Should I Go To University of Richmond?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Sean is a 2014 graduate of the University of Richmond with a Bachelor’s degree in History & German Studies. He is a Richmond tutor who specializes in Essay Editing tutoring, History tutoring, all levels of German Tutoring, and other subjects. Check out his review of his alma mater:

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?

Sean: The University of Richmond campus is set outside the city in a more suburban area, though roughly half the campus falls within the Richmond city limits. Because of its suburban location, the campus is incredibly safe, as well as very beautiful, with a lot of green space to offer students. There is even a lake in the middle of campus. All campus buildings are brick and of the same architectural style, rendering it remarkably difficult to tell which building was built in 1948 and which was built in 2006. The campus itself is small enough for students to walk across in 20-30 minutes, but the campus is bike-friendly, and many students also ride across campus on personal and school-supplied “green bikes” that can be found on campus for any student to use.

In terms of transportation, many students have personal cars. They use them to drive into the city, or elsewhere. There are public buses that can take students from campus to the city, but transportation can often be unreliable, and it ends fairly early in the evening (around 7:30, I believe). The university does, however, provide various shuttle services to students on weekends that take students to a number of different locations: the James River (when it is warm), Carytown (located on Cary Street, Carytown has a number of small shops and restaurants), the mall, Shockoe Bottom (an area in downtown Richmond), and also to The Village (a nearby shopping center with a CVS, supermarket, dry cleaners, and a few restaurants). There are also two Zipcar locations on campus, and all students are eligible to register for Zipcar use.

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

Sean: Professors and academic advisers are very available, and they generally love meeting with students. Since the student body is relatively small (about 3,000 undergraduates), the student-faculty ratio is also small. Professors encourage (and sometimes require) students to come to their office hours in order to get to know them. Most courses at the University of Richmond do not exceed 25 students, and these are generally introductory courses that have a higher student capacity and demand. As students progress and specialize in their area of study, class sizes typically grow smaller, rarely exceeding 10-15. The exceptions to this are the business school and the sciences. Lecture courses in the hard sciences (biology, chemistry, physics, etc.) can often hold 30-40 students (especially at the introductory level), but two labs are offered, which allows students to have more individual contact with their professors. The business school also typically has more students per course.

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

Sean: Dorm life at the University of Richmond is typically pretty good. The dorms themselves are all nice, and the university recently finished building two new student dorms, as well as remodeling a number of others. First-years typically live in first-year-only dorms, in order to get to know other first-years, which generally have shared hall bathrooms. By sophomore year, students can choose to live in suite-style dorms, which have one bathroom shared by two to four people. In their junior and senior years, students can choose to live in on-campus university apartments that have full kitchens, a living room area, a dining area, two bathrooms, and two two-person bedrooms. The dining hall (affectionately called D-Hall by University of Richmond students) is fantastic, and it has a number of options to satisfy every student. There is a full salad bar, waffle machines, and other rotating stations that feature Asian, Mexican, Indian, Italian, and other cuisines. Students can also find typical American fare, such as burgers, chicken fingers, and French fries, as well as many other varieties of food. There are also other cafes and places to eat on campus that many students frequent for lunch.

There are many opportunities for students to socialize with one another. Many students are involved in Greek organizations, as well as sport clubs, academic clubs, and social clubs. Most importantly, students are generally very friendly at the University of Richmond, and it is easy to strike up a conversation while waiting in line for coffee.

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?

Sean: The business program and the Jepson School of Leadership Studies are by far the best represented and publicized by the university; however, this past year the university made a much more concerted effort to advertise and represent the many benefits of the School of Arts & Sciences. As a result, the leadership and business schools are also better supported, but that does not mean the arts and sciences are under-supported. In fact, a lot of support goes to independent student research at the School of Arts & Sciences, with a strong push toward funding more research projects in the humanities and social sciences.

