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New Student Orientation

Congratulations on becoming a part of the SUNY Potsdam family!

About Orientation

What is Orientation?
Orientation is your time to become part of the Potsdam community.  There are required enrollment steps to complete before your fall arrival as well as in-person orientation activities when you get to campus.  Prior to arriving on campus, you’ll have an opportunity to speak with an academic advisor to choose your fall classes.  During the in-person portion of orientation, you will meet other first-year Potsdam students, get to know campus programs and services and more.

Please Note: Students enrolling in the online Political Science degree program are exempt from the following:  in-person orientation, submitting health information, campus housing and meal plan selections. More information about supports and programming for online Political Science students will be forthcoming.

When is Orientation?
Students participate in a full day of in-person orientation programming on Friday, August 25.  Upon confirming your SUNY Potsdam enrollment, you are emailed access to your campus account and a set of required online orientation steps to get you ready to arrive on campus. These steps will give you important information about academic advising and class scheduling, financial aid and billing, submitting required health information and more.

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.

Questions About Orientation?  Contact Us:
Student Success Center
128 Sisson Hall
(315) 267-2580 or

Important Dates

See the Fall 2023 section of the Academic Calendar below.

View Academic Calendar

Get Started On Your Checklist Today!

Before you can proceed with anything else, you must have successfully set up your Potsdam Outlook Email Account. Refer to the email that was sent to your personal account with the subject: “IMPORTANT: Required Next Steps for your Fall 2023 Enrollment at SUNY Potsdam”

If you have set up your Potsdam email account, you can keep reading…

Please be sure to use the instructions on this orientation webpage as your guide to completing all required steps.  To track your completion progress, you have a New Student Checklist in BearPAWS:

  •  Access BearPAWS
  • Select New Student Services
  • Select New Student Checklist
  • Now that you know how to access BearPAWS and your New Student Checklist, keep following the instructions on this webpage.

If you have any questions, please contact

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)
  • Immunization Information

    • If you received your immunizations in NYS, it is likely that we already have proof of your MMR, COVID-19, and Meningitis ACWY vaccines.

    • If you are a non-traditional student or you didn't receive your immunizations in NYS, please upload your immunization records using this secure link or fax your records to (315) 267-3260.

  • If we are missing any records from you, we will inform you of what is missing through your email account soon after you submit your 'forms'.

  • When you have completed the NYS health requirements, we will send you a confirmatory email to your account.

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

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)

Note: First Year advising appointments will not begin before June 5, 2022. 

Questions about the Advising Questionnaire? 

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 for new incoming students will begin June 5, 2023.

This link will not be sent until you have:

  • set up your CCA
  • completed your advising questionnaire
  • completed ALL 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

Make Sure To:

  • Review, Accept and Complete Outstanding Requirements for your Financial Aid.  
  • Visit the One Stop webpage  for a link explaining how to Review / Accept Aid / Outstanding Requirements  
  • If you have not already submitted your 2023-2024 Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), you should do so immediately.   
  • 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. The Excelsior application becomes available later in the summer - please watch the HESC website for more information.  

Payment Deadlines:

  *   August 15, 2023 - Fall Semester Payment Deadline
  *   January 15, 2024 - Spring Semester Payment Deadline

Payments received after these dates may be subject to late fees and account holds.

Save the Date: April 15

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 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 who place a high priority on their academics and want to live with likeminded individuals. 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. 

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

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/JPEG/PNG file format at least 310 x 370 pixels in dimension, maximum size of 6MB 
  • Must be in color with a plain, white or solid background without people or objects 
  • Must be taken within the last 6 months  
  • No hats, sunglasses or gestures  
  • Head shot of you facing the camera, with eyes open and visible

    View Photo Example (PDF) 

Photos that do not meet the specified criteria may be rejected. 

***Proof of ID Required:  

  • Passport  
  • Learner Permit  
  • Driver License  
  • State ID  

To Upload your Identification and Photo  

  • 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 
  • Click on the Browse button to find location and select a photo of your Proof of ID (JPG/JPEG, PNG file format) 
  • Click Submit 
  • Click on Upload Photo 
  • Click on the Browse button to find location and select your ID (JPG/JPEG, PNG file format) 
  • Click Submit 

***Proof of ID is required.   Photo submission without proof of ID will not be processed. Submitting your photo and proof of ID will ensure your Campus Card will be processed and active prior to your arrival on campus.  Check your emails prior to the start of the semester for instructions on receiving your card. You must bring a government photo ID to pick up your campus card: Passport, NYS driver's license or original birth certificate. 

Payment is due in full prior to the start of the semester! 

  • Students view and pay toward the e-bill through their BearPAWS account. (Student Services Tab/Student Records) 
  • Family members/friends assisting with student finances access the e-bill through the Transact  portal if the student adds them as an authorized user from the e-bill "My Account" menu. 
  • Overpayment of funds (in other words, more financial aid than needed to pay the semester bill) are issued to the student directly through BankMobile Disbursements. Look for a refund selection kit in the mail prior to the start of the semester! 
  • A Payment Plan is available and is accessible through the e-bill Transact portal. This should be set up prior to the start of the semester! 
  • Late fees nad account holds will be applied to any unpaid balances after 30-days. 

A few tips: 

  • Look for your first e-bill in mid-July! Students will get an email reminder. (See instructions above.)No paper bills will be sent. 
  • Financial Aid will appear in the “credits” column of the e-bill. 
  • If you are expecting an award and it is not showing on the e-bill: 
    1. Please check your BearPAWS (under Student Requirements) for any outstanding issues, or contact us as soon as possible. 
    2. Subtract your anticipated aid from your balance due and pay the difference.
      This may help avoid incurring a late fee or hold. 


Additional Resources you may find helpful: 

  • Video tutorials are available to assist you. 
  • One Stop will present information about e-bills during Orientation. 
  • Tuition Insurance is available should you wish to protect your College investment! 
  • One Stop 

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.

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) 267-2006 or 

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


Questions about vouchers: (315) 267-2006 |
After placing your order: 1-800-325-3252 |