The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Tom is an Atlanta tutor specializing in Algebra tutoring, Calculus tutoring, Geometry tutoring, and many other subjects. He is currently a sophomore majoring in Chemistry at Vassar College. Check out his review of 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?
Tom: Vassar College is in a small town in upstate New York. The town population is about 44,000, and the college itself hosts about 2,500 students. The campus is relatively small, so students can easily walk to their classes. About one-third of the student population travels by bikes or long boards. However, the school security does provide vehicular transportation on campus, and students can take advantage of that if they need to carry heavy packages across campus. Every Saturday, the school runs shuttles to the local mall, and students can take cabs to the local train station if they want to go to New York City.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Tom: A majority of the professors have office hours, and they encourage students to visit them and ask them any questions that come to mind. I have gone to many professors during their office hours, and I left with my questions answered each time. Furthermore, professors encourage you to email them and set up appointments with them if the office hours are inconvenient. Some will even write you a lengthy email to answer your questions when appointments cannot be scheduled! We also have a Writing Center and a Quantitative Reasoning Center (Q-Center) to help students with writing and quantitative assignments. Students who have been approved by the faculty run shifts in the Writing Center and Q-Center, and they will answer any questions you may have and help you improve, all free of charge.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Tom: The dorm life is very different from when I was at home. Getting used to the existence of a roommate and sharing a bathroom with ten other people took some time to adjust to, but it also allowed me to build friendships in a whole new way. From awkward encounters to group dinners to late night star-gazing, two semesters of my freshman year felt like a decade spent with the best people. As far as dining goes, it is good, but nothing like home. My dad is Chinese and a very enthusiastic cook. He constantly thinks of new dishes to make and always surprises me with delicious meals. This, however, spoiled me and gave me a very high standard with food. While the school cafeteria has a lot of options and changes its menu from day to day, it is still a bit dull for me. On the plus side, students are elected to join the food committee, and they ask the kitchen to make adjustments according to student suggestions. This allows our voice to be heard, and it makes amazing things like late night smoothies possible. Lastly, there are tons of clubs on campus, and they cover almost any hobbies you may have. If you manage to find the club you are enthusiastic about, there are lots of people there to share your passion.
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?
Tom: Music and arts are very big at Vassar College, and it seems like everyone is super talented in one way or another. I chose to major in chemistry because it has always been a passion of mine, and the faculty does its best to support me. My adviser told me all the classes I should take to obtain the degree, as well as showed me how to spread it out throughout my college years. She suggested programs I could apply to to gain more experience in the field. She even talked about her time management skills and taught me how to make the most of my time.
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?
Tom: Vassar College is Greek-free. During orientation week, we were essentially forced to attend a plethora of events and activities to meet others. After the events, our resident assistant (RA) gathered all the freshmen on the floor to do icebreakers and get to know everyone. The clubs were very welcoming, and it was fairly easy to just go to a club, get to know the people in it, and start doing whatever it is they meet to do.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Tom: The Career Center is quite helpful. They have many internship opportunities and will show you what you need to do to qualify for them. They even send emails to every student, and they encourage students to visit the Career Center to learn more about what they do.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Tom: Most public spaces are spacious, as there are not that many students on campus. It is easy to find a quiet place to study. The library may be more crowded on Sunday nights, as papers and exam due dates approach, and it is usually full the week before final exams as everyone prepare for “death week.” Dorm lounges are equipped with giant flat-screen televisions, and all you have to do to use it is reserve a time period 24 hours prior to use—or simply turn it on when no one else has reserved it.
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?
Tom: The town can be called tiny, and there is almost nothing to do. I have plenty of things to keep me entertained on campus, so I rarely leave campus. But New York City is two hours away, so a lot of my friends will spend a weekend in the city to eat and play.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Tom: There are about 2,500 students at Vassar College, and I am pleased with the typical class sizes. I chose to go to a smaller school so I would not be overwhelmed by a big campus and a huge student body. While some students complain that it is awkward to run into someone they might not want to see, it does make it easier to build friendships.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Tom: I took a class called “Bones, Bodies, and Forensics,” and it was everything I expected. We read news articles about murders, suicides, and accidental deaths; analyzed evidence from controversial cases and debated on the verdict; and wrote papers on the application and misconceptions of forensic anthropology. I remember the professor taught us that each person has a unique sternum and that she has the ability to identify a person just through his or her sternum.
Check out Tom’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.