A Student Review of University of Michigan

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Jonathan is a Detroit tutor specializing in ACT prep tutoring, College Essay tutoring, Writing tutoring, and many other areas. He is a 2012 graduate of University of Michigan with a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing. Check out his review of his time at University of Michigan:

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?

Jonathan: The University of Michigan campus is very safe, set in what I would call a middle-class town. The town is definitely not as big as Detroit, Chicago, or even Grand Rapids, so you do not need a car of your own. Parking is also very hard to come by, so if you want to keep a car, expect to put some time and money into parking. There are public buses that are free to University of Michigan students if you want to leave campus, but you will find most of what you need within walking distance. I, and many other students, kept a bike on campus to get around more quickly, but it was not a necessary mode of transportation.

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

Jonathan: Overall, I found professors, advisers, and teaching assistants to be very available. Obviously, this varies from professor to professor, but all professors keep office hours, and the university sponsors quite a few programs to help students who are falling behind academically. Most students actually underutilize the resources the university provides—they think they are too cool for them or that they can do it on their own. While this can sometimes be true, why not watch one less hour of television a week and get to know a professor or use an academic adviser to help you plan your next semester?

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

Jonathan: The dorms are pretty nice. The university has been renovating about one dorm each year, so most now have a new dining hall, lots of new computers and security technology, and up-to-date furniture. Dorms are a great way to meet other students, whether that is just who you meet in the hall or someone in a student group who also lives in your dorm. Most of the dorms are within a five-minute walk of the academic buildings, depending on where you are taking your classes. Bursley Hall, the Baits Houses, and Northwood are exceptions, as the university has had to put more and more students on North Campus (a 10-minute bus ride from Central Campus) as enrollment has increased.

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?

Jonathan: The programs with the largest budgets are probably Engineering, Law, and Business, as well as the medical fields. However, I would say that the university supports all of its programs well. I was part of the Residential College, which is a liberal arts college contained within the larger university. We did not have the free lunches and lavish buildings that other programs had, but our professors and advisers were very invested in our success. Also, the building that houses the Residential College (East Quad) was renovated in 2012, and it is now a very nice dorm.

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?

Jonathan: I think meeting people at the University of Michigan is pretty easy. Greek life is big on campus, but there are so many student groups that are easy to access that I never joined Greek life. I felt like I met a lot of people that I am still friends with. If Greek life is not your thing, do not worry. The only thing that would hold people back from meeting others is if they shut themselves in their rooms all day. Keep your door open, check out some groups that sound interesting, and you will have a fine social life.

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

Jonathan: The Career Center is helpful if you seek out their help. They do not put themselves out there much, so if you want help, go and get it. However, there are a lot of job fairs with a lot of big companies on campus. My wife got two internships at Whirlpool, and Ford hired her straight out of college. She did it all through these job fairs.

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

Jonathan: Some spaces are definitely crowded, but I found my favorite secluded places and went there. There are a lot of nice, quiet places to study (Hatcher Graduate Library, the Law Library, Pierpont Commons), so if the loud, crowded spaces (Shapiro Undergraduate Library, the dorm lounges, Michigan Union) are not your scene, you can find somewhere you like. The campus is huge, so if you do not like your current study place, just keep searching.

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? 

Jonathan: The University of Michigan is highly integrated with downtown Ann Arbor. There are lots of great places to eat in any price range, and there are lots of bands and plays that come to town. I also love Ann Arbor's public library system, which is huge. Students sometimes do not venture far from Central Campus, especially in their first year or so, but there is a lot to downtown Ann Arbor, and your explorations will be rewarded.

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

Jonathan: The student body is pretty big, but once you get past the introductory courses, most classes will only have 20-30 students. This was my experience in my English, Writing, and History classes, so some departments may have bigger class sizes (like Engineering and Business). However, there will always be a professor or graduate student instructor available. I liked the class sizes, and I never felt ignored or abandoned.

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

Jonathan: In my senior year, I took a photojournalism course where we went out into the community and found stories to tell. It was challenging, because I was afraid at times to approach someone about a story, but it was very rewarding in the end. My photography grew, as did my confidence. I believe the course is still being taught by David Turnley through the Residential College. David was a photographer with the Detroit Free Press for a long time, so he brought plenty of expertise and anecdotes to class. 

Check out Jonathan’s tutoring profile.

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