Prospective Undergraduate Student FAQs

Below is a list of answers to frequently asked questions from prospective students and their families to help you better understand the programs and services offered in the College of IST.

Applying to IST

Check out Penn State’s Undergraduate Admissions resources for information on how to apply. Penn State accepts the following applications: MyPennStateThe Coalition Application, and The Common Application. You can find additional resources on Self-Reported Academic Record on the Penn State's Admissions website.

You are a transfer student if you have attempted or completed 18 or more credits at another college or university after graduation. Currently, the College of Information Sciences and Technology is not accepting transfer students to any of our undergraduate degree programs at the University Park campus. We reassess our resources annually to determine our capacity to admit transfer students. Please visit the Undergraduate Admissions Transfer page for the most up-to-date information.

No. All are welcome to apply, provided they meet specific academic criteria determined by the Undergraduate Admissions office. For further information on what is required, please see Penn State’s Admissions website.

Some IST degree programs can be completed entirely at another Penn State campus, while others offer the required entrance to major coursework for certain IST programs. Visit the Undergraduate Bulletin to see which courses and programs are offered at the different Penn State campuses, and contact that campus’ admissions team to learn more.

Students interested in an honors program experience at Penn State are encouraged to apply to the Schreyer Honors College. Schreyer scholars take honors classes, conduct research and write a thesis, and graduate with the highest honors at Penn State.

Visit our honors program webpage to learn more about the honors experience in IST.

Academics and Curriculum

A College of IST education provides students with a multifaceted education and versatile skills. Typically, students who choose to pursue concurrent majors or minors will complement their IST degree with a program in psychology, sociology, political science, foreign language, risk management, public or foreign policy, or science.

Note that a student’s second major cannot also be a College of IST program or a degree program from another college that is under enrollment controls.

It depends! Most classes are around 30-35 students, though your general education and first few entrance to major courses may have more than 100 students. As you progress through your undergraduate career, classes will get smaller as the course content becomes more focused on your major.

Generally speaking, the Human-Centered Design and Development (HCDD) major focuses on the development and application of technology, whereas Computer Science focuses heavily on discrete mathematics and computer science theory.

HCDD students will develop skills in application development, software design, human-computer interaction, user experience design, and user and technology research methods. The Computer Science curriculum prepares students to solve computational problems. Both offer rewarding career opportunities in a variety of fields.

Some College of IST majors offer options, while others offer application focus areas. These choices allow students to further focus their area of study within their major. Students will often research options and focus areas by talking to students and faculty. Once you know which option or focus area you want to choose, you will meet with your academic adviser and request placement in that selection. Students typically select a major and option or focus area by the end of their second year.

Absolutely! We encourage students to take courses from a broad range of fields, which will build versatility and lead to exciting opportunities in the workplace. For example, pairing a foreign language with an IST degree can make you more attractive to corporate recruiters who have work opportunities overseas.

No. Some College of IST majors require more coding courses than others, and while it can help to understand code prior to getting to campus, you don’t have to have taken any coding coursework prior to enrolling.

Not necessarily, but it does help to be familiar with the logic of how code works when learning other programming languages. A few of our majors, like Cybersecurity Analytics and Operations and Human-Centered Design and Development, focus more heavily on coding. So, if you like coding, those majors might be a good choice for you.

Most IST faculty have active research projects, and many offer opportunities for undergraduate students to participate in their research. While some of these opportunities are publicly advertised, others come by getting to know the faculty and seeing how you can get involved.

Penn State features almost 300 programs for students to study abroad in approximately 50 countries. Students can also travel abroad by participating in service projects for underdeveloped communities, such as learning how to use technology as a means to enhance living conditions.

Learn more about the College of IST’s education abroad programs.

IST students are hard workers but realize the importance of having a balanced life. Part of that balance might be to join one of the student organizations within the College of IST. Students can join clubs that pertain to their specific area of study, or they can explore new areas of interest. Although the College of IST is a close-knit community that offers a number of opportunities for student engagement, students are also encouraged to join one of the 1,000 clubs and organizations offered across Penn State.

We tell our students that they should consider their academic coursework to be a full-time job. Everything else is extra, or icing on the cake, so to speak. Like most things, it comes down to time management, and there are many people in the college who can help students best manage their time in and out of the classroom.

This is a hard question to answer since every student is different. The College of IST has a small-campus feel, but provides big-campus resources. The College of IST staff support and the community feel help to guide students to their areas of interest in and out of the classroom.

Internships and Careers

The College of IST has more than 300 organizations actively recruiting our students. From small startups to Fortune 500 companies, our students and graduates are working for organizations like Verizon, GE, Deloitte, Johnson & Johnson, General Motors, Anthem, and Vanguard in internships and full-time positions. Twice each year, our Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement hosts a career fair for IST students to network with employers and make connections for internships and jobs. Learn more about these events by visiting our Career Solutions webpage.

IST students have a number of options when they graduate. Many take on careers in a variety of industries—government, business, health care, entertainment—while others pursue graduate education, nonprofit work, or start their own businesses. Check out the jobs our recent graduates have obtained to see the opportunities that might be available with a degree from the College of IST.

Yes. Although only one internship is required for graduation, many IST students complete two or more. Because of this, the majority of our students are offered jobs before graduating—many of them by the employer with which they interned.

Thanks to our Office of Career Solutions and Corporate Engagement and Penn State’s alumni network, College of IST students have many avenues to find internships through NittanyLionCareers.psu.edu (Penn State’s job and internship posting system), two annual IST career fairs (in addition to others that are University-wide), and a variety of networking and recruiting events held throughout the year. Also, if you have connections for a possible internship through family or friends, you can work out those details with the Career Solutions team ahead of time to earn academic credit for that experience.

While students can complete their internship at any point during their time on campus, most students complete their internship between their sophomore and junior years.