The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Ralston is an Atlanta tutor and currently a junior at Emory University. He specializes in Grammar and Mechanics tutoring, Writing tutoring, and Latin tutoring. See what he had to say about his school:
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?
Ralston: Emory has an incredibly beautiful campus. It's a nice haven in the middle of Decatur. It's incredibly safe in this area. Safety is not something I have ever heard someone complain about here and it is not a major concern of mine. If there is even the slightest issue, the school makes sure to notify everyone on campus immediately via email and/or text. There is a great variety of stores and businesses with fun things to do around campus and you can get anything you need very close to Emory. There are many shuttles that run constantly on the weekdays (though the shuttle schedule is a bit unpredictable on the weekends) to and from campus to surrounding areas. A car is not necessary and is discouraged by the price of parking at Emory. In fact, Emory is very pedestrian-friendly and while a car can be convenient at times, I would say it is not a necessity for most students. Many choose to walk or bike to get to where they need to be.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Ralston: Emory professors are very available and usually hold office hours where students can drop by and talk about class or anything they need help with. You can also meet with professors by appointment, before and after class, and can sometimes talk with them if they have a bit of free time.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Ralston: Emory requires that all students have a meal plan, but there are a wide variety of options to choose from. The dining plans range from one that allows a student to get as many meals as they want from the DUC (the main dining center), to a $500 plan for people who intend to cook more. Freshmen can choose from 4 plans, sophomores from 8, and upperclassmen from any of the 11 plans. Kosher/Halal plans are available. There is not so much diversity in meal plans on Emory's Oxford Campus.
Dorms are fairly nice. I, however, am not that picky about living areas so I would suggest seeing for yourself. Freshmen and sophomores are given priority in housing at Emory so it's not something to worry about. Upperclassmen, however, are not guaranteed on-campus housing. Currently, I reside on Emory's Clairmont Campus, which I believe is upperclassmen only. I live in a four-bedroom suite/apartment with 3 others. It includes a kitchen and is fully furnished. There's a range of rooms to pick from.
There are many opportunities to meet other students. There is always something going on at Emory, so you can find something that you enjoy and like-minded individuals who like it as well.
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?
Ralston: A large amount of students who attend Emory are interested in the Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, or Business, though you can find many students in various areas of study in the Liberal Arts as well. The four I mentioned may seem a bit more prevalent since there are major/separate colleges that Emory has for those departments, but you can find a wide variety of studies available at Emory.
I am studying Latin and Arabic because I have an interest in foreign languages. In my opinion, all areas of study are well-supported at Emory. If Emory offers a particular program, it puts in the effort to make sure that it has a curriculum of excellent quality.
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?
Ralston: It was not hard for me to make new friends at all. As a freshman, though, I attended the Oxford College of Emory and cannot speak for the experience on the main campus. At Oxford, Peer Leaders and Resident Assistants do a good job at providing programs for residents and opportunities to meet new people. It's a small campus and people are typically very friendly. It's not unusual to go up to a random person and start a conversation. At Oxford's campus, there is no Greek life, technically. Oxford does not have legitimate Greek organizations. It has "Social Clubs" instead which mimic sororities and fraternities. On the main campus, you can find a variety of fraternities and sororities on Eagle Row. I would not say that Greek life plays a significant role in campus social life. Certainly, many students do choose to participate in Greek Life (about 30% last I heard), but activities do not focus solely around Greek organizations.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Ralston: The Career Center and other student services are incredibly helpful at Emory. Emory has top-notch learning facilities, advisors, and so on. Emory also attracts very reputable businesses and big companies that are quite successful and tend to be leaders in their areas of expertise.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Ralston: The study areas at Emory are fantastic. At Oxford, it may be a little bit harder to find a quiet place to study – the library doesn't tend to be that quiet (though it's not distracting). On the main campus, there is a wide variety of buildings, multiple libraries, and areas in which you can study. These areas on both campuses typically do not get too crowded. If you don't like any of the main areas on campus, you can sometimes find an empty/open classroom to study in.
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?
Ralston: You can find many things to do at Emory. There are many clubs on campus that are constantly holding activities, plays, lectures, and so on, which are fun to attend. On Oxford's campus, there is not much to do around the area. You will need a car if you want to do something off-campus. As for Emory, there are many shops, restaurants and other fun places surrounding campus. There are also regular shuttles to some surrounding areas and malls on the weekends. A car is not necessary on the main campus, but if you want/need to do things off-campus, it may be more convenient.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Ralston: Oxford's student body is tiny, with about 900 students (the largest class it has ever had). My high school was bigger, but I really liked the small college atmosphere of Oxford College. It's more personal because it's so much smaller and I think it's easier to connect with other students and teachers because of that. I once heard a teacher lament because she could no longer recognize everyone on campus by name.
In comparison, Emory in Atlanta has about 5,500 undergrads. Still, class sizes are not bad at all. From what I have heard, the average class size at Emory University is about 19. I've heard that in some of the Intro classes on the main campus, classes may get as big as 60-100 people. On Oxford's campus, the largest class you'll ever have may be about 40 people (for most people, closer to 30). The largest class I have ever had at Emory had about 40 students. On average, my classes have about 16-20 students. My smallest class ever had 4 students, myself included.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Ralston: Last year, I took a class on Creativity. It was a really small class (4 students, including myself) and it relied heavily on us students to drive the class since it was mostly discussion-based. I really liked that – the structure of the class, the people, the subject matter, and all of the fun things we got to do. Some days we would get off on tangents regarding examples of creativity. Other days, we might do some "field work" in an art studio. Every day was very fun and interesting.
Likewise, I enjoyed a Latin class I took last year as well which also had the same amount of students. I think, in general, I like the small classroom dynamic. It makes class really personal, you get better instruction because the teacher has to focus on fewer students and can tailor the class more to your needs, and you end up developing inside jokes with your teachers and classmates.
Check out Ralston’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.