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The Paterno Liberal Arts Undergraduate Fellows Program

The Paterno Fellows Program (PFP) is an innovative program offered jointly by the College of the Liberal Arts and the Schreyer Honors College (SHC) that encourages students to challenge themselves academically. The Paterno Fellows experience offers "an education for leadership" in the best tradition of the liberal arts. It molds well-rounded students who are ready for the world and prepares them for citizenship, for lifetime learning, and for the satisfaction derived from an exemplary education.

The program challenges students to perform to their full potential and offers them the support they need to do so.

Students aspiring to become Fellows are challenged to perform to their full potential and offered the support they need to achieve their academic goals. Paterno Fellows distinguish themselves in areas traditionally associated with the liberal arts: ethics, service, and leadership; excellence in communication; and international and intercultural awareness. Students aspiring to the PFP have two years to become Fellows and earn their way into the SHC by meeting specific requirements that are outlined in the Student Handbook. Other students choose to become Paterno Fellows after they have been admitted to the SHC.

How to Participate

There is no application.  Students simply decide to accept the Paterno Fellows challenge. If not already a Schreyer Scholar, a Liberal Arts student becomes an "Aspirant"--ie., a student who aspires to be a Paterno Fellow--by registering on the Paterno Fellows database and beginning to complete the Fellows requirements. About two-thirds of Paterno Fellows begin as Aspirants. If a student is already a Schreyer Scholar with a a major in the Liberal Arts, he or she simply registers on the Paterno Fellows database and begins to complete the Fellows requirements and to participate in PFP events.

The Paterno Fellows Aspirant ~ Liberal Arts students who decide to pursue the Paterno Fellows Program will be in Aspirant status until they satisfy specific College requirements as well as any requirements stipulated by their intended major department. The deadline for meeting these requirements is the end of the sophomore year. Therefore, the majority of Aspirants can expect to be Paterno Fellows and Schreyer Scholars during their junior and senior years. Students in majors that do not have additional requirements will be able to enter the Paterno Fellows Program and Schreyer Honors College after their first year if they achieve a 3.5 grade point average.

Students register as Paterno Fellows Aspirants during their New Student Orientation (NSO) session. Students will indicate a preferred major at that time. Although they may change their major later, this step assures that students are initially assigned to the most knowledgeable adviser. If Aspirants wish to change their preferred major later, they may do so, and they will be reassigned to an adviser in their new area of interest. If they decide to opt out of the program altogether, they simply notify the PFP assistant. There is no penalty for discontinuing and nothing will show on the student’s record.

Overview: Benefits of the Paterno Fellows Program

The most significant benefit to Paterno Fellows is the challenge it puts before students to undertake a rigorous and stimulating academic experience.
  • Transformative Academic Enrichment in the Liberal Arts
    Paterno Fellows will graduate with strong academic credentials in at least two fields; develop ethical reasoning and leadership abilities; gain the ability to think critically, do independent research, and communicate effectively; and demonstrate global and intercultural sophistication. While all Liberal Arts students gain such an education at Penn State, Fellows pursue an education of exceptional ambition, depth, and distinction.
  • Financial Support for Enrichment Activities
    Paterno Fellows receive financial support from the College of the Liberal Arts toward meeting their research, study abroad, and internship goals to build an impressive portfolio of experiences. These are the types of experiences that prepare students for leadership, and that students and alumni describe as the most defining and unforgettable moments in their college careers. Students who are ready to apply for these funds should fill out the Liberal Arts Enrichment Funds application. (First-year students entering Schreyer Honors College from high school will receive an Academic Excellence Scholarship of $4,000 per year; however, students who enter SHC by way of the Paterno Fellows Program or the Gateway do not receive this scholarship.)
  • Participation in a Distinguished Academic Community
    Every academic year offers a variety of events open to all Fellows and Aspirants, such as weekly lunch meetings, film screenings, artistic performances, meetings with visiting scholars, off-campus trips, and social events. Each fall, students have the opportunity to meet with the Institute for the Arts and Humanities medalists. Previous medalists include such world-renowned musicians and artists as Patti Smith, Yo-Yo Ma, Toni Morrison, and Daniel Libeskind. Informal events take place throughout the academic year in the Liberal Arts Paterno Fellows Special Living Option in Sproul Hall and elsewhere.
  • Advising
    All PFP students are assigned an academic adviser who will ensure that students are meeting expectations in a timely way and help identify departments, institutes, and other University programs that provide academic and co-curricular opportunities for students. Once a student has chosen a major and has been accepted as a Paterno Fellow, a faculty honors adviser will be assigned as well. All Fellows work with a faculty honors adviser to develop a thesis topic, conduct research, and complete the thesis project. Fellows have the opportunity to participate in the College of the Liberal Arts Alumni Mentor Program, which provides one-on-one alumni guidance.

