A Day in the Life at University of Michigan

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Samantha is a Philadelphia tutor specializing in a multitude of subjects such as Statistics tutoring, Physiology tutoring, and Italian tutoring. She studied Biopsychology and Music at University of Michigan where she graduated from in 2012. See what she had to say about her undergraduate experience:


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?                                                                                             

Samantha: The campus at the University of Michigan is extremely diverse. Central Campus (the main part of campus) is relatively urban, with a variety of businesses, stores, and restaurants. North campus (the home of the music, theatre, engineering and art programs) is a more suburban/rural area with rolling hills, small lakes and a plethora of green space. Despite the occasional petty crime, campus is very well monitored and extremely safe. The campus is quite large, however, so while there is no need for a car, bikes and the university bus system are often necessary to travel the entirety of campus.

VT:  How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Samantha: The exceedingly large size of the university inherently limits the contact between faculty and students. Despite the often large class sizes, all professors hold office hours and are extremely approachable and are often thrilled to have interpersonal contact with students. Advisors and teaching assistants are not inundated with such large classes, so they are significantly more available than their professor counterparts. Generally, if a student needs help, wants guidance or merely wants to interact with faculty or staff, they are easily able to. However, if students are not proactive, they will likely not cultivate meaningful relationships with the professors. 

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Samantha: There are a variety of dorm layouts and locations at the University of Michigan. Most dorms are the traditional layout, but some are suite-style. There are dorms throughout central campus and one very large dorm on north campus. Each dorm is situated either directly next to or very near to a dining hall. Each dining hall has a variety of options that can accommodate all dietary restrictions. Michigan, throughout history, has been lauded for its masterful balance of emphasis on strong academics and on cultivating friendships through active socialization opportunities. The dorms are no different – they contain quiet study rooms but also organize many social excursions and activities.

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? 

Samantha: The University of Michigan’s success and representation is quite evenly distributed across programs and majors. I graduated with a dual degree in Music (vocal performance) and Neuroscience. Both my areas of study were extremely comprehensive – with numerous diverse elective selections to supplement the core curriculum. Additionally, I was thrilled with the instruction in both my majors. Both my professors and graduate student instructors/assistants were not only competent teachers, but also leaders in their field (be it musical performance or research). The university also supported both my areas of study financially. Merit and need-based aid were both readily accessible if earned and sought. 

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?

Samantha: I am very outgoing, so I immediately felt comfortable on campus and had many friends. The size of the university is certainly daunting to some, but it also means that the university is abundant in resources and in activities. I found that I could find people extremely easily who had similar interests, clubs that facilitated meeting those with similar interests, and activities aimed at cultivating new friendships. The University of Michigan is the kind of school where a student does not have to actively try to be involved – it is expected and significantly easier than the alternative. I have yet to meet a Michigan graduate who did not love their experience – social and otherwise. Post-graduation, I have made more of my friends through Michigan alumni networks than anywhere else – the spirit for the university and the number of opportunities for involvement and change are so abundant, that it transcends the four years of schooling.

Greek life has a presence on campus, but by no means is a necessity to have a thriving social life. I did not participate in Greek life, but I have many friends that did and both of our experiences were extremely rich and neither precludes one from taking advantage of all that Michigan has to offer.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Samantha: I cannot say enough about this. The Career Center played an integral role in my life throughout my junior and senior year. I decided to attend Drexel University for my PhD because of the Career Center – and couldn’t be happier with my choice. 

The reputation of the University of Michigan is outstanding, and the alumni network is unparalleled. As a result, most large corporations either actively recruit at Michigan or at least are represented at one of the many job fairs on campus. 

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges?  Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious? 

Samantha: I am aware of at least 11 libraries on the campus of the University of Michigan. Additionally, there are many rooms at the Michigan League Student Union and all dormitories that offer productive study areas. They all certainly “get busy” around midterms and finals, but in my four years, I never had any problems finding a place to study. The study areas are also extremely diverse – offering group areas, computer labs, meeting rooms, quiet rooms, private individual carrels, media rooms, etc.

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? 

Samantha: Ann Arbor is internationally acclaimed. It is a very artsy town and revolves entirely around the university. There are numerous fine dining restaurants and art galleries in addition to the traditional college-town establishments. Furthermore, there are theatres, music venues and many events occurring in the town of Ann Arbor. While the town is filled with possibilities for activities, there are also a great deal of activities occurring on campus. The Music, Theatre & Dance school is top in the nation, so there are always concerts, musicals, operas and plays available to students (for free or cheap) around campus. There are also many non-formalized music and arts performances. Additionally, Michigan is famous for its sports! Football Saturdays are a fixture in Michigan tradition, and there are always basketball games, hockey games, and other sports around as well. If you don’t want to watch them, you can always play them too. There are many club and intramural teams around campus, and if one that you want doesn’t exist, you can make it. 

It all of my years living in Ann Arbor, I only traveled to Detroit a handful of times – and almost always for organized events: date parties, Red Wings games, Lions games, Tigers games, the Detroit Jazz Festival, operas at the Detroit Opera House, Detroit Symphony concerts. Detroit has much to offer, but it is never necessary to leave Ann Arbor unless you want to!

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Samantha: The student body is huge. It is entirely a personal preference – but I was generally quite pleased with the class sizes. I often attended large lectures (upwards of 100-200 students), but they were all divided into small discussion sections that met once a week. As students work their way into the more specialized upper-level courses of their program, the classes generally get smaller and smaller and students have more contact with faculty. For me, it was a good transition from the lower level classes to the more specialized upper level classes – but lectures are unavoidable in most programs.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most. 

Samantha: My senior year I decided to branch out and take a 400-level (highest undergraduate level) small seminar in political science – a topic I had never taken a class in before. The title of the class was “The History of Zionism and the Middle East Conflict.” The content seemed interesting (despite my lack of previous exposure to any class of this nature) and the readings were extremely applicable to understanding current events. The class, unbeknownst to me at the time, consisted of 10 students and a discussion/debate format. Without a doubt, this class was the most challenging, most interesting and most rewarding class I have ever taken at the University of Michigan. My professor, Dr. Lieberman, taught us by example how to be informed consumers of politics and current events, how to effectively research, and how to self-initiate large-scale writing assignments. This class, although entirely unrelated to my area of study, was a signal to me that I was capable and ready to embark on a PhD program.

Many other classes and professors made an extremely large mark on my intellectual endeavours and my personal ones – if I had unlimited time and space, I could write a book about my positive experiences at the University of Michigan (and likely only a few small pages about the negative ones).

Check out Samantha’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.