What is it Like to Attend Portland State University?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach—they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Austin is a Portland tutor specializing in English tutoring, French tutoring, public speaking tutoring, and a number of other areas. He is currently a senior at Portland State University majoring in arts and letters, French language and literature, history, and social sciences. See what he had to share about Portland State University:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options.

Austin: Portland State University is located in downtown Portland, Oregon. This central location in the city provides for a number of transportation options, including ample bicycle lanes, parking structures, and multiple lines of light rail. For this reason (and because of the diversity of student ages), few students live on campus. This means that the feel of the university is both omnipresent and absent from the city’s heart. The boundaries of campus and city are not defined, and many students do not even live in the city of Portland itself. (This is my situation.) Portland is relatively safe (for a U.S. city), but that still leaves plenty of danger. The university has “park blocks,” or urban walkways with green space, which become unsafe during parts of the night. That being said, the daytime sees such heavy foot traffic that safety is not normally a problem.

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants at Portland State University?

Austin: There is little consistency in how available professors are. Academic advisers are available, but exactly how useful they are varies widely. Teaching assistants are not present in many classes, but they are often quite available.

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

Austin: Like the majority of Portland State University students, I do not live in the dorms. It would be unfair to merely spread hearsay, but given that Portland State University does not have a normal percentage of students living on or near campus, the dorms do not play such a central role as at some other universities and colleges. 

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported at Portland State University?

Austin: Developmental psychology, conflict resolution, business, and engineering get a good showing at Portland State University, among others. That being said, rankings and self-elected specialities are always debatable. I am currently striving for four majors (social sciences, history, arts and letters, and French language and literature). I may or may not also earn a minor or two, depending on the next term. I would argue that the university did an often mediocre job of supporting my areas of study. Without comparing it to other institutions, it is still possible to say that my goals were as much hindered as they were helped.

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?

Austin: I was incredibly engaged in my high school and had many great friends. A year later, I found myself reduced to tears, wailing to my mother about my lack of friends and even basic social engagement at Portland State University. Greek life does not play an important part in this university and its social life (or lack thereof). My way into a now much more satisfying social life was through working with a study-abroad company based at Portland State University that hires a diverse range of American and international students to welcome and support short-term study abroad students from East Asia.

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

Austin: My future career choices are in academia, and therefore I have not attended these sessions. Instead, I seek out professors and ask how they got where they are.

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

Austin: Portland State University does have spacious study areas, but it is also the largest university in the state of Oregon, and so things can get crowded.

Describe the surrounding town at Portland State University.

Austin: Portland is a very dynamic city that is becoming increasingly popular. As previously mentioned, there is little to no distinction between Portland State University and Portland itself, in many cases. Portland State University is a few minutes away from major theatres and shopping malls, and it is relatively close to great hiking, two hours from the coast, less than that from Mount Hood, etc.

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

Austin: Portland State University is the largest university in the state of Oregon, and it has many students in many classes. However, higher-level courses across departments may not be large even with a mix of Master and Bachelor students.

Check out Austin’s tutoring profile.

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