A Day in the Life at The University of Texas at Austin

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Miles is a Houston tutor specializing in many AP subjects including English tutoring, European History tutoring, Macroeconomics tutoring, and many other areas. He graduated from The University of Texas at Austin in 2011 with a Bachelor's in Economics & Political Science. Check out his review of his undergraduate experience:

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?

Miles: The University of Texas at Austin has a beautiful campus and extensive public transportation options. The campus is filled with a variety of trees, flowers, and other pleasing landscaping. The UT buses run frequently throughout the day and travel to every corner of Austin, particularly the neighborhoods with the highest concentrations of students. The campus is both very urban and safe, and conveniently located next to a variety of restaurants, shopping, and other amenities.

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

Miles: Many professors, advisers, and assistants are available regularly, and almost all of them hold regular office hours. I’ve found that all of these groups are happy to talk to students about their academic performance and interests, as well as help them prepare for their professional careers. I’ve had very few bad experiences with anyone in these groups!

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

Miles: The quality of dorm life can vary depending upon your dorm, your neighbors, and so forth. The newer dorms, such as Duren and San Jacinto, tend to have higher quality rooms and amenities than older dorms such as Jester. The dining options also vary depending on the dorm, as some dorms have convenient dining options (such as the cafeterias in Jester and Kinsolving), and some don’t have those options. The social scene is very active, and there are always plenty of opportunities to get involved in student organizations and your dorm groups. Just get out there!

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?

Miles: I studied Economics and Political Science in the College of Liberal Arts, and I thought both of those programs were well supported within the College. My general observation is that the larger departments within each College, such as Economics within the College of Liberal Arts, had more resources and access to professors, academic advisers, and so on. I believe the university did a good job of supporting my particular area of studying, but I know that some of my fellow students in very small departments had a somewhat different experience.

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?

Miles: As a freshman, it was quite easy to make friends. While the University of Texas at Austin is a very large school, I found the easiest way to make friends was to make the school smaller by joining a few organizations and sticking with them. By doing this, not only will you be able to make new friends that you’ll keep throughout your college career, but you’ll develop leadership and socialization skills along the way. Greek life plays an important role on campus, and many students do pursue it, but by no means is it the only, or even primary, option for students to socialize on campus.

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

Miles: The various career centers and other support services do a great job of giving students employment opportunities at a variety of reputable companies. While the McCombs School of Business tends to attract the most prestigious companies, the College of Liberal Arts certainly attracts many well renowned companies to its students, particularly organizations such as Teach for America. There’s certainly no shortage of opportunity for the driven student!

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

Miles: The various study areas vary dramatically in their style. For example, some study areas are reserved as quiet areas (such as the top floor of the PCL), and some areas are more social and open to people talking and working in small groups (such as the FAC’s main lobby). It really depends on your study and work style as to which location will work best for you, but it’s very easy to get a feel for each of them by taking a quick walk around campus. The areas tend to be relatively open during the regular semester, with the exception of the exam period when they can become overcrowded.

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? 

Miles: Austin is a fantastic city! Nestled in the center of Texas, the city has no shortage of a fantastic variety of dining, shopping, outdoor, live music, and other activities. The entire city is filled with great restaurants, parks, swimming holes, walking trails, and hole-in-the-wall joints. There’s never a shortage of fun things to do; in fact, many students find their problem is that there are too many options to do outside of class!

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

Miles: Each incoming class is about 8,000 students, making a total undergraduate population for the university approximately 36,000. The class size can vary dramatically, with the general classes (such as introductory English) having 200 or 300 students, while the more specialized classes (such as the Liberal Arts Honors classes) can have as few as eight students. My average class size was around 30 people, which is certainly large, but I didn’t feel like it was overwhelming. The most important thing I can recommend is that you actively get to know your professor and/or TA, because if you don’t, they won’t make the effort to know you because of all the other students.

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

Miles: My most memorable experience was asking one of my Political Science professors to work on my thesis with me. I had taken several of his classes and loved them, and I knew he would be an invaluable resource as my thesis dealt with some of the topics he lectured about in class. My final year, I worked extensively with him to define, refine, and fully develop my thesis, which was ultimately praised by the faculty panel in the Political Science department. I’d recommend that every student be bold in asking professors and other staff for what they want, because if you don’t ask them, you could never have a positive experience with them!

Check out Miles’ tutoring profile.

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