The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Dana graduated from University of Houston in 2012 where she studied Political Science and Economics. She is an Austin tutor who specializes in SAT prep tutoring, Literature tutoring, Writing tutoring, and more. See what she had to say about her 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?
Dana: UH is historically a university for the working class, located in Houston's Third Ward. Thus the student body is dedicated, supportive, and highly diverse. Campus is close to downtown and Montrose, a great neighborhood filled with restaurants, museums, and more. Third Ward itself is a dynamic neighborhood, and despite some occasional crime, common sense is enough to keep you safe around campus (don't walk around alone at night, for example).
Houston's transportation system is lacking, to say the least. But, depending on where you live, there are indeed buses and a new light rail coming to campus. Most students live in the far-flung suburbs though, and must use a car.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Dana: From my experience, professors are available and willing to help, if not highly encouraging and committed to their students. Academic advisers are a hit and miss, and it depends on the department. Cultivating a good relationship with your advisers can go a long way though, so you can get past any initial unavailability. My classes were always small, as part of the Honors College or in advanced classes (both in the Political Science Department and the Economics Department), so I did not have much interaction with teaching assistants - only once in my entire undergraduate career.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Dana: Dorm life at UH has drastically improved, including the quality of the rooms and dining options. More restaurants have opened up as new buildings have been added. I never lived in the dorms, and some students find them a bit overpriced. But socialization opportunities have certainly increased for students, especially since dorms now group students by interest and college.
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?
Dana: UH is the type of school, size-wise, where many programs are very strong and well-supported. For instance, UH is ranked in the top schools for diverse majors such as Creative Writing, Entrepreneurship, and Engineering. I personally double majored in Political Science and Economics. All of my professors were well-established and had graduated from top institutions. The university focuses more on the Natural Sciences, from my experience, but still provides a number of research grants to the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences. I had no problem pursuing my areas of study past the classroom when I wanted, with the logistic and financial support of the university.
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?
Dana: It was very easy to meet people and make friends as a freshman. UH has many active student groups and consistently fun school-wide events. I was also a member of the Honors College, which does a great job helping their students get to know one another and cultivate relationships. There are a variety of Honors College events, many catered to freshman alone. Admittedly, the best relationships I made at UH were not made through the Honors College, but it does not take much effort to pursue other activities. Information on campus events is widely available.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Dana: There are a number of job fairs organized by the university career center, or specific colleges. The success rate seems to be quite satisfactory for the students involved, and many find internships and entry-level positions. I always wanted to pursue an academic career, and I did not utilize this particular support service. But, from my impression, they seem to be successful.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Dana: The main library is wonderful, spacious, and a great place to study. It's open late when you need it and features a number of great events each semester, including Undergraduate Research Day and a late night pancake dinner during finals. The camaraderie between students studying in the library is wonderful to see and experience. The University Center, UH's student union, is currently being re-modeled. It will hold more restaurants and more areas for students to study or get involved in activities. Dorm lounges, particularly in the newer buildings, are very fancy and well-equipped, available to residents only (so I didn't get to see much of them).
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?
Dana: Houston is the fourth largest metropolitan area in the country, and UH is right in the thick of things. There isn't much you can't do there; all interests are well represented. Students often spend time in Montrose, Fourth Ward, the Heights, and other great neighborhoods in central Houston. There are enough activities on campus to keep you busy, too, including athletic events, plays, and art shows.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Dana: Although the student body is 35,000 strong, many of my classes were 30 students or smaller. Rarely did I attend a large auditorium class, so I was always very pleased with class size. For a large university, UH does a great job making the student's educational experience as personal as possible.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Dana: I enjoyed all the classes I took with Dr. Ryan Kennedy, who teaches in the Political Science Department. I also had the opportunity to take a capstone seminar with Dr. Robert Zaretsky and Dr. Olivia Miljanic on globalization. Through this course, I was able to pursue an undergraduate thesis, which I credit for helping me get into graduate school soon after.
Check out Dana’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.