A Day in the Life at University of Washington

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach—they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Stephanie is a Seattle tutor and graduate of University of Washington where she earned her bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in teaching. Stephanie currently specializes in English tutoring, writing tutoring, history tutoring, and a number of other subjects. See what she had to say about her time at University of Washington:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options.

Stephanie: The campus setting at the University of Washington is quite large, so much so that the university district had its own zip code. It is an urban setting just North of downtown Seattle, an easy 15-minute bus or car ride. There were places on campus where I felt safe and others where I did not. For example, there is a main street called the Ave, where I would never attend at night by myself. On the main campus setting though, I always felt safe. It was clearly lit with safety poles frequently spaced throughout the campus. There are multiple buses that go to the University of Washington campus, as far north as Everett to as far south as Tacoma. When I lived on campus I usually biked or walked to classes, depending upon the time I had in between classes. There is an amazing bike path called the Birke Gilman Trail that runs around the perimeter of campus that was nice to stroll along over the sunny weekends.

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants at University of Washington?

Stephanie: I found that the professors in the 100 and 200 level classes were not available for students. You primarily worked with their teaching assistants. Depending upon the class, the TA’s were not always available. I primarily relied on using study groups that I created within the first few weeks of class. In the 300 and above classes, however, the professors were amazing. They shared in my general interest and were willing to accommodate to my individual questions. Once I declared my major, I found that I could just pop into my academic adviser with any question. Until that point, I either rarely went to the academic advisers or found their advice not helpful to my individual situation.

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

Stephanie: I did not live in the dorm life. I lived in the sorority system for my first three years at the University of Washington, my fourth year I lived off campus in a house. In the sorority system there was opportunities to socialize every day, if you wanted to do so. The dining options were whatever the cook provided for the house for lunch and dinner. I got a small meal plan, that covered my coffee addiction and some meals if I didn’t like what was being served at the house. There are too many food options, in my opinion, at UW. Usually I was content with an Americano and a salad.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Stephanie: The UW is a research university, so there is a large focus on the sciences. They are the most represented on campus. Things such as medicine, engineering, technology and business were the common majors amongst my close groups of friends. I studied history, in particular American history. I felt that the UW did a great job providing a variety of courses in the history major that allowed me to focus on my area of interest, while at the same time learning about new cultures through their diverse graduation requirements. I was particularly focused on getting my history teaching endorsement, which required me to take additional courses beyond my history degree. Some of those courses were the ones that I enjoyed the most.

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?

Stephanie: I found to be quite easy to get to meet new people through my connection with the Greek System. In addition to that, they place each freshman in what is called a FIG, which stands for freshman interest group. This is a small group of students that you take the same classes as you first two quarters and meet once a week with an upperclassman leader who guides you through common topics. Within that FIG you are able to have someone to sit with on the first day of school and form study groups. The Greek system is the largest west of the Mississippi, with over 40 fraternities and sororities. They are an active part of the University of Washington social life with events happening constantly on campus.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services at University of Washington? 

Stephanie: Once I had the correct paperwork, the student support services were an amazing advocate for me. They were able to establish a learning plan for me that I presented to my professors at the beginning of each quarter. I also go to register early for the courses that worked best for me. I was able to use specific accommodations that I knew worked best for me and my learning style with no issues. The Career Center was always busy, so whenever I had questions regarding my graduation, I usually went to my department academic advisor to answer those particular questions.

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?

Stephanie: There are multiple study areas on campus for whatever learning environment you want. I am a learner where I need it to be silent with an individual spot for me to work. Whereas other people I knew went to the student union building where it was a constant talking level. Some libraries are over-crowded, in particular during mid-terms and finals week. You have to go early and claim your spot if that is where you want to study. Most libraries are walking distance on campus, with coffee shops available off campus. Not all libraries were 24 hours, only two. Those two were usually the busiest. One was primarily for graduate students, the other for undergraduate. You had to show your ID after 10 PM in order to stay in those particular libraries.

Describe the surrounding town.

Stephanie: The University of Washington is located within the Seattle city limits. There are things for people to do, whatever their interest is; from amazing restaurants that serve food from all over the world, to amazing sports and concert events happening on a weekly basis. I never found myself bored; if I wanted to do something in downtown Seattle, I could get there either by bus or car within 15 minutes.

How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes at University of Washington?

Stephanie: There are over 50,000 undergraduates and graduate students who attend the University of Washington. I would walk across campus and rarely see the same face twice. I was generally pleased with the class size, which is over 200 people. I knew what I was getting into and knew what I needed to do in order to succeed in this type of class setting.

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

Stephanie: A memorable experience I had with my favorite professor/class is when we had a discussion around institutional racism in the school system. This was the first time that I had heard this term and I expressed this to the class of around 40 people. I shared with them some personal struggles that I was having around this topic based upon my background. This was a risk for me to share and the professor acknowledged that; for me that confirmed my appreciation for each student in his class. That will be a moment where I felt validated by a professor in a way that I never had before.


Check out Stephanie’s tutoring profile.

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