Global Entrepreneurship Week: Live Stream Events

November 13th, 2015 by

Global Entrepreneurship Week celebrates Penn State’s dedication to entrepreneurship. If you’ve ever had a dream of starting your own business, you may find inspiration from some of our event speakers. Many sessions are live streaming and may be convenient for your schedule.

A Tale of Two Entrepreneurs

Sunday, November 15

7:00-8:30 p.m. ET

Entrepreneur Todd Erdley, CEO of Videon Central LLC, and Intrapreneur Andrew Muirhead, Vice President Original Equipment Innovation from Lufthansa Technik AG, take you on a journey of highs and lows, successes and failures, parallel experiences and how they went on to build two successful businesses in challenging environments and circumstances. If you want to start a business on your own, this event is for you.

Mapping Applications: Getting to Know SimplyMap, PolicyMap, and Social Explorer

Monday, November 16

1:00-2:00 p.m. ET

PolicyMap, SimplyMap, and Social Explorer are mapping applications available by subscription through the University Libraries. These web-based mapping platforms enable the user to use, visualize, and create map outputs in multiple formats. Each product has data unique to the platform and multiple display options. This workshop will highlight the key features, data sources, and display capabilities of each mapping application.

What Entrepreneurs Need to Know About Intellectual Property and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Monday, November 16

6:00-7:00 p.m. ET

This workshop will give a brief introduction to intellectual property with a focus on patenting inventions.

So, You Want to be a Successful Entrepreneur?

Tuesday, November 17

1:00-2:25 p.m. ET

Successful entrepreneurs avoid common mistakes as they tackle new projects. This presentation will show you how to identify and plan around these common missteps.

Identify critical assumptions that can kill your idea, and when to start speaking with target customers.

GIS Day Speakers: Joseph Kerski (Esri) and Lightning Talks

Wednesday, November 18

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. ET

Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager, will speak about geospatial information and the five converging forces of geoawareness, geotechnologies, geoenablement, citizen science, and storytelling. Find out about these forces, why they matter, how you can get involved, and what they mean for your career pathway. Lightning talk participants will speak about geospatial topics of broad interest.

GIS Day Speakers: HERE Maps and Joseph Kerski and Lightning Talks

Wednesday, November 18

1:30-3:30 p.m. ET

HERE maps will share about how they build their products and the companies that use them. Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager, will speak about geospatial information. Lightning talk participants will speak about geospatial topics of broad interest.

While this is a summary of the streaming events that Penn State World Campus students can participate in, be sure to check out the GEW blog for additional information.

Links We Love: November 12, 2015

November 12th, 2015 by
Links We Love

Links We Love

Four things that shouldn’t be missed from this past week!

1. An amazing service dog that helps a young girl with a rare disorder walk.

2. Could the invisibility cloak from Harry Potter really exist?

3. How to successfully navigate business meals.

4. Nine reasons to switch your career ASAP!

Networking Tips Learned from a Penn State World Campus Career Counselor

November 9th, 2015 by

If you’re like many online students, at some point you may find yourself contemplating what your next step should be after receiving your Penn State World Campus degree. The career counselors at Penn State World Campus are a great resource for helping you plan your next move.

Flazingo Photos via Flickr

Flazingo Photos via Flickr

One of the most important lessons I learned from my career counselor was to network!

What does that mean? Networking is interacting with other people to exchange information and develop contacts, especially to further one’s career. My counselor suggested a few networking resources that could help me in my current job search. Following are some key points from that meeting, which might also be helpful for you.

Nittany Lion Career Network

The Nittany Lion Career Network, a helpful networking service offered by Penn State’s Career Services, benefits all Penn State students and alumni by offering services such as:

  • Job postings: Employers who are not conducting on-campus interviews — but still targeting Penn State students — will post employment opportunities for students in all academic colleges.
  • Leads/prospects: Sometimes employers don’t have current job openings, but they do have entry-level jobs. When these jobs become available, the companies typically need to hire right away.
  • Information sessions: Employers hold information sessions throughout the year. These sessions provide a chance for you to learn more about an employer, meet with recruiters, ask questions about various opportunities, and express your interest in current or future opportunities.
  • Career fairs: A variety of career fairs are held during the fall and spring semesters, some of which are offered online, accommodating Penn State World Campus students. These fairs give you the opportunity to meet with a number of recruiters to explore various opportunities and to build networking contacts.


LionLink is a professional networking program that links Penn State students and alumni with alumni volunteer career coaches. Career coaches provide valuable information and advice on jobs and careers to career explorers, who are alumni or students looking for a job or seeking career-related information.


