The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Erik received his Bachelor’s degree in Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics and his Master of Science from University of Minnesota. He is currently a tutor in Minneapolis specializing in Algebra tutoring, Calculus tutoring, Mechanical Engineering tutoring, and several other subjects. See what he had to say about his experience at University of Minnesota:
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?
Erik: University of Minnesota has one of the biggest student bodies in the country, so there are people of all different backgrounds, as well as student groups for just about everything. There are two campuses. They are linked by a commuter bus which runs frequently and is free for students. The university is situated across the river from downtown Minneapolis, but it is large enough to be more like a small city itself. Almost everyone that you encounter during the day is affiliated with the university somehow. Most students walk or bike to class, but those living on or near the St. Paul campus also take the commuter bus to class.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Erik: The professors at University of Minnesota are very willing to talk with you if you have questions or comments about the course. In every course I have taken, the professor has encouraged me to visit him or her during office hours. In addition, an academic adviser is assigned to every student to help students plan their academic career. Teaching assistants are highly qualified and knowledgeable graduate students whose job it is to help students understand the course material.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Erik: Dorm life is a good chance to get to know other students. Many lasting friendships are made in the dorms, and each dorm organizes activities to help students meet each other. A meal plan is also available. For my dorm, the meals were buffet-style with no limit on quantity. Students can also opt to eat out. The facilities for cooking may be limited depending on which dorm the student lives in.
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?
Erik: University of Minnesota is a huge school, so almost every possible area of study has a major. The school is highly ranked in Psychology and Chemical Engineering. I chose to study Aerospace Engineering and Mechanics because I have always liked math and science, and there are great research opportunities at the university. As an undergraduate, I had access to computer labs, a wind tunnel, and other lab facilities, and I always felt like the professors were there to help me when I had problems. If the student is proactive and motivated, there are a great number of resources to take advantage of, from student groups, to seminars, to public speaking and networking events.
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?
Erik: A lot of students struggle when faced with the prospect of making new friends. Fortunately, whether you are very outgoing or not, there are people with the same interests as you at University of Minnesota. That is why it is great to take advantage of all the clubs and activities organized by the school. I struggled with meeting people my first year until I studied abroad in Hong Kong, where I was forced to talk to others and ended up forming great friendships. I did not participate in Greek life, but there are several fraternities and sororities if you choose to go Greek.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Erik: The Career Center has resources like mock interviews, career counselors, and online portals where employers can find your resume and reach out to you. There are also classes (like Careers in Engineering) that teach you what jobs are out there and how to position yourself to succeed coming out of school. There are career fairs in the fall and spring where recruiters from reputable companies come and talk with students of all ages. Many students get interviews through these events that later lead to internships or full-time employment.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Erik: The libraries range from small libraries in specific departments to large buildings that service all the students in a given college. The libraries are usually full of students who are working, and they have cafes or convenience stores attached. Most libraries are open late (until 10:00 p.m. or midnight, with some specific computer labs staying open 24 hours a day). The libraries are never so crowded that you cannot find a seat or computer.
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?
Erik: Minneapolis is a big arts and culture city. There are a lot of festivals, concerts, and public events that are free and sponsored by the city. It has an exceptional number of diverse and highly-acclaimed restaurants, due in part to the large Somali and Southeast Asian populations. As a student, I would frequently take the bus downtown or walk to the West Bank for concerts or to eat at a new restaurant. The location of the campus makes going downtown easy, but there are still plenty of activities on campus if you choose to stay closer. The majority of students stay on campus, but almost everyone goes out once in a while.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Erik: The student body is 50,000+ (including graduate students). Class sizes range from 30-100 students, and they are usually on the larger end in your freshman and sophomore years. I never had an issue with the class sizes because the professors always stop to ask questions, and they are available after class or in office hours. In addition to the larger lectures, there are smaller discussion sections. During these discussion sections, a teaching assistant goes over the material and can answer your questions.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Erik: I remember working on my first engineering group project for the class Aerospace Structures. We worked on a design that was to be submitted just before Spring Break. It was such a learning experience to rely on each other, rather than the professor or a TA, to solve our problems. We met in the library and stayed late, trying to finish before the deadline. These late nights are the most memorable nights of schoolwork that I had, and they were where I learned how to work with others.
Check out Erik’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.