The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Noah graduated in 2008 from Wheaton College in Illinois with a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. He currently tutors in Chicago, specializing in Algebra tutoring, Essay Editing tutoring, Accounting tutoring, and more. Check out his review of his alma mater:
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?
Noah: The campus is tucked into a quiet residential area a few blocks away from the downtown. It is only 40 minutes from downtown Chicago, but you would never find it unless you knew to look for it. The whole campus is centralized, and you can walk from one side to the other in less than 15 minutes. Most students walk around campus, and on the coldest winter days some drive. You can find an occasional skateboarder or even a rogue scooter weaving its way through foot traffic. There is also a campus shuttle available to students for the “extra long” walks between the far edges of campus. Bikes are an option, but cars and bikes aren’t necessary. Freshman cannot have a car on campus, though sophomores and up can have a car. The campus is probably one of the safest in America, and the community and the college have a very good relationship.
VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?
Noah: The professors and staff are incredibly friendly and accessible. I always felt welcome to come in during office hours and talk about anything on my mind. They were available for meals in the cafeteria also! The professors and TA’s would always respond to phone calls or emails as well. Thanks to the small class sizes, there was a tight community even between students and staff. With such a small student body, you could choose to have the same professor multiple times throughout your college coursework if you chose.
VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?
Noah: The dorm life was one of my favorite parts of Wheaton College. Freshman dorms usually had between 25-40 people on a floor. The standard setup was either to share a bathroom between two roommate pairs (4 people) or to have a large centralized bathroom on the floor. The RA was responsible for creating a positive social setting on the floor, and most friendships seemed to be centered around the dorm living situations. The rooms are small, shared between 2-3 people, but there are shared community spaces on the floor and in the dorm that can be used for socializing and studying.
There is one dining hall located in the center of campus. In the past few years it has been ranked the #1 college cafeteria in America! I enjoyed the food enough to get the maximum meal plan available all 4 years of college. There are also two cafes on campus that sell food all throughout the day for those who prefer something other than the cafeteria.
The Stupe is the cafe where many students get their “studying” done, but since it’s also the social hub of campus, you usually go with friends and don’t get much done other than hanging out with friends.
Since the campus is tucked away from standard social options (mall, movie theater, etc), the students spend a lot of time together on campus. The college provides a lot of organized social activities also. Downtown Wheaton is a short 20 minute walk down the road, and the Metra Union Pacific West train station is located right at the edge of campus, taking you straight into downtown Chicago.
There is mandatory all-school chapel time for 45 minutes every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and the college does a great job of making this a valuable time to grow personally and spiritually. It’s also a nice chance to connect with friends and as a community since the whole campus gathers in one place so often.
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?
Noah: Wheaton has a strong business program, and has a well-regarded Music Conservatory. The natural and social sciences seem well-represented as well. I studied both Chemistry and Theology as a double major. The Chemistry degree was part of my Pre-Med studies. Both my father and grandfather got advanced degrees in Chemistry, so it seemed like a natural choice for me. Wheaton College requires all students to take a minimum number of Theology courses, so getting the major wasn’t that big of a stretch. Wheaton College has a Theology Graduate program, so the professors mix back and forth between teaching the graduate and undergrad students. I had to take advantage of the opportunity to learn from such amazing professors! I had a very small group of students go through the Chemistry track with me, so I got to know the professors and students well. I felt like I had a very personal academic experience due to all the support I received in both my majors.
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?
Noah: I didn’t know a single person when I arrived on campus for the first time. The college has an amazing welcome week for freshman, and I had plenty of opportunities to meet new friends and connect with people. The dorm life provided the setting to build some of the closest friendships I have to this day. I feel like the dorm setting, dorm life, social activities, and the “Community Covenant” all combined to create an atmosphere that allowed great community to happen. The Community Covenant is a set of guidelines all students agreed to and signed, with commitments to treat everyone as you want to be treated and restricting alcohol use and certain other behaviors. There is no Greek life on campus, though being in such a tight-knit underclassmen dorm made me feel like I was in a fraternity.
VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?
Noah: The Career Center is very active on campus and provides a variety of helpful services, including resume review, mock interviews, career direction, internship searches, and referrals. Many reputable companies active in the Illinois area and the Midwest recruit on campus.
VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?
Noah: There is always a place available to study. Some of the most popular places are the library, the Stupe cafe, and various hidden study rooms spread throughout the campus. I never felt like I couldn’t find a quiet place to focus.
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?
Noah: The campus is right in the middle of a quiet suburb, so the pace of life may be too slow for some. The downtown area closes early in the evening, and a car is needed to go to most places off campus. That said, downtown Chicago is a quick/direct train ride away, and students find plenty of fun things to do within the campus community. A lot of time is spent in organized activities, like intramural sports and campus groups. Since most people stay on or near campus, I never felt like I needed to go off campus to connect with people or have fun. It’s rumored that Wheaton has the most churches per capita in the US. I don’t know if that’s true, but most students were actively involved in a church nearby.
VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?
Noah: The student body is relatively small, around 2,000 students in undergrad. I loved that the class sizes seemed tiny at times, with a little too much attention on you if you missed class or fell asleep! My Chemistry classes ranged from just 5 students to around 30 students. In general, I felt like 20-30 students per class was standard. This meant the professor was very available to students, both in and out of class.
VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you regret the most.
Noah: Chemistry labs weren’t my favorite part of college in general, but I remember having a lot of fun in my advanced Biochemistry Chemistry lab. By this point in college, I had been with the same group of Chemistry students for a few semesters, and we were a pretty tight-knit group. Even though the lab was way too early in the morning, we found a way to have our fun (while still getting the assignments done). I guess this is a reflection on the second half of college in general, that after going through tough courses together with the same small set of people for two years, you really develop a bond that makes college that much more enjoyable.
Check out Noah’s tutoring profile.
The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.