A Day in the Life at Stony Brook University

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Nicholas is a New York City tutor and 2014 graduate of Stony Brook University. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in Physics and tutors several subjects, including Elementary Math tutoring, Geometry tutoring, and Physics tutoring. Check out what Nicholas had to say about his time at Stony Brook University:

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?

Nicholas: I went to Stony Brook University starting in August 2010. The campus is somewhat far out on Long Island, so we were surrounded by a sleepy small town and the occasional vineyard. The transportation options, however, were top notch! The university had an entire bus system dedicated to transporting students around the vast campus, as well as support from Suffolk County transportation services. There was even a LIRR station right on campus for quick trips to nearly anywhere in Long Island or back to New York City. Even with all this transportation, you could make it around campus by foot if you wished. That is what I did when I attended Stony Brook University.

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

Nicholas: I found myself ensconced in a wonderful, loving community when I was a student at Stony Brook University. Professors were always quick to respond via email if I had an urgent homework question. Academic advisers assisted me at several points along the way, helping me to obtain a research internship that resulted in a published paper! Teaching assistants taught excellently during recitation. I could not have asked for a more dedicated faculty.

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

Nicholas: This is a complicated question! The dorm life at Stony Brook University is extremely varied, and it depends almost entirely on which quad you live in. I can only speak about the quad I lived in during my four-year stay there. Tabler Quad was the name of the area, and the rooming situation was fantastic. An extremely tight-knit community existed in my building, and I felt like I was really part of something special while I was there. The dining options on campus were plentiful, and the dining hall hours were never an issue – but the pricing was. The dining halls were a bit on the expensive side! Overall, the socialization aspect on campus depended almost entirely on who you knew. Some students went home every weekend, and it was difficult to make friends if you were rooming with only these 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?

Nicholas: On any given day at Stony Brook University, if you go up to a student and ask their major, they will likely tell you either Biology, or that they are pre-med. This major and field is represented extremely well on campus, as it is what the university is best known for. I majored in Physics while I was at the school, and the university did an amazing job of making sure that the program was absolutely top notch. Physics has always been a passion of mine, so studying it at school was natural for me. The Physics faculty and staff at Stony Brook University made sure each and every student was on the right track to graduate on time. I cannot speak for the more humanities-oriented majors, but the impression I got was that they were a bit harder up for cash and representation within the university.

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?

Nicholas: As a freshman, making friends at the university was truly not that difficult. As long as you went out at night – to either campus events or private events – there were people willing to talk to you and engage in lively conversation. Greek life at Stony Brook University was present, but it was weirdly divided based on which half of the campus you lived on. Those of us in Tabler Quad did not experience Greek life nearly as much as those students in H Quad, the quad across campus. It did play a significant role during Homecoming and during sporting events, which was nice. It got the students pumped up to support the home team!

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

Nicholas: I went to the Career Center on multiple occasions, both for academic advice and for career advice. And it was exceedingly useful. All emails and correspondence were answered nearly immediately, and there was always an adviser ready to speak with you should you need help or emergency assistance. There was also a lot of Career Center notoriety around campus – the university made sure every student knew where the Career Center was and what they could do to help you. As for company recruiting, the job fair at Stony Brook University was always a big deal. After going to both the fall and spring fairs for three years, I can assure any prospective students that reputable companies make it a habit to visit the university. Capital One, Geico, Google, and Microsoft are just a few of the big names that made an appearance every year without fail.

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

Nicholas: There are study areas virtually everywhere at Stony Brook University, and I never had a hard time finding one to lounge in while studying or just for some peace and quiet. I can honestly say that lounge and study areas were always quite busy during the week, but never over-crowded. The only exception to this was during finals week, when seats were a bit hard to come by. Each study area was spacious and had access to reliable internet. It was a nice perk to living on campus!

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?

Nicholas: Stony Brook University is located in the town of Stony Brook, which is a part of Suffolk County. Suffolk County is sparsely populated if you compare it to either the neighboring Nassau County or New York City, so sometimes life outside campus could be truly boring. However, for those students who did choose to go out, the nearby town of Port Jefferson was a favorite destination. There were bars, open malls, great views of the bay, and amazing restaurants to visit should a student be so inclined. Most students went to Port Jefferson a few times a semester; the campus is so large that staying put was the option of choice most of the time.  

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

Nicholas: The student body at Stony Brook is very large – I have heard estimates as high as 20,000 students – but roughly half of these are commuters who do not spend time on campus outside of the class week. Although class size is largely dependent on major, I found they were often small enough for the professor to remain focused on the lesson at hand. Certain classes, however, are extremely large. I have heard these can be a bit of a hassle, especially when help is needed from a professor or teaching assistant. Overall, I would say I personally was pleased by the 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.

Nicholas: The one moment from class that I always remember is an incident that happened in my Advanced Physics lab course. My lab partner and I were doing an experiment on x-rays, and the machine we were given was not working properly. This was extremely frustrating – after all, if the machine did not function, the entire project would need to be aborted, and the time constraints on starting a new experiment would make our report prone to error and incompletion. After a final exasperated sigh, I consulted my professor for help. He came over, looked at the machine briefly, tapped the side, and then punched the top with great force. Suddenly, the machine came to life and began working perfectly! It was really quite comical, and I felt like I was in some kind of goofy cartoon. Nevertheless, I was definitely relieved to begin working!

Check out Nicholas’s tutoring profile.

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