The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Robert is a Seattle tutor specializing in SAT prep tutoring, ACT prep tutoring, Calculus tutoring, Physics tutoring, and many other subjects. He is a 2013 graduate of Tufts University with a Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical Engineering. See what he had to say about his school:
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?
Robert: The Tufts campus is small and pretty. All but a couple of buildings are within comfortable walking distance, and those that aren’t are still close. The campus is suburban, surrounded mostly by houses (no apartment buildings). Much of the closer housing is rented by students. A bike certainly doesn’t hurt, and there are lots of racks around campus, but since the main campus is a hill, effort is required. There is parking available at most residential locations that are given a student pass. Cars really aren’t necessary for travel on campus, though. For travel off campus, the Joey provides free transportation to the nearest subway stop (Davis square on the red line of ‘The T’, the local subway system). In the near future, there will be an on-campus stop on the green line, though to be frank, the red line is very convenient and Davis square is the nearest interesting location.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Robert: In my experience, professors and advisors are very available. I regularly would just show up at the doors of my advisor and a few professors and they would be willing to help me. Otherwise, emails are answered very quickly. I honestly can’t remember the last time I needed to see a TA, so I can’t speak to that.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Robert: This varies wildly from dorm to dorm. Some rooms are large and some are small, depending on where you are. There is a dichotomy between uphill and downhill. It’s not hard to get from one to the other; it’s just easier to get from one uphill place to another uphill place than from uphill to downhill and vice-versa. The food is good at both dining halls as well as the take-out food hall (and you should take advantage of it while forced to pay for the unlimited meal plan during freshman year). Since the campus is so small, getting to any location is really not a problem. Socialization is particularly big for freshmen and sophomores, who are required to live on campus. There were many dorm events, including weekly hall snacks, and larger campus events to facilitate socialization and cultural interaction. I personally spent most of my time with people in my hall and any friends they had made. These same people were my friends all four years of college and I currently live with two roommates of the last few years.
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?
Robert: There is definitely a large emphasis on the liberal arts and a broad education. There’s also focus on leadership. For undergraduates, the two big majors are Peace & Justice Studies and International Relations, though I think any major is represented well. As an Engineering student, I can say that engineers get some special treatment. As a minority with more technical coursework (and more required courses), engineers get the huge boon of being able to pick classes first (even freshmen engineers pick before senior Liberal Arts majors).
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?
Robert: As stated above, it was quite easy to make friends as a freshman. There are a lot of really good people attending Tufts, and I was fortunate enough to spend my freshman year with a whole building of truly excellent people. Many of the friends I made there are friends to this day. Greek life plays a role in social life. It did not at all affect me, as I did not attend fraternity parties; many of my friends did, however. I think that, overall, most of the people I know didn’t make great friends at fraternities.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Robert: The Career Center is very helpful if you’re willing to go get help. They will set up mock interviews and look over your resumé to make sure that you are in a good state for job hunting. I was in a very unique position of having a planned move to Seattle when I started to utilize the Career Center, and as a result, there were few job opportunities available to me. They do get many job postings for the east coast, particularly the Boston Area. I recognized some of the companies as big names in robotics (which is what I was looking for at the time), but that makes sense since Boston has many robotics companies.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Robert: The library and dorm lounges are usually quite spacious and easily available. They’re also generally quiet enough to easily do work (particularly the library). The campus center is small and can be crowded (and a bit noisier). It’s still quite a nice environment to get work done, and a lot of group projects or other work requiring communication gets done there (for instance, I tutored a student there). They also have food and activities at the campus center (such as ping-pong tables).
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?
Robert: Medford is more or less a suburban town. There are some decent restaurants and a couple of parks (and it’s pretty nice to walk around). Somerville is a bit more like the city. Davis and Porter squares have quite a few restaurants and a movie theater. The red line takes you into Harvard square, Central Square, Kendal MIT, and eventually into Boston. There’s plenty to do at each of these locations, and there are many college-aged students as well (Harvard and MIT, for instance). I think most students stay on campus or go into Davis for fun, especially since Boston doesn’t stay up too late. It’s nice to go into the city on a weekend and explore, or stop by one of the aforementioned squares to try something new.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Robert: Each graduating class at Tufts has about 1,300 students, which isn’t all that many. As a mechanical engineer, classes varied from large lecture halls of over 100 students to classes of about 15 students. As an applied math student, classes varied from 5 – 40 students. The only time classes were in any way displeasing is when certain math classes would seat 40 in a room intended for less. Otherwise, class size was fine.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Robert: This might not be super helpful, but I took Differential Equations with this French teacher. He would come in every day with two long-sleeved shirts and would take off the outer shirt when he got into the classroom. I remember one day he was teaching us something regarding vectors and it was late in the class on a Friday and we all wanted to leave. He asked a question and the room was silent. His response was “You don’t give a damn! You can all go.” It wasn’t angry, or meant to make us feel bad. It was simply a candid observation. I actually learned a lot in that class, and went on to grade papers for the same professor (in the same subject) two years later.
Check out Robert’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.