Should I Go to University of Illinois at Chicago?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach—they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Emily is a Seattle tutor who earned her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences and psychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago. She specializes in GRE tutoring, English tutoring, algebra tutoring, and several other subjects. See what she had to say about her time at University of Illinois at Chicago:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options.

Emily: The University of Illinois at Chicago is in the heart of downtown Chicago — it is super accessible by bus, train (CTA/Metra), car, and even bike (for those that live in the surrounding neighborhood). What I loved was the proximity of the school to the amazing cultural landscape that Chicago had to offer. From museums to the Shedd Aquarium to the Civic Opera House, everything was close to the campus!

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants at University of Illinois at Chicago?

Emily: Most of my professors had an open-door policy; they wanted to help students grow and develop intellectually and made themselves available for that purpose. I even had one professor mandate a one-on-one meeting with each of his 300-some students to individually discuss final projects. Cultivating relationships with professors is incredibly helpful in terms of figuring out what you are truly passionate about and want to do in the long term. It also does not hurt when it comes time to get recommendations for graduate school, professional school, internships, et cetera. A great deal of my professors had teaching assistants with a similarly open attitude about working with students.

Additionally, each student in the Honors College was assigned a pre-professional advisor and mentor. I was able to touch base with this person on a quarterly basis to discuss my goals and future directions in the program.  

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

Emily: The UIC dorms were a blast! Some of the people I met in my student housing years I still hold as dear friends to this day. It was extremely liberating going from a fairly rural hometown to living smack-dab in the middle of Chicago; you do not realize just how many opportunities there are to expand your individual horizons until you find yourself in that atmosphere.  

In terms of the actual dormitory facilities & the dining hall, they were fairly standard for a university. If we didn’t like the food on a particular night, we always had the option of running over to Greek town or Little Italy.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Emily: Engineering, medicine, and pharmacy were the major programs at UIC. Almost everyone in the Honors College fell into one of those three programs.  

In my first year, I was studying biology and chemistry when I realized that I had an immense interest in the biology of the brain. At the time, there was no neuroscience major (although there is now and it is wildly popular), so I decided to double major in biology and psychology. My advisors were very supportive of the move and helped me choose classes that would best fit my interests.

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?

Emily: It’s pretty easy to meet a core group of friends while living in the dorms. There are social events that the resident assistants coordinate in order to break the ice. Many times, however, you have classes with some of the same people and you build relationships from there.

Greek life was moderately influential at UIC, although it was more about volunteer work (at least when I matriculated). I always saw the Greek organizations hanging out in the quad or running fundraisers.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services at University of Illinois at Chicago?

Emily: The Career Center keeps busy throughout the year, running job fairs and other such events. They get companies throughout Chicago and the Midwest to come speak with students. There is also independent career counseling for students who are about to graduate.  

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

Emily: Especially during finals week, study areas can get crowded, but you can always find somewhere on campus to study. There are little nooks and crannies in some of the buildings that make for excellent study spots. You just have to know where to find them, which can be easily accomplished by enlisting the advice of an upperclassmen.

Describe the surrounding town.

Emily: UIC is right in the middle of Chicago, so it is definitely not boring. It is about a 10 minute L-train ride away from what is classically considered “downtown”, so students generally venture out. Recently, though, the area south of UIC has completely changed face with new bars and restaurants. I imagine that students patronize this area as well.  

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

Emily: Class size really depends on the class itself. With the intro-level courses, such as General Chemistry, classes are pretty huge, but are supplemented by a discussion section of about 10-15 students. The more advanced courses, like Developmental Biology, had a lecture section of about 30 students. I never took issue with class sizes because professors and teaching assistants were always amenable to taking classes and having discussions about the material. Class size was never an impediment to my education.

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

Emily: I had an ecology professor who worked with wasps in his research and he was, perhaps, the most hilarious educator that I have ever had. He had tattoos of the wasp species that were at the center of his research and wore a floor length leather trench coat around campus.

I had this professor for two other biology courses and he seemed to have a really great rapport with all of his students. His courses were tough, but you learned a lot. And, above all, he had a passion for what he studied. For me, he was at the intersection of science and rock-and-roll. I wanted to be at the intersection of academics and rock-and-roll. I wanted to figure out what I loved to study so much that I would tattoo it on my arms. Eventually, I did find a discipline that I am so passionate about that I moved across the country to study it!


Check out Emily’s tutoring profile.

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