What is it Like to Attend Syracuse University?

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11 min read

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Erin is a 2012 graduate of Syracuse University where she studied English and Communications. She currently tutors in New York City and specializes in many subjects including Essay Editing tutoring, Literature tutoring, and Phonics tutoring. See what she had to say about her 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?

Erin: Everything on main campus is within a 20-minute walk. The school uses some facilities for design students downtown known as The Warehouse; there are both school buses and city buses students can take to get here if they opt out of using their own transportation. Additionally, there is a series of apartments known as South Campus which students can rent approximately 2 miles from the university – there are regularly scheduled buses to these that circulate once every ten minutes during class hours and once every 20 minutes during later or weekend hours.

Personally, I had my car there since freshman year. While you certainly don’t need it for school, you get to enjoy much more of the area if you have one and for that, I would recommend bringing one if possible. Additionally, for students living off campus, there are few local grocery options and having a car makes these trips much more convenient. Lastly, I was able to secure several internships and jobs strictly because I had my own vehicle on campus. However, most of my friends did not have a car their entire college careers and were able to use the resources on campus, use the bus systems or carpool. 

Syracuse University is almost always a safe campus. Any crime that occurs happens in the off-campus areas, which police are cracking down on. There are usually several armed robberies per academic year that happen to students walking solo in late hours of the night. To help combat this issue, Syracuse City Police and Syracuse University Department of Safety established a system where students who need a ride or walking escort to get them home safely can call for one at any hour and have police offers provide them with one.

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

Erin: I think this varies tremendously by college and professor. I was technically enrolled in 3 different colleges within Syracuse – Newhouse, the School of Communications, The College of Arts and Sciences, and Whitman School of Management (to receive a major in Communications, English, and minor in Business). Based on my experiences with these, some professors are much more available than others. I double majored and minored in school and can only think of perhaps 3-5 professors who were particularly absent. I had wonderful success with my advisers and TA’s. The professors who were absent were usually this way not out of laziness but because they were also hired full-time elsewhere. If students run into issues with this, there are almost always other professors, TA’s, and faculty members whom they can seek for academic assistance. 

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

Erin: I personally loved living in the dorms. Syracuse mandates students must live in the dorms for the first 2 years unless the student is commuting and living at home. For my freshman year, I lived in a dorm called Lawrinson, which was 21 floors and the tallest building on campus. It sits next to the famous Carrier Dome (making getting to sports games very easy) and adjacent to the SUNY ESF Campus. Not all dorms have dining halls in them but they are all close to one. Lawrinson sits next to Sadler, which includes its own dining hall. There are no all-freshman dorms but with the exception of Watson, all dorms include freshman. There are certainly advantages and disadvantages to each dorm (the campus sits on a hill so some dorms require steep uphill walking, others include 100+ stairs to access them, while others sit near noisy highways; on the flip side, some include the nicest facilities, their own gyms, libraries, restaurants, cafes, and other perks). The room types vary among dorms and within dorms. Some include singles, quads, suites, open doubles, closed doubles, and other layouts. You can request for whichever top two choices you’d like when you enter school. I lucked out with a single my freshman year.

My second year, I worked as an RA (Resident Advisor) in Watson, which helped me financially as it paid for both my room and board. This dorm is the only all-upperclassman dorm of the campus. Like Lawrinson, it does not have its own dining hall but sits across the street from a dorm that does (Ernie Davis).

Typically for freshman, the floor/wing Resident Advisor plans community-building events to get students socializing – most of which take place first semester and in Orientation Week. The biggest event is within freshmen students’ first week on campus – a night called Home to the Dome in which all the freshmen students go to the Carrier Dome for a night of music, fun, entertainment, and memories. After Orientation Week, there is always an abundance of activities in which students can participate. 

My one critique of the school is the price of dining – meal plans range between having 14 meals per week to 21 per week with extra cash for on-campus cafes and guest meal passes with the cost of these ranging from $2,000 to $3,000 – and are mandatory for all dorm residents. 

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?

Erin: Syracuse is known for several programs. Its most popular major is Psychology, however it is most renown for the Newhouse School of Communications and several programs within the Whitman School of Management, the College of Visual and Performing Arts, and the School of Architecture (for undergrads). Newhouse was recently ranked the #1 Communications school and every year, it always makes the top 3-5 among different lists. Whitman and VPA boast several majors that are revered nationwide including VPA’s film program and Whitman’s entrepreneurial department.

