The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Zach is a New York City tutor specializing in many areas of test prep including SAT tutoring, ACT tutoring, ISEE tutoring, SSAT tutoring, and more. He graduated from the University of Miami in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Ecosystem Science & Policy and International Studies. See what he had to say about his school:
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?
Zach: South Florida is a unique place and the UMiami campus reflects that beautifully; it’s difficult to find a spot that isn’t picturesque. The small campus size and beautiful weather lend themselves to walking, though I’d advise packing an umbrella for the brief and sudden downpours that happen seasonally. The Marine Science campus is located on Key Biscayne, but is connected with frequent shuttles. Those living more than a reasonable walk from campus might appreciate having a car, as Miami can be a challenge to navigate otherwise.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Zach: Many people intuitively think that UM is a large school, when actually that’s not the case. In my experience, it’s a close-knit community and the staff and faculty are always available to help students who are seeking it. Larger, intro-level classes exist, but are supplemented with study sessions and lots of office hours (both by appointment and on a walk-in basis). Advisers are assigned by major, which means that they share a passion for your field of study, and deal with few enough students to care and be very helpful on an individualized level.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Zach: There are two freshman dorm buildings on campus, and I felt that they really set the UMiami experience off on the right foot. Floor programs and activities did a lot to mitigate the onset of freshman homesickness that almost everyone feels at some point. I met people in my first year that remain my best friends to this day. The dining halls offer a wide array of food choices and meal plans.
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?
Zach: All of the programs one would expect are fully represented and supported. In particular, Miami’s location and the devoted campus make it a world renowned place for Marine Science disciplines. I found that, in my experience in various science and International Studies classes, teachers almost always worked or researched in the fields they were teaching. This was helpful both in the practical knowledge that it allowed them to share with students and in how helpful they could be with sharing opportunities for research, internships, and jobs.
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?
Zach: As I previously mentioned, UM devotes lots of energy to creating a fun and easy freshman experience. Meeting people is easy and everyone seems friendly – maybe the sunshine puts everyone in a good mood. The social scene isn’t dominated by Greek life, so being a part of a fraternity or sorority isn’t necessary to meet people, though it’s available to those interested.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Zach: I didn’t use it, but the Toppel Career Center is a robust resource that many of my peers found tremendously helpful. Miami is a great location – many companies have locations right in the city, particularly those who conduct international business – and most of those companies made an effort to recruit from UM.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Zach: Richter Library is huge and sits right in the heart of campus. Study space there is at a premium during finals, but in general, students should have no trouble finding a place to study. There is also an on-campus Starbucks for those who like that type of environment. For me, though, nothing beats studying outside in the lakeside hammocks that the school puts out during finals.
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?
Zach: It probably isn’t too hard to believe that UMiami is a very fun place to attend school. The area immediately around campus is a quieter area than the heart of Miami. An on-campus bar is a fantastic place to hang out with friends or catch a road football game on TV surrounded by fellow Hurricanes. There’s something fun for everyone in Miami as well: beautiful beaches, a wonderful art community and cultural centers, the glitz of South Beach, a bar scene, every type of sporting event you can imagine, and a lot more. You’ll want to hit the books hard during the week so you can experience all Miami has to offer during your free time.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Zach: As previously mentioned, UM is much smaller than many people imagine: about 10,000 undergrads. You will find your typical range of class sizes: my Introduction to Biology class (a requirement for almost everyone in a Science program) had about 200 students, but as you delve deeper into your field of study, you’ll find class sizes drop to less than 20. By my senior year, I was in several classes that had only three or four students.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Zach: It’s difficult to pick, but a research expedition to Death Valley/Long Valley, California was certainly a highlight. There is no shortage of opportunities for in-the-field experiences (this trip and a trip to the Galapagos were offered in my senior year, and that’s just in my small major), but being in the mountains and conducting environmental and geologic research was what made me really passionate about my field of study. In the span of a single day, we sweat in sandy deserts and waded through feet of snow. We literally experienced the country’s highest mountains and lowest valleys. Professors seemed less like instructors and more like experienced colleagues and we participated in real, published research. It was truly a hands-on type of learning that seems next to impossible to replicate in a classroom. I advise any potential UM student to seize and relish the many of these opportunities that exist.
Check out Zach’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.