The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Michelle is an Atlanta tutor specializing in several subjects including Biology tutoring, AP English tutoring, SSAT prep tutoring, and more. She graduated from The University of Georgia in 2012 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. Check out her review of her alma mater:
VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?
Michelle: UGA is located within the small, college town of Athens, GA. Athens has a small town vibe, especially since most of its residents are somehow associated with the university, but UGA itself is quite a large school. Accordingly, the campus is quite large. While most places can be reached in about 15 minutes on foot (the time you get in between classes), there are some paths that are simply too far. Luckily, UGA offers a comprehensive, free bus system. Sometimes the buses are absolutely packed...it just depends where you're going and at what time of day. Many students use bikes to get around but that option never seemed very appealing to me given all of the hills! A car is helpful, but parking passes can be expensive/messy. It would probably be better to coordinate with a friend, split the pass, and carpool.
Campus is safe. It's nestled right up to downtown Athens: four or five cross streets of dive bars, restaurants, and boutiques. Convenient if you want to go shopping or meet a friend for coffee in between classes!
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Michelle: I was always able to schedule time outside class with my professors and TA's when I wanted to. I had an unofficial graduate student mentor for about two years while working in the non-human primate lab. She wrote many a recommendation letter for me and she and I still keep in close contact.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Michelle: You are required to live on campus in a dorm during your freshman year, which I think is a great way to become acclimated to college life. Many of my friends throughout the four years came from my freshman dorm. It's nice to find ways to make such a big school feel a bit smaller – and it really works. I was on the meal plan freshman year as well and I loved it. There are lots of dining halls, conveniently located both to classes and to the dorms. There is even one open 24 hours on weekdays! Dining halls were always a great place to run into friends and have an impromptu meal or hang out while sitting around studying and drinking coffee for hours.
VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?
Michelle: It's such a big school, so it's hard to say. Maybe the business school is best represented and supported. I know we're known for our law school as well. Either way, I studied Psychology in the school of Arts and Sciences. I had already studied psych for two years in high school (as AP and IB courses) and I knew it was something that absolutely fascinated me. Beyond that, I didn't know what I wanted to do with it when I graduated. From what I could tell, the Psychology department is pretty strong at UGA, besides being located in the most confusing building ever! I loved my academic adviser – she was always available if I had a quick question and helped me shuffle my schedule around when I found myself in a pickle.
VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?
Michelle: Greek life is huge at UGA, but that being said, I was never a participant and I found making friends to be very easy and fun, especially as a freshman! Certainly many people go in knowing people already because, after all, it is a state school, so high schools from all over Georgia feed into it. I saw people I knew from high school occasionally, but we all also made new friends. If you're Jewish, I think it's worth considering the tight-knit nature of the Jewish community on campus; there are Greek organizations affiliated with Judaism, as well as very active Chabad and Hillel houses.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Michelle: At the time, I felt pretty pleased with the support I got from the Career Center on campus. You can make an appointment and meet with an adviser who specifically deals with graduates from your school. My adviser helped me with my resume, some general advice, and most importantly, relieved some of the anxiety I felt about graduating and not being able to get a job. However, in hindsight, I see that the majority of people I know who graduated from schools with a "better reputation" like GA Tech or Emory moved out and got a job straight away while many of my UGA friends really struggled to secure entry-level positions in their desired fields. I think it comes down to a certain culture on campus (and perhaps it would have been different if I'd majored in something more skills-oriented, like marketing) wherein there isn't the expectation that you will be able to get a full-time job in your field once you graduate.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Michelle: I loved studying at the Main Library. There are so many places to study on and off campus; you'll try them all out and find the one you like the best. The SLC (I know, I know, it's "MLC" now) was always too loud and bustling for me, but some people like a bit of noise. I liked the peacefulness of the Main Library. I don't recommend trying to find a study space anywhere besides in your dorm room/apartment during finals week because there is so much unwarranted anxiety in the air everywhere you go – it's best to just study somewhere more isolated, I found.
VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments/ things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus?
Michelle: Downtown Athens is by no means a big city, but don't be fooled! There are tons of bars, restaurants, and shops around to keep you occupied both during the daytime and nighttime. The east side of downtown is "fratty" while the west side is more "hipster." If you want to go be social, there is no dearth of opportunity, even on a nondescript Wednesday evening. Athens also has a fun live music scene worth checking out. There's nothing boring about living in Athens, I promise.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Michelle: The student body is huge, but you wouldn't really know it, honestly. I used to run into people I knew on campus all the time. Once you start to get involved in clubs/organizations/activities/Greek life/whatever you're into, you start to carve out a niche for yourself, and the school becomes that much smaller. There are certainly massive 300-person intro lecture courses, but there are also 25-person labs and break-off discussion groups, etc. You get to choose your experience when you're making your schedule.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Michelle: Probably my favorite classes to date were those I took with Professor Railsback in the Geology department. I took his Historical Geology course first and loved his teaching style so much that I signed up for his Oceanography class a few semesters later. Dr. Railsback never took things too seriously, but was still acutely aware of different learning styles and the importance of connections and hierarchical learning within the classroom.
I probably shouldn't end this Q&A without also discussing my experience in the Non-Human Primate Lab in a bit more detail. I assisted graduate students with their behavioral research on captive Capuchin monkeys. I had never met a monkey in real life before, so that was exciting! Before graduating, I conducted my own research, with the help of my graduate student mentor and faculty mentor, on how seasonality affected wild Capuchin known paths through the jungles of Brazil using GPS data. It was all very hands-on and I enjoyed getting a taste of the research experience!
Check out Michelle’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.