When I was in high school, I was interested in journalism and staying in New York, my home state. I’d grown up hearing about Syracuse but was never particularly interested (it was arguably too close to home) until I did a campus tour my junior year. I fell in love with the school and applied Early Decision in November of my senior year to Newhouse’s print journalism department. At the time, Newhouse had about 340 spots open for its incoming class and an expectation of 3,000 applicants. I was obviously nervous I wouldn’t make the cut but I did and I couldn’t have been happier. Second semester of my freshman year, I changed my major to what is called “Television, Radio, Film” – a blend of media forms and the most popular major in Newhouse. I did this after realizing there were many elements of the print journalism field I didn’t enjoy and some in which I didn’t excel. The major is considered one of the best programs of its kind in the country with alumni using it to pursue jobs with major studios, distributors, production companies, talent agencies, and everything in between. Students can focus this major in screenwriting, television production, film production, management, or radio (or get a sampling of each – like I did).

During my sophomore year, I opted for a second major, English, in the College of Arts and Sciences. I’d always loved writing and sure enough, I loved the second major. I also picked up a minor in business as I felt it would help prepare me for “The Real World.” From the 3 different programs, I was kept very busy but rarely too busy to enjoy school, socializing, and extracurricular activities.

The school did an arguably excellent job of supporting Newhouse, TRF, and me. When I compared experiences with students in other colleges, I don’t think every student got the same treatment as Newhouse students did. That being said, there are drawbacks to Newhouse, one being finances – to pay for the cameras, computers, and high quality technology that communication students use, every Newhouse student had to pay a higher communications fee per semester than any other college’s student body.

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? 

Erin: I found making friends very easy and encouraged in Syracuse. By the end of my second day there, I’d already made several friends and by my second week there, I’d made the best friends I’d have in college. I’m certain my experiences aren’t typical of every student, however, I do know these friendships were due in part to the social atmosphere of the freshmen-dominated dorms and the work Syracuse does to build these friendships.

Greek life does play a significant role at Syracuse – I believe 1 in 3 people is involved in it. I was never interested in participating but many students do and find wonderful friendships through it.

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

Erin: As a Newhouse student, I didn’t use the main Career Center but Newhouse’s specific one known as the Career Development Center which focused strictly on Communications students. I adored the CDC and still do. They made finding internships and finding jobs infinitely easier for students and recent grads.

Many companies do recruit at Syracuse – NBC Universal, Ogilvy, JP Morgan Chase, GE, Turner Broadcasting, Ernst and Young, and many others. As a TRF student, few entertainment companies recruit at any school (because they simply don’t need to) so I rarely used these options. 

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

Erin: I never had a problem getting a seat in any of these places – there are so many on campus that I can’t imagine it ever being an issue. I personally used the Carnegie Math Library to study in, as it was the quietest and used a lounge in Maxwell for reading. 

The only spaces that I do know get overly crowded are the dining halls. At peak hours (12:30pm, 6:30pm) it can difficult to find a seat and students sometimes opt instead to take their food to go (containers are provided by the school). An easy remedy for this is to simply avoid these hours, but student schedules don’t always permit this luxury. 

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? 

Erin: Like most college students, Syracuse students’ experiences depend on how much effort students put into them. I was very invested in making sure I explored the area and constantly tried new things (indeed, having my own car made this easy). Near Syracuse University, there is a wonderful downtown area, made famous by Armory Square, the city’s restaurant capital that Guy Fieri has featured multiple times. There are several lakes nearby including Green Lakes, Oneida Shores, and the Jamesville Reservoir. Additionally, there is the newly renovated Destiny USA Mall (to which SU buses students) and other nearby shopping outlets. I personally think Syracuse, NY helped make my college experience the best possible from all these nearby attractions.

That being said, I appreciated the medium-sized city feel and the ease of it – which as a result, meant there weren’t as many as attractions as a city like New York, Boston, or Los Angeles could boast. Students who find themselves only satisfied by the energy of large cities may find Syracuse too small or too isolated.

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

Erin: Syracuse University, like the city, is a medium sized school with an undergrad population a little under 15,000 students. I found this to be a perfect size as I could invariably see a familiar face on a daily basis and always have new people to meet. Some classes are huge (400-person lectures) and some are small (6 people) – it completely depends on the class and college. I rarely had an issue with class size and always felt like I could be heard in my classes. The largest classes are those that are required of every student and typically taken by freshmen – like entry-level math, science, and seminar classes.

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

Erin: I had lots of memorable experiences with professors, however my most memorable relationship is one with an English professor I had. She consistently challenged me (I had her for 2 different classes) and opened my eyes to the joys of writing in entirely new ways. She was always reachable by email and in her office hours and proved to be a defining element of my college experience. I greatly attribute my deep love of writing to her. However, she was certainly only one of many professors whom I adored and I think the high quantity of high quality professors is one of Syracuse’s defining highlights.

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