What is it Like to Attend University of Rochester?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Taylor is a 2014 graduate of the University of Rochester with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and French. She is a New York City tutor specializing in French tutoring, Writing tutoring, SAT prep tutoring, and more. Check out her review of her 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?

Taylor: Campus is very safe, but the areas surrounding campus require you to be aware at night—but it is safe if you are smart! Luckily, buses run regularly (some as often as every fifteen minutes, some about half an hour apart) to take you to places you need to go, both near campus and in the city of Rochester. Campus itself is small and easy to walk (it takes about fifteen minutes to get from end to end), and there are tunnels connecting the main academic buildings to help you stay warm during harsh winters. A bike might be useful for upperclassmen, who often live on the outer edges of campus or off-campus to save money, but freshman life is very centralized, so you likely would not need a bike your first year. Cars are useful for upperclassmen, but freshmen are not allowed to have them, and they certainly are not necessary, since university buses go everywhere you need to go. Rochester also has an affordable public bus system, but students rarely use it, since university buses are free.

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

Taylor: I always found professors, advisers, and teaching assistants to be very available. In departments that have a graduate program, most teaching assistants are graduate students who have offices and office hours. Professors and advisers have weekly office hours, too. These times are usually available for drop-ins, though some professors will request that you email in advance just to let them know you are coming—although this is usually more convenient for you, too, since then you know you will not be waiting around while the professor talks to another student. Professors are almost always flexible, too, so if you cannot make their scheduled office hours for some reason, they are usually more than willing to make another appointment with you, as long as you contact them in advance.

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

Taylor: Dorm life, particularly for underclassmen, is really fun! Orientation at the University of Rochester is really great, and it is designed to bond you with your hall-mates right away. By the end of your first week, you will feel like your hall is a home full of close friends. I graduated recently, and I am still close with many of my hall-mates from freshman year. Freshmen have an unlimited dining plan at several all-you-can-eat dining halls, as well as additional dining dollars for other a la carte dining facilities. These are all located pretty centrally on campus, and the biggest (which was recently renovated and has a whole bunch of different stations) is on the first floor of the biggest freshman dorm. It is not uncommon to see students show up for weekend brunch in their pajamas and slippers. Socialization opportunities abound on campus—there are over one hundred clubs available, and it is pretty easy to start your own. There are tons of athletic groups, ranging from varsity sports to club, intramural, or the odd group of friends who gather for pick-up games.

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?

Taylor: Since the University of Rochester has a major medical school, a lot of students plan on being doctors. Though this percentage drops as students discover other interests, throughout all four years, the biggest programs of study are in the sciences: biology, cognitive sciences, engineering, etc. There are tons of resources available for these majors, but I was in two smaller programs, and I found many advantages to this, too. In English and Modern Languages, I found that professors had more time for individual students, especially for things like internships or independent studies, as well as preparation for graduate school if you decide to go. Though bigger majors may have more university-wide resources, as a student in a smaller major, I was able to create personal relationships with professors.

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?

Taylor: It is very easy to make friends as a freshman, since orientation is designed to get hall-mates to know one another. When classes start, it is also pretty easy to meet other underclassmen in your academic program, especially if you are in entry-level courses with lots of other freshmen. Clubs and groups, which start the week after orientation, are also a great way to meet new people. Greek life comprises about 20-25% of students, which is the perfect ratio, because it means that fraternities and sororities are available for students who want to join them, but they are definitely not necessary to make friends on campus for students who are not interested. Freshmen are not allowed to pledge until their first spring semester, however, so almost everyone has become involved in some kind of group by that point.

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

Taylor: The Career Center has a number of counselors, all of whom specialize in different subjects to help students with job and internship searches in their specific majors. They also hold a series of helpful seminars throughout the year, some directed at different class years, and companies recruit on campus regularly. Again, because the science majors are bigger, they will have more recruiters and programs, but these opportunities are not absent for smaller majors—they just require a little more drive from students, who must be more proactive in seeking out help. That said, many students of every major graduate with prestigious jobs lined up, and many more find great jobs in the first few months after graduation.

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

Taylor: As with any college, libraries are super crowded during finals, but during the rest of the year, there is plenty of space in a variety of libraries. These spaces all have a slightly different atmosphere, from very serious and very quiet to more relaxed and designed for group work. One library is open 24 hours during the school year, and other libraries are open until 3:00 a.m. on weeknights, with shorter hours on the weekends. The student union is also open late most nights, and it is host to a number of events and food options. The main library and student union are both located centrally on campus, and they are convenient for students at any time of day. Dorm lounges host some studiers, but they are mostly areas for socialization—especially for freshmen as they get to know one another.

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? 

Taylor: The school tries to get students involved in Rochester as a community, since students often tend to stick to campus for the majority of their social and academic lives. That said, Rochester is a great city, and a recent “college town” project—slated to open this fall—right next to the university is going to give students even more reason to venture off campus. The college town is going to host a number of restaurants, bars, and stores, including a huge grocery store and a Barnes and Noble. Buses do run downtown, and they loop through an area that contains many museums, as well as more restaurants and shops. These ventures for students tend to be more occasional than regular, but they provide something new and exciting for those rare times that campus life does not offer something fun to do.

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

Taylor: The undergraduate student body has about 5,000 students, with some graduate and medical students who are largely separate from the undergraduates. My class sizes ranged—since I was in a small major, my typical class had about 30 students, but they got as large as 150 and, in one notable instance, as small as just me! Larger majors may have bigger classes for introductory courses, but since the student body is not huge, even popular majors see class sizes decrease in upper-level courses. And, even for large classes, professors and teaching assistants are available for help when you need it.

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

Taylor: One memorable class was one that I took optionally during the winter intersession, called Theatre in England. This class runs annually, and it provides students of all majors with the chance to travel to London and see a series of plays over two weeks. Seeing two plays a day was exhausting, but it was unbelievably exiting and fun, and it made me close friends that I had not had before the trip, not to mention a bundle of amazing memories. I had not had such an intensive bonding experience like that since freshman orientation, and I learned more in two weeks than I would have ever thought imaginable.

Check out Taylor’s tutoring profile.

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