The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Brandon is a New York City tutor specializing in several subjects such as Economics tutoring, Reading, and College Essay prep tutoring. He majored in Theater, Economics, and Government when he attended Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York and graduated in 2011. See what Brandon had to say about 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?
Brandon: Saratoga Springs is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the northeast; it is mostly a summer vacation town, so it doesn't feel like a college town, but there are plenty of options (food, clothing, etc.) for college students. The economy during the summer months drums up enough business for Saratoga to host some of the most amazing restaurants in the northeast, apparently keeping the record for the largest concentration of bars and restaurants in the continental United States (maybe hearsay? Either way, the town feels like that is true). Getting downtown is as easy as taking a free bus from campus, I think they still run every 30 minutes.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Brandon: My professors were almost always available to speak with and I became close with a few of them. Whether a professor is in his or her office all day or not, every professor has mandated office hours during the week. If these conflict with you, most are usually helpful and willing to accommodate.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Brandon: The dining hall is amazing. Friends of mine from home who came to visit said it was the best thing they've ever experienced, especially at a college. Dorm and housing life is always getting better; a new housing establishment has just been finished and the other options are centrally located and easy to get to. I took the off-campus housing option my junior and senior years, just because I love the city of Saratoga and wanted to be more connected with it. Actually, living downtown is different from living on campus; Skidmore is like it's own little community, and so is Saratoga. I just wanted to get a little more connected with the Saratoga community.
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?
Brandon: Well, it's hard to say which program or major Skidmore sees at it's most important. Sure, there are an abundance of students majoring in Business, Studio Art and Foreign Languages, but there is room for other kinds of majors. I majored in Theater and felt very well taken care of. My junior year, I mounted a production of Jean-Paul Sartre's No Exit at the historic Caffe Lena in downtown Saratoga Springs and Skidmore gave me a grant to pay for the space and the rights for the play. The Theater department was a tight-knit group and we took care of each other. On the other hand, my housemate senior year majored in Physics and went on to graduate school at University of Washington, studying Aerospace Engineering; so, whatever you study, you will probably be accommodated.
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?
Brandon: I found it really easy to meet people and make friends my freshman year. I was really stressed out about making friends and doing well before I went, but once you arrive you realize that most people are in the same boat; everyone is essentially friendless, so if you put yourself out there, people will respond. Greek life doesn't exist at Skidmore, but we have A'Capella groups, and they come close. I was in one, so it seems that way. People who weren't in A'Capella groups probably didn't care too much though.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Brandon: The Business department at Skidmore is reputable and one of the most active on campus. Ben and Jerry's Phish Food ice cream flavor came from an idea that a group in the Business department's 101 class came up with. Most of my friends received a lot of help from the Career Center and were successful in finding jobs upon graduation. It was different for me; I entered the professional theater world after I graduated, so there was not much Skidmore could have done for me other than train me and give me connections with people after graduation, both of which I received.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Brandon: I mostly studied in the library or in my room (aside from majoring in theater, I minored in government and studied economics – Skidmore's Liberal Arts tradition took a hold of me). The library was great and spacious, while I was there at least. Recently, I've heard murmurs of over-crowded-ness around campus, but that may not be true.
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?
Brandon: Saratoga is the best city in the north-east. Every time I go back to that place I have a perpetual smile on my face. Some of the best food I've ever tasted comes from Saratoga. It's so quaint, yet so cultured; there are art galleries, performing spaces, shops with oddities, and plenty of delicious food. While there, try The Local, Ravenous, or Putnam Market. There are so many other places, try it all! I lived downtown my senior year, some of my friends did the same thing. I'd say by senior year about half of the class is living downtown, while the other half stays with the on-campus Northwoods housing option, which is just as awesome.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Brandon: I don't think I had a single class size over 30, and most of them hovered around 10 or 15. I was generally amazed by class sizes. I had an acting class my junior year that was 5 students; this was amazing. I got so much up close and personal work with one of the best acting teachers around, a permanent member of the SITI company and excellent actor in his own right. Government and Economics was generally the same thing, I was mostly very pleased with class sizes.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Brandon: My teachers were all so available; I regret not utilizing all of their office hours more and not becoming friends with more of them. The more you forge a close relationship with a professor, the more you will learn. You'll be more engaged in the teacher and the material, and the teacher will be more engaged with you. Only good things can come of this.
Check out Brandon’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.