Requirements for Entrance

Aspirants may be admitted to the Paterno Fellows Program and Schreyer Honors College at one of these three points:

  • After Two Semesters
    • Completion of at least 4 honors courses during the first academic year, including the Rhetoric and Civic Life sequence ENGL/CAS 137H/138T, for a minimum of 12 honors credits
    • Completion of any department requirements
    • A second semester GPA no lower than a 3.4, and a cumulative GPA of 3.5
  • After Three Semesters
    • Completion of 5 honors courses for a cumulative total of 15 honors credits, including ENGL/CAS 137H/138T
    • Completion of any department requirements
    • A third semester GPA no lower than a 3.4, and a cumulative GPA of 3.4
  • After Four Semesters
    • Completion of 7 honors courses for a cumulative total of 21 honors credits, including ENGL/CAS 137H/138T
    • Completion of any department requirements
    • A fourth semester GPA no lower than a 3.4, and a cumulative GPA of 3.4

Department Requirements

Only the six departments listed below have additional entrance requirements. All other departments follow the PFP minimum requirements outlined above.


Department Requirements
Credits / Courses / Grades / Major GPA


Complete CRIM 012, CRIM 100, STAT 200, and CRIM 250W with an average of at least 3.7 GPA in these courses.


Complete ECON 102, 104, 302, and 304 (or preferably, their honors counterparts) with an average of at least 3.67 GPA in these courses.


Complete at least two English courses (besides ENGL 137H or 138T) with grades of A- or higher. At least one of them must be ENGL 200, 201, or 221.

French and Francophone Studies

Complete FR 201 and 202 with an A- or better in both courses.

Political Science / International Politics

  • Maintain a cumulative GPA of 3.7 or higher.
  • Complete at least two of the following courses: PL SC 001, 003, 014, or 017 with an A- or better.
  • Complete PL SC 309 with a B+ or higher.


Complete PSYCH 100 (or a 5 on the AP exam), PSYCH 105, PSYCH 200 or STAT 200, and PSYCH 301W with a grade of A. Students who receive three As and one A- will still qualify if they have a cumulative GPA of 3.8 or higher.

Requirements for Graduation as a Paterno Fellow

  • Maintain a Minimum 3.4 GPA Every Semester
    A student's GPA may NOT fall below 3.4 for two consecutive semesters. This will lead to automatic dismissal.
  • Complete a Specified Number of Honors Courses Each Year
    • 21 honors credits in the first two years (normally four courses in the first year and three in the second, which includes the Rhetoric an Civic Life honors sequence ENGL/CAS 137H/138T).
    • At least 14 honors credits in the final two years.
    • Honors courses include advanced 400-level courses taken in the first and second years, or graduate-level courses.
  • Complete a Second Major or an Enhanced Minor
    Only one of the majors needs to be in the College of the Liberal Arts. If a particular field does not offer a major, an enhanced 24-credit minor will count as a second area of expertise. An 18-credit minor is enhanced by adding six additional credits from the approved course list for the minor.
  • Complete an e-Portfolio
    Students create an e-Portfolio in their first year of honors coursework and continue to demonstrate their ability to communicate in a variety of genres (persuasive, argumentative, reflective, and so on) and in a variety of media (verbal, video, audio, and the like) throughout their years at Penn State. A student's e-Portfolio should be submitted for approval by the end of the third year. (This new requirement takes effect with the 2014-15 freshman class. Previously aspiring or admitted Fellows are encouraged to complete an e-Portfolio, which may be used as a third alternative to the Global Awareness requirements.)
  • Complete 3 Credits of Study in Ethics
    Students may choose from a variety of ethics courses in liberal arts disciplines. Students who wish to propose another course for consideration should write to the Director.
  • Complete a Study Abroad Experience or a 3-Credit Internship
    Study abroad experiences must be at least five weeks in-country. Internships typically involve at least 150 hours of internship work. To document a non-credit internship experience, download the Non-Credit Internship Documentation Form; complete and submit it using the contact information on the form.
  • Complete a Substantial Leadership or Service Commitment
    Fellows are expected to take on a leadership role or offer services to a community of their choice totaling at least 50-75 hours during their college career. Participants in the Presidential Leadership Academy automatically meet this requirement. To document a leadership or service experience, download the Leadership or Service Documentation Form; complete and submit it using the contact information on the form.
  • Demonstrate Global Awareness through one of two options:
    • Complete two additional courses beyond the 12th-credit-level proficiency in one foreign language, or meet 12th-credit-level proficiency in two foreign languages. (Students majoring or minoring in a foreign language, native speakers of a language other than English, and students studying abroad where the courses are taught in a language other than English will automatically meet this requirement.)
    • Take 9 credits in International Cultures (IL) courses beyond the general education requirement.
    • Students who aspired or were admitted prior to 2014-15 may fulfill the Global Awareness requirement with a third option of completing the e-Portfolio. 2014-15 aspirants and admits are required to complete the e-Portfolio in addition to demonstrating Global Awareness through one of the two options listed under this heading.

~ plausible scenarios for Communication/Global Awareness requirements for students who aspired or were admitted prior to 2014-15 and for students who aspired or were admitted Summer 2014 or later ~

  • Complete a Senior Thesis Research Project
    Fellows must demonstrate strong research and critical thinking skills within an "Area of Honors," usually the student's primary major.


For additional information, including Year by Year Planning, Important Policies, Advice, and Frequently Asked Questions, please refer to the Student Handbook.

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