What is it Like to Attend Kansas State University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Sarah is a Kansas City tutor specializing in Algebra tutoring, Chemistry tutoring, Statistics tutoring, and more. She is a 2013 graduate of Kansas State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineering. See what she had to say about her 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?

Sarah: The Manhattan campus is condensed into one central location, which makes it easy to get around, especially when living in the on-campus dorms – to get from one end of the campus to the other is only about a 10-minute walk. There aren’t many roads on campus, which leaves most of the parking on the outskirts, with a quaint campus in the center full of green lawns and old stone buildings. Additionally, there is a plethora of student housing within a two to three block radius in any direction of the campus. I always made it a priority to live close to campus because I didn’t want to have to worry about driving, and some people do bike to make it a little more convenient. Otherwise, there is housing further away and parking is available on campus, but there aren’t enough spots to fulfill the demand of the ever-growing population of K-State, so sometimes my friends ended up parking further away than my house! There is a new public bus system, but it always seemed seldom used. I never thought to use it, but I believe it’s only $1 per trip. There is a SafeRide bus that will transport you on weekend evenings to make sure students get home from their activities safely, although safety has never been a concern. The city of Manhattan is mostly made up of college students, so the K-State feel is everywhere, and we look out for each other!

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

Sarah: K-State has an open door policy, so every professor, TA, faculty member, etc. has office hours at least a couple of times a week. These are really great opportunities to meet your teachers if you are in a big lecture but want more individualized attention, or if you are struggling with a concept. Personally, in my 4.5 years at K-State, I had a very close relationship with many of the professors in my department, felt comfortable stopping by their office any time their door was open, and the teachers were always happy to help. My advisor was also my department head, which is unusual unless you are in a smaller department, but we took time to discuss what my plans were, how I was doing in getting internships or jobs, or anything that was bothering me to ensure I was happy with how my career track was progressing. In addition to staff resources, there are plenty of free tutoring options on campus ranging from individualized tutors to group sessions with a student who succeeded in the class.

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

Sarah: There are three different dorm complexes on campus, all with very unique flairs. The Kramer complex (made up of Goodnow and Marlatt halls) is closer to the Engineering building on campus and houses a lot of first-year engineers, although you don’t need to be an engineer to live there! The Derby Complex (Haymaker, Ford, Moore, West) is the largest complex and has a lot of diversity, with an all-female dorm (Ford), an international dorm (Moore), and a dorm that houses most of the freshman athletes (Haymaker). The Van Zile Complex (Boyd, Van Zile, and Putnam) is the smallest complex with older buildings that look more like castles; this also hosts an all-female dorm (Boyd) and a dorm of all suites (Van Zile) that is more traditionally occupied by older students who choose to remain in the dorms, or those looking for a quieter dorm experience. Although all of these dorms have their “reputations,” they still cater to a wide variety of students, and if you’re visiting campus, pop in a dorm and ask to take a tour – they usually have students available to help you out!

All of the dorms are on the main campus, making it so convenient to get to your classes! Each complex has a dining center open for every meal time except Sunday nights, and students are allowed to visit any dining center (except for Van Zile, which is only open to its own residents due to a smaller kitchen) as long as they still have meal passes – which are purchased on the student housing and dining package allowing for 10, 15, or 20 meals per week (I would recommend the 20; there isn’t a huge price differential and it was nice to always have my meals ready at the dorms).

There is a variety of rooming options: singles, doubles, three-person, and suites. From everybody telling me that you’ll be so cramped in dorm life, I had plenty of space for my personal belongings and had an especially nice closet in Boyd! I lived in the dorms for two years, in Boyd and Putnam, with potluck roommates both times. Some of my roommates were better than others, but it was nice that I didn’t live with my friends from high school because I could always go visit their rooms and meet their new roommates also! There are always a ton of activities going on in the dorms and the resident assistants try to get to know everybody, as well as have floor dinners, sports teams at the rec, impromptu activities at any time, and there is a Hall Governing Board to put on more activities as well. In both of my dorms, everybody left their door open pretty much any time they were home to welcome visitors, and that created a really great family feel. My advice is to tour the dorms when you’re on a campus visit – you’ll really get a feel for the atmosphere there and find where you fit 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?

