1. The application process will be less stressful. By studying abroad in the fall, you will be gathering materials throughout the summer, when you have more free time. Other than the Penn State application, you will have certain application papers due for your program itself, recommendation letters to take care of, perhaps a language competency exam or similar quota to meet, and maybe even application for a passport or visa if you do not have those materials already. For most countries, it can take weeks at a time to even schedule a visa application appointment with the consulate here in the United States. After obtaining an appointment, the list of required documents can sometimes be quite lengthy - some of those documents could require bank statements, housing bills, or other information that may take some time to retrieve. Without the stress of classes or final exams piling up before your departure, you can concentrate on getting everything you need together for your international travel during the summer months. (Plus you'll probably have Mom and Dad around to help!)
2. More funds may be available to support your financial needs. With the fiscal year beginning July 1st, more funds may be available for you to receive for a fall study abroad term. Remember that the amount of funds designated for study abroad students varies each year and varies with each case, so this is not a guarantee. However, being that the fall semester is the first full semester of the fiscal year, the college may have a bit more funding allocated for student enrichment activities. Check with the Career Enrichment Network for more details on these enrichment funds and for the application or stop by the office in 5 Sparks Building during drop-in hours (MWF 2:00pm-5:00pm, TR 11:00am-5:00pm).
3. You have three to four months of summer to find a job (or two) and save up money for your trip. With the open summer months preceding your trip, you are more likely to find a steady job, one that offers sufficient hours that you don't have to work around a class schedule. This way, when it comes time to leave, you don't have to worry that you recently spent all your savings on regular semester expenses (books, groceries, extracurricular activities fees).
4. It is much easier to find housing for your returning spring semester at Penn State. While the majority of students study abroad in the spring, this turns around to be a benefit for those studying abroad in the fall: all those students leaving in January need to find sublets for their apartments. If you are looking for housing in the spring, there will more likely be apartments available for you to take - and those looking to get rid of these sublets will probably be more apt to negotiating prices. Most students studying abroad in the spring just want to get rid of their place and are willing to bring down the price for those interested. A lot of available sublets seem to be posted on Facebook pages by class (i.e. "Penn State Class of 2015" page), so be sure to check those out.
5. Adjusting to American lifestyles will come more naturally with your return to Penn State in the spring. Though some of you will not experience culture shock upon your return to the United States, some of you will find it difficult adjusting back to "normal life", especially "normal school life". I found that by having the spring semester starting only a few weeks after I came back helped me adjust a bit more naturally because I wasn't hanging around my parents' house for long periods of time. You may find this appealing as well - with an organized schedule, old friends, and the familiarity of Penn State's campus awaiting you after your fabulous trip, you may feel welcomed and at home again more quickly.
*Bonus: You come home just in time for Penn State Dance Marathon in February! Who wants to miss out on helping to raise over $10.6 million dollars FTK? While abroad, you can still stay involved throughout the fall in donating online or sending out THONvelopes from wherever you are in the world.