The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Ashley is a Milwaukee tutor specializing in Chemistry tutoring, Algebra tutoring, Biology tutoring, and more. She is a 2013 graduate of Loyola University Chicago with a Bachelor’s degree in Biology. See what she had to say about her 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?
Ashley: Loyola University Chicago is lucky to have two beautiful campuses in the Chicagoland area. The Water Tower campus is in the heart of Chicago, just off Michigan Avenue and a block west of the famous Water Tower building. The Lake Shore campus is located close to Lake Michigan in Rogers Park. Transportation between both campuses is available in the form of a CTA Ventra pass, which is provided to students to take the bus or train. Loyola also provides a shuttle service that runs between campuses every 20 minutes. It’s easy and convenient to get wherever you need to go. When traveling late, I recommend students take the shuttle because you never know what public transportation may present in a city. Loyola also has plenty of bike racks, so upperclassmen have the opportunity to live farther from campus and ride their bikes if they choose.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Ashley: My experience at Loyola showed me that all academic staff - and even those involved in other roles - are there to help students succeed. Professors usually schedule office hours for students to come and ask questions, but they are always available to schedule an appointment to meet with students. My advice: go to office hours and build those relationships with your teachers. It makes the college experience so much better!
Academic advisers are available for the students with many walk-in hours throughout the week. They additionally have individual appointments students can book. Each freshman is assigned a first and second year adviser, and then a new adviser is assigned your junior year according to your major. It is really easy to get an appointment-- all you need to do is call.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Ashley: Loyola has recently built many new eco-friendly dorms on campus, as well as new dining halls. As a freshman and sophomore, you are required to live on campus. I loved this experience because you are so close to your classes, dining options, and the friends you will call family. Many of the dorms on campus have private bathrooms and beautiful views of the Chicago skyline or Lake Michigan. Nearly all sophomore dorms are apartment-style living, complete with bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. Every student living in the dorms is required to have a meal plan or a declining balance to be used at the dining halls or small university shops.
There are tons of socialization opportunities for students starting from the moment they arrive on campus. Welcome Week starts with lots of on campus activities and opportunities to explore great tourist sites in Chicago. After this week, many dorm floors host events for residents to bond and get to know each other better. The multitude of student organizations is displayed at an organization fair for students to get involved in as many as they would like. The Department of Programming provides many weeknight and weekend activities for students to participate in, including Wednesday and Friday night movies of new releases that are not yet out on DVD! Loyola also has a rapidly growing Greek community, with sororities and fraternities that host many social and community service events. Any building you enter at Loyola has screens displaying new upcoming events and opportunities to get involved. Loyola provides students with a great community to make friends, get involved, and be successful.
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?
Ashley: Loyola supports all of its majors with outstanding teachers and a great Core Curriculum. In my opinion, Loyola is known for its sciences, nursing, business, and political science preparation for law school. However, I never encountered a student that seemed unhappy with his or her major and program. The Core Curriculum helps build a well-rounded student and does not get in the way of completing your major. Also, Loyola is a Jesuit institution, but I feel it necessary to say that they do not require you to follow their religious beliefs. They allow many opportunities for students of all religions to feel comfortable and able to practice their beliefs.
I studied Biology with a Molecular Emphasis and Chemistry because I love science and am passionate about using it to help others. The university greatly supported my studies by providing me with the opportunity to build a degree by taking courses I was interested in. They have a great tutoring program that is free for students who may need a little assistance, and I highly recommend the center. The laboratory facilities in the biology department are like new. Loyola also gives students many opportunities to participate in research with professors. My research included studying the parasite that causes malaria.
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?
Ashley: As a freshman, it was very easy to make friends with floormates and the people others may know. Loyola allows you to build a large network very quickly and has many activities and retreats to allow students to do so. The campus is the right size where you will see familiar faces walking to class, but not too small where you know everyone. Loyola has a rapidly growing Greek system. I participated in a Panhellenic Sorority and it was one of the best decisions I made. Through my sorority, I was able to obtain many leadership positions, meet many students in all grades both inside and out of the Greek community, and interact with many more faculty and staff. At Loyola, I would say that you do not have to be in Greek life to make friends and have the college experience you want. I am a little biased when I say I would recommend it because you gain so much more from the experience than just life-long friends.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Ashley: The Career Center is extremely helpful to students who want to figure out what career they want, to build a resume, and help in the job search. Again, all you need to do is make an appointment or visit walk-in hours. They host many job fairs throughout the year and have an online job researching website for Loyola students and alumni only. Even now, the Career Center still sends out emails to alumni to ask about their success and continue to help in the job searching process.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Ashley: The Information Commons and Library are the most breathtaking buildings on campus. They sit right on the lake and are connected to one another. They provide the students with access to computers, books, and tons of study space and private study rooms. Only during finals week does the library get a little crowded, but that would be the case for any school when students may feel the need to cram. Don’t cram! But I never had an issue finding a place to study. All throughout campus there are lots of nooks and crannies with study tables or comfy chairs with a lake view. It’s very peaceful and a great experience when you explore campus and find your favorite place to study. If venturing outside your dorm is not for you, many buildings have a lounge on each floor with tables and chairs for students.
Loyola also just opened its brand new student union. It is a three-story building with more study space, a dining hall and quick food court, and it even connects to the gym, which now has a newly built rock-climbing wall. I wish this building would have been open longer for my use, but I know that any student entering Loyola now will absolutely love this place!
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?
Ashley: Surrounding the Lake Shore campus is the diverse area of Rogers Park/Edgewater. This section of town has fun restaurants for students to explore. However, many students take advantage of having all of Chicago at their fingertips. Many students venture into the city for meals, to visit a park, or to catch a baseball game. Since the Water Tower campus is located on Michigan Avenue, many students take the shuttle for shopping, to go to the beach, or visit a museum. Needless to say, there is always something to do at Loyola. Chicago has many free activities, as well, so exploring the city won’t totally break a student’s budget if they don’t have the funds.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Ashley: The student body is about the size of a medium university. Loyola is a private, Jesuit institution, so it is not the size of a state school. Class sizes are fairly small with the large lectures only having about 100 students. Note that large class size only applies to general classes such as Biology 101. However, even with this large class size, a small discussion group accompanied it, which allowed the teacher to meet with smaller portions of the class at different times. Most of Loyola’s classes actually range in size from 20-40 students. I felt that through my classroom experience, teachers were able to know my name and about the way I succeeded academically. It was nice to be able to have a smaller class size and build my relationships with professors, which helped later for career advice and letters of recommendation. I loved my classroom experience at Loyola and never felt like another ID number or lost in the shuffle.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Ashley: My most memorable experience was with my Immunology teacher. I had this professor two years prior to this class and was not expecting him to remember me. On the first day of class, he took attendance and read my name, then said, “Ashley, I’m glad to have you in my class again.” Class proceeded, and he claimed this would be one of the hardest classes we have ever taken (which it was). But this teacher connected with the class on an individual level in lecture and lab and made us passionate and excited about the subject. I passed the class with flying colors, and I owe all my work to this professor. He was available for students whenever they needed him, and he challenged us in ways that greatly improved my critical thinking skills. I am so glad to have had this professor and so thankful for the education and life skills he gave me.
Check out Ashley’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.