LinkedIn, the world’s largest professional network, can help you build your professional identity and stay in touch with colleagues and classmates. Check out the Penn State World Campus LinkedIn company page to connect with like-minded students, faculty, staff, and alumni. You might also find How to Network on LinkedIn helpful for creating a new profile or updating your existing presence on this social media platform.

Even if you are not anywhere near Penn State’s University Park campus, you still have all these resources available to you as a Penn State World Campus student. Reach out to one of our career counselors today to begin your networking and job search journey.

A career counselor will help you figure out what you would like to accomplish in your career and work with you to achieve those goals. My counselor helped determine exactly what I would like to do by asking me just the right questions, and by getting me to talk about my aspirations and goals. Speaking with a career counselor can help you:

  • build confidence in your career decisions
  • identify careers that are suited to your skill set and background
  • improve your self-marketing capabilities (résumé, cover letter, and interviewing assistance)
  • increase your self-awareness and connect that self-understanding to occupations and majors suitable for you

Learn more about career counseling and make an appointment to speak with someone who can help you with your next career move. I do recommend that you get started as soon as possible, in your first yea so you can build your education around your choices.

Links We Love: November 5, 2015

November 5th, 2015 by
Links We Love

Links We Love

Five things that shouldn’t be missed from this past week!

  1. Inspiration from Penn State men’s basketball coach Patrick Chambers.
  2. The days are getting shorter, but they don’t have to get you down.
  3. Mark your calendar for upcoming online career fairs.
  4. Should you stay or should you go? How to tell if you’re ready to get a new job.
  5. It’s never too late to reach your educational goals – even at 97.

Understand and Minimize Student Loan Fees and Interest

November 3rd, 2015 by

Working OnlineAre you borrowing PLUS or Stafford Loans to pay help pay for your degree, or do you think you might need to borrow them in the future? If so, it’s good to be aware of the costs associated with these loans: origination fees and interest. Read on to learn about recent changes to these fees and what you can do now to reduce the costs associated with your PLUS and Stafford loans.

Origination Fees

Whenever you borrow a federal loan, a portion of the total loan amount goes to the government to pay for processing. This is called an “origination fee.”

The loan origination fee rates decreased on October 1, 2015; any new federal loans created for you after that date will be charged the new fee rates.

Here is a comparison of the old fee rates and the new fee rates, based on the loan disbursement date:

  • Old Fee Rates in this table apply to loans first disbursed on or after October 1, 2014, and before October 1, 2015.
  • New Fee Rates in this table apply to loans first disbursed on or after October 1, 2015, and before October 1, 2016.

Origination Fees
Federal Direct Loans

Loan Type Loan Fee Percent Fee Example
Stafford Loan (Subsidized and Unsubsidized) Old: 1.073% $59.01 on a
$5,500 loan
New: 1.068% $58.74 on a
$5,500 loan
PLUS Loan (Parent and Grad/Prof Student) Old: 4.292% $429.20 on a
$10,000 loan
New: 4.272% $427.20 on a
$10,000 loan

Find more information on the Office of Student Aid website about the new origination fees and net vs. gross loan amounts.

Interest Rates

Interest accrues on Unsubsidized Stafford Loans and PLUS Loans while you are in school and afterward. It does not accrue on Subsidized Stafford Loans while you are enrolled at least part-time.

Federal Direct Loan interest rates decreased on July 1, 2015; any new federal loans created for you after that date will accrue interest at the new rates.

Here is a comparison of the old interest rates and the new interest rates, based on the loan disbursement date:

  • Old Interest Rates in this table apply to loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2014, and before July 1, 2015.
  • New Interest Rates in this table apply to loans first disbursed on or after July 1, 2015, and before July 1, 2016.

Interest Rates
Federal Direct Loans

Loan Type Interest Rate Example Aggregate Interest* Example Total Loan Cost*
Stafford Loan for undergraduate students (Subsidized and Unsubsidized) Old: 4.66% $1,404 on a $5,500 loan $6,904
New: 4.29% $1,277 on a $5,500 loan $6,777
Stafford Loan for graduate students (Unsubsidized) Old: 6.21% $3,529 on a $10,250 loan $13,779
New: 5.84% $3,282 on a $10,250 loan $13,532
PLUS Loan (Parent or Graduate Student) Old: 7.21% $4,158 on a $10,250 loan $14,408
New: 6.84% $3,905 on a $10,250 loan $14,155

* After 10 years on the Standard Repayment Plan. Loans paid off faster accrue less interest.

