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Frequently Asked Questions

Over the years, we have collected questions that have been asked frequently by incoming and current students. They are arranged by category-simply click on the orange bar for the category you are interested in viewing to see the questions and answers in that category. If you don't see your question, first check the "Other" category, and if it's not there, please call our office at 724-938-4444 for assistance.

FAQ Categories

Campus Meals

For answers to most of your questions about meal plans, please see our Dining page.

Q: If I live in University housing do I have to have a meal plan?
A: Yes, for the residence halls. Meal plans are optional for students living at Vulcan Village Apartments.  However, many Vulcan Village Apartment residents select a meal plan convenient for their time spent on campus.  

Q: What are the meal plan options and costs per semester? 
A: You can see current meal plan costs here:    

Q: How do I decide which meal plan is best for me?
A: Sometimes price is the primary consideration, but you may also want to think about your eating habits and preferences. We have two basic types of meal plans –a traditional meal plan that includes a specified number of meals per week, or a flexible meal plan that provides a set number of meals per semester. Each type of plan also comes with varying amounts of dine dollars. Students who tend to eat two to three regular meals per day and think they will probably eat most of their meals in the Gold Rush, our all-you-care-to-eat facility, often choose the traditional plan for the best value. Those whose eating habits are less consistent due to class schedule, sports practice or personal preference, often prefer the block plan, as well as those students who think they may eat more frequently in the Washington Food Court. The traditional meal plans ensure that you have two to three meals per day available each week, while the block plan allows you to skip days or meals without losing them.


Q: If I live on campus, can I bring a vehicle?
A: Yes, although parking permits are required on campus.  For details, go to

Q: Do I need a car?
A: Although many of our students do have cars, it is not necessary.  The campus is small enough for easy walking or bicycling, and the town of California is also within easy walking or biking distance.

The Vulcan Flyers are the university based campus shuttle service that connects to the upper campus and Vulcan Village Apartments.  These buses are free to students and operate seven days a week, please check the schedule, route maps and more information at the parking web page.  Go to

Also, the Vulcan Flyers provide hourly service to the West Brownsville Wal-Mart making access to shopping easy.

Mid Mon Valley Transit provides free access to their public bus services with the students Cal Card.

Mid Mon Valley public bus service has stops in town and on campus and too many areas throughout the Mon Valley and connections to Pittsburgh where students can connect to Greyhound, Megabus and or Amtrak services. Go to for detailed schedule information.

Transfer Students

Q: What housing options are available for transfer students?
 Transfer students may live either in the residence halls or at Vulcan Village.

Campus Visit

Q: Who do I contact for a residence hall tour?
 Campus tours and residence hall tours should be scheduled by calling the Welcome Center at 724.938.1626.

Housing & Roommate Assignments

Q: When will I receive my housing and roommate assignment?
A: Housing and roommate assignments can be viewed on your VIP account once complete.  

Q: I just found out my friend is also going to attend Cal U. How can we live together?
A: You should make sure that you both request one another during the online roommate selection process.

Q: How are roommates assigned? Am I guaranteed my requested roommate?
A: All roommate requests must be mutual and you can do this during the online roommate selection process.  Those students without specific roommate requests will be able to enter preferences and be matched with other residents with similar interests.  

Q: Why is it so important to have a roommate?
A: We believe that living with someone is an important learning and developmental experience. Some of the most important things you will learn in the residence halls – communication and compromise, clarifying and expressing your values, appreciating diversity – come directly from this experience. In addition, while you should not expect your roommate to become your best friend, lasting friendships often result.  

Q: What is a roommate agreement? Why do I have to do one?
A: Living with someone can be challenging as well as rewarding. A roommate agreement is a contract that you develop with your roommate that covers the basic issues that usually come up when you live and share space with another person.  Your Community Assistant is available to help with this process, and as you and your roommate change, your roommate agreement can be revisited throughout the year.

Q: Who do I speak to if I have a roommate problem? 
A: Contact your CA (Community Assistant) on your floor. CA’s are trained to help you with roommate issues as well as help you with any other questions or concerns you may have. If a problem persists, please contact your Residence Hall Director (RD).  

