A Day in the Life at University of Virginia

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Ali graduated from the University of Virginia in 2013 with a Bachelor’s degree in Drama and Arts Administration. She is a New York City tutor who specializes in SAT prep tutoring, ISEE prep tutoring, SSAT prep tutoring, Writing tutoring, and more. 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?

Ali: The campus (or “The Grounds” as we refer to it at UVA) is completely accessible without a car, but the free University Bus Service runs regularly around Grounds in case you don’t feel like walking or need to make a quick class change. First-years aren’t allowed to keep a car in Charlottesville, but many upperclassmen choose to bring one once they move off-campus. Lack of parking on Grounds makes it pretty inconvenient to drive to class, but having a car makes grocery shopping, traveling to/from school, and exploring C’ville a bit easier.

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

Ali: No matter what, someone will be there to help you! Who you go to for assistance will probably depend on the class size. In my seminars or smaller lectures, professors were always readily available. It might be a bit more difficult to schedule a meeting with the professor from a 250-person lecture, but certainly not impossible! In that scenario, you’ll generally have a smaller discussion section and/or a teaching assistant; my TAs were always easily accessible and happy to answer my questions.

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

Ali: All first-year students are required to live in dorms and there are two first-year housing complexes on Grounds: McCormick Road or “Old Dorms,” and Alderman Road or “New Dorms.” Most students prefer Old Dorms because of their convenient location, but others like New Dorms for their more modern amenities (air conditioning, newer study rooms and laundry facilities, etc.).

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?

Ali: Economics, Psychology, Biology, International Relations, and Business are UVA’s largest majors; however, I’m not sure if that makes them any better represented or better supported than any other departments. I had fantastic experiences with Mathematics, Politics, English, and Religious Studies courses as well! As an undergraduate, I created my own major in Arts Administration and Non-Profit Management through UVA’s Interdisciplinary Studies program. The program allows you to design your own curriculum, drawing from classes in a variety of academic departments.

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?

Ali: All first-years live together in dorms, so it’s pretty easy to befriend other students on your floor or your hall. About 30% of UVA students join Greek life, so the majority of students are not in fraternities or sororities – even though the school’s social reputation suggests otherwise. Many think of UVA as an “Old South” school, but in reality, the social scene is hugely diverse; whoever you are and whatever your interests, there’s a place for you! I joined a sorority in my first year and loved it, but many of my close friends did not participate in Greek life. It’s a great way to meet people, but definitely not required to build a circle of friends.

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

Ali: I used the Career Center for advice regarding cover letters and resumes while applying to summer internships; they were very helpful!

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

Ali: Most students study at home, in libraries, or in nearby coffee shops. There are three main libraries; all are very cozy and useful for different reasons. I generally studied in Alderman or Clark, but I did pull a few late nights at Clemons (open 24 hours from Sunday through Thursday if you’re in a time crunch). Study spaces get a bit crowded around midterms and finals, but I was always able to find a spot!

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?

Ali: A small city at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville has it all: a bustling downtown area with a great music and arts scene, gorgeous hiking trails in the surrounding countryside, tons of incredible restaurants, a rich local history, and more. Students really take advantage of everything the town has to offer; it was a fantastic place to go to school!

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

Ali: We have around 21,000 students in total, about 14,000 of which are undergrads. Your class sizes will depend on your major and the level of the class; introductory classes are generally pretty large, but class size quickly shrinks as you begin to take intermediate and advanced level seminars. Most of my classes had 8-25 people in them.

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

Ali: I loved Theology, Ethics, and Medicine taught by James Childress. The course inspired interesting and profound discussions about religion and politics with regards to biomedical ethics. I took it as an elective in my first semester and would highly recommend it to any incoming student!


Check out Ali’s tutoring profile.

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