I graduated with a double major in History and German Studies. German I chose because I took it in high school, and I wanted to continue improving on the language. I chose History after my first year, during which I took a number of different types of courses. These courses helped me realize what interested me most, and what did not interest me at all. I truly enjoy reading, writing, and interpreting or analyzing a text, particularly in regard to the historical context of that text. This led me to major in history, where I sharpened my critical reading, writing, and analytical skills. The university supported me well for my area of study. I studied abroad in Germany during the spring semester of my junior year, and I received not only constant support from the Office of International Education before, during, and after my stay in Germany, but also some monetary support, as well. Additionally, I was granted a Summer Research Fellowship to conduct intensive archival research for my honors thesis while in Germany, which allowed me to extend my stay into the summer.

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?

Sean: Freshman orientation takes place the week immediately prior to the start of classes. During this week, there are a number of activities geared toward introducing students to one another, and many people meet their best friends during orientation. After orientation, though, it is not difficult to meet new people and make friends. Upperclassmen are typically friendly, and there are many social, academic, and sports clubs that students can join in order to expand their friend group. Greek life does have a large presence on campus, and it plays a very large role in campus social life, though many alternatives to Greek life do exist. First years cannot join a Greek organization until second semester, and this often helps first years meet friends outside of Greek life.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus? 

Sean: The Career Services Center is very helpful, and they offer daily walk-in hours for students to get resume and cover letter help. Additionally, students can make appointments to meet with Career Services Center staff to talk more specifically about college and post-college career plans. The center also offers workshops on interviewing, cover letter writing, business etiquette, and other topics. Yes, many reputable companies recruit on campus, such as Deloitte (and many other consulting firms), the United States government, Goldman Sachs, and other such companies.

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

Sean: There are many places for students to study on campus. The library is the most popular, and it is often crowded in the evenings, especially during midterms or finals. The Gottwald Science Center is also a common place for students to study, and it gets crowded less often. Otherwise, dorms lounges are typically less occupied, but they can be noisier. There are also small study areas in each academic building that are very quiet.

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? 

Sean: The university campus is set outside the city in a more suburban area. Nonetheless, there is plenty to do in the neighboring area. One of the more popular places to go is Carytown, which is about a 10-minute drive from campus. There are many restaurants and small shops in Carytown that present a fun and relaxed atmosphere. The university is also close to the James River, and students often go there when it is warm on weekends to hang out, relax, and swim. Students go into downtown Richmond less often, but there is a lot to do in the city. There are many monthly events in the city that feature restaurants and art galleries that students frequent.

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

Sean: The student body is fairly small with about 3,000 undergraduate students. The faculty to student ratio is very good, and class sizes typically do not exceed 25 students. The only exceptions are in the business school and the hard sciences, where introductory courses can reach 35-40 students. Once one chooses a major and more major-specific courses, the class sizes become even smaller. I was very happy with this, as I really got to know my professors, and they got to know me very well too. I quickly became very comfortable with my professors, and I often went to their office hours to discuss not only course materials, but also my life as a student, what I was involved in on-campus, what I would be doing during breaks, and what my long-term post-graduate plans were. This also gave me the opportunity to learn about my professors and what they did/do with their lives outside of academia.

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

Sean: I was very lucky in that I took very few courses that I did not enjoy. One class and professor stand out in particular, though, because they molded the course of my college career. During my first year, I took a first-year seminar course titled, “Civilization and Its Discontents,” which was taught by Dr. Leary. Not only was the course reading and writing intensive (which I loved), but Dr. Leary was very welcoming and loved talking to students during his office hours. He would also give us articles that we were not required to read, but which held a lot of information about choosing majors (particularly in the humanities), and what kinds of questions to bear in mind when thinking about what to study. These articles and Dr. Leary’s accompanying advice helped me through my decision to study history, something that took me a while to decide upon and that I felt was important to think deeply about. Now that I have graduated, I know that I made the correct choice, and I still have the articles Dr. Leary gave us for whenever I may need them again.

Check out Sean’s tutoring profile.

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