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Potsdam Prepared: Fall 2021 Updates

New Student Orientation

Congratulations on becoming a part of the SUNY Potsdam family!

About Orientation

What is Orientation?
Orientation is your time to become a part of the Potsdam community. You’ll have an opportunity to meet other first-year students, get to know campus programs and services, and speak with an academic advisor to choose your fall classes.

When is Orientation?
Students participate in orientation activities online throughout the summer and a full-day orientation program will take place on August 27. Before you arrive on campus in the fall for orientation, you’ll complete a number of steps to make sure you’re ready when your first semester begins. 

Once you’ve deposited, you will be moved through a series of steps to get you ready to arrive in late August. These steps will give you important information about academic advising and scheduling your classes, walk you through financial aid and billing, and help you meet and interact with your fellow incoming students. These steps are outlined on the New Student Services section of BearPAWS.

Orientation Fees:
First-Year Orientation Fee: The $200 fee includes all activities and transitional support programs throughout your first year. This fee will be included in your first College bill. There is no need to pre-pay.

Do families and guests come to Orientation?
On new student move-in day (Thursday, August 26), there will be opportunities for families and guests to learn more about the college, visit campus offices, and get answers to their questions. Families and guests leave on Thursday afternoon and students will begin their participation in Orientation and Welcome Weekend activities that run Thursday through Sunday.

Questions About Orientation?  Contact Us:
Office of Student & Family Transitions
128 Sisson Hall
(315) 267-2580 or

Important Dates

View Academic Calendar

Get started on your checklist today!

Set Up Your Potsdam Outlook Email Account

All official College communication is sent to your Potsdam email. It is very important to check your Potsdam Outlook email account often for orientation information and other important updates regarding your transition to SUNY Potsdam such as financial aid, health requirements, billing, etc.

Microsoft Outlook is a free app available in the Apple and Android App stores. Or, it can be accessed online at Login using your email address and campus computer account (CCA) password that you set up when you received your admission information email. Your SUNY Potsdam Outlook Email account is your Potsdam Your email password is the same as your BearPAWS password.

Microsoft Logo Icon

More information about Microsoft Outlook is available on the college website.

BearPAWS Login Instructions

BearPAWS is the portal to all of your important student information. You’ll use the site to register for classes, pay your bill, sign up for housing and meal plans, check your grades, track your degree progress, and much more. It’s essential that you begin familiarizing yourself with the site this summer as you will use it throughout your time as a student.

The New Student Services portal in BearPAWS is the place where you will fill out your mandatory health forms, complete an advising questionnaire, and sign up for housing and meal plans. The portal’s New Student Checklist also allows you to track that you’ve completed all of the steps required before you start your first semester at Potsdam.

Access BearPAWS

  • Use your Campus Computer Account (CCA) username and password
  • Go to the “New Student Services” link; follow the checklist and complete all steps.

Apply For Financial Aid

Make Sure To:

  • If you have not already submitted your 2021-2022 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at, you should do so immediately. The FAFSA needs to be completed before July 1st in order to have financial aid show on your fall billing statement.
  • Once the FAFSA is completed, New York State residents should apply for the Tuition Assistance Program (TAP) and the Excelsior Scholarship at (Higher Education Services Corporation website). The TAP application can be completed immediately after filing the FAFSA and should be done by July 1st as well. The Excelsior application becomes available later in the spring- please watch the HESC website for more information.
  • Go into BearPAWS to check what you still need to complete or submit to confirm your financial aid

Payment Deadlines:

  • August 15, 2021 - Fall Semester Payment Deadline
  • January 15, 2022 - Spring Semester Payment Deadline Payments received after these dates may be subject to late fees.

Send in Health Information

This information is due right away if you want to register for classes! Complete the health requirements for attending SUNY Potsdam online at BearPAWS:

  • Go to the “New Student Services” link
  • Click on “Student Health and Counseling Services” Portal
  • Click on “Forms” (complete the Health Information #3, Meningitis Response, and Tuberculosis Questionnaire)
  • Mail or email your immunization record to or fax your immunization records to (315) 267-3260.

    Student Health Services
    119 Van Housen Hall
    Potsdam, NY 13676
    Fax: (315) 267-3260

Student Health Services must ensure all new, readmitted, and transfer students meet state and local health requirements. Failing to comply with the health requirements will result in your inability to register for classes. See important details here.

Questions about health forms/requirements? 
Call Student Health Services at (315) 267-2377 or email

Complete your Orientation Moodle Modules

What is Moodle?

Moodle is an LMS (Learning Management System) that allows users to deliver content and instruction through a private website. Faculty can create individual Moodle courses for both their on-site classes and for their online courses. Among other things, Moodle allows faculty to post lectures, videos, assignments, discussion forums, quizzes, and questionnaires. Additionally, faculty and staff may use Moodle courses for various non-class related activities such as committees, project management, feedback, polling, and application submission.

