The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Lauren is a 2012 graduate of University of California, Los Angeles with a Bachelor’s degree in English. She currently tutors in Los Angeles and specializes in many subjects including SAT prep tutoring, Grammar and Mechanics tutoring, and Spanish tutoring. See what she had to say about her time at UCLA:
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?
Lauren: UCLA’s dorms are located on the edge of campus, so most students choose to walk the fifteen minutes it takes to get to class. Even upperclassmen walk to class, as many of them live in apartments right next to campus. Bringing a bike to UCLA may be helpful, but it is by no means necessary; taking your car to UCLA will result in far more parking tickets than you’d like!
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Lauren: In my four years at UCLA, I found that the teaching assistants were incredibly helpful. They are the ones who grade your papers and tests, so forming some kind of relationship with them (by answering questions in class and going to their office hours) is important. TA’s at UCLA are generally very passionate about their work as graduate students, so if you’re considering going to grad school, I recommend that you talk to them. They can be an invaluable resource.
Professors at UCLA are hit and miss in terms of availability. If you want to know beforehand how approachable a professor is, look the professor up on bruinwalk.com. You’ll find former students’ reviews and ratings of that professor, along with grades the professor has given in the past. I can’t recommend this site enough for incoming students—it’s a lifesaver!
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Lauren: Dorm life at UCLA is amazing. I’m not just saying that—I’ve compared my experience with that of my high school friends who went to other UC’s and private schools throughout the U.S., and UCLA wins every time. First of all, the food is incredible. I miss it. There are several dining halls and cafes located right next to the dorms, and each hall has different food options.
The dorms are great places to meet friends—your resident advisor (RA) will conduct a few “icebreaker” activities shortly after you move in, and entire dorm floors will eat at the dining halls together for the first few weeks of school. I met two of my best friends my freshman year in the dorms; I’m getting lunch with one of them this week and having a movie night with the other this weekend!
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?
Lauren: Some of the most popular majors at UCLA are Biology, Communications, and Psychology. Having taken a few classes in Psychology, I can vouch for the rigor of the program and the intelligence of the professors. However, I arrived at UCLA already a declared English major, and I didn’t switch my major once. I always knew I wanted to study English; when I was young, I would get in trouble for staying up late reading by the light of a flashlight. I knew UCLA was the perfect place for me, as its English program is currently ranked #10 in the United States. The professors are top-notch and have often edited or written the introductions for the novels students read in class.
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?
Lauren: It was very easy to meet people as a freshman. While most people meet their friends in the dorms or in a sorority or fraternity, many people join clubs and make friends there. I’ve even made some friends in classes.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Lauren: While I can’t speak from personal experience on this one, I know that many reputable companies recruit at student-run clubs such as the Undergraduate Business Society. My brother (also a Bruin) is currently a member of UBS and has been able to network with people from top consulting and banking companies.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Lauren: The libraries at UCLA, besides being beautiful, are the best places to study on campus. Most undergraduates study at Powell, the campus’ main library. At Powell, you can print out your papers, rent a laptop computer, and study in absolute silence. While most people choose to study in small stalls at Powell, I usually curl up on one of the many couches.
In addition to the libraries, UCLA’s dorms have a study lounge on each floor. My dorm lounge was usually a great place to study, but at times study sessions became social gatherings. I would recommend the libraries for intense studying—there are less distractions.
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?
Lauren: UCLA students often describe Westwood as a “bubble.” The good news is that Westwood has everything students need—a pharmacy, In-N-Out, hair salons, clothing stores, and even a couple of movie theatres. Bad news? Many students don’t venture outside of Westwood to explore all that L.A. has to offer. Fortunately, by the time students are in their third year of college, they usually get the hang of the bus system or drive a friend’s car to hang out on Third Street Promenade or see a show in Hollywood.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Lauren: The student body is huge, and, consequently, so are many intro-level classes at UCLA. The large class size never bothered me, though, because most huge classes are split up into small (20 students or less) sections that meet once a week. Going to and participating in section is important because your TA, not your professor, will be grading your tests.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Lauren: As a senior at UCLA, I asked a former professor to work with me on a thesis. Working with this professor was both exciting and scary—she is an expert in Romantic-era literature and a well-respected senior professor of English. Although I was incredibly nervous at first, studying one-on-one with this professor was the best academic experience I had at UCLA. Not only did I learn more meeting with her than I ever did taking notes in a lecture, I felt that my writing and analytical skills had improved significantly once I was done with my thesis.
Check out Lauren’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.