The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Pooja is a Houston tutor specializing in Biology tutoring, Geometry tutoring, History tutoring, and a number of other areas. She is currently a junior at University of Houston majoring in Biology and History. See what she had to share about University of Houston:
VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or rural is the campus? Did you feel safe on campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?
Pooja: The campus is relatively small and easy to navigate, as all the buildings are – at a maximum – 10 minutes away from one another. The campus is very bike-friendly, and many people are seen biking to and from classes. University of Houston also offers a campus bus route that goes between most of the buildings, as well as to the stadium and parking lots that are farther away from campus. The METRORail was also extended to the university this past semester. It will be operational in the fall, which will be great for commuters!
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Pooja: Professors are always available during their office hours to answer any questions you may have. Although it may seem intimidating, I have found that professors are much more relaxed during office hours, as well as personable. They love having students visit them, which is what office hours are for, after all! The academic advisers, however, are usually hit or miss. Your meetings with them may only be about 10 minutes long, and they are just to make sure you are on track. I would much rather talk to a professor concerning any academic questions. The teaching assistants are for the most part helpful. They are picked to be in that position because they have previously done well in the course. It really depends on how dedicated they are to their job. I have had great teaching assistants, but also ones who did the minimum, which was very frustrating.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Pooja: There are many dorms on campus, and I would highly recommend partaking in dorm life as a freshman. You meet so many people that you can form close bonds with for the rest of college. There have been studies that show that those who participate in college life tend to graduate happier and more quickly than those who do not, so getting the full college experience is crucial! Most of the rooms are for two people, although some are suites (where two two-person rooms share a bathroom). Many of the newer dorms also have study lounges on each floor, which is a huge benefit when you need to do some late-night studying away from the temptations of your bed! There are also many dining options on campus that fill a variety of cravings and that are open relatively late.
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?
Pooja: Bauer College of Business is definitely hugely supported by alumni and is now recognized nationwide. I am pursuing a double major in History and Biology. I picked History initially because I absolutely love the subject. I had a wonderful AP United States History teacher in high school who made me love the material, and it has stuck with me ever since. As for Biology, I decided that I wanted to go into the health field when I am older, and as a result, I realized that I would need to take the MCAT. As I began taking the requirements for medical school, I noticed that I almost had enough hours for a major in Biology and decided to go for that as well.
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?
Pooja: Freshman year I went to a school out of state, but I am sure my experience there was similar to what it would have been at University of Houston. Although it may not seem like it, most people are just as nervous as you are about meeting new students. My advice is to take the risk! I went to a new state knowing no one, and the girl who lived across the hall ended up becoming one of my closest friends. College is like a new slate, and you should take every chance you can to meet new people and have new experiences. At my first school, Greek life played a huge role in campus social life, and I myself was in a sorority. However, at University of Houston, Greek life does not play as big of a role as it did at my first school. But there are many fraternities and sororities to join, and there are also tons of other student organizations as well.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Pooja: The Career Center offers many workshops on interview preparation and how to ramp up your resume! Although I have never personally gone to one of these workshops, I have heard that they are quite helpful. Many reputable companies, especially those in the Business field, do recruit on campus, including Accenture and KBM Group. Many of these companies come to career fairs, so it is a benefit to attend those as much as possible! I have many friends in the Bauer College of Business who have obtained internships and even jobs from these career fairs.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Pooja: Finding a place to study on campus can be challenging, especially during finals. I usually head to the library to study, but I try to avoid the crowded areas. There are sections of the library where there are individual study carrels, and I usually head there since it is much quieter and less distracting. Most of the buildings on campus have ample study space, so it is really just about exploring and finding somewhere that is comfortable for you.
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?
Pooja: University of Houston is about a 10-minute drive from downtown Houston. There are tons of museums and restaurants nearby, as well as the zoo and the Toyota Center, where many concerts are held. There are also many coffee shops near campus which I absolutely love! One of my biggest hobbies is checking out new coffee shops as potential study spots, so going downtown is pretty common for me. Besides downtown, nothing else is too close to campus. University of Houston is right off of three different freeways, which makes traveling to different parts of Houston fairly easy.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Pooja: University of Houston’s student body is quite large, although it does not seem like it, since over 50% of the students commute. Introductory classes are generally pretty packed, but not to the point that it was uncomfortable for me. Professors are always more than willing to answer any questions you may have in office hours if you feel uncomfortable asking in front of many students. As you take more and more upper-level courses, you find that your class size shrinks significantly.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Pooja: My favorite professor, hands down, was Dr. Vida. The first course I took with him was a genetics lab, and although it was extremely difficult and time-consuming, it really pushed me. Through it, I realized that I was capable of so much more than I had previously thought. Dr. Vida was also not only a professor, but a mentor as well. He deeply cared for all of his students and their success, so much so that he remembered over 300 names and actually took the time to get to know his students. I am taking him again this semester, and although the course is extremely challenging, it is about so much more than just receiving a good grade. Dr. Vida stresses the importance of learning to learn and not just to make an A in the class. He is truly what any educator should be: passionate about the subject and patient.
Check out Pooja’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.