Q: Can I change my room? 
A: Room changes are not permitted from the time housing assignments are completed until after the second week of the semester. At that point, they are only made if space is available and efforts to resolve differences have been exhausted.  

Q: How do I switch to another building?
A: If you are interested in moving to another residence hall, you should first speak with your residence hall director. If space is available, they will send you to the RD of the requested hall to speak with him/her about vacancies and choosing a room. Such requests can only be honored if space is available.

Q: How do I choose a hall? What are the differences?
A: All the residence halls have basically the same layout, except for Smith Hall, which houses the University Honors program and Carter Hall, which houses the Student Health Center, Counseling Center and Multi-Cultural Center. Halls B, Guesman, Johnson and E surround the Student Center and Halls A and Carter Hall are across the street from the Student Center. Many new students do not express a hall preference unless they are in the Honors program and wish to live in Honors housing, they know someone who lives in a particular hall, or they believe a certain hall is closer to a building where they have many classes. The services, staff and amenities are the same in all of the halls.

Q: Will I get my choice of room type?

A:  The time that you are able to select your room is based on the date that you submit your contract and pay the application/service fee. The room types that are available at the time you select your room will determine the options that are available to you.

Q: I have a condition that requires a particular type of housing or special accommodation. How do I make sure my needs are met?
A: Requests for university housing accommodations are handled through our Office for Students with Disabilities (OSD). Forms can be requested from OSD or downloaded from their website. Approved accommodations are provided on a first-come, first-served basis and all regular university housing procedures apply. Our accessible rooms are distributed among the suite types and located on various floors throughout the residence halls.

Living On Campus

Q: What are the housing requirements for freshmen students?
 Incoming freshmen are required to live in University Housing (on-campus residence halls or Vulcan Village Apartments) for the first four (4) semesters.  

Q: How many freshmen live on campus?
 Currently, approximately 75% of our on campus residency students are freshmen.  

Q: Can I get out of my housing contract?
A: Your signed housing contract commits you financially for the specified time period, generally an academic year. Any request for exemption from the housing policy or to break the on campus housing contract for any reason before its conclusion must be submitted to the University Housing Office, where it will be considered on an individual basis. Unless you receive written approval for exemption from the residence requirement and/or release from the housing contract, you will be held financially responsible for all charges. If your request is denied, there is an appeal process detailed in the residence hall handbook.  

Q: How do I reapply for housing next year?
A: Students will be notified through e-mail and  receive instructions when online housing sign-up is available.  

Q: What are the move in dates and times for new and returning students?
A: First time freshmen usually move in the Friday before school starts and returning students move in the Sunday before school starts. You will receive an email, and times and dates will be posted and updated on the front page of our website.  

Q: I can’t come on move-in day. Can I check into the residence hall early?
A: Usually this is not possible. Our residence halls are used by University Conference Services to house camps and conferences until right before the semester begins. Once they have completed their season, we only have a few days to clean all rooms and make any necessary repairs. If students are permitted to arrive early, it interferes with and slows down this process. In addition, residence hall staff and security are not in place until the residence halls open. If you are dealing with extraordinary circumstances, you may contact your residence hall director in advance to see if your hall’s cleaning and maintenance schedule would allow an early check-in.  

Q: I’m going to be attending band or a sport camp before the semester begins. Will I be in the same room for camp as I will for the semester? When do we move? Should I bring all my belongings?
A: You will not be in your regularly assigned room during camp, but will live in a designated residence hall area with the other members of your group. A few days before camp breaks and the halls open for the semester, all student groups on campus will move to their permanent rooms. Group or team members usually help one another with this move. Unless you live far away, we recommend only bringing what you will need for camp along with you, since you will have to move it. On move-in day, you can have the rest of your belongings brought by your family or whoever will be helping you move in.  

Q: I’m participating in a university activity and will have to stay after the halls close or return early before they officially open. What do I have to do?
A: Your coach or group advisor must contact the Housing and Residence Life Office to verify the necessity of the stay and will need to provide a roster to the office. You will need to see your residence hall director before the hall closes – deadlines for such requests are publicized when closing information is distributed. You will sign a statement that explains security and other conditions for staying in the hall, and staff will authorize your CalCard to be activated to give you access to the hall.  

