What is it Like to Attend University of Colorado Boulder?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Erin is a Denver tutor and 2011 graduate of University of Colorado Boulder. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and tutors several subjects specializing in Essay Editing tutoring, Literature tutoring, and Writing tutoring. Check out what Erin had to say about her time at University of Colorado Boulder:

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?

Erin: University of Colorado Boulder is a much smaller campus than I originally expected when I first arrived. Because of this, it is very easy to walk from class to class, even if you have to cross to the opposite side of campus. Public transportation at University of Colorado Boulder is great; the school provides you with a bus pass every semester, which enables you to take any of the RTD buses (around Boulder, to Denver, or even to the airport) for free. With that said, University of Colorado Boulder and the town of Boulder are very pedestrian-friendly. Plenty of people buy bikes to get around, but it is not a necessity.

The campus is very safe, but it is still important to be vigilant, especially when walking around campus at night. I personally never experienced a situation in which I felt unsafe on campus, but at any school, it is important to remain alert when alone and at night.

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

Erin: All the professors and teaching assistants I had at University of Colorado Boulder always made themselves available during office hours, and they were flexible if students were not able to meet at those times. For example, I worked a part-time job immediately following my classes, so meeting during office hours was sometimes difficult. However, my instructors were always willing to find time to meet with me.

I would say that the academic advisers are less than helpful, at least in my tenure at University of Colorado Boulder. I imagine it is challenging to keep track of so many students, but I encourage students to monitor their own academic schedules and to use their advisers as soundboards. My adviser told me during my junior year meeting that I would not graduate on time and that I would need to take summer classes. Unsure how that was possible, but heeding his advice, I stacked my summer with classes and did the same with my fall schedule. When I met with my adviser again to figure out how I could still graduate in four years, he laughed and told me he made a mistake – I was eligible for graduation that semester, ahead of my expected (and on-time) graduation date. With that said, I would have gladly spent the spring semester taking more classes, if only my adviser had informed me that if I took two more courses, I would be graduating with not only my major in English, but also a minor in Women’s Studies and a certificate in LGBT Studies. Keep an eye on your requirements, and always look for those opportunities, because I know my experience with my adviser matches that of many of my peers.

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

Erin: I loved my dorm, Farrand Hall. It is considered the most popular choice at University of Colorado Boulder, often because it overlooks the scenic Farrand Field and Flatirons. It also has its own dining hall, which was nice because I did not have to trudge to other dorms or dining halls in the colder months. Many of my best friends to this day are people who lived on my floor, and I know we would not have met had it not been for Farrand Hall.

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?

Erin: I originally started as a pre-Journalism major. After I was accepted into the Journalism major, it was announced that following the graduating class of 2013 (the year after mine), the department would be disbanded. Knowing that many of their jobs would not be around for long, many of the best professors left, and the department did not seem to be the best fit for my education any longer. I transferred to English Literature, and I believe I got one of the most interesting educations possible. I took classes that taught subjects ranging from multicultural and race relations, to zombies and LGBT literature. All of my professors were insanely intelligent, and I loved being able to learn from them. English Literature may not be Business or Engineering (both highly rated and supported tracks at University of Colorado Boulder), but I felt always supported, and I took classes that people today are still jealous they did not sit in on.

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?

Erin: Full disclosure: I did rush my freshman year, and my core group of girlfriends came from that brief sorority experience. After one year, I dropped out, but I do not feel like that hindered my social life. I made friends through classes, the dorms, and neighbors once I moved to the Hill neighborhood. Greek life does have benefits during the initial meeting experience, but if it is not your style, do not feel pressured to rush. I was lucky to have a great friend group that included Greek and non-Greek people, but I do know some Greek organizations are very tightly knit, and they try to keep friendships solely within the house.

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

Erin: I never took advantage of University of Colorado Boulder’s Career Center. The few times I perused the website, I felt that many of the options were directed toward Engineering or Business students.

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

Erin: I enjoyed Norlin Library, but during finals, it is more of a place to see and be seen. By that I mean that it can be more distracting. My favorite secret place to study was Wolf Law, the graduate building for law students. It was never very crowded during finals time, and it was across the street from Starbucks and Einstein Bros. Bagels (which are nice to have nearby while studying for hours on end).

The University Memorial Center, the student union, was nice when I was a student, and it has only gotten better since. I never did much studying there – it was often a place where people met to discuss group projects or to grab something to eat before classes, so it always had a dull roar from the many people who occupied it. The new community building, the Center for Community, is an absolutely beautiful building with many resources, but since it was erected after my time at University of Colorado Boulder, I cannot attest to its study options. As far as dorm lounges go, I never spotted any that were ever really in use, mostly because “lounges” were simply an old couch and not much else.

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? 

Erin: Boulder is an amazing city. There is something for everyone. Hike the Flatirons or lounge at Boulder Creek on warm spring days. Go shopping, or grab lunch on Pearl Street when you need to get away from campus for a bit. That does not really do Boulder justice, but the best way to understand how amazing the city is is to get out and explore it. Freshman year, I definitely did not spend as much time downtown as I did in subsequent years, but it was nice that it was only a short walk away. The Hill, where many students live after freshman year, is also a great way to stay close to campus while leaving the dorms. There are plenty of food options, a great music venue (The Fox), and downtown is often where people go out on the weekends.

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

Erin: I had a few classes that were about 400 people, but those were core lecture classes everyone had to take, and they were supplemented by a recitation once per week. Recitations were 50-minute classes with about 20 people, which allowed you to delve deeper into the content. It also enabled you to ask questions freely. The rest of my classes ranged from 10 people to 25, and I always felt like I was able to ask questions and get the attention I needed.

As far as the student body goes, undergraduates totaled about 25,000, which was a perfect size for me. I liked that I could always meet someone new, but when transferring between classes, I would always see a familiar face.

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

Erin: In my class, “Pop Culture in Literature,” we focused on zombies for the semester. My teacher was a well-known writer in the field, and throughout the course, we had a “zombie defense team” come in and teach us how to protect ourselves during the apocalypse. One extra credit assignment was to attend and dress up for the popular Zombie Crawl in downtown Denver.

While many people thought this was not a good use of education or resources, I have to scoff at them. In this class, I learned zombie literature (The Walking Dead and World War Z were both written before their film counterparts hit screens) was much more than just entertainment with gore – it was a comment on social status and dissatisfaction with society. We learned how zombie literature has punctuated America’s history of social change, and what that means for us as a society.

Also, the class was offered solely to English students, and it was meant to only be a one-semester offering. After my small class of 25 raved about our professor and the coursework, the class was picked up as a 400-person lecture and opened up to the entire student body. Take that, naysayers!

Check out Erin’s tutoring profile.

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