My Experience at University of California, Los Angeles

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Babak graduated from University of California, Los Angeles in 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. He is a Los Angeles tutor specializing in MCAT prep tutoring, Algebra tutoring, AP Chemistry tutoring, and much more. See what he had to say about his alma mater:

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?

Babak: UCLA is in a very urban setting. It's located in Westwood, within Los Angeles city limits. Most undergraduate students live in either the dorms or within walking distance off-campus. If you decide to drive to UCLA, obtaining a parking pass is very hard since carpoolers have priority. Many people do take the bus to school or bike. Other than Sunset Boulevard, the main roads leading to UCLA have bike routes or are bike-friendly. The Santa Monica Blue Bus, Culver City Bus, and Los Angeles MTA all have service to and from UCLA. It's very safe both on campus and off-campus in Westwood.

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

Babak: The main agenda of UCLA professors is to do research, not to teach. Most professors are not very enthusiastic about teaching or undergraduate students, but you do occasionally have the ones that love to interact with students. All professors have office hours around twice a week and are available during those times. Academic advisers have better availabilities. Teaching assistants (TAs) are graduate students, so they are quite busy. 

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

Babak: Most freshman students live in the dorms. Some dorms are newer and more updated compared to others. All the dorms are on the northwest side of campus and, on average, are a 10-minute walk away from classes. There are many dining plans. Some have a fixed amount of meals per week with or without "rollover" to the next week if not used. Since there are so many students everywhere, any time and any place is good for socialization.

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?

Babak: Even though I was a pre-medical student, I majored in Chemistry at UCLA. Math, physics, and chemistry make the most sense to me, so that's why I chose that major. There are numerous scholarships available, and I benefited from quite a few as a student there. The life sciences are heavily represented at UCLA, more than the physical sciences and engineering. Film and production majors are very prestigious as well. However, UCLA has a good reputation among all its programs.

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?

Babak: Very easy in such a big school! Greek life does play a big role in social events.

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

Babak: There are frequent job fairs and company recruitment events on campus. The Career Center has a very extensive database for job, internship, and graduate school opportunities. As a pre-medical student, their Letters of Reference Services was a great asset. It made storing and sending my letters of recommendation so easy.

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

Babak: There are 10 libraries at UCLA scattered around the campus. The main college library is very spacious and has beautiful architecture. It has a section called Night Powell, which can get crowded during exam weeks. I liked to spread my study time among different libraries. Some are newer than others, like the Management or Law libraries.

The student union and dorm lounges are clean and renovated. The student union can get crowded during lunch, but there are so many different options for meals.

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? 

Babak: Santa Monica beach is only six miles away. Beverly Hills and Hollywood are also close by. The Westwood village, which is directly adjacent to campus, has plenty of shopping and dining opportunities, such as Trader Joe's, Whole Foods, In-n-Out, California Pizza Kitchen, BJ's Pizza, Baja Fresh, movie theaters… It's definitely a very dynamic neighborhood.

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

Babak: UCLA has around 30,000 undergraduate students and 10,000 graduate students. Most of the lower-division general education courses are in large lecture halls. Some can be up to 300 students. Each class has a discussion section, which is in groups of 15-20 students and is conducted by a graduate student TA. Upper division classes have far fewer students (around 30).

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

Babak: My favorite experience was my Chemistry 113A (Quantum Mechanics) class. The professor, Dr. Lin, was my favorite professor at UCLA since he was so concerned about his students. The material in his class was very hard, but since he was with you every step, he made it fun and manageable. Just the amount of math that I learned in this class may have been more than what I learned in an actual math class! One night around 11:00 p.m., as I was leaving the lab that I worked in, I passed by his office and his door was open. I walked in and asked him some questions about our homework, and to my surprise, he was more than happy to help me! This is a rarity for UCLA professors.

Check out Babak’s tutoring profile.

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