Q: When do the halls close for breaks?
A: The halls close at 8:00 p.m. on the last day of classes prior to a break, and on the last day of final exams at the end of a semester Times and dates will be posted and updated on the front page of our website. The complete list of dates is available on the University Housing and Dining landing page.  

Q: Can I stay over breaks?
A: No. Our residency policy states:The residence halls close at times when classes are not in session, including Thanksgiving, winter, spring and Easter breaks. You must check out of the residence hall during these periods. Requests for exceptions for students participating in sanctioned university events or international students must be made to the residence hall director before the break begins. Details and deadlines will be included on the break posting. There maybe a daily charge to anyone granted permission to stay in the residence hall during times it is officially closed.

Q: Where do I get my mail?
A:  Each student has his/her own mailbox, located on the first floor. Mail is handled exclusively by university mailroom staff. They will provide your mailbox combination at the beginning of the year, if you move to a different residence hall, or if you forget it. Any time that you receive a package, you will need to provide photo ID to pick it up at the mailroom in Dixon Hall during regular business hours. There is no campus mail delivery on Saturday.

Q: What is my mailing address?
A: Your mailing address is:

Your proper name (no nicknames)

Building and room number or box number

California University of PA

250 University Avenue

California, PA 15419  

Q: What kind of security features do the residence halls have?
A: The doors to the residence halls are locked at all times, and students must use their CalCard to gain access. There are also desk receptionists at the main entrance 24 hours a day for assistance and to ensure that access and guest policies are followed. All non-residents must be signed in and escorted at all times by a resident. The doors to the residential wings are also locked; student room keys open these areas. There are video cameras at all entrances and exits, computer labs and common areas. There is a state-of-the-art fire suppression and smoke detection system and emergency telephones outside the hall entrance.  

Q: What do I do if my belongings are damaged or stolen?
A: You should check to see if your family’s home or renter’s insurance will cover your belongings while away at school. We strongly recommend that you have insurance coverage, because the university is not liable for any personal belongings damaged for any reason. Stolen property should always be reported to the residence hall staff, as well as University Police at 724/938-4299. You should keep your room locked at all times.

Q: How do I become a CA?
A: Our main selection process occurs generally during February and March, when we hire CAs for fall vacancies. Signs will be posted in the residence halls and on campus, there will be notices in the Cal Times newspaper and on the website. You should first attend an information session, which will help you decide if the CA job is for you. After that is an application process, grade and reference check, a group process day and small group interview. . After considering your performance in all those activities, candidates are either offered positions, offered alternate status for future positions, or not selected. If we find there will be mid-year vacancies, we will do a shortened version of the process during the fall semester, generally in November.  

Q: What are community standards and how do they work?
A: To give you responsibility for creating a community that meets your needs, we operate the residence halls by a community standards model. Beyond the broad parameters of university and residence hall safety and management policies, you and your fellow residents are free to agree upon basic principles that will guide your community. You are responsible with them for determining the social contract that will govern your relationships with one another and for holding one another accountable for adhering to it. The staff person’s role is that of a facilitator who is accountable to Residence Life administrators for ensuring health, safety and minimum behavior standards. He or she facilitates community development by taking a leadership role in terms of communication, programming and acting as a resource person, not by being the person designated to “fix” problems or deal with misbehavior. Your CA will coordinate a meeting early in the semester and facilitate a discussion that will result in a Community Agreement that all residents agree upon. In a healthy and productive community this contract is not a static one, but will continue to evolve as you and your community learn and mature. Whenever residents find difficulties with the current Agreement, they should call for a floor meeting to discuss the issues and revise the Agreement.  

About Your Room

Q: What kind of belongings should I bring for living on campus?
A: A: The complete list is available here: “Packing for the Suite Life” page link. In addition, a list can be mailed or faxed to you by sending a request to

Q: What items ARE NOT permitted in the residence halls?
A: Air conditioners, candles, electric heaters, hot plates, pets (except for fish), George Foreman-type grills, and potpourri burners. The complete list is available here: “Packing for the Suite Life” page link.

Q: What can I use to hang personal items on walls?
A: We suggest that you use hanging strips that specify they do not damage walls (such as Command, Duck brand or other similar products) and follow the application and removal instructions carefully. Double-sided foam tape, adhesive wall hooks, masking tape, duct tape, screws, and nails may not be used on the walls. Students are responsible for any damage to the walls, even when using a product that says it will not damage walls. 