  1. To access your Moodle Modules- you must log in to Moodle directly:

    Moodle Login Screen Screenshot
  1. Once logged in, choose Orientation Modules to begin the process of completing:
    Moodle Screenshot

Fill out the Advising Questionnaire

Before you can register for classes, your academic adviser needs to get to know your general interests and academic goals. Fill out the advising questionnaire on BearPAWS. Follow these simple steps:

  • Log in to BearPAWS
  • Go to the “New Student Services” link
  • Click on “Advising Questionnaire” (answer the questions and hit submit)

First Year advising appointments will not begin before Wednesday, June 2, 2021.

Questions about the Advising Questionnaire? 


Choose your WAYS Courses

During your first year at SUNY Potsdam you will take three WAYS of Beginning courses; a WAYS 101: Critical Thinking Seminar; a WAYS 102: College Writing Seminar and a WAYS 103: Speaking about Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Seminar.

Every student is required to take a WAYS 101: Critical Thinking Seminar in their first semester at Potsdam, designed to build your critical thinking skills. These seminars introduce you to the expectations of college, give you a small classroom experience focusing on an engaging puzzle or problem of your choice, and establish a sense of community among participants.  

In addition to taking a WAYS 101: Critical Thinking Seminar, some of you will enroll in a Core Writing class and others will be ready to leap right into the more demanding WAYS 102: College Writing Seminar. Those who take Core Writing in the fall will take WAYS 102 in their second semester. About half of you will take a WAYS 103: Talking about DEI Seminar in the fall and the other half will take it in the spring. Whether you take WAYS 103 in fall or spring will be based on your preferences, course availability, and your other WAYS choices.

In April you will be emailed a survey allowing you to select your preferred first-year WAYS seminars. When you complete this survey, you will be automatically registered for one of your choices for WAYS 101, and, if you so indicated, into one of your preferred sections of WAYS 102 or WAYS 103. No student will be registered for more than two WAYS seminars in their first semester. 

Once you’ve received the survey, please complete it as soon as possible. Seminar spaces are limited, and once these courses are full, they will be removed from the listing of courses. The longer you wait, the more limited your choices will become!  
Questions about your WAYS Courses? 
Email Christine Doran, Interim Director of the Potsdam Pathways Core Curriculum or Kailey Mahar, Assistant Director of Potsdam Pathways. You can find out more about your WAYS choices here.

Academic Advising

Once you have completed the steps necessary to be set up your advising appointment, a link will be sent to your campus email address to create an appointment with an academic advisor. 

Appointments will begin June 2, 2021

This link will not be sent until you have:

  • set up your CCA
  • completed your advising survey
  • completed your PATHWAYS survey
  • watched the required Modules in Moodle
  • completed the TWO requirements for Student Health Services

NOTE:  It may take up to 48 hours from the time you have completed these steps until you have received the email to set up your appointment. 

If you have any questions about advising or your advising meeting, please contact Kristin Jordan at

Register for Housing

Save the Date: April 15, 2021

After April 15, please refer to our webpage  for more detailed information. All students must indicate their housing preferences and/or apply for an exemption to live off campus (available online through BearPAWS).

We know that deciding where you want to live and who you might want to live with is a big decision.

June 15: Housing Deadline
We will make every effort fulfill the requests of students who sign up for housing by this date. In addition, students who complete by the deadline will receive advance notification of their housing assignment on August 1. Students can make changes to their request in BearPAWS until June 15.  Please note that we cannot process any changes once a student submits their request.

If you have any physical conditions or concerns that impact your housing needs, please see our website for information on how we can accommodate your needs.

First-year students must live on campus for 2 years/4 semesters.

Live On Campus:

  • Log in to BearPAWS
  • Go to the “New Student Services” link
  • Go to the “New Student Housing Registration” link
  • Read/agree to Housing License and submit
  • Indicate your housing preference from the dropdown menu
  • If you have a roommate request, provide their information. (Note: You are not required to have a roommate request.)
  • Submit your preferences

Live Off Campus - Apply for a Housing Exemption

  • Log in to BearPAWS
  • Go to the “New Student Services” link
  • Go to the “New Student Housing Registration” link
  • Indicate that you will not be residing on campus and continue on to complete the exemption form and submit.
  • You will receive an email with the decision of your request for exemption.

The First Year Experience (FYE)

The First Year Experience (FYE), housed in Bowman South, provides opportunities for first year students to make meaningful connections with their peers as well as faculty and staff at SUNY Potsdam. Studies show that students who make these connections during their first year of college have a better chance of performing well academically and reaching graduation. Further, FYE participants often remark that the friendships they made in their first year lasted long after graduation.

FYE combines three major components: residential, programmatic and academic to promote a fun, dynamic, and academically focused experience for first year students.

FYE Theme Floors:

Arts Floor:  One floor has been reserved for students interested in the visual arts, dance, drama and music. This floor is co-ed by door. Students planning to enroll in any arts-related courses are encouraged to take advantage of this unique program where you can live and learn in a community of artists.

