A Guide to Living in State College
Becoming familiar with the borough of State College will help to determine which area will be the best fit for you, along with knowing how far your commute to the Pennsylvania State University campus will be.
To help make your search for off-campus housing and apartments in State College easier, we have created an overview of where students live when attending Pennsylvania State University. Each of these neighborhoods is within walking distance to campus, or just a short bike, car, or bus ride away.
State College, with a population just over 42,000, is the largest borough in the state of Pennsylvania and is widely known for being home to Pennsylvania State University. Being that State College is such a large college town, the student population heavily influences the borough. Over 75% of the housing units around State College are occupied by non-families (students) and just over 70% of residents are between the ages of 18 to 24.
Penn State employs over 25,000 people, making it the largest employer in the area. There aren’t that many businesses in State College and after the university, the largest company has just over 2,000 employees. With that being said, most of the borough is residential and there are a variety of small neighborhoods surrounding Penn State.
Immediately north of campus is College Heights. Due to its close proximity to campus, College Heights is home to many of the Penn State’s professors, staff members, and their families. The neighborhood is also popular amongst town residents. There are some student houses, but certainly not as many as other areas in town. Some students will live in duplexes and larger apartment complexes that run along streets closest to campus like North Allen Street and East Park Avenue, but again, single-family homes are most dominant.
To the south, Downtown State College runs adjacent to Penn State University and houses a good number of students. Downtown, you’ll find a variety of residential apartment units, retail shops, restaurants, bars, libraries, churches, and government buildings. There are several chain restaurants like Primanti Brothers, Qdoba, and Panda Express and local favorites like Zola Kitchen and Wine Bar and The Corner Room. Each of these is located on College Avenue which is State College’s “main street” and where most of the action goes down. Also found on College Avenue are popular bars such as Zeno’s, The Darkhorse Tavern, and All American Rathskeller. Walking, although not very common, to campus from Downtown is definitely possible but there are a lot of hills to conquer along the way. The Loop is a bus that circles downtown and campus all day long and it’s free!
South of Downtown State College is the Highlands and just west of that is Holmes-Foster. Families, grads, undergrads, townies, frats, and professors all call these two neighborhoods home. Getting to campus isn’t a far hike (again, not the preferred method) and riding a bike makes it faster. The Highlands houses over 40 Greek fraternities and has even been said to be the “most beautiful fraternity section in the country.” There are a variety of houses throughout the neighborhood that date back to the 1950s that tend to be on the smaller side. Throughout the neighborhood, you’ll also find several apartment buildings and small public parks.
The further you travel away from Penn State and Downtown, into neighborhoods, like Vallamont, Greentrees, and Orchard Park, the more residential it becomes with a number of public buildings and schools scattered about. Students who don’t live Downtown or the surrounding areas will live in larger apartment complexes found on Aaron Drive, Vairo Boulevard, and Waupelani Drive. These areas are near shopping centers but you can’t walk to Penn from these neighborhoods, but you can drive, and the complexes are located along the bus lines, making it more convenient.
With so many amenities on campus and around the Downtown area, the majority of students are able to easily get any errands done. If you plan on leaving State College often, bringing a car would be worth it. Otherwise, community to campus is a hassle. They do have a commuter lot but it’s far from everything and is pretty inconvenient. Getting a bus pass is the popular option amongst students living in State College. The Centre Area Transportation Authority, better known as the CATA, provides service all throughout the city. It’s the third largest transportation system in the state and services 22 Community Routes, and 4 free Campus Routes. They even have special shuttles on game days and during special events.
To recap, here are some helpful tips/reminders:
- All housing in the State College area neighborhoods mentioned are accessible to the Pennsylvania State University campus through the CATA transit system
- Most students living off-campus in State College live Downtown, Highlands, or Foster/Holmes. While there are several other State College neighborhoods, these are just the most popular and student-dominated areas
- Make sure your new place is easily accessible to shopping and grocery stores for running errands
- Use Google Maps to determine the distance of a property you are considering to the Pennsylvania State University campus
State College Crime Statistics:
The State of Pennsylvania has held a theft crime rate slightly above the City of State College from 2010 to 2014. Both theft crime rates have been in a similar gradual decrease. The theft crime rate is reported by a combination of various types of property damage and burglaries.
The City of State College has held a very low violent crime rate well below the State of Pennsylvania from 2010 to 2014.