The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Alexandra graduated from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2011 with her Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education. She is now a Chicago tutor specializing in many subjects, such as Algebra tutoring, Arithmetic tutoring, Geometry tutoring, and much more. See what she had to say as she reflected on her time at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign:
VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or rural is the campus? Did you feel safe on campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?
Alexandra: I went to University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in Champaign/Urbana. The campus has great transportation options (lots of buses), and parking was not totally unreasonable either. The area is pretty rural, but it is a college town, so the population doubles during the school year. There is a pretty good mall, and a lot to do on campus and in the surrounding area. A lot of people bike, and there are bike paths all over campus, but campus is small enough that you can walk everywhere too.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Alexandra: The majority of the teachers that I had were wonderful. I began college with a pre-veterinary medicine track, so I had a lot of science classes. Those classes were often called “weed out” classes. There were a lot of students in those, and there was very little help given unless you made a lot of effort to seek it out. But as you get more involved in your major and the classes get smaller, the teachers are clearly invested in your success. They were always willing to help and very understanding of extenuating circumstances.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Alexandra: I lived in the dorms for four years. That is unusual, but I loved the dorms. They were very social, and each dorm had its own cafeteria. I ate dinner with a group of 12 really close friends. There is a real sense of community. There are a lot of people, but it is easy to build a “neighborhood.” A wide variety of room types exist, from singles to quads. I stayed in all-female housing, but most dorms are co-educational. My dorm was very clean and comfortable. Some are not, but most are nice, especially since they have recently updated most of them. You just have to do your research to determine what kind of dorm situation you want.
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?
Alexandra: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has top Business and Engineering programs. There are a lot of people from both departments at the school. I knew a lot of people in the Music program, as well. It is a very small program, but everyone spoke very positively about how great the instructors were. I was in the Education program, and I believed it to be excellent. Teachers were very dedicated to staying informed of research-based practices, as well as the latest studies in the field. Most of my professors were published and very distinguished.
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?
Alexandra: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has the most Greek organizations of any college in the United States. So, Greek life plays a huge role in the culture there. I was in a professional sorority, but that is not where I met most of my friends. I found it very easy to meet people. There are hundreds of student organizations, and that is where I met most of my friends. The dorms are also very social, and there is a lot of emphasis (in most dorms) on creating social and supportive environments.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Alexandra: I never used the Career Center on campus, and my field is not one that is often recruited. There are a few job fairs every year, organized by industry. I had a job when I graduated, so I did not attend any of these fairs, but most of my friends went to them, and they said they were helpful.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Alexandra: Each dorm has its own small library and computer lab, so those are very easy to get to. There is also a large main library that has multiple buildings. Each college has a library, as well, so there are great areas to study all over campus, with just about every resource you could want. You can also request books online and they can be sent to your dorm library, so you do not even have to search for them! The library system at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign is really excellent. The student union offers a lot of activities, which, while a little dorky, were actually pretty fun—and a great way to meet friends. I never felt things were overly crowded, despite the fact that University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has so many students.
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?
Alexandra: There is a huge mall that we went to rather frequently. There are also downtown areas in Champaign and Urbana that have a lot of fun restaurants and shops. There is one main street on campus that has a lot of restaurants that are good for a college student budget, and there is a lot to do. The surrounding area has a lot of farms, which provide a ton of activities for the fall. I would say most students do not leave campus more than once or twice a week—perhaps more if they have a car. The bus system works pretty well—it goes to the downtown areas and the mall, but it was not really necessary to leave campus most of the time.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Alexandra: There were 40,000 undergraduate students when I was there. My class sizes varied from 10 people to 500, depending on the class. I did not hate the large classes because they provided many opportunities to meet people and develop study groups, etc. The small classes were also nice because it meant a lot of teacher attention, as well as help if you needed it.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Alexandra: I had one class that I loved with a teacher who was clearly knowledgeable and adored his subject. He taught animal science classes, but his area of expertise was sheep. While working with him, I learned to love sheep too, and I seriously considered going into that field (something I never would have considered before his class). He really taught me the infectiousness of one person's passions, and he helped me develop some of my own teaching philosophies. I learned from him that if I love what I am teaching, chances are my students will too.
Check out Alexandra’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.