The Boston University College Experience

Shannon earned her bachelor’s degree in math education from Boston University. She specializes in math tutoring, geometry tutoring, and a number of other subjects. Below, she shares her experience at Boston University:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options. 

Shannon: Boston University (BU) is an extremely urban campus located right in the city of Boston. Our campus is a 1.7 mile stretch down Commonwealth Avenue. Being in the city, there is no need for cars and most students walk to class, as the academic buildings are all centrally located near each other. If you are not up for walking, there are many other modes of transportation as well. BU does run its own shuttle that has eight stops on the main campus and three on the medical campus. It is free to all students and there is a mobile app to track it. Also, because BU is located in the heart of Boston, we have the MBTA (subway) Green Line run down our campus. There are seven stops on our campus and you can use the T to either get to class or take it to various destinations in Boston.

As for safety, I never felt unsafe at Boston University, but that is not saying you don’t have to be smart. The university itself and campus are very safe and offer many different programs to keep you safe. The campus itself has a blue light system that has phones attached that call directly to Boston University police department, which are about every 100ft from the last one. On the back of every student's ID, there are numbers for BUPD, Health Services, and an escort system that, if you are leaving the library at 2 AM and don’t want to walk across campus alone, will send a male and female student to walk with you.

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

Shannon: Every professor and teaching assistant is required to have as many office hours as they teach, but this is not the only time they are available. I have never had any issue just emailing them and saying I can’t make their office hours or I would like to meet more. The professors want you to succeed, so if you need a little extra help, they are certainly willing to do so.

Sometimes you may click better with your teaching assistant, as they were students in this class once. Generally graduate students, TAs are super helpful and can sometimes relate better than a professor can. As for advisors, they are usually teachers as well, so you will have to work around their own class schedule. My advisor was a godsend with all my questions, even answering my emails at midnight.

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

Shannon: Dorms are great. BU has no exclusive “freshman” dorms, but there are some that are mostly freshmen—West Halls and Warren Towers. These dorms are both the large dormitory style with the communal bathrooms on the floor. These dorms each are located above dining halls, laundry, and mailrooms so you don’t have to go far to do anything. What makes these dorms great is their sense of community. In Warren Towers there is a common room on every floor that connects the sides of the floor. This is a great place for everyone to hang out and get to know each other. When I was a freshman, getting to know my entire floor of 40 people and have 40 new friends before I even started my first class was the biggest relief in the world. So there are some benefits to large dormitory style dorms. But those aren’t the only options. At BU we also have apartment (with kitchen) and suite-style living (with its own bathroom). We have houses called “Brownstones” that are like living in a typical house on the streets of Boston. They have 8-15 rooms in them and 4-5 bathrooms depending on the building. Less underclassmen live in these, but they are definitely a viable option. I myself lived in one as a junior and I loved it.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Shannon: Boston University is very into research, so if you want to delve into a major and do research, we have the tools for you. For example, Boston University is one of the leading researchers in brain trauma and neuroscience, so there are tons of opportunities for learning in that particular field. That being said, within BU there are so many colleges and schools that it's hard to say one is not supported by its own college. For instance, our College of Communications is #2 in the country and our School of Hospitality is #1, so they clearly have programs and supports set in place. I had friends in just about every school, from the School of Business to the School of Fine Arts, and every single one of them loved their programs and loved the opportunities they had.

As for my experience, I majored in Math Education in the School of Education and I never felt unsupported. My school was constantly checking in on me, making sure the program was working for me, and generally getting to know me as a person. Being in the second smallest school at BU, I was able to really know my professors on a personal level.

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?

Shannon: BU has over 1,000 clubs and sports, so it’s easy to find what you like and become a part of that community. At the beginning of the year we have an event called Splash where all of the clubs and sports set up booths, and freshmen can wander around, gather information, and sign up. It makes it easier to see what clubs BU has and learn more about them. I myself was part of the Dog Pound, the student pep club, and I met most of my friends through this club. As a freshman, I probably signed up for 20 clubs and then I narrowed it down to the few I felt truly fit me.

Aside from clubs, we also have 21 division one sports, club sports, and intramurals that you can also sign up and join. Lastly, we do have Greek life at BU, but it’s not large, clocking at only around 11 percent. However, we do certainly have Greek life available if you want to join. I was not in a sorority myself, but I had friends who were and they loved it, so it’s all about what you want. BU has so many different opportunities to find your niche within the university.

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

Shannon: Several of the colleges at BU have their own Career Center, as well as a career center for the whole university. They will help with a variety of things, like resume review and applying for jobs. I went to the career center for the whole university as a senior and was shown lots of tools for how to find education jobs. As for recruiting, that really depends on the individual school or college. I know that there are several career fairs each year in all of the schools and several opportunities to meet with potential recruiters, both within each school and the university as a whole.

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

Shannon: There are libraries in each school, as well as study lounges in every dorm. Depending on the size of the dorm/school and time of day, the lounges and libraries vary in fullness and noise levels, so it’s about what environment you like to study in. There are tons of places to pick from, so if one is full because it’s exam week, there is always another place to go.

Describe the surrounding town.

Shannon: BU is in the city of Boston, not on the outskirts—it is fully immersed in the city. That being said, as a student you have the entire city and a world of opportunities at your disposal, and BU students tend to take advantage of that opportunity. There’s nothing better than picking something to do in the city and going out and exploring. You have many things to do, from pro sports to some of the best museums in the world. There is so much to do that it's really hard to get bored.

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

Shannon: We are a medium sized university with 16,000 undergrads. So, we are smaller than a big state school and larger than a small liberal arts school. That being said, it does not feel big. Walking down the street everyday, I see tons of people I know everywhere and always feel comfortable. As for classes, the average class size is around 25 people, but you do have some large classes of 100 people in introductory classes. Those large, 100 people classes are required to have discussions later in the week. These discussions are generally around 10-15 students and you have a chance to meet with the teaching assistant, go over anything you don’t understand, and ask questions. After you start to delve into your major, it becomes more rare to have classes that big and most classes have around 10-30 people. I never felt overwhelmed by class size. If I was having questions in a class, there were so many ways for me to get help—from the discussion classes to office hours.

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

Shannon: I came to BU undecided about my major, so I originally started in the College of Arts and Sciences. About halfway through my freshman year, I decided I might be interested in the School of Education. In order to transfer or even see if you wanted to transfer into the school, you were required to take ED100—an introduction to the department. Professor Phil Tate taught this class. Professor Tate is the first professor that students are introduced to in the School of Education, so in some ways, he has the ability to make or break it for you. During my first class, Professor Tate began with a fun little anecdote about what hat you will wear as a teacher. He began his crazy introduction by putting on different hats and talking with different exaggerated accents. But as crazy as his little speech sounds, it worked. As he talked, I immediately knew I had found what I wanted to do. He had this essence about him that pulled me in and reassured me that being an educator was one of the greatest things I can do. After that class, I knew what I wanted to do with my career.

Check out Shannon's tutoring profile.

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