Impressions Of
Union College

Academic Experience

Male Neuroscience Major C/O 2019

How accessible are your professors?
Extremely accessible. Their office hours every week are lined out pretty clearly and professors are very open to having students come to their office outside of those office hours. Professors here at Union don’t want Union students to see them as a stepping stone, they want students to genuinely develop relationships with them.

What is the impact of the trimester system?
I think the impact is extremely positive. A lot of people, including professors and administrators, say they wish we had the semester system, but I disagree. I see way too many positives in it with being able to study abroad for just ten weeks rather than half the year. There is also a lot of flexibility in the academic schedule. You can mold together the three courses you’re going to take together. As a science or engineering major, you’re not going to take more than one lab each trimester, or you won’t have to take three heavy-writing courses in one trimester.

I also think it’s great because you get to be at Union for the summer and also before the fall. Winter Term can also be beautiful in some ways and it’s really popular for students to get involved in skiing or snowboarding on the weekends. During the warmer months hammocking is huge so you’ll see students out on the quad all the time hanging out.

Female Political Science Major C/O 2021

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
My classes involve a lot of readings and I usually do not have exams. I have a lot of papers to submit towards the end of the trimester. It depends from class to class, but the usual trend is there are a lot of readings, class discussions, and papers towards the end of the term.

How accessible are your professors?
They are very accessible because Union is a small school and the classes are usually not that big. Whenever you go to office hours or [approach them after class] they are always there to help you answer any sort of questions you have. They’re also very responsive to email. [The average introductory class size is 21 and the average upper level class size is 14.]

Female Asian Studies and Visual Arts Double Major C/O 2018

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your majors?
Because of the term system at Union we have three terms of three courses each term. Union’s purpose for that is so that we have more time to do extracurriculars. Because I was a Visual Arts major a lot of my courses were longer, so it was pretty time-consuming. I had three-hour classes and then a lot of work outside of that. I would say it was a pretty hefty course load because of my major.

Is there anything that you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or especially poorly?
Not necessarily. I think the only thing I would say about being a Visual Arts major at a term system school is that you didn’t have enough time. I concentrated in Digital Arts, so I focused on the Adobe Programs, which are pretty hefty, so I often found that the term wasn’t enough time to learn the programs in full. I think the semester system would have given students more time to learn the programs.

Social Opportunities

Male Neuroscience Major C/O 2019

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
Greek life kind of dominates the alcohol culture here at Union, which there is a lot of. If you want to go to an on-campus party or an off-campus party, it’s most likely affiliated with a Greek organization. If it’s an off-campus party, there are probably guys who are in Greek life living in the house that’s hosting it.

For all freshmen, it’s pretty tough for guys to get in because nobody is allowed to join a Greek organization until their sophomore year. Sophomore year it gets easier because you know more people on campus and the guys at the doors are usually sophomores. If that’s the thing you want to do, it’s all about knowing people on campus.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Union? If you could change anything, what would you change?
For the most part, if you average out the year I’m happy. The winter trimester can get tough here because it’s colder, but having the longer spring [with classes ending in June] is a huge advantage to the weekend culture and social life because there will be a lot more events held outdoors. It becomes more of a hang-out atmosphere and there are day parties on the weekends which are fun. If I was Greek affiliated, I know I’d be happier with it but that’s not the path I chose and it wasn’t what was most important to me with my undergraduate experience.

Male Political Science Major C/O 2019

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I go out pretty often with friends to frat row or off-campus house parties. Now that we’re 21, we go to bars sometimes. I’ve never felt pressured to go out a bunch, but, because there’s not much to do, I definitely feel like I party more. I normally go out Friday, Saturday, and I’ll go to bars on Wednesday nights every now and then.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
It’s kind of where you have to go. Now that I’m a senior, I know a lot of guys across different fraternities. Having connections make getting in the door of fraternities easier. Freshman year was definitely tough, and it still is for a lot of guys who don’t know a lot of people because most party options are going to be Greek life-related. You don’t necessarily have to be part of Greek life to go to parties because if you have connections with people in Greek life through class or whatever you’ll be fine, but I think that people who never make those connections have the hardest time even into senior year.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Union? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m relatively happy. The school’s in a bit of a transition period. Like a lot of schools across the country, Union is trying to figure out what to do with Greek life but Union is foundational for a lot of fraternities. I think that makes it difficult for people who don’t love Greek life because there are other things to do but they aren’t super well attended.