Sarah: The majors and programs most represented and supported would have to be any of our agricultural programs. K-State is a land grant university and since a lot of the students come from rural towns in Kansas, a lot come to study agriculture-related topics – with good reason, we’re good at it! Other than that, we have an extensive College of Arts & Sciences and a new Leadership Studies minor that has become very celebrated on campus. Our Architecture, Interior Design, and Veterinary programs are very competitive and require longer times in school with intensive workloads, but can have great payoffs! I joined the College of Engineering as an Industrial & Manufacturing Systems Engineer major and felt very supported by the university. There are plenty of opportunities to join clubs within your major/college, search for jobs or networking events, and participate in competitions to win scholarships. I had heard about K-State’s good Engineering program and IMSE seemed like the perfect fit for me. I worried after a couple of years in school that I could have chosen somewhere more outside of my comfort zone (only coming from two hours away in Kansas City), but I took the opportunity to study abroad (in the Czech Republic for four months: received credit for my Engineering courses, traveled to 15 countries, made international friends, it changed my life – I recommend it 100%) and landed my dream job (for a consulting company doing business analytics based out of Kansas City with plenty of travel) and graduated college debt free, which is more than I ever could have asked for!

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?

Sarah: It was pretty easy to make friends as a freshman. The activities in the dorms make it really great to meet people you live with, which is why it’s so important to find a dorm that fits your style. But you can definitely tell that other freshmen in your classes are all looking to make new friends, too. K-State has such a family feel that students stick together and find fun things to do together! There are a lot of on-campus organizations for sports, religious, leadership, or any other affiliation you could have that make it easy to find people with similar interests as you. I know during my freshman year, there were so many organizations or opportunities to meet new people that the most difficult part was choosing which to join! Only about 20-30% of the student body participates in Greek life, but they do have quite a presence on campus because of their philanthropic activities and other events they host. I was not in a Greek house, but met many girls who were and lived with girls from all different houses throughout my time at K-State. From my experience, even going through the rush process as a female is a great way to meet other girls before you even start school, even if you decide not to join a house. I wish I would have rushed; I heard so many great things from the girls who did, and you could always find girls who are so like you! As for the fraternities, they seem like a lot of fun, and all of my male friends who joined them loved the brotherhood they found, but it did cause a lot of their schoolwork to suffer in their first year. After that, their brothers were extremely helpful in their studies, and the houses can provide excellent leadership opportunities, but you must make sure you have your head on straight to start with!

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

Sarah: We have an entire building dedicated to our Academic and Career Information Center on campus, and it could not be more helpful! They provide mock interviews, two career fairs per academic year (one for the entire university, and then another one at different times for the different colleges), resume critiques, and a career closet where students can pick up professional wear on a purely donation basis. Companies come visit the campus all the time. I know I got e-mails almost every week about different companies visiting to provide information about their organization, talk about their positions available, or host interviews on campus for internships or full-time positions. I participated in mock interviews, networking events, and made even greater connections through my department’s activities. I was able to land three different internships and received four job offers before graduating college with my Bachelor’s degree. A lot of the companies that come to K-State are recruiting for offices in Kansas or the Kansas City area, but there are also opportunities in other states. One of my friends from Texas had internships in Minnesota, California, and Louisiana!

