What is it Like to Attend Brandeis University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Steve is a 2012 graduate of Brandeis University. He studied French and Healthcare and is currently tutoring in New York City. He specializes in many subjects including Anatomy tutoring, Physiology tutoring, and ISEE prep tutoring. See what Steve had to say about his experience at Brandeis:

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?

Steve: Brandeis University is located in Waltham, Massachusetts. It’s about 12 miles away from Boston proper and about 8 or 9 miles away from Cambridge. The campus itself is beautiful campus with many woods nearby and plenty of nature but its biggest complaint is that it’s a bit more hilly than other schools. There are two transportation options, the Bran-van and the Crystal Shuttle. The Bran-van shuttles students between Waltham and Brandeis, it runs every 15 minutes and it has a dedicated number to call for information. The Crystal Shuttle mainly runs during the weekend and it goes into Cambridge and picks up and drops students at Harvard Yard. The Shuttle runs until 2am during weekends. A car is helpful but only upperclassmen are allowed parking passes; for most people the Bran-van suffices for errands. A bike is a great investment but prior to getting one, one should investigate the bike-lending program that Brandeis offers. 

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

Steve: The beauty about Brandeis is that because it’s such a small school and campus, there are only about 4000 students, both undergraduate and graduate on campus. Professors will always try their best to include and aid students outside of class. Academic advisors and teaching assistants are just as available. Thankfully with how integrated email is nowadays, if someone’s office hours don’t sync up with your schedule, most people are more than happy to have email reservations for times that are convenient for both parties. 

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

Steve: The dorm life at Brandeis is simple, at best. The rooms are what you make of them, it all boils down to how willing you are to decorate and revamp the room. Dining options are pretty set in stone. There are two main locations for dining, upper and lower campus. Lower campus is buffet style and is a great place to study and spend the day away in. Upper campus has specific hours when it’s open. There is also something called the C-store which is the campus convenience store which stays open until 2 A.M. most days. There are many socialization opportunities at Brandeis but again that depends on the disposition and personality of the person. There are parties and campus events, hundreds of clubs, dozens of sports teams. Any niche you can think of, chances are it’s being catered to. It goes without saying that Brandeis is a Jewish University but this should never pose a problem for anyone. As a student who isn’t Jewish, I never felt ostracized or alienated; the environment and the students themselves were gracious and understood that people come from all walks of life. I made friends for life and don’t regret my decision at all. If you want to learn more about Judaism, there are many opportunities to do so but it’s neither overwhelming nor all-encompassing.

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?

Steve: Brandeis supports and represents dozens of majors. In regards to the hard sciences, Brandeis is a research school and this is evident in how classes are structured and how curricula are developed. My major was French and Francophone Studies and American Healthcare. Brandeis excels at placing students in top-notch study abroad programs. Most students chose to do study abroad during their junior year for a semester, either fall or spring, or the entire year. It’s not uncommon to see your class during junior year shrink a little. The professors for both my majors were excellent and truly gave me a solid foundation for what I’d ultimately like to do, being a doctor for Doctors Without Borders.   

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?

Steve: As a freshman, the beauty about having to dorm and being away from home is that it’s a very conducive environment for making friends. Most students are unsure of or even scared of the decision they made to dorm away from home but because of this it also helps students expand their horizons and make new friends much quicker. After all, wouldn’t you rather be unsure of something with other people? This isn’t to scare or worry anyone; this is normal. It’s a part of the transition from high school to college. All students are different so they may react to it or get used to it in different ways and in different amounts of time, but before you know it, it’ll be routine and you’ll laugh at how scared and nervous you were during the first couple of weeks. Greek life plays a barely significant role at Brandeis; you will always find pledging events, tabling events, or something sponsored by Greek life. It gets a little more complicated because Brandeis doesn’t officially endorse any fraternities or sororities. For this reason, all Greek houses are actually off campus. The Greek life at Brandeis doesn’t reign supreme like it does at other state schools. At Brandeis, the Greek life is more of a personal choice.   

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

Steve: The Career Center and other Student Services are top-notch. Hiatt, the Career Center, excels at giving students the tools to get the right job or get into the right graduate school. During campus recruitment events, it’s not uncommon to have companies like Dell, Yahoo, Google, Goldman Sachs and various other excellent companies in attendance.

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

Steve: The study areas are spacious and easily available. They usually only get crowded during finals which may be a common trend for all schools. In addition, there has been some construction going on for expanding and improving locations for students to convene, study, and socialize. 

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?  

Steve: Waltham is your run of the mill town; it’s small and family friendly. If you’re used to suburbia, you probably have a good idea already. If you’re from New York or another big city, it may be a slight adjustment. The best establishments are the many restaurants and bars that are on Moody Street, the main street in Waltham. Most students choose to go during the week to Moody Street for a nice diner or a quick drink. During the weekend, most students go sightseeing, or out on the town in Boston and Cambridge for those who miss the city life, which is easily accessible thanks to the Crystal Shuttle service that runs during the weekend. 

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

Steve: The student body is around 4,000 students, making Brandeis a small, tight-knit school. Depending on the subject matter, classes may range from 7 students to 300 students. Lecture courses, like Biology or Psychology usually have around 200 to 300 students. Upper level classes are more likely to have fewer students, sometimes between 15-25 students.

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

Steve: The one class I loved the most was during my senior year, fall semester. It was called American Healthcare: Law and Policy; it was a healthcare class that touched upon the legal aspects of healthcare and the legal implications. I loved this class because of how much I ended up learning and how relevant everything I learned was to me and the nation in general. We spoke about “Obamacare” and how it would impact our nation. We learned about its many facets and how they would be put into place throughout the years. The class was very interesting because it was actually taught by a lawyer who made it seem all the more real and engaging. This is just one class I loved and I probably mention it because I took it not so long ago. My other favorite class was The Films of Disney. This class needs no explanation, we learned about the societal and cultural impact of Disney films on America and the world. We watched classic films during our free time and wrote papers that truly analyzed the films.

Check out Steve’s tutoring profile.

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