Find more information about interest rates on the Office of Student Aid website.

How to Minimize Student Loan Fees and Interest

  • Monitor your borrowing
    • On eLion, select “Financial” and then “Loan Debt Summary” to view your cumulative debt. Higher debt means that you have paid more in fees and will pay more in interest.
  • Decrease your loan amounts
    • On eLion, select “Financial” and then “Loan Decrease.” The Financial Aid Office can help you determine the lowest amount to borrow to meet your needs.
  • Make interest payments while you are in school
    • You do not have to make any payments on your federal loans while you are enrolled at least part-time. However, if you pay the interest that accrues while you are in school, you will avoid having to pay interest on interest after you graduate (this is called capitalization). Even small payments can make a big difference in the long run — see how much you could save. You can make payments through your loan servicer (find your loan servicer information at the National Student Loan Data System).
  • Use caution with high-interest loans
    • This includes Federal Direct PLUS Loans and private loans. If you must use these loans, use the smallest amounts possible.
  • Pay your loans off as quickly as possible


If you would like to speak with an aid counselor about your individual situation, please contact us at 814-867-4244 or

Should You Drop a Course? How to Decide

November 2nd, 2015 by
Question Mark

Image by Andres Nieto Porras via flickr

by Academic Advising and Registrar Staff

If you’re considering dropping a course, you’ll need to know the drop deadlines and how to take action to remove the course from your schedule. In addition, it’s a good idea to think about the academic and financial implications of dropping before you make a decision.

Deadlines and Procedures

You can find all of the important dates and deadlines for the fall 2015 semester in the fall 2015 academic calendar.

You can drop a course from your schedule using eLion or by sending an email to Fees and tuition penalties may apply depending on when you drop the course, and dropping may affect your eligibility for financial aid. In addition, there is a limit to the number of credits you can drop during your academic career at Penn State. Complete details are available on our website.

Making an Informed Decision

Dropping a course may be the optimum solution for you after considering the academic and financial implications of this decision. But you may not want to take action too hastily and regret it later.  Making an informed decision will eliminate surprises, and you may even find a way to successfully complete the course.

Here are some factors that Penn State World Campus academic advisers recommend you consider before dropping a course:

Feedback: If you are receiving lower grades than expected and you’re not sure why, reach out to your instructors for additional feedback. They may be able to provide some guidance to improve the quality of your work. Instructors may also guide you to additional resources to supplement your course.

Grades: It is important to understand your grading system and how much of your total grade is impacted by lower grades on one or more assignments. For example, it could be that you do well on writing assignments and poorly on quizzes. So, understanding that quizzes may not have a major impact on the total grade is meaningful information while you are working on skills to improve taking quizzes.

Do you know what grade you need in the course for it to count toward your degree requirements? Some courses require a C or higher, while others may allow for a lower grade. Before dropping a course, you may want to know if the grade you need is still achievable.

Time: Time plays many roles in a decision to drop a course. One consideration is how early you realize that you need some help or support in the course. The sooner this need is identified, the better chance you have to recover and complete the course. If you are well into the semester and you have been struggling the entire time, it may be too late to make adjustments to pass the course.

Also, have you spent enough time on the course? A general rule is 3–4 hours per week for each credit that you have on your schedule. So you may need to spend 9–12 hours per week on one 3-credit course. Your adviser can discuss time management skills and help you create a plan for allocating enough time to your studies.

The third timing consideration may be that something unforeseen is now taking more of your time and leaving you with less time to devote to your courses. You may need to lessen your course load to be able to devote more time to the remaining course(s).

Resources: Have you explored resources to help with the course? There may be tutoring, note taking and studying techniques, library services, disability services, and other resources that an adviser can discuss with you. And your course may include virtual review sessions or other ways to enhance your knowledge. We can help you explore resources only if you reach out to us!

Course Impact: How does dropping this course impact your academic progress? There are some courses that are entrance-to-major requirements or prerequisites for other courses. If you are considering dropping a course, it is good to have a conversation with an adviser to understand how this may impact your next semester schedule or finishing your degree by an intended date. This will allow you to understand the impact and plan for the adjustment. Knowing the course impact may also help in deciding between dropping two courses in which one has impact on your progress and the other does not affect your ability to stay on track.

Cost: Starting on the first day of classes, there are costs that are nonrefundable when you drop the course. If you are using financial aid, dropping a course may also impact your aid. It is important to understand the consequences before dropping the course.

