What is it Like to Attend University of Washington?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Sebastian is a 2012 graduate of University of Washington and currently specializes in Organic Chemistry tutoring in Seattle. He acquired his Bachelor’s degree in General Biology. 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? 

Sebastian: Overall, the transportation was very good. If you were to travel there by car, there are plenty of parking places, but you do have to pay for them, so travelling by car is a bit expensive. People who live nearby (and there are plenty of options for that, ranging from dorms to apartments) are able to bike, or just walk. Personally, since I lived in Edmonds, which is about 20 minutes away from UW by car, I chose to take the bus. And living pretty far from the campus was actually not too bad. There were a lot of bus options to get there, whether I had to be there early or late, and it took me about an hour to get to school. In terms of safety, there are always a few reports every now and then, regarding stealing or some other violent acts, but never anything that led to fatal or severe consequences. To solve this issue, UW has implemented a policy, where you can contact a service that will personally pick you up and get you to where you need to go, within reasonable limits. And this service was completely free and often a good idea to use during the evening. Therefore, in terms of transportation and safety, the campus was really good. 

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

Sebastian: For me, this really depends on the class. The larger, more general classes did not have too many office hours, since the professors were usually involved with other activities, such as research. The smaller classes, however, had plenty of one-on-one opportunities with the professors, so you could easily find extra time to catch up if you are falling behind. Personally, in the larger classes, if you are having trouble, I would recommend trying to set up a study group or find a personal tutor that would be able to work with you at a convenient time.   

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

Sebastian: This is where I can’t really answer the question, since I lived at home, with my parents. Therefore, the dorm life is not really familiar to me. However, in terms of socializing, there are many clubs available to students that post regular events that vary from parties to simple movie nights and various other activities. The clubs serve so many different purposes, ranging from representation of specific countries to different hobbies; you would always be able to find some place to fit in. Aside from that, there are opportunities for various parties that happen closer to the weekend and other events that are specific to the university, such as sports games, parades, etc. As for dining options, that was one of the best things about UW. Very close to the university, there is a street that is full of restaurants and bars, and there is always a place to get something to eat or to just have a few drinks with friends. The places are usually filled with people, and so are pretty energetic and have a good atmosphere. 

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?

Sebastian: I majored in General Biology, and therefore, am not too familiar with other majors. As for mine, it was pretty well supported. There were certain tutoring groups that were available to help out, and the advisers were also extremely helpful in setting up a working schedule for you. I definitely made use of the advisers in the Biology department, and was easily able to set up a class schedule that worked really well with the jobs and other extracurricular activities that I had going on at the time.

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?

Sebastian: I’m not sure about Greek life (I honestly don’t really know what that means exactly), but in terms of making friends, I met a lot of people in my classes, with whom I still hang out today, even after I have graduated. I met a lot of students who I studied with at first and then ended up hanging out with, after our classes ended or I finished everything at UW.  As I mentioned previously, attending clubs or signing up for various events or parties is a great way to meet people, since everyone is relaxed and not worrying about homework.  

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

Sebastian: This one I cannot answer at all, since I never used the Career Center. During UW, I had a really good job of being an Organic Chemistry tutor, and when I graduated, I found a retail job and still continue with tutoring. Therefore, most of my financial matters were solved personally. 

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

Sebastian: The libraries are very good. There are many libraries that are available to study at, and also plenty of study rooms that you are able to reserve. The study rooms were a perfect place to gather study groups in, since noise is not an issue, and everyone is able to participate in discussions, without worrying about bothering the people next to you. The libraries also have very helpful staff, if you are writing a research paper. There were multiple times when my starting point was to simply go to one of the main libraries, and talk to the staff there about where I should begin with my research. The only negative thing that I could mention (and it is not too big) is the availability of computers. There is only one library that has a large computer section, and if you are planning on getting together with a few people and need to find several computers next to each other, that could be pretty difficult, especially during the day, when the libraries are pretty full. If you only need one computer to do some work, however, it is not a problem.

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?  

Sebastian: UW has a small “town” called the U Village, located very close to the campus. The place has a few restaurants, grocery stores, and shopping centers. However, the place where most people go is the street right next to the university, commonly called The Ave. As I mentioned above, the street is filled with amazing places to eat, bars, coffee places, and just a lot of really cool places to relax after school. Furthermore, UW has one of the best fitness centers I have ever been to. The IMA contains a large pool, multiple basketball/volleyball/tennis courts, an inside track, weight rooms, and more. The place is absolutely amazing and definitely worth using, if you are a student at UW, since it is completely free for those who are enrolled at the university.

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

Sebastian: This really depends on the class you are taking. If you are taking a general class (such as general biology or general chemistry), there will be a lot of people there – maybe around 500 or 600. However, once you finish the general classes and begin taking the more specific ones (the courses that really belong to your major), the class sizes decrease dramatically. Some of my smaller classes contained only about 20-30 people, which was a really nice change. 

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

Sebastian: My most memorable experience was with my Organic Chemistry professor. When I began taking the class with him, I really enjoyed his teaching method, and would often stay for office hours, just to discuss certain things or to study with friends. After a while, we got to know each other pretty well, and he allowed me to be a TA for the first and second quarters of his Organic Chemistry classes. This briefly introduced to the world of teaching and I truly enjoyed the experience. I began making connections with the various students to whom I was explaining the many concepts of the class, and thus, private tutoring came up as a possible job opportunity. It is from that point, that I began tutoring and gathering students, some of whom I am still in contact with today.


Check out Sebastian’s tutoring profile.

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