Female Political Science Major C/O 2021

What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
Being a part of Greek life, I usually go to parties with Greek life. There is also other stuff happening on campus, like movie nights, so sometimes I’ll go to that kind of stuff too. It depends on the night. I mostly go out on Friday nights because I prefer to have resident adviser duties on Saturday nights.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
Greek life pretty much makes the nightlife at Union on the weekends. There are a couple of off-campus houses and there are some on-campus houses too, so there’s always a lot of parties going on at the Greek houses during the weekends.

How happy are you with the weekend options at Union? If you could change anything, what would you change?
I think it’s fine because the people who like to go out end up going out, but there is a program called the U-Program which also has events during the weekend, [like bingo or trivia], so I feel like I always have a choice. If I don’t want to go out, I’ll go do some low-key event like a movie night or bingo night, and, if not, there are always people who are willing to hang out in the dorms.

Campus Culture

Male Neuroscience Major C/O 2019

How did you meet your closest friends?
The community here at Union is pretty small so you meet your friends pretty quickly. I think my best piece of advice is to get involved with pre-orientation. There is Outdoor Pre-Orientation, Leadership Pre-Orientation, and Community Pre-Orientation. That way you can start to get to know the people in your class. Of course, you also become friends with who you live near so I think it’s important to live in the places on campus that have more of the open-floor community, which is almost all of them.

How would you describe the overall social scene at Union?
There’s a very heavy alcohol culture, but there are a lot of alternatives to that culture on campus. There are a lot of clubs on campus and alternative programming. The Minerva Houses are also a big part of the social culture too. Overall, I think it’s a positive social scene because you get to see familiar faces walking to class every single day so it’s hard to fall between the cracks here at Union. It’s hard to fall between the cracks because you’ll be pulled out by people, so it can be hard if you’re introverted and stay in your room all the time.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientation mix socially?
I don’t think we do as great of a job as you might think here. I think the cost of tuition here plays a factor in that there will be a lot of wealthy, White individuals on campus that are, most likely, all heterosexual. I think it’s a bit harder to be somebody from an underrepresented background and immerse yourself all across the board. The smaller communities at Union is what I think makes up for those experiences for those individuals. In general, the average person here is liberal and welcome to getting to know people of diverse backgrounds, but it’s not perfect. [About 72% of students are White. Socioeconomically, 37% of students at Union come from the top 5%.]

Male Political Science Major C/O 2019

How would you describe the overall social scene at Union?
It’s a little exclusive based on your connections or what social scene or fraternity you’re a part of. But, I would say that it’s fun. Being a senior, I have it pretty good and am able to go anywhere I want. The social scene is also very dependent on your friend group. No one in my close friend group is part of Greek life, but we’re still [friends with lots of different people and have fun].

How do you like the size of Union in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [There are about 2,200 students.]
I think there are pros and cons of there being such a small school enrollment. The pros are that you learn better because the professor is more willing to do a little extra for you and go out of their way to help you out. I would also say that because it’s so small some small demographic groups, like the LGBT community, feel ostracized, not because they don’t get enough support, but because their social role isn’t as prevalent. Because it’s a smaller community, there are fewer people in the lesser represented communities on campus.

To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
It would mostly happen through an intramural sport. If you play intramural basketball with people in a certain fraternity, you create pretty close connections with them just because you see them so often. Outside of intramural sports and in class, there’s not much interaction.

Female Asian Studies and Visual Arts Double Major C/O 2018

How did you meet your closest friends?
I’m still friends with a lot of the people I met on my freshman hall, but most of my friends I met through my sorority.

To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientation mix socially?
I think it felt a little divided at times. I was part of one of the more diverse sororities. There’s an option to live in theme houses at Union, and one of them is the Multicultural House, so the way that sets up can give people a place to find each other with similar identities, but also separates them in a way. Union could be a bit more mixed. I don’t want to give the impression that there isn’t crossover because there is, I just think there could be more. [About 72% of students are White.]

