Brigham Young University: A Student Interview

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Spencer is a Phoenix tutor and 2010 graduate of Brigham Young University. He holds a Bachelor’s degree in International Relations and Russian and tutors several subjects, specializing in History tutoring, Reading tutoring, and Writing tutoring. Check out what Spencer had to say about his time at Brigham Young University:

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?

Spencer: The Brigham Young University campus has a very suburban feel. Most student housing is within walking distance of campus, so walking or riding a bike is sufficient. Student parking is rather limited, especially during peak class times. The city does provide buses to and from major downtown areas, including a new light rail line to Salt Lake City. These are reasonably priced, and students can often secure special year- or semester-long commuter passes.

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

Spencer: Overall, the availability of professors, advisers, and teaching assistants is excellent. Almost without exception, the people I worked with were interested in my education, and they were willing to do everything they could to help me succeed. I would highly recommend contacting professors and advisers early (before the start of term) with any questions. This distinguishes you from the crowd, and it can help establish you as a serious student.

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

Spencer: Brigham Young University is a very social place. There are a large number of clubs, and numerous social events each week on campus, including free concerts, educational forums, dances, and department-sponsored events. The athletics scene is also very good, with many events each semester. Student athletic passes are reasonably priced, especially for the football games.

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?

Spencer: Business (in the Marriott School of Management) is one of the flagship programs at Brigham Young University. The School of Family Life and the foreign language departments are also well represented. I double majored in International Relations and Russian because of my love of diversity and cross-cultural experiences. I have lived in several countries, and I enjoy sharing experiences with people from many different walks of life. The university leadership is very supportive of the International Relations program, and each semester there are amazing speakers, including ambassadors, government leaders, noted authors, military officials, and journalists.

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?

Spencer: The overall social scene is excellent, and making friends was usually easy. Some of the larger 100-level freshman classes were intimidating due to class size (100+ students). I strongly recommend the smaller 100-level Honors classes, as the professors are better and the class sizes are much smaller (15-40 students). The smaller classes give you a chance to create study groups, make friends, and find out about new activities. There are also dozens of clubs on campus, ranging from creative writing and fencing to hiking and astronomy. Find one you like and join it. There are no sororities or fraternities on campus. The numerous clubs seem to fill that niche, and they do a pretty good job, in my opinion. Each college also has chapters of the applicable national honor societies for its disciplines.

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

Spencer: Brigham Young University has an amazing career fair each year. Numerous Fortune 500 companies, local businesses, and government agencies recruit here. There is both a fall and winter career fair, and lists of the attending companies can be found online or with a guidance counselor. The general guidance counselors for the university are honestly not great. They basically refer you to 100-level study skills classes and try to help you find your discipline of choice. In their defense, there are dozens of colleges and majors on campus, and they cannot know everything. If you want good academic advice, identify two or three majors that are somewhat interesting to you, and schedule an appointment to meet with the college-specific counselors. They are very knowledgeable and super helpful. They can get you squared away with entry-level classes to take, or even professors to speak with.

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

Spencer: There are dozens of wonderful places to study on campus. The library is vast and extremely roomy! There are also small group and individual study areas sprinkled across the many buildings throughout campus. I could always find somewhere to study, and the furniture, WiFi access, and facilities were almost always amazing!

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? 

Spencer: Provo is a quiet little town with a decent array of fun things to do. It is also a very religious community, so the recreational activities are conservative. Entertainment includes movie theaters, a water park, an arcade, an ice skating rink, an indoor climbing gym, restaurants (a surprising number of great ethnic food choices), and two shopping malls. Where Provo really shines is its access to wilderness areas and natural areas. There are waterfalls, hiking and biking trails, ski resorts, lakes, and mountain climbing opportunities within a very short distance! If you love the outdoors, you will love Provo! The winters are actually pretty mild (when compared to the Midwest or Northeast), and the summers are amazing! The mountains are gorgeous all year long, and there is always a new trail, national park, or waterfall to go visit.

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

Spencer: There are over 30,000 students at Brigham Young University, with students from every state and dozens of different countries. Although the vast majority are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (or the Mormon Church), which is the school sponsor, members of other faiths are welcomed and treated with respect. I am a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I met Muslim, Jewish, Buddhist, and Catholic students at Brigham Young University. I always felt that students of other faiths and backgrounds were treated well and found a good home at Brigham Young University, though I respect that some non-Mormons have different experiences and opinions. I found the number of students to be daunting at first, but, in general, I liked the rhythm and pace of campus life. Once you find your college or sub-group, the big tide of humanity is something you can just swim on, rather than drown in.

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

Spencer: I was the Head Teaching Assistant for a professor who taught a class called “The History of Creativity.” Every year, during his lecture on Greek philosophy, he would come dressed as Socrates and engage in a debate on ethics with class members using the Socratic method. This really made the discussion come alive, and helped the students place themselves in history. Although I worked as a teaching assistant for several semesters, I never tired of this lecture because of the way it helped bring history to life for myself and the students.

Check out Spencer’s tutoring profile.

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