Should I Go To The University of Rochester?

Ian is a current junior at the University of Rochester. He is majoring in chemistry, and specializes in AP Biology tutoring, organic chemistry tutoring, and a number of other subjects. Below, he shares his experience at the University of Rochester:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options. 

Ian: The University of Rochester is set along the peaceful Genesee River in Rochester, NY. It is about four miles south of the small western New York city center of Rochester, NY. The university campus is flanked by the river on one side, Strong Memorial Hospital and University of Rochester Medical School Campus on another, and Mt. Hope Cemetery on another. This provides for a very quiet campus and not much cross-traffic from the outside community through the campus. This allows the best of both worlds for a university student, because you can have the feeling of a spacious, safe, and insulated campus that is not in a city, but have readily available access to the city if your heart so desires.

If you want to get around the city and surrounding suburbs, this is easily accommodated by the bus system that the university maintains for students. All week long, there are shuttles that run from the university to the city, namely the Eastman School of Music, which is also part of the university. The buses have routes to get to the two local malls on the weekends, and you can even stop at a Wegmans while you are out.

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

Ian: The professors, advisors, and teaching assistants are readily available to anyone on campus. Professors and advisors will typically have posted office hours that you can freely visit them during, but you can also email them to set up another time to meet. In general, most people are very open and welcoming to meeting with students, because the environment on campus is a nurturing one that wants to see its students succeed. As a teaching assistant myself, I can say that teaching assistants will go out of their way to meet with you and help you with anything you are having trouble with, and are generally more available than professors and advisors. This makes planning a meeting time much easier and manageable.

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

Ian: Dorm life is something that is drastically different from any other type of living you may have experienced in your life. I mean that in the best sense, because you will meet so many new and exciting people while you are staying in a dorm environment. The rooms are split into doubles (two people live in one room) and singles (one person in a room). As a freshman, it is possible to be placed in a triple (three people in a room), which is a bummer because they typically do not have any bigger rooms than most doubles on campus. However, that is a living arrangement that will only last for your freshman year.

After your freshman year, you have a lot of housing options for where you want to live. You can go to more apartment style living, which gives a much more independent sense of living, but they are typically located farther from the center of the campus. You can go into suite style dorms, where multiple people share a common space and a kitchen typically, and everyone has their own personal room to sleep in. You could also go into a normal single or double again. What is really cool is that, as a sophomore, Special Interest Housing becomes an option, which is the type of living I currently am in. Special Interest Housing is a collection of people that have very particular interests, and they all live together on the same floor and form a very close-knit group. My SIH, as they are called, is Interclass Living Community, and we try to endorse community on campus and the greater Rochester area by hosting different fun programs, being close friends, and having at least one volunteer activity per semester. Overall, there are many options to choose from and everyone has their own personal preferences.

When it comes to dining, you can either have swipe plans, where you have a certain number of accesses to one of the dining halls, or a declining plan, which is just what we call our dedicated food money here. They both have advantages and disadvantage. Swipes are nice to go to the dining halls and eat, but you are limited to mostly just those food outlets. Declining often runs out very quickly, so many people start to share declining with each other to make it through a semester.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Ian: Hands down, the best supported and represented major/department is the biology department or the engineering department. The biology department/majors are widely broadcast because there are a lot of pre-medical students at the university. The engineering departments are widely publicized because there is an entire school of engineering attached to the university, the Hajim School of Engineering.

I myself study chemistry and think that the chemistry department is very well seen on campus. Because of the wide disdain for organic chemistry that many pre-medical students have, I think it gets a bad rap. I myself am a pre-medical student, but I love the chemistry department, and I was roped in with organic chemistry in my freshman year by taking the freshman organic chemistry class that is offered to those that score high on the AP Chemistry exam. I enjoy chemistry just because, to me, it seems very elegant and everything just flows naturally from one state to another. It is an amazing field to study and I love every aspect of it.

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?

Ian: When I first came to the university as a freshman, meeting new people was extremely easy. Almost everyone here is ready and willing to help other people out, and it makes an open and welcoming environment for people to enter. With the number of different clubs and activities, there is something here for everyone to do to be involved in and meet new people. I personally joined the Quidditch team and made most of my friends there in my freshman year, while also having a great time playing an awesome, new, up-and-coming sport and travelling with the team. And even if you don’t like sports, there are other more academic activities, or just fun things to join in.

