The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach—they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Sarah is a Louisville tutor specializing in math tutoring, economics tutoring, and more. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from University of Louisville in 2011. See what she had to say about her time at University of Louisville:
Describe the campus setting and transportation options.
Sarah: My school is in Kentucky, but believe it or not we did wear shoes to class (most of the time). Louisville is a small but fun city and the university isn’t far from downtown; it is not quite “urban,” but it is definitely not rural! The campus and surrounding area are growing fast, providing more fun things for students. There is public transportation (buses) that students have access to for free, and the city is working hard to become more bike friendly. There are bike lanes on most streets. I didn’t have a car my freshman year on campus and had no problems. As for safety, I never felt very unsafe, but crimes do happen. I had my car broken into three times in five years. You have to be careful and make smart decisions—don’t go out alone at night, for example. The school also has a service to provide rides to cars when students are on campus late and parked far away; use this service!
How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants at University of Louisville?
Sarah: Once I got past the eccentricities of my grumpy first semester bio professor with a gruff demeanor and a penchant for sarcasm, I found professors (Dr. “Grumpy” included) to be extremely available—especially in the smaller classes I took in my political science major. I always sat in the front and engaged in classes so the professor knew my name and face. Remember, professors are there to help students—but not students who show up after failing exam 2 and missing most classes and ask “do you think you can pass me still?” Show up! The same goes for advisers and TAs. With hundreds of students on their rosters, or their own classes, they cannot track you down, but they will always do their best when you seek out their help. Really that’s what it comes down to: show up, be proactive, and people will help you both during school and after. Remember you’ll probably need a reference or letter of recommendation from some of them too.
How would you describe the dorm life—rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Sarah: Ah, the vast social capital of the university! I truly believe you get as much value in the interactions and “social life” of college as you do classes! Wait, parents, hear me out! The university provides training—sometimes trial by fire—in relational lessons which are critical in all of life from being an employee to an employer, from being a best friend to dealing with difficult people, and from being a child to a parent. Living with someone in a dorm is a great opportunity to learn both boundaries and compromise. I absolutely encourage being a part of one or more student groups on campus. I was a student athlete, was very involved in a Christian campus ministry, participated in events with the Portuguese and Russian clubs, and did community service. You may wonder how I got my schoolwork done with all my extracurricular involvements, but these things motivated me to be a better student too. Also, meet international students! You’ll learn about new cultures—and have places to visit down the road!
Which majors/programs are best represented and supported at University of Louisville?
Sarah: UofL is a big public school—we have a lot of great programs, but it is well known for engineering and business. I studied political science, though. We have a little building on campus with tiny classrooms but we had excellent professors who were knowledgeable, passionate, supportive, and fun! We had a computer lab with free printing too (shhh, we try not to tell everyone that). The program prepared me well too—I got accepted into top grad schools in my program on their training and recommendations and we are a small program. The university has great resources for tutoring in almost any subject, a writing center to help with papers, and a great library for your research. They are open to interdisciplinary studies and are very helpful and accommodating. And as a large school, there is always a faculty member who is an expert in your weird little niche—except maybe oceanography, since Kentucky is landlocked.
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?
Sarah: I am outgoing… but truthfully, I’m wicked (Northeast term there) awkward! So I am super glad that I walked into a group of incredible friends on day one through being a student athlete. I was a part of a group of people with whom I had something in common on day one—and I continued to pursue those groups. I mentioned earlier joining clubs and I think this is imperative to finding good friends, especially if you’re a little nervous about making friends. At UofL there are 15,000+ undergrads. Odds are pretty good there are some friends waiting for you! As for Greek life, it has been growing. I wasn’t in a sorority, but those are one of many great opportunities to join groups and make friends. Try out a few clubs or groups from sororities to sports. You’ll make friends, get free food, and have the time of your life!
How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services?
Sarah: Well.... this is a service that I probably wasn’t as proactive as I should have been with. I did take a personality test to help me choose a major… but that changed about four times. I also did a mock interview with them which was helpful. I’ve attended career fairs and I know they have reputable companies including YUM! Brands, Chase, GM, and even the FBI who recruit there. Many programs have their own career center. I was in the business school often for my econ classes and they have an excellent internal career support program. The engineering school gets every student set with a “co-op” (their fancy word for paid internship) for a semester and people have worked with Marathon, Boeing, General Electric, and more.
How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges at University of Louisville?
Sarah: You can always find space if you look! Popular areas do get over crowded, but there are spaces in the back of the library, basements of buildings like the business school, and small computer labs where you’re guaranteed to find quiet—and maybe even complete solitude—for hours. If you prefer busy, there are coffee shops on and close to campus that are great for students.
Describe the surrounding town.
Sarah: Alright, so I’m from the Northeast—which means I had some preconceived notions about Kentucky… and I didn’t even know how to say “Louisville” (Loo-a-vul). Some ideas were right, some were wrong! Snow removal capabilities met my low expectations, but the variety of activities and liveliness of the small city delighted me. Lately, Louisville has made it into all sorts of “top 10 places to visit for food” or “Foodie’s Delight” articles with its great restaurants (my favorite is a hole-in-the-wall Mexican taqueria where everyone speaks Spanish), but you can get everything from gourmet McDonald's to melt-in-your-mouth Ethiopian. A few city highlights: Churchill Downs (if you haven’t been to Kentucky during Derby, you’ll be amazed), a walking bridge from downtown to Indiana which is hugely popular, local establishments on Bardstown Road—a favorite hangout for students much more popular than downtown, 4th Street Live, where they close a portion of the road to traffic and host events like concerts downtown, and you’re not far from some great hiking, camping, and climbing spots too. We’ve had Ironman here (one of my favorite events), and all the basketball you could want!
How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Sarah: As of this year, there are around 15,962 undergrads on campus. It’s a medium-size public school. I like the size because it is big enough to have a lot of different opportunities, but small enough that even four years after graduating, I could go back and visit campus and see people I know. I knew I wanted small classes which is part of why I ended up studying political science. I found I loved the subject of international relations, but I also loved the more personal, discussion-oriented, small classes there. I had maybe 10-15 students in most of my upper-level major classes and 20-30 in lower ones. My smallest class, a six-hour Portuguese class, had four students in it, and we learned a ton. My biggest classes were general education classes, but if you pay attention and show you care, it makes the class feel much smaller.
Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Sarah: I had so many wonderful experiences from college that it’s hard to choose one, but I’ll tell you a surprising one. I had a general education history class that I wasn’t thrilled to take, but I followed the protocol I set for myself and sat in the front and engaged. I don’t even know how many students were behind me—a lot, mostly using Facebook—but I felt like it was a small class because I chose to sit in front and engage. The professor taught history through the lense of revolutions and international relations and it was fascinating! It was an unexpected surprise and helped me choose to study international relations (political science) for my major. My willingness to sit in front and give the class my best effort paid off and it was one of my favorite classes, and the professor has my utmost respect for teaching a great class and engaging those of us who were interested even though he knew most people were only there because they had to be.
Check out Sarah’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.