Q: What is a room condition report? Why is it important?
A: The room condition report is our record of the condition of your suite when you moved in and assumed responsibility for it. It is very important that you verify its accuracy and bring any discrepancies to our attention, because you will be charged for any changes in the condition of your suite when you move out.

Q: What are the damage charges in the halls?
A: Costs vary based on labor costs and current market value of materials.
Students are responsible for the condition of their rooms/suites and all university furnishings. The room condition report completed by staff and that you sign at check-in will be used as the basis for all damage billing. Damage assessments will be done when you move out of your room/suite or when it is noted by staff. Residence Life staff periodically conduct informal room inspections for health and safety and will address any damage noted. Damages to common areas (lounge areas, hallways, etc.) will be billed to those responsible for the damage. If responsibility is not determined, charges will be distributed among all members of the appropriate community (wing, floor, or building).

Q: What should I do if I have a problem or complaint?
A: You should speak to the community assistant (CA) in charge of your floor, the CA working in the hall office, or your residence hall director. We are interested in your feedback so that we can help make your residence hall experience as positive as possible.

Q: Is there any kind of hall government?
A: Each residence hall has a hall council that represents the needs of students and works with the hall staff to plan activities for residents. The InterResidence Hall Council is made up of students from all the halls who are interested in helping plan events, fund raisers and service projects for the residence halls.

Q: What is there to do in the halls?
A: In addition to the wide variety of programming offered across campus by the Student Activities Board as well as many other organizations, each CA completes at least three activities each semester for floor and/or hall residents. Our residence life education model is Building Character and Careers through Community, which requires CAs to plan activities that address each of these areas.

Q: What kind of recreational space and equipment is in the residence halls?
A: All residence halls have a common lounge on the first floor with large screen TV, DVD player, full kitchen area and comfortable seating. Adjoining it is a rec room with ping pong and pool or foos ball tables. Residential floors have a variety of common areas for socializing, including study rooms, lounges, and areas for watching TV.

Q: What should I bring for my computer needs?
A: Properly installed and operating Ethernet card and drivers, network (Ethernet) cable, approved and up-to-date anti-virus software installed and working, and legal copies of all software and drivers. See the Recommended Minimums on the “University Technology Services” page link.

Q: Are there computer labs in the residence halls?
A: Each residence hall has a computer lab with multiple work stations and a laser printer. Students must supply their own paper.

Q: What furnishings are provided in the rooms?
A: Desks with bookshelves above, desk chairs, adjustable and bunkable twin size beds, dressers, nightstands and built-in closets. There is also a sink with mirror and under-cabinet storage. Suites with common living areas also have a couch, two chairs, bookcase, TV stand, coffee table, end table, an additional closet and a counter with cabinets underneath in the entryway.

Q: Can I rearrange my furniture?
 As long as your furniture remains in your suite, you may arrange it any way you wish, if it does not interfere with your roommate. Remember that common area furniture may not be moved to student rooms.

Q: Can I bring my own mattress or other furniture?
A: There is no storage for students in the halls, so all university furniture must remain in your suite. Furniture also may not be removed from your suite and stored off-site, so any furniture, including mattresses, you choose to bring must fit in the room along with the furnishings already provided.

Q: How much storage is there under the beds?
A: The beds in all halls are adjustable from 6” to 30” from the floor to bottom of the springs.

Q: What size bed sheets should I bring?
A: All beds are extra-long twin, but many students have found that regular size twin sheets fit just fine as the mattresses are not as deep as those you may have at home. The actual measurements for the mattresses in the halls are 79” long x 36” wide.

Q: Are the halls carpeted?
A: Yes, all residence halls are carpeted.

Q: How are the residence halls and rooms cleaned?
A: In the new halls, custodians are responsible for the cleanliness and upkeep of all public areas such as restrooms, laundry rooms, recreation rooms, lounges, vending areas, offices, hallways, and stairways. You are responsible for cleaning your own room, including bathrooms, and must follow the university recycling policy by properly disposing of all trash in central recycling areas. We remind you to be considerate of custodians when disposing of trash or using residence hall common areas.

