A Day in the Life at Brigham Young University

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Lia is a New York City tutor specializing in ACT prep tutoring, Reading tutoring, Biology tutoring, and more. She is a 2009 graduate of Brigham Young University with Bachelor’s degrees in both Visual Art and Physiology & Developmental Biology. 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?

Lia: Brigham Young University’s campus is set in a archetypically picturesque location, with looming overhead mountains grandly displaying the seasons, and nearby Sundance serving as the perfect vista for winter or summer past-times. The surrounding town, Provo, is small and extraordinarily friendly. A stroll down University Ave toward Center Street acquaints you with many of the small businesses and locals. After freshman year, most students live off campus, with many commuting mostly by bike or by foot. South of campus is full of BYU-approved housing, including apartment complexes and multiple-room houses; large apartment complexes and resulting communities abound all around the edge of campus as well.

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

Lia: Depending on the program, of course, almost every professor, TA, and adviser is as available as you proactively seek them to be. Every professor and TA holds office hours, and some classes hold regular extra “labs” or office hours during which TAs guide you through difficult problem sets or offer other coaching. English and writing tutoring is regularly available in the library through the English department.

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

Lia: The dorms mostly consist of freshmen, and many of these freshmen form strong groups, usually within their church ward, that last throughout college. Every dorm building has its own culture, with some offering more socialization than others (for example, those that include six students per unit and have individual kitchens usually have less social functions; those that include 1-2 students per unit, without individual units, usually have more).

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?

Lia: I double majored in Visual Arts: Studio Art and Physiology & Developmental Biology, with a minor in Chemistry. I began college intending to apply to medical school, but decided to join the Visual Arts program my junior year and fulfill both degrees. I found that the programs were incredibly different; where the Physiology & Developmental Biology program (underneath the Biology department) circulated a large number of students every year and had lectures with student bodies ranging from 50-200, the Visual Arts Department was extremely intimate with classes ranging from 5-20 students. As a result, I was able to get a lot more support in my Visual Arts classes than I was in my science classes, as well as develop stronger mentor relationships. While BYU has an excellent variety of programs and support is available when asked for, it’s good to do research on class and program sizes to gauge what would best meet one’s needs.

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?

Lia: There aren’t any sororities or fraternities on campus, but church wards often provide a lot of social structure. As a freshman, it’s almost essential to live in the dorms and attend an assigned ward to really live out the social experience. There are also a lot of campus functions and activities, often specifically geared toward freshmen, but these are also often attended by ward groups.

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

Lia: BYU has a top ranking business school and thus attracts a lot of attention. The Career Center is available as a general support, but usually refer students to specific departments for more specific advice and support.

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

Lia: The Harold B. Lee Library is an enormous resource with an incredible selection of books, periodicals, and digital resources. Because the H.B.L.L. is so enormous, there are many different rooms for students to reserve for study groups and areas to study individually, as well as computers for use. The student center and dorm lounges are also spacious and comfortable, but most students group in the library.

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? 

Lia: Provo, Utah is a small town with several larger, settled businesses and many small businesses. While campus is situated just a half mile or so from the center street of downtown Provo, many students congregate mostly on or within campus. Downtown Provo is a rich, cultural community, however, with great gallery strolls, small businesses, and a thriving music scene, and the students that explore it often integrate into it quickly. Other than the downtown area, which is easily traversable by foot, many students enjoy hikes, bike rides around Utah Lake, weekend trips to Southern Utah, and shopping in Salt Lake City, which is an hour’s drive north.

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

Lia: BYU has approximately 30,000 in its student body, lending to large class sizes in most general courses. While the class sizes weren’t always frustrating, it was also a high priority for me to find courses that offered smaller group sizes for purposes of discussion and stronger support.

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

Lia: My favorite class at BYU came in my last semester there: Special Problems in Art. In the midst of this course, I was able to make proposals for art exhibits that were particularly experimental and receive approval to install them. One such experience involved a sound art installation, in which a fellow student and I placed recordings of various familiar sounds in ceiling tiles, and set the recordings to play at an interval of four minutes or so. It was amazing watching casually as passersby heard lawn mowers, scrapes, and breaking glass as they walked to class!

Check out Lia’s tutoring profile.

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