What is it Like to Attend University of Massachusetts?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Jessica is an Austin tutor specializing in many areas of math including Algebra tutoring, Calculus tutoring, Geometry tutoring, and more. She graduated from University of Massachusetts in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Mathematics. See what she had to say about her undergraduate experience:

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?

Jessica: UMass Amherst has what I like to think of as the quintessential campus setting. Amherst, MA is a small town in Western Massachusetts of which the UMass campus is the center. It takes about 20 minutes to walk the farthest distance across campus, or about a 10 minute bike ride. There are buses running every 15 minutes along various routes throughout the day. Driving to class is an option but with limited parking available, the easiest way to travel across campus is the bus, bike, or your own two feet. 

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

Jessica: I always had an easy time getting in touch with professors, advisers, and teaching assistants. Professors and TA’s each have drop-in office hours at least 3 times per week for 1-2 hours outside of classroom time. This is a great opportunity for students to approach them with questions in a 1-on-1 setting. Most professors even make themselves available by email during the week and weekends. Academic advisers are always available by appointment to talk about class selection or any other questions a student may have. The large number of advisers on staff allows them to easily manage the large number of students on campus.

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

Jessica: Dorm life on campus varies depending on which residential area you are placed in. Each area has its own dining hall, all of which have an excellent variety of food to choose from, but the quality of food honestly differs depending on which hall you are eating in. I lived in the same residential area for two years and I found the rooms to be spacious, the dorms to be clean, and the food to be excellent. But, the walk to class from my dorm was farther than others. Other dorms are also closer to the Campus Center where social events take place. Overall, each area has its pros and cons.  

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?

Jessica: I’d say the programs in the Isenberg School of Management are best represented at UMass. This Business School is well accredited and very hard to get into. I studied Mathematics because it was always my passion and I knew I wanted to go into a career where a good background in Math was needed. The Math Department had excellent professors and resources, but we did seem to be overshadowed by the Business School (something that I think happens at all colleges).

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? 

Jessica: I had a somewhat abnormal college experience because I was a member of the Varsity swim team. This means I came into freshmen year with a built-in group of 30 friends on the team so it was very easy for me to meet people. The friends that I had outside of the team have all said it was easy to meet people freshman year in the dorms. It’s common to be placed in an all-freshmen dorm so everyone there is eager to meet people. Greek life has a small presence at UMass and is not necessary to have a good social life.  

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

Jessica: The Career Center is always open for students to come in and review their resumes or talk about career options. They are helpful in providing information for upcoming career fairs where many companies come to recruit. UMass doesn’t get as many of the big name companies that you would find at an Ivy League school but there are plenty of reputable names represented at the career fairs. Each fair is usually for a specific major or field so it is easy to narrow down which companies you’re interested in. 

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

Jessica: There is plenty of quiet space around campus for students to study or do homework. The main library has 26 floors for students to use but it still gets very crowded and hard to find a seat on weeknights. The student union is usually less crowded and still has the space available for students. Most classroom buildings have lounges or even libraries of their own for students to use during off hours. It’s best to seek out these lesser known study areas when looking for the best place to get work done. 

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? 

Jessica: Amherst, MA is a great college town. It’s about a 10 minute walk from campus to the downtown area where you’ll find local clothing boutiques, ice cream parlors, pubs, and restaurants of many different types of food. About a 5 minute drive down the nearest highway is a shopping mall with a movie theater, more restaurants, and bigger clothing stores. Most students hang out in the downtown area on nights and weekends as this is where the bars and restaurants are. The UMass campus is also about a 20 minute drive to the nearest mountain range where many students like to go for weekend hikes. 

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

Jessica: There are about 22,000 undergraduate students at UMass which sounds like a lot. During freshman year, this feels like a lot because the majority of the lower level classes will have anywhere from 100-300 students in it. This number dramatically changes as you take higher level courses later in your college career. It’s not uncommon to have 10-20 students in these classes. The availability of professors during office hours makes a class of any size seem small because of how easy it is to get extra help.

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

Jessica: The first exam I ever took in college was in Anatomy and Physiology. I had been to every class and took diligent notes but I still didn’t feel prepared for the test. The professor was holding an optional exam review the night before the test where she said she would answer any questions students had. I decided not to go, thinking that I could be more productive on my own. I got a good amount of studying done but after the exam I still didn’t feel completely confident that I knew everything. I talked to a few students from class who went to the review and they raved about how helpful it was and how prepared it made them feel for the test. From then on I always took advantage of the extra help that professors provided. 


Check out Jessica’s tutoring profile.

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