The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Alexa is a Boston tutor and 2014 graduate of Smith College. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in Government and tutors several subjects, including English tutoring, Study Skills tutoring, and Writing tutoring. Check out what Alexa had to say about her time at Smith College:
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?
Alexa: Smith College is in Northampton, Massachusetts. Northampton is a small city located in a valley. The city slogan is, “Take a walk through paradise.” College Hall is located at the top of a small hill that overlooks Main Street. Main Street is lined with shops and restaurants where many Smith College students spend their time. Northampton and Smith College are extremely bike-friendly, and, in my opinion, bikes are the best way to get around. There are even bike paths and lanes to make sure bikers are safe.
There is also public transportation called the PVTA, or the Pioneer Valley Transit Authority (which is free of charge for students). This is a great resource because Smith College is part of a five-college consortium, meaning you can take classes at any of these schools: Smith College, Mount Holyoke College, University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, and Hampshire College. The PVTA will take you to and from any of these campuses. The PVTA also runs through over a dozen cities and towns.
The Peter Pan Bus Company is also in downtown Northampton, and it will take you just about anywhere. The Amtrak train is in Amherst, which is just a short bus or car ride away.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Alexa: Smith College prides itself on being a small liberal arts college, which also means that most of the classes have a small number of students. This allows for strong student-professor relationships.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Alexa: I miss Smith College houses and dining every day! We technically do not have dorms because we call them houses. Smith College has 35 houses, and each house has a great sense of community. People often become very attached to their houses and housemates. Each house has anywhere from 10 to 100 students.
The dining lives up to the standard that the college has set for itself and its students – excellence. With 15 dining halls, and vegan/vegetarian, kosher, and gluten-free meals, Smith College makes sure every student has a variety of options. The menus are listed online and change daily!
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?
Alexa: Smith College does a great job of supporting all areas of study. Government, my major, was also the most represented. There was a great sense of support and solidarity throughout the department. The sciences are also highly valued at Smith College, especially with our ever-growing Engineering program. From my experience, I do not think there was a single major that felt under-supported or under-represented.
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?
Alexa: Smith College is a place that fosters community. As a first year, you are immediately welcomed with a packet that is emailed to you a week before your arrival. This packet explains the house and campus culture, including your house cheer and an outline of all the Smith College traditions. From the moment you enroll, you are a Smithie for life, with an entire alumnae directory as your tool to countless careers, graduate schools, medical schools, advice, etc. from all around the world. We do not have Greek life, but the house communities tend to play a similar roll without the exclusivity. We are prideful, but ultimately we are all strong, ambitious women working together for growth and success.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Alexa: As a peer adviser at The Lazarus Center for Career Development, I have lots of experience with the career center. With a dedicated staff of advisers and peer advisers, we are always there to help with resumes, cover letters, finding internships and jobs, preparing for interviews, or just general advising. We have a closet full of suits that students can borrow for interviews, as well as an internship fund that is allotted to each student once over her four years at Smith College.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Alexa: Every house at Smith College has a living room, loggia, and study. These were always great options for when you did not want to leave the house. My favorite place to study was always the house dining hall after hours. The tables and comfortable booths made late nights easier. Plus, all-night access to hot water for tea!
The Campus Center is also a studying hotspot where many students meet to do work or for a late-night snack. The Campus Center has little rooms that make great study spots. All of the academic buildings are open in the evening hours for student use. Finally, the libraries! We have four libraries that are filled with nooks and crannies that are great for studying.
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?
Alexa: Downtown Northampton is wonderful! Smith College students are always around the downtown area. There are coffee shops, restaurants of all kinds, bars, bookstores, etc.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Alexa: There are about 2,500 students at Smith College, which makes for great class sizes.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Alexa: One of my favorite classes was "Women’s History in Higher Education," which was a class of 10 people. We dove into the history and evolution of higher education, especially for women and other minorities. My professor was an incredible writer, and she sat with me one-on-one several times to deconstruct my papers. She improved my writing a great deal, and to this day, she is the best teacher I have ever had.
Check out Alexa’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.