Honors Floor: A portion of one floor has been reserved for students accepted into the Potsdam Honors Program. This floor is co-ed by door. A study lounge is provided for the use of the floor
participants. The Honors Floor has been designated as a study-intensive area.

Signing up for FYE Housing
To sign up to live in FYE, follow the Housing link in your checklist and make sure to express your interest in FYE on the housing online form. Space in FYE is limited and will be assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. For more information about FYE, please contact the Office of Residence Life at (315) 267-2350. For more information about the Honors Floor, contact the Honors Program at (315) 267-2900.

Sign Up for Meal Plan & Bear Express

Students are responsible for making meal plan selections and opting into Bear Express on BearPAWS before the start of the semester.

Students living on campus must have a meal plan; this is college policy. Meal Plans have three parts: weekly meal swipes, a semester’s worth of FLEX and a number of Guest Passes. Campus Meal Plan choices are based on how long students have lived on campus.  If you are required to have a plan and do not sign up for one, you will be assigned one. Your Meal Plan is accessed through your Campus Card. 

Meal Plans expire at the end of the semester; they are non-refundable, have no cash value and do not rollover into the next semester. Meal Plans are contracts and are valid for the academic year, billed in the fall and spring semesters.  Changes to Meal Plans must be made within a week of the start of classes on BearPAWS, or between semesters.

Bear Express is an optional spending account accessed through the Campus Card. Students must opt into Bear Express: the amount of money selected will be billed in both the fall and spring semesters. Changes or cancellation to the account must be made within a week of the start of classes on BearPAWS, or between semesters.

Bear Express can be used at the College Store, Dining Services, vending machines and campus locations. Bear Express can be used at participating off-campus businesses.

Money can be added to the account online through BearPAWS with a credit card, at the PACES Business Office or campus Dining Service locations with cash, check, credit, or debit cards.

Unused Bear Express account balances roll over from Fall to Spring semester and balances in excess of $20 at the end of the academic year will be credited to the student account.

Log in to BearPAWS

  • Go to the “New Student Services” link
  • Go to the “Meal Plan & Bear Express Registration”
  • Read/agree to Meal Plan License & click submit
  • Select your resident status
  • Select your Meal Plan
  • Select Bear Express amount for the semester
  • Click save

For details about how meal plans work, their costs, and commuter options, go online .

Campus Card

The campus ID card, also known as the Campus Card, provides access to your meal plan, residence hall, Bear Express account, fitness center and other campus services. All Potsdam students are required to have a Campus Card. Cards are issued at the PACES business office in Merritt Hall. Submit a photo and proof of identification to receive your card.
Photo requirements:

  • Must be in JPG file format
  • Must be in color
  • Must be taken within the last 6 months
  • There must be space above the top of your head and the bottom of your face
  • The photo must be on a plain white or light background
  • No hats, sunglasses or gestures

***Proof of ID Required:

  • Passport
  • Learner Permit
  • Driver License
  • State ID

To Submit your photo and Proof of ID online:

  • Go to:
  • Log in using your CCA (campus computer account – this is the account used when logging in to BearPAWS, or campus email)
  • Click on Submit ID Photo
  • Click on Upload ID- you must upload your ID before you can submit a photo
  • Click on Upload a Photo
  • Click on the Browse button to find the location of the photo you wish to upload
  • Select the desired photo, then click submit
  • Click on the browse button to find the location of the saved or scanned proof of ID then click submit.

***Proof of ID is required.   Photo submission without proof of ID will not be processed and will remain in a pending state all required documents have been submitted.

Submitting your photo and proof of ID will ensure your card will processed prior to your arrival on campus. 

View Campus Card FAQs

Order Textbooks

The College Store has partnered with MBS Direct to provide a customized online bookstore. This bookstore is built around a course-driven system that ensures you order and receive the right book, right on time. Your textbooks and course materials are shipped directly from a state of the art warehouse that is open 24 hours a day, 5 days a week. Our books are covered by a flexible and concise common sense return policy.

As you purchase course materials, keep your eyes open for Guaranteed Buyback title. When you select these in-demand items, you will see a minimum amount you can expect when you sell your books back to MBS Direct. This lets you take into account the actual cost of owning a Guaranteed Buyback title.

At this time credit card is the only form of payment accepted. We hope to have Bear Express as a form of payment in the near future.

If you are using Access / VR, VA, or EOP students you will receive an email from with the subject line: you have funds available. This email will give you instructions on how to log in, your voucher number and how to process your order.

If you do not receive this email about using our voucher system please contact us at (315) 267-2995

Ordering Your Books:

  • Click here: Order Books (
  • Select your courses from your academic class schedule
  • View your course materials and select your preferred format
  • Check Out
  • Select Guaranteed Buyback titles and save up to 70% off your course materials

Important Deadlines:

  • July 19, 2021: Fall textbooks are available to order
  • August 12, 2021: Deadline for free shipping of Fall textbooks
  • August 25, 2021: Pre-ordered textbooks available for pick up