To recap, if you know things are not going well, don’t wait to reach out for help. Don’t be afraid to contact your instructor to discuss your grades or a situation affecting your work. Contact your adviser to talk through the difficulties, explore options, and understand the academic impact of dropping the course. Contact financial aid and/or the bursar’s office if you are unclear about the financial impact of your decision to drop a course. Once you are informed, you can then move forward with the decision that works best for you!

Links We Love: October 29, 2015

October 29th, 2015 by
Links We Love

Links We Love

Five things that shouldn’t be missed from this past week!

  1. Explore Penn State’s haunted history.
  2. Study smarter with tips to improve your memory.
  3. What not to say in a job interview.
  4. How a World Campus grad put her education to work after the Boston Marathon bombing. (Photo credit: Mandy Howard)
  5. Meet Estella the guinea pig, who keeps moving despite paralyzed back legs – thanks to a custom wheelchair.

Upcoming Online Career Fairs and How to Prepare

October 27th, 2015 by

Take advantage of these great opportunities to attend an online career fair offered by Penn State Career Services. Log in to learn more about potential employers — and interview from the comforts of your own computer!

Hiring Our Veterans Recruitment Day

Tuesday, November 10

3:00–6:00 p.m. ET

If you are a military veteran, this is an excellent opportunity for you to connect with employers in many industries.

High Tech Recruitment Day

Wednesday, November 11

3:00–6:00 p.m. ET

This career fair is designed to connect those of you interested in pursuing opportunities in high tech fields with companies across the country seeking highly qualified talent.

Hire Penn State with Experience Recruitment Day

Thursday, November 12

3:00–6:00 p.m. ET

If you already have experience in the workplace, here’s your chance to connect with employers seeking established talent.

View a list of employers who will attend the career fairs remotely.

How does an online career fair work?

Penn State Career Services has put together a helpful tutorial on how you can register for each event and research the recruiters/companies attending the fairs. This information also provides you with an explanation of how to interact with recruiters in live interviews during the times for each online career fair.

How should I prepare for an online career fair?

We offer several helpful steps for you to review before, during, and after the online career fairs. Take a moment to review the preparation web page provided by Penn State Career Services.

If you have additional questions about the online career fair opportunities, contact Lynn Atanasoff, Penn State World Campus career counselor, at

My Perspective on Veterans Day: Find the Common Good

October 26th, 2015 by

On June 3 of last year, a friend of mine and former shipmate, Vinson Ya, passed away while kayaking near Whidbey Island in Washington.

Vinson Ya

Vinson Ya

Ya was the epitome of what a congenial personality could be. In the two deployments and several years that I knew him, I don’t believe that I saw him angry or upset more than twice — something rather impressive when you consider that we regularly worked 12- to 14-hour days, 7 days a week, and only made port (hit land) about once a month. His congeniality was not limited to workdays, however; Ya was a frequent prankster and notorious photographer of funny moments. Even his death, as sad as it was, was representative of Ya’s personality; he was kayaking that day in order to catch a fish that he had made into his archnemesis for its size and ability to elude his capture.

Ya brought a great deal of joy to those of us who knew him; he believed in the common good that we’ll all celebrate on November 11 for Veterans Day.

Veterans Day is observed annually on November 11, regardless of what day of the week it falls on. Many people know this, but did you know that its origins were from the armistice that preceded the end of World War I, enacted on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month? This armistice eventually led to Armistice Day, the ancestor of our Veterans Day, which was changed to its present form in 1954 in order to honor people who have served in the U.S. Armed Forces, also known as veterans.

Why do we honor our veterans? It could be said that we are honoring the sacrifice of those who have served in our Army, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, or Marines. After all, there is a common saying that a member of the military has written a check payable to the United States for any amount up to and including his or her life. Yet many members of the military will tell you that the sacrifices of military families, particularly spouses, are just as great as those of the service member.

Veterans Day, as defined by the Veterans Administration, is “a celebration to honor America’s veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice for the common good,” and I think perhaps that is the best representation of what exactly we are celebrating. It is not a proud military tradition, and not simply the sacrifices made by veterans, but the all-encompassing idea of the common good. Whether or not you support armed conflict (and for the record, even as a veteran, I do not), it is fitting to honor those citizens who sacrifice their freedoms and years of their lives to provide a service that not everyone can or will provide.

So spend some time that day thinking about a veteran you know and what the common good means to him or her, and to you. To Vinson Ya, the common good meant making his shipmates smile and keeping morale up, so on November 11 you may find me playing a prank on my wife, making a funny video, or just finding a reason to smile. I know Ya would.