Q: What kind of staff and supervision is available in the halls?
A: Residence Hall Directors (RDs) are the university employees responsible for overall supervision of each residence hall. RDs are specialized professionals with a master's degree in a field related to education and Student Affairs and live in one of the halls they supervise. Ensuring that your living and learning experience is comfortable, productive and safe is their primary responsibility and includes such things as advising students and student groups, encouraging community development, promoting academic involvement and success, handling hall judicial issues, supervising student staff and acting as the liaison for facilities issues. Residence hall offices are open from 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, with additional evening hours that vary by semester. Community Assistants (CAs) are students (either graduate or undergraduate) who live on designated floors in the residence hall, assisting the RD in its overall operation. As leaders and facilitators for their floor communities, CAs dedicate considerable time and effort to developing community within the hall. As resources to you, they will help you understand and comply with university and residence hall rules, work with you to plan programs and activities to meet your needs, and help you make the most of your residence hall and university experience. CAs are available through an on-call system 24 hours a day, with schedules and contact information posted throughout the building. Desk Assistants (DAs) are student employees who work scheduled hours at the front desk of each residence hall. They carry out administrative duties, assure that sign-in and escort procedures are followed, and assist in emergencies.


Q: Why do I have to have a meningitis vaccination?
A: Passed in 2002, Pennsylvania state law requires that all college students living in campus residence halls provide proof of vaccination or sign a waiver refusing vaccination for religious or other reasons. You will not be permitted to sign into your residence hall or receive a key to your room without proof of vaccination or completed waiver form.

Q: What is the smoking policy?
A: All campus buildings, including residence halls, are smoke-free buildings. Smoking is not permitted indoors. Electronic smoking devices such as e-cigarettes and similar devices are also prohibited from being used in all campus buildings, including residence halls. Outdoor smoking is permitted. However, no smoking is allowed within 25 feet of a building entrance.

Q: What is the drug and alcohol policy?
A: Consuming or possessing alcohol on state-owned property (which includes the entire campus as well as the residence halls) is prohibited even if a person is of legal age. Using or possessing narcotics, hallucinogens or other controlled substances except with a medical prescription is prohibited on campus....See “Residence Life Handbook” page link for complete policy.

Q: Are all of the residence halls coed?
A: Yes, all halls are coed.

Q: Do the residence halls have elevators?
A: There are elevators in all the residence halls, which are all four stories.

Q: What sizes are the rooms?
A: All of our rooms meet current building and occupancy codes for space required for each resident. All rooms of the same type are roughly the same size, but sizes do vary somewhat depending on location within the residence hall and each floor’s individual layout. Those rooms that are ADA compliant have wider doorways, lower closet shelves, and larger bathrooms including higher toilets and accessible showers. See “Room and Board Fees-Suite Descriptions” page link for sizes and descriptions.

Q: Is there storage for my bicycle or other recreational items?
A: Storage is not provided for bicycles or other large personal items, and they may not be kept in common areas or in any place where they impede access or movement in case of fire or other emergency (by doors, stairs, in hallways, etc.).

Q: How much does it cost to replace my key?
A: Charges for replacement keys vary with the type of room you live in; the minimum charge is approximately $48.

Q: How do I let guests into my building?
A: Guests may call you from the telephones located outside the residence hall. You must meet your guest at the control desk, where you must sign him/her in.

Q: What is the overnight guest policy?
A: Visitation is a privilege, and guests (defined as anyone who is not a resident of that hall) may visit in the residence halls at any time. All residence hall guests must be signed in and escorted at all times, and you as the host are responsible for their actions. You may have up to 3 guests at one time. Any non-university guest under the age of 18 must provide written parental permission and contact information to visit in the halls. The university does not condone or permit cohabitation, and your roommate must agree to the presence of guests in the room. The rights of the resident who does not wish to have a guest take precedence. The same guest is not permitted to stay overnight in the hall for more than three days during a seven-day period. Those who violate this policy may be billed, removed and/or banned from the residence hall. Additionally, guests may be asked to leave and residents may lose visitation privileges if guests are disruptive or violate policies.

Residence Life Handbook

Download 2012 - 2103 Handbook [pdf]

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