Do you think people are generally happy with their choice for Union by senior year? Do you think people leave loving Union?
I think what’s strange is that I talked to so many seniors who say they didn’t like Union at first and thought they were going to transfer. For whatever reason, freshman year can be very tough. But, by senior year there is a lot of camaraderie and people end up really loving Union. I think that speaks to how excited kids are to come back by alumni weekend.

Schenectady, NY

Pros of

  • “It’s a thriving community. The downtown area has been rebuilding over the last few years and offers a lot of good activities to do.”
  • “It is easy to go to New York City, which is only a 2.5-3-hour train ride away. I will visit with family and friends sometimes. It is easy to take the train because the train station is in Schenectady.”
  • “There are niche areas that have so much to offer Union students. There are also areas where students can get very involved with the community and make an impact.”
  • “The location is 3-hours from Boston and New York City. The Albany region is only 25-minutes away and students will frequently have internships there. I did that at Albany Medical Center.”

Cons of

  • “Schenectady is small and, being used to a big city, that was difficult.” [The population of Schenectady is about 65,700 and there is a 21% poverty rate.]
  • “The winters are hard. It is cold and snowy.”
  • “A couple of niche areas in the surrounding area are not the best.”
  • “There’s a stereotype about Schenectady that it is not safe to be out in the city at night.” [The violent crime rate in Schenectady is about 133% higher than the national average and the property crime rate is 35% higher than the national average.]

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

Male Political Science Major C/O 2019

What is something you wish you knew about Union before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I knew how cold it is up here. I’m used to the cold of Boston, which is pretty cold, but here it’s very cold. It affects people’s attitude and temperament to a pretty tangible degree.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I would stop by the library. I spent a lot of time there socially and also to get work done. Walk up to the second or third floor because you’ll spend a lot of time there. I would also check out the Wicker Wellness Center because [you may need that]. I would also eat in the dining hall. The food’s getting better, but during my freshman year it was really bad.

Female Political Science Major C/O 2021

What is something you wish you knew about Union before you entered as a freshman?
I wish I knew more about the Greek life. Maybe I’m saying that because I’m an international student because, before coming here, I only knew about Greek life through American movies. Because Greek life is such a big component of Union, I wish I knew more about the dynamics of Greek life here.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
They should talk to people in admissions because there are a lot of students working there. I think it’d be good because those people will be honest with them and tell them about the school.

Female Biology and Physics Major

What is something you wish you knew before entering Union as a freshman?
I wish I knew how easy and fun it is to do things off-campus like going to restaurants or to the mall in Albany. If you are tired of being on campus it’s easy to go off-campus and find something to do.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
Check out downtown Schenectady and State Street because they will not take you off-campus. If you’re on a day-tour you will not see the social life, so if you can see that that will be fun.

Reasons to attend and not to attend Union College

To Attend

  • “The relationships with professors and the small classroom environment.”
  • “The small community and the community in general. There are so many phenomenal people here that care about Union so much, from current students to the people working here to alumni who come back. Alumni glow when they hear that you’re a student there.”
  • “It’s really easy to establish a really good cohort of friends through intramurals, classes, and Greek life if you choose to do it.”
  • “The administration is very approachable. It’s very easy to go talk to them and tell them about your concerns about your classes or changes you want to see on campus. The same goes for the president, he’s very approachable and always up for a chat with the students.”

To Not Attend

  • “It’s kind of a bubble. People tend to come from the same background. If you’re from a very different socioeconomic background, it can be difficult to adjust.” [About 72% of students are White. Socioeconomically, 37% of students at Union come from the top 5%.]
  • “The winter is so cold and depressing.”
  • “If you’re interested in having a classic college social life and going to parties but you’re not interested in Greek life, don’t go to Union.”
  • “If you want a robust college town.”
Notice: Union College is a trademark. Induck uses it for descriptive purposes, not to imply affiliation with, endorsement from, or sponsorship by Union College.

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