There is also a relatively large Greek life presence on campus. It is possible to avoid Greek life for all four years that you might spend in Rochester, but most people go to at least one or two events during that time. For the most part, Greek life is a wonderful experience and those involved in it, including myself, have no regrets about their decision to join. I have made great friends in my fraternity, and I love all my brothers.

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

Ian: I personally have not used the Career Center or many of the other support services that are readily available on campus, but I have used UCC (University Counseling Center) and UHS (University Health Service). UCC and UHS have been a joy to visit when you need it, because the people that work in these two services care about your overall health. The UCC system, however, can become very full, so making an appointment can be several weeks in the future and may not be of help for whatever you may be experiencing at the time. I have received many emails from the other support services of different opportunities that are ongoing, so I imagine if you reach out to them they would be helpful. The events that they advertise over email tend to be career panels hosted by different groups and career fairs or company visits, so there is plenty of opportunity.

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

Ian: Another of the beautiful experiences of the Rochester campus is that there are so many places that anyone can study, depending on what you need to study. If you need absolute quiet to study and be productive with work, there are the “Stacks” in Rush Rhees Library where there are several floors that are composed of shelves of books and desks to work at. If you might need a little more noise in your studying, you can go to one of the other library spaces on campus, such as Carlson Library, Wilson Commons, or any other space you can find. If you need a very social space to study, Gleason Library is the place to go. I don’t actually know why Gleason Library is called a “library,” because there aren’t any books there. But, like any college or university, how many people are trying to study in any given space is dictated by the time of the semester and if people have looming exams. Most times during the semester, though, it is a relatively easy task to find a study space.

Describe the surrounding town.

Ian: The area immediately around the campus has been renovating and building up new, and the newest addition is called College Town. This is a small area with a few shops, restaurants, and other things that students will regularly visit to get a meal, get books from the bookstore, or buy Insomnia Cookies (something you will learn to love if you attend the university). Beyond that, on the weekends most students will get on a bus and either explore the downtown area, possibly getting a cup of Joe from Java’s Coffee, or sometimes students will go to one of the local malls or Wegmans to explore. If you have a different trip in mind, there are also Zipcars available to rent and drive to anywhere you might want to go, which, again, there are a lot of options since you are in western New York. You could go on a day trip to Niagara Falls, about an hour and a half west, or maybe you plan a day trip and a hike with friends in Lewiston State Park and all the beautiful gorges there, or maybe you just take a drive on the I-90 when the leaves are changing in the fall to look in awe at the beautiful array of colors on the trees. There is always something to do around campus or on campus, depending on what you want to do.

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

Ian: The student body is fairly small at about 4,500 undergraduate students. At this size, you will regularly see some people throughout your day, or sometimes you can see the same person four or five times while just walking through the halls. This gives a very small and tight-knit community feeling that makes the campus truly feel like home. What is an odd little effect of this is that as you get to know more people on campus, you may find that your friends all know each other independent of you. This atmosphere also translates into the class sizes, as well. For the most part, class sizes are fairly small and you can get to know your professor if you put yourself out there and try to make that connection. However, the traditional introductory science courses and the pre-medical courses are always filled with people and average somewhere between 60-80 students. But, these are introductory courses that everyone has to take, and class sizes drop off after this. Most classes have about 10-20 students, which in my mind is a comfortable number to learn as a student.

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

Ian: The most memorable experiences I have ever had in a class was during my freshman year during a lab lecture for second semester organic chemistry lab. The professor was telling us about scientific papers and we had a lab report due in the next few days, and they often were very long write-ups due to the inclusion of large graphs and tables. Despite their length, most of us had developed a certain amount of laziness in writing them and would wait until the last few days before the lab was due to write it out. In the lecture, the professor was commenting about lab reports and he casually dropped the comment of: “…but you all probably haven’t started writing them yet,” and we all thought it was hilarious. In the same lecture, he commented on how he couldn’t remember the last time he read something over 20 pages long, which we all connected with, and it was a great laugh. He was my favorite professor in my freshman year.

However, with all good experiences, there are bad experiences and I will detail one that was not as great. In one of the introductory public health courses, the professor was an interim professor (thus this professor is no longer here), and would casually make disparaging comments about doctors, which I thought was frustrating because a lot of students here are pre-medical students. This was unfortunate, but has so far been an isolated experience, but one worth sharing.



Check out Ian’s tutoring profile.

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