The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Larrissa is a Houston tutor specializing in Psychology tutoring, Reading tutoring, ISEE prep tutoring, and more. She studied Communications at The University of Texas at Austin and graduated in 2009. See what she had to say about her alma mater:
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?
Larrissa: There are plenty of ways to get around UT-Austin – the bus system being the most useful. There are university buses that run around campus, the close surrounding areas, and the areas that are made of mostly student housing. In addition to that, every UT student can ride an Austin city bus for free with their student ID’s. I didn’t have a car in Austin until I started graduate school, and I did just fine. You can take buses to the grocery stores and everything! As for safety, I would say there are the same safety concerns as every big school, especially those in the middle of a growing city. It isn’t recommended to walk across campus alone at night, and there are student groups that will walk to you and escort you anywhere on campus. The UTPD officers are also very helpful with these things, and there are emergency call boxes everywhere on campus!
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Larrissa: The professors are typically pretty available, depending on their work-loads and class sizes. Sometimes you have to wait to see a professor – but they all have office hours and are pretty good about being in their office during those hours. The TA’s are almost always available and spend a great deal of energy meeting with students, in and outside of their office hours. Academic advisors go through “busy seasons” with registration being the biggest rush of students. As long as you have a little patience and plan ahead for those times, there is never a problem.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Larrissa: Dorm life at Texas is a great time. There are dorms to fit every lifestyle and need, but I would recommend joining a residential FIG. They are basically groups matched by dorm and major, so you are in some of the same classes as people living in your dorm. It creates a small community within a huge campus – and makes it feel like home FAST! There are cheap, yummy dining choices and delicious expensive dining choices and everything in between. UT does a great job of making sure they have pretty convenient things for students!
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?
Larrissa: The business school at UT is highly ranked nationally, and the engineering program is top as well. That being said, every major at Texas is backed up with the international credibility of The University of Texas. I studied Communications for my undergrad and master’s degrees. I chose this because I had an intense fascination with how people interact with each other, but not on a clinical scale like Psychology majors. Being a Communication Studies major had a ton of benefits in school, and now outside of school. It is so translatable to many different professions, and I got to study exactly what I was passionate about.
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?
Larrissa: The residential FIG definitely encouraged friend-making, as do all of the social/spirit groups at UT. There are many Greek organizations, and organizations that have the structure of Greek ones without the Greek letters. The incredible part about UT is that anyone can start a club with 2 friends and $15. The more incredible part about UT is that someone else probably already started the club and you can just join! 50k students means a lot of people with similar fringe interests, and everyone wants to find a niche there. It’s awesome!
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Larrissa: The Career Center is pretty helpful, and many of the colleges have their own Career Centers. You can choose to go to the University-wide one, or one just for your college (like the College of Engineering). The career fairs that are hosted by individual colleges and the university as a whole are really neat! There are so many companies hiring so many different types of people that most people go to career fairs every year, on the job market and not!
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Larrissa: Of course, during finals time, the libraries can get pretty crowded. When that happens, there are plenty of other places around campus to go study. Empty classrooms, dorm lounges, outside, nearby coffee shops – they’re all available. Once you go to school there for awhile, you develop your favorite spots to study. Mine was always the Life Sciences library, in the base of the UT tower. It is what’s left of the original library at UT (the stacks) and looks like a library that would be in Hogwarts. It’s so beautiful and peaceful.
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?
Larrissa: Luckily for students at UT, you don’t have to choose between campus area and downtown – campus is basically downtown! If you want to do it, there is probably a bus to take you close to where you want to go. Austin is a place for dreamers and doers, and it’s beautiful. You absolutely never run out of things to do there! I’m originally from Austin and even when I return back there, there are new and old exciting things to do that are new to me!
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Larrissa: The student body is pretty huge. I think it was over 50,000 students when I attended, so I am sure it is higher than that now! Class sizes range from 25-600. It really depends on the class type and how many credit hours you need to take it. As you progress in your academic career at Texas, your classes get smaller. There are definitely times that the class size is overwhelming, but the workload is formatted differently in big classes to make up for it. Big classes use scantron tests while smaller classes write papers. It’s just a matter of how you learn and work.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Larrissa: I definitely had some professors that were exceedingly challenging, but I will never forget the incredible team of Drs. Daly and Vangelisti. They both changed how I see myself, the world, and school – in different ways but amazingly influential just the same. Dr. Daly is the reason I pursued Communication Studies for my undergrad, thanks to his Interpersonal Communication class (one of the classes that has 500+! He’s THAT good!) His beautiful wife, Dr. Vangelisti is the reason I pursued graduate school, thanks to her love of research and desire to shape young minds into what they want to be. I cannot speak highly enough of the CMS department, the College of Communication, and The University of Texas. The motto “What starts here changes the world” is truly fulfilled and I could not be happier to forever be a Texas Longhorn. Much love, and Hook ‘Em Horns!
Check out Larrissa’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.