STATE COLLEGE, PA—Unhindered by a curfew and free from parental oversight, freshman Phil Melton, 18, spent his first night of independence Saturday inside his Pennsylvania State University dorm room and was asleep by 11:45 p.m.
After driving with his mother and father from their home in Carnegie, PA to the 43,000-student college, Melton carried his personal belongings into his new dormitory and said goodbye to his parents, who then returned to Carnegie without him. Thus released from the rules and restrictions that had been imposed on him since birth, Melton unpacked and set up his computer, spent an hour IM-ing with friends from home, checked the schedule for his upcoming orientation four times, and watched two episodes of South Park he had previously downloaded off the Internet.
"College is going to be awesome," Melton said moments after threading the wires of his computer speakers through the hole in his new desk and sending a message from his personal e-mail account to his school e-mail "just to make sure" the new address was active.
Although Melton had not yet met his new roommate, whose belongings were already stacked beside the other bed by the time he arrived, the probable biology major said he is confident the two will get along and maybe even attend a few campus parties together.
"As long as he's up for anything, we'll get along great," said Melton, taking a break from a sixth consecutive game of Minesweeper. "And it looks like he brought a microwave. Cool."
Utterly free to mingle with fellow incoming students in the Student Union or attend any of the numerous Welcome Freshmen activities being held across campus until the wee hours of the morning, Melton opted to leave his fifth-floor dormitory room only once, at approximately 9:15 p.m., when he entered the hallway and positioned a dry erase board on his door. Melton reportedly then gazed down the corridor, waved at a fellow student entering the hall bathrooms, drew a smiley face on the board, and retreated back inside before shutting and locking the door.
"I think I'll loft my bed," said Melton, making the brash decorating choice without first consulting his parents or anyone else. "I can put my desk under it, and then we'll have more room to put in a couch or maybe a few chairs for when we have people over here to play video games or whatever."
Added Melton, "I better just go ahead and hook up the TV and the Playstation now."
For nearly two decades, Melton lived according to the whim of his parents, Jeanne and Thomas Melton, who did not once allow their son to funnel an entire beer into his stomach, blow off classes to play football in the quad, try smoking a hookah, or have sexual relations with a woman he barely knows. Within hours arriving on Penn State's campus, however, Melton had already spent 15 minutes running his Ethernet cord behind his bed and decided to leave the bottom drawer of his dresser empty in order to use it as a make-shift pantry for cereal and other nonperishable foods.
Dr. Dennis Misercola, a psychologist at Penn State's student health center, said experimentation during the first few months of college is not uncommon, and can help a student make a healthy transition into newfound independence.
"New freshmen like Phil must push their boundaries in order to learn their own limitations and begin establishing an identity separate from their parents," Dr. Misercola said. "It's perfectly natural for an 18-year-old man who is getting his first taste of freedom to experiment with various poster arrangements or consume in one sitting an entire box of Golden Grahams, which his mother never bought because she said they were too sugary. He may even act out by waiting three whole days before calling his parents to ask how the family dog is doing."
After sleeping soundly for 10 hours and then not taking a shower, Melton is expected to leave his dorm room for the first time since moving in to walk directly to the building's cafeteria. Once there, he will likely eat a breakfast of hash browns and soft-serve ice cream and meet the two guys he will hang out with for the next four years.