The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach—they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Matthew is a Jacksonville tutor specializing in computer science tutoring, geometry tutoring, pre-calculus tutoring, and a number of other areas. He is currently a junior at the University of North Florida majoring in Computing and Information Sciences. See what he had to share about the University of North Florida:
Describe the campus setting and transportation options.
Matthew: My campus, the University of North Florida, is fairly safe. It has its own police department, and there are emergency landline telephones all over campus (including the parking lots) where students or visitors can dial 911 or the local campus police non-emergency line. We have shuttle buses that run relatively late in the evening, but there are also plenty of safe places to park your car or to lock up your bike if you have either of those modes of transportation.
How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants at University of North Florida?
Matthew: The professors, academic advisers, and lab assistants are very available and easy to communicate with. In my experience, professors respond to emails within a few hours, and they have regular office hours that will meet the needs of most students. You can also make special appointments. The advisers are reachable in a similar fashion; whenever I have gone to the advising office, the staff has always been available for walk-in appointments. Lab assistants and tutoring services are frequently available even on the weekends.
How would you describe the dorm life—rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Matthew: I personally have not stayed at the dorms, so I cannot provide a truly satisfactory answer to this question. However, there are a number of restaurants and cafeterias on campus. There is also a Starbucks and a gaming lounge. Students looking to socialize frequent these common areas, whereas students looking for a quiet place to study can find refuge at the library, which is open surprisingly late. In summation, there are a wide variety of options for both recreational and non-recreational areas.
Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?
Matthew: The University of North Florida supports a wide variety of degree programs. Probably the most common degree programs are STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and math) or social science (sociology, psychology, political science, and communications) oriented. I personally studied computing and information sciences, with a focus on computer science and a minor in mathematics. The University of North Florida did an excellent job supporting my area of study. They have an entire building dedicated to computer science/information science/information technology students, complete with labs, computers, and other resources.
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?
Matthew: It was pretty easy for me to meet people and to make friends as a freshman. Greek life did not play a significant role in my social life on campus. My degree program was so demanding that most of my social interactions occurred with people I met in my classes. I met some of my best friends attending courses at the University of North Florida, and we would work on projects together and socialize outside of our classes.
How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services at University of North Florida?
Matthew: The local career center is extremely helpful. They assist students with creating resumes, constructing professional work portfolios, and job/internship recruitment opportunities. They host a regular career fair every semester, and regularly have reputable local companies on campus hosting workshops, seminars, and seeking to recruit the newest talent.
How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?
Matthew: The library, student union, and common lounge areas are very spacious and easily available. Despite the large number of students, they are rarely over-crowded, and they can easily serve a significantly large chunk of students. I have personally spent a large quantity of time in the library and student union buildings working and socializing.
Describe the surrounding town.
Matthew: Jacksonville is the largest city in the continental United States in terms of landmass. This leads to a wide variety of choices when it comes to outside establishments and sources of entertainment. Jacksonville has a bustling nightlife in the downtown area, but there is a distinct parking space problem. You frequently have to park far from where you are going and either walk, bike, or take a shuttle bus. The parking issue does dissuade some students from enjoying the downtown area, but many students still choose to enjoy the many activities that are available.
How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes at University of North Florida?
Matthew: Our student body is fairly large at the University of North Florida. While the class sizes were a bit larger than I would have liked, I saw it as the natural consequence of the massive demand for STEM fields. There are so many available positions in my field, and so many students are looking to train and fill them that it is no surprise that the school is overwhelmed with student registration. They are continually hiring new faculty to keep up with demand, but the slow rate at which post-doctoral candidates are trained means that the problem is likely to continue for some time.
Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Matthew: Probably my most memorable experience was with Dr. Kenneth Martin, who taught Data Structures (among other courses). We spent a large amount of time during one class debating the pros and cons of various hashing functions for a hash table data structure. Dr. Martin argued in favor of a method which modeled each element in the table as a unique polynomial, whereas I pushed a simpler method that instead took the bitwise representation of each element in the table and used the bitwise exclusive-or function and a large arbitrary Mersenne prime number to derive a unique key similar to the process used by modern cryptography. While neither of us convinced the other, the discussion produced a great deal of inspiration for the rest of the students in the class, some of whom had yet other techniques that they favored.
Check out Matthew’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.