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

Sarah: Two of my favorite buildings on campus are our library (Hale) and the student union. Hale Library is probably one of the largest and most aesthetically pleasing buildings on campus. There are various types of study facilities including private study rooms, quiet floors, and collaboration stations (furnished with whiteboards, electrical outlets, and moveable furniture to accommodate your group size). There is free printing up to a quota, as well as a multitude of computers, scanners, and librarians to help you with anything you need. Plus, there are couches for longer-term study sessions or for meetings / group projects, and a 24-hour study area to help when you need to pull an all-nighter! The union isn’t as cozy, but it has all of the resources you need – with a print center, food court, bookstore, meeting spaces, coffee shop, and even a museum, theatre, and computer store (it is also where our campus radio station is based). The dorm lounges make a great place to hang out and run into other students you live with, be it to meet up and hang out or to start a study session. Various lounges have a sort of “concession stand” open late, computer access, televisions, games, and pianos, but are generally pretty tame to cater to those who need to study. With all of these facilities, plus coffee shops all around campus and various meeting spaces in the different buildings, there are really nice study spaces to fit wherever you may need to meet or for when you want to have some study time on your own.

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? 

Sarah: Manhattan, KS is K-State, and K-State is Manhattan, KS. The student population makes up about 50% of the town’s population, so everybody there (it seems) is either a Wildcat, or someone who roots for them. There are nearby natural landmarks such as the Konza Prairie, the Flint Hills, Pillsbury Crossing, and Tuttle Creek that are always fun to explore. But there are also always activities going on in the densely packed campus and student housing area that make Manhattan what it is. The shopping and bar district, Aggieville, is a two-block stretch of shops, restaurants, and bars where you will always see a familiar face. It’s great to meet up with friends, shop for a unique piece, listen to some live music, or just see what is going on. Then there is always game day in Manahttan for football or basketball. Everybody comes together to cheer on the cats, and whether it’s game day or not, you’ll always see students decked out in purple!

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

Sarah: I believe K-State has about 23,000 students and it is filled with such an interesting mix of students from rural Kansas towns, bigger cities in Kansas, and those from out of state or international hometowns. I loved that at K-State you can find your group of friends, or even several groups of friends, depending on your different interests, and really have your place that you belong, but still always remember that there are so many more students there that you don’t know! K-State is a larger state school, but it has a small school feel with a good balance of comfort and exciting different things going on! My class sizes were extremely pleasing. My senior year, I took a class that was just me and my professor working on a research project, and other classes were as small as seven students. My department is quite small, so this might be an exception – I know other curriculums still have ~50 or 100 students in their classes during their senior year. But regardless, all of the larger classes have smaller recitations or labs to go with them, or teachers promote study groups or their office hours to help students out. I’ve heard that the overall student-to-teacher ratio at K-State is 17:1, which isn’t bad, and none of our classrooms seat more than 500, so we don’t have any 1,000-person lecture halls.

Additionally, many of the departments or classes have extracurricular options to help with your studying. In our department, we started an Operations Research club to work on more problems related to our two O.R. classes, helping students currently in the classes and furthering the education of those who were already past them. Many departments in the College of Engineering have regular assemblies that attempt to get a large group of the students together to talk about professional opportunities, graduate school, clubs or activities going on in the department, and to disseminate announcements. These are great ways to find out about more resources and get more interaction with the professors and other students.

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

Sarah: One of my favorite memories was in my Engineering Physics II course. That is probably one of the most difficult courses in our curriculum and I, along with everybody else, had been struggling. But, we did have an amazing professor who was researching physics education and had a deep interest in helping us to learn the material. It was just really hard material. So, this professor’s lectures were always full of examples and demos to try to help us learn physics. Partway through the semester, when many of us students had been struggling for awhile, during one of the demos, the professor left something going on a demo for too long and it started smoking. The professor was so excited about what he was lecturing about, students kept shouting out that something was going on, but he thought we were just pointing at the demo and were getting it! Finally, he understood. We were able to fix the problem with the demo and we all had a good laugh about it. That class period was just a compilation of so many things – that the professor was so engaged with his students and that he was so excited to think that we were understanding it so well, but also that even our physics genius of a professor can make mistakes. It gave us all a little bit of a refresher, and to think that something good could come out of this hard class we were struggling in!

Check out Sarah’s tutoring profile.

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