The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Steven received his bachelor’s degree in Communications Design from Pratt Institute and his master’s degree in Management from New York University. He is currently a tutor in New York City specializing in AP Studio Art, English, and math, among other subjects. See what he had to say about his experience at Pratt Institute:
Describe the campus setting and transportation options.
Steven: I had the luxury of attending undergrad in Brooklyn at Pratt Institute and my post-grad in Manhattan at New York University – both very different experiences. All of my responses focus on Pratt Institute, but I’ll refer to NYU for the sake of comparison.
As far as college campuses go in NYC, Pratt Institute’s historic Brooklyn campus is second only to Columbia’s. It’s one of the main reasons I decided to attend Pratt Institute. I had visited other colleges around the country including RISD, ASU, NAU, Caltech, Parsons, and SVA and none of their campuses compared to Pratt’s beautiful, tree-lined campus. Pratt Institute is safe, vibrant, and nestled in the very fun and energetic neighborhood of Clinton Hill. It’s also very conveniently located within a short walking distance to the subway system that will take you to Manhattan in 10 minutes. Pratt Institute also offers safe student parking. And the new Citi Bicycle sharing program just opened a few hubs nearby so you can hop on a bike and explore the neighborhood.
How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Steven: Most of the professors are working professionals that teach on the side. This is so important for communications degree students because it means that the professors are constantly tuned in to emerging trends and that they are highly connected to industry leaders and companies that you may want to apply to once you graduate.
How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Steven: I lived in the dorm during my freshman year. It was everything I had hoped it would be. I still keep in touch with my suitemates. Pratt Institute’s café is sort of the central hub of the campus. It’s where everyone congregates. It’s where I made plans for the weekend, did my homework, and made friends. The food was inexpensive and convenient. The café, and student housing, is all on-campus so there’s literally no commute time. It’s very convenient.
Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?
Steven: When I was attending, the Communications department was growing and receiving an influx of investment for new computers, labs, and studio space. By the time I graduated, it was a world-class department with everything a graphic designer, illustrator, or art director could ask for. However, communications students were always a little jealous of the architecture students. Their department had just opened a newly designed building that had new 3D printers, laser engravers, and just all-around beautifully-designed studios.
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?
Steven: I wasn’t very outgoing in college, but it was very easy for me to make friends. Most Pratt Institute students – like most artists – are inherently introverted. But when you put a bunch of them in one spot, with an open campus design and all the tools they need to explore their artistic fantasies, they tend feel right at home. Pratt Institute does a great job of creating a sense of creative safety. The first thing you’ll learn at Pratt is that it’s okay to make mistakes – every freshman professor will remind you of this. And I quickly realized this also applies to making friends. It’s okay to be yourself. You have the ability really get to know yourself – to take time to figure out who you really are. There’s no pressure at Pratt Institute to conform to some perceived, idealistic standard. But this also means you might change. And I hope you do. It’s a good thing. If you graduate from Pratt Institute as the same person that you arrived as, then you’ve failed. You attend Pratt Institute to become the person you were meant to be.
How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services?
Steven: Pratt Institute has a great team of academic advisors at their Center for Career and Professional Development. They organize internship fairs, guide students and alumni on career decisions, and help promote their portfolios through the online portfolio database. The level of support Pratt Institute provides is invaluable to students entering the job market. When I was about to graduate, I stopped by at least once a week to work on my resume and to work on my interview skills. I also landed my first internship through the internship fair that they host. Pratt Institute graduates are highly desirable, so all of the major companies compete for the students.
How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?
Steven: Pratt Institute’s library is my favorite building on the campus. The Stacks, as they’re referred to, are comprised of several levels of glass floors. Sometimes I would go in there just to sit and relax. The Student Union is very active; they always have events and social gatherings planned for students throughout the year.
Describe the surrounding town.
Steven: When I tired of the café food, I would walk one block to DeKalb Ave or Myrtle Ave for pretty much anything I had a craving for. I’ve been back to campus several times since I’ve graduated and the restaurant options have exploded. The current students are very lucky.
A few blocks away in Fort Greene is Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), which is a long-standing cultural institution known for its live performances and their annual Next Wave Festival. BAM also hosts movie premiers where I’ve had the chance of meeting Amy Poehler, Paul Rudd, and Rachel Weisz.
In the warmer months, the famous Brooklyn Flea Market brings together vendors from all over NYC to one central location just blocks from Pratt Institute. Everything is offered: from handmade furniture and jewelry to lobster rolls.
If you decide to live off-campus, be aware that the demand for apartments is so high in the surrounding neighborhoods of Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, and Bed-Stuy that you can now expect to pay more than $2,000 for a 300-square-foot studio apartment. I lived in Fort Greene for 10 years and I considered myself lucky to be renting a $1,600 studio. Brooklyn has become so desirable that rent is now approaching Manhattan prices. For many people, student housing will be the only option. Whatever the consequences may be, Brooklyn’s popularity is one of the great benefits of attending Pratt Institute. The three surrounding neighborhoods are arguably the most exciting places to be in NYC right now. In my opinion, Brooklyn’s ascension as a cultural trendsetter is a direct result of the artists that graduated from Pratt Institute that decided to stay in the neighborhoods.
How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Steven: The class sizes are really dependent on the subject. Lecture classes such as Art History are typically very large, but that’s expected. My core classes, such as Graphic Design or Sculpture, were small with an average 10:1 ratio. Most of the subjects taught in the core classes are inherently subjective so it’s important to have that level of personal attention by the teachers.
Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Steven: The most memorable and valuable lesson I learned occurred on my first day at Pratt Institute in Light, Color & Design (LCD) class. It’s a lesson that proved to be relevant even to this day at my current job at JPMorgan Chase.
Along with the other students, I spent hours playing with Color-Aid trying to compose a design to meet the assignment’s requirements: depict the view from my vantage point out the classroom window – a pretty typical first-day assignment. When I and the other classmates finished, we pinned our 6” by 6” designs up on the wall for the other students to critique. We were all nervous, not only because it was our first time being critiqued in college, but also because it was our first time doing the actual critiquing. Most of us had no experience doing that. The teacher explained the method of critiquing that Pratt Institute uses is called “constructive criticism.” The goal is not only to discuss the negative aspects of each classmates design, but to also describe the positive aspects and then to take it a step further by offering ideas on how to improve their design and explain why we thought it worked or didn’t work. This is a great life skill. And it’s something that came up again while I was studying Management for my Master’s degree at NYU. In management, the most effective method is to guide or coach people. This means pointing out exactly what they’re doing right and what they’re doing wrong which is exactly what I had already learned at Pratt Institute.
Check out Steven’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.