Should I Go to Portland State University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach—they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Cassandra earned her bachelor’s degree in sociology from Portland State University in 2011. She currently specializes in Spanish tutoring, among other subjects. See what she had to say about her experience as a student at Portland State University:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options.

Cassandra: Portland State is in the heart of the city, close to buses and easily accessible by car or bike. Every Saturday starting in the Spring, the Farmer’s market takes over the park blocks that run through the center of the campus, which helps foster a sense of community within the urban setting.

I always felt safe on campus, but then again I have heard a few recent stories about people feeling uncomfortable with lax policies for non-university students who hang out in the university buildings, such as the library or Smith Memorial Student Union (SMSU).

I will say one thing about trying to commute by car into school: it can be a challenge finding parking sometimes, and expensive, which is why I chose to ride the bus (plus it made for extra study time I needed between work and school).

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

Cassandra: I always had good luck getting professors who were available; they always tell you what their office hours are — some have odd schedules or office hours, but that never seemed to be an issue. Just email them and more often than not they are willing to schedule something either before or after class.

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

Cassandra: The university itself has several dorm options, but the majority of students live off campus throughout the city and commute in. The dorm rooms seem to vary, depending on which building you live in. I lived in Montgomery Hall for two terms and I got stuck with a room across the street from a rowdy bar, and their heating system is not the best. However, Broadway seems to be a great housing option, as most rooms have kitchens in them. If you live in Ondine as a freshman, you are required to participate in the sub-par dining option they offer. At Ondine, from what I remember, they have specific Freshman floors where only new freshmen are allowed to live, which creates an atmosphere of community since they all have to eat at the same place, then they have opportunities to come together and gripe about the food.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Cassandra: I would say that PSU is well known for their business school. Phil Knight had the Nike swoosh designed by a PSU student, and now Nike is in our backyard. Another major/program is engineering — they have a beautiful, brand new building, and there used to be some excellent food carts nearby, great for a study break!

I chose to study sociology because it seemed to be the best all around major with the most job opportunities, and if I ever want to go back to grad school, it would be the perfect base for almost any social science grad program. The university did a great job supporting my area of study. The sociology program has some excellent professors and advisors. I also minored in Spanish and psychology. Those programs also had good advisors, however since those were my minors, I visited them a bit less than sociology.

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?

Cassandra: It was rather easy actually. You are sent to Freshman Inquiry class, which you have the same class for the whole year with the same people, some of which I am still friends with to this day (we graduated together in 2011!). I also got involved in the international student organizations, which was both exciting and enriching. I became a mentor for new incoming international students and was able to get job opportunities by associating myself with these groups and the people within them. Greek life is not that present at PSU, I believe there may be one or two houses, but I wouldn’t be able to say much more than that.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services?

Cassandra: The career center helped me edit my resume several times and point me in the right direction on job opportunities. There are career fairs at least once or more per year. I actually met some of the HR reps from my first job straight out of college!  

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?

Cassandra: There are a wide variety of study areas to choose from; a four-floor library with an impressive tree, and huge windows to distract you from studying. The top two floors are quiet-only floors, and you are also able to check out group study rooms. There is a child-friendly study room, too. As usual, midterms and finals make for more crowded study areas, but I never had an issue finding space.

Describe the surrounding town.

Cassandra: Portland is a liberal, hipster, environmentally-friendly city. You are a few blocks away from OHSU tram, Portland’s Saturday Market on the waterfront, many bars, restaurants, clubs, movie theatres, keller auditorium, the Portland Timbers stadium….I could go on and on about all of the amazing things Portland has to offer — this is the best city! Students are immersed in the city from the time they step onto campus, so students are easily able to go further into downtown if they so choose.

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

Cassandra: The student body is the biggest in the state, but in the classroom, it surely doesn’t feel like that, unless you take a statistics class or a few others I had to take, but even then, I was overall satisfied with classes being relatively small. That was one of my number one fears when entering college as a freshman.

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

Cassandra: I will never forget my senior year, I took a class on Elvis! It was a short summer class; we watched Elvis movies and had to watch for masculinity or lack thereof in his roles. We discussed each movie afterwards and our final was singing karaoke at a dive bar in North Portland!


Check out Cassandra’s tutoring profile.

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