What is it Like to Attend North Carolina State University at Raleigh?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Laila received her bachelor’s degrees in Spanish and public relations from North Carolina State University at Raleigh. She is currently an online tutor specializing in Spanish, English, and ESL/ELL. See what she had to say about her experience at North Carolina State University at Raleigh:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options. 

Laila: North Carolina State University has a fairly large campus. Its student body population was just under 30,000 when I studied there. This was much larger than my small hometown of 500 people. Such a large student body may sound intimidating for some folks, but once you make friends and get into your core classes, it feels much smaller. Because it is the size of a small city, transportation was reliable and constant. You could certainly walk to your classes, or take the Wolfline bus system, which ran day and night. Some students also biked, and some drove cars, but the bus system was clean and consistent. I never felt unsafe on the campus, but as with any populous area, students should expect to exercise caution and be smart to help deter avoidable security incidents.

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

Laila: The availability of the professors, of course, depended on the particular professor, but most of them were pretty available for the students. All professors had office hours that they either honor themselves, or that their TAs would honor. The availability of the academic advisors also varied. I changed my major once and added on a second major during my time at North Carolina State University, so I had more academic advisors than the average student. I didn’t find my academic advisor for psychology (my initial major) incredibly available; I got the impression that he was very focused on his research, and I felt I was marginal to him. In contrast, my advisor for communication (my second major) was extraordinarily available and very friendly, so it really depends. I would suggest to any student to take ultimate ownership of and responsibility for your academic success and to make your academic priorities that of your professors. Also, form relationships with professors and department staff outside of your advisor.

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

Laila: North Carolina State University has a lot of dorms, since there are so many students (I lived on the 10th floor of a tower dormitory my freshman year). Of course, those with seniority have first pick of where to live, and most freshmen are placed on Central Campus to help them become acclimated to campus life and help ensure their success, which I think is good. There are also off-campus apartments that you can live in, either with friends, or with other students (many apartments have roommate matching options).

For food, there are two dining halls on different sides of the campus for convenience. There are also many restaurants on the two main streets surrounding the university, as well as convenience stores on campus with basic food items like milk, cereal and of course, Ramen Noodles!

There are plenty of socialization opportunities, especially during the first few weeks of the semester. A lot of student groups plan events and the university sponsors events, too. There are also a ton of student organizations (around 300), and if you don’t find one you like, you can also start your own! There’s a department in the student center whose whole purpose is to support student organizations, so you’re in good hands.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? 

Laila: North Carolina State University is probably best known for its engineering school, as well as its research in the hard sciences. However, it also offers almost any major you could think of. I had two majors: Spanish and communication, with a concentration in public relations. I chose Spanish because I had fallen in love with the language and found myself very passionate in my pursuit to master it, and I later added on public relations because I enjoyed both writing and working with people.

I think there was a good deal of support for both of my degree programs. For example, with Spanish, the professors were always sending out opportunities to help further students’ linguistic and cultural fluency, both locally and internationally. For public relations, there were local societies that afforded many networking opportunities, and also a semester-long internship built into the plan of study. I took advantage of these opportunities in a number of ways. I studied for a semester in Puerto Rico at a school with a good reputation for communication studies. I also completed three internships: one with a Latino advocacy nonprofit, where I interviewed Spanish-speaking lay health advisors; one with a state government entity, where I created marketing materials and translated information to Spanish; and one with an advertising agency, where I provided research and client support for the public relations department. I do think North Carolina State University does a good job of providing support and information about opportunities; ultimately though, it’s up to the student to take advantage of them, so don’t be afraid to dive in!

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?

Laila: I found it fairly easy to make friends as a freshman. North Carolina State University breaks the incoming freshman class into orientation groups, so many of the friends that I carried throughout my undergraduate career were those from my orientation group. Having an outgoing, or at the least, friendly, personality also helps. You can also make friends from any student organizations that you become a part of as well, so I would definitely encourage getting involved, especially based on your interests. Join the Spanish club, a Bible study group, or an engineering society like NSBE, or even start your own group. Many students later join a fraternity or sorority, which is also a way to make friends, network, and engage in diversions. I would say that Greek life plays as big of a role in your life as you allow. Many students go Greek, while others opt for different activities. Either way, there’s always something to do on campus.

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

Laila: I was one of the students who visited the Career Center several times, especially in my junior and senior years. I found them very helpful in critiquing my resume or cover letters, and even offering career advice. I would definitely recommend that all students start visiting the Career Center at the start of their junior year, if not sooner. They can give you a lot of tips on how to job search and tell you about recruitment events.

Many companies do recruit on campus – engineering firms, nonprofits and international companies, so there are lots of opportunities presented to students.

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

Laila: The great thing about the library was that it stayed open 24/7 (though I think now they close at 11 p.m.). If you had to study late, there were campus-sponsored escorts that would take you to your dorm. The main campus library, D.H. Hill, has 4.5 million items (yes, million!). It also has cool things like microfiche of “The New York Times” editions from the 1800s, a digital media lab, plenty of computers, and private study rooms. Unless it’s around finals, finding a place to study is easy to do in the library. During finals, you may have to look a little longer, but you’ll still find somewhere to study. There’s also now an additional library that has been built since I’ve graduated, which I’m told is very nice. Some people also study in the campus lounges, but that can be hard because they are also used for cooking, watching television, and playing games, so I would definitely recommend the 10-story library over the lounge.

Describe the surrounding town. 

Laila: Raleigh is a city that feels like a large small town, but there’s plenty to do. There are museums, the state fair in October, concerts, plays, basketball, football and hockey games, restaurants, 5Ks, trails, etc. There are also other colleges nearby in Raleigh (Shaw, St. Augustine’s, Meredith, Peace), and Duke, NC Central, and UNC Chapel Hill just down the road. Personally, I didn’t do much exploring of the actual city until after I graduated, but a lot of students go downtown for fun.

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

Laila: North Carolina State University has a large student body population, which was just under 30,000 (undergrad and graduate students) when I studied there. Such a large student body can be intimidating for some folks, but once you make friends and get into your core classes, it feels smaller. General education classes can have as many as 300 or more students. The classes for my majors, though, typically had around 20-30 students, sometimes even as few as 10, depending on the course. I wasn’t really affected by the class sizes, even for the larger classes. I was never shy about asking questions, utilizing office hours, and introducing myself to the professor so that I wasn’t just another face.

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

Laila: Professor Gray was probably the toughest instructor among those who taught Spanish, and I had her for my Spanish 201 class as a freshman. I did fairly well in that course, and I even tutored others. I enjoyed her because she challenged us, but a lot of other students avoided taking her classes. Since Spanish was my major, I took 300- and 400-level Spanish courses, and one semester, I decided to take another, more in-depth course that she taught: Business Spanish. I did horribly in it! It was not any easy class, by any means, and she was an instructor who gave students exactly what their work merited. Ever relentless, I didn’t let it shake me. Once I had a better understanding of Spanish, its structure, phonetics, and more vocabulary, I took another business Spanish course, also taught by Professor Gray. The second time, I understood far more, and I also utilized her office hours whenever I needed to. It paid off when I earned an A+ for the semester! I have the deepest respect for “Profesora” Gray. She remains one of my favorite teachers from North Carolina State University, and I even go back and speak to her classes (in Spanish, of course!) as one of her star student examples. 

Check out Laila’s tutoring profile.

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