BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: Public school in Utica, NY with a graduating class of about 750 students. It was a really diverse school because there is a large refugee center in Utica. A lot of people went to community college and less than 25 students from my class left the state for college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Physics with a concentration in Computer Science.
Extracurricular Activities: I’m pretty involved with the Club Baseball and I [hold a leadership position], I’ve been on the team since freshman year. Last year I also spent a lot of time with the Rocket Propulsion Group, which is a group that works with systems relating to rockets.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Both of them have. I spent a lot of time working on projects with the Rocket Propulsion Group, probably around 20-30 hours week. It helped me get an internship just from the work I was doing with them. This year, because I have [a high leadership position], the club baseball team takes up most of my time outside of classwork.
What is the difference from doing a concentration in Computer Science to a minor in Computer Science?
The Physics department has two options: you can do the Graduate Option, which you do when you’re 100% sure you want to go to graduate school for physics and you load up with a bunch of Physics and Math courses, or you can do the Interdisciplinary Option, which is when you take fewer Physics classes and you take classes in another related science field. People concentrate in topics like Engineering, Chemistry, and Computer Science. I’m taking some Computer Science classes to satisfy my degree.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
Physics is very different from a lot of other majors, even a lot of other STEM-related fields in terms of the class structures in that it’s typically smaller classes. I have friends in Biology and Chemistry, and they are typically in larger lectures and they never know their professors. Physics classes are smaller because there aren’t many Physics majors and we tend to develop relationships with our professors. For the class itself, we usually have a problem set every week, two midterm exams, and a final exam.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
They are very good at helping the students along in the class, especially when they’re struggling. At the same time, one weakness is that a lot of the professors are hired primarily for research and then they are also told they have to teach classes. Sometimes the professors aren’t as focused on teaching the classes as they are on their research, and that can sometimes lead to a course not being structured as strongly as it could be.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
For the most part, I would say it’s collaborative. Physics typically has some difficult homework, so I have group of three or four friends who sit down every week. We might not do all of it together, but we sit down and go over what we’re thinking for certain problems. It’s pretty collaborative in that we work together for a lot of our problem sets and are also studying for the exams together. Outside of that, there are times when it’s very competitive, and even sometimes cutthroat. There are classes with curves and it can take a lot of work to stay ahead of that curve.
Can you give me an example of how it can be competitive or cutthroat?
My friend freshman year took a Computer Science test freshman year and got a 25%. The average on the test was a 32%, and nobody got above a 50% except for one student who got a perfect score. I think that goes to show that there are people there who are just smarter than you and working harder than you. You have to know those people are out there. No matter how hard you work, there is probably somebody who is working harder than you.
It can be cutthroat in that there are people who won’t study with others because the class is graded on a curve. It’s also cutthroat in that if you stop working and decide to go out on a Thursday night or something you can fall behind the curve pretty easily. You have to make sure that you are on top of your game at all times because if you slip up you can very easily fall behind.
How accessible are your professors?
Typically, outside of class every professor will have two office hours sessions a week with each being 1-2 hours, so there’s not a ton of time where you can talk to them. In my experience, aside from maybe one or two professors, I’ve been able to email a professor saying, “I’m having trouble understanding this concept, can I come by your office sometime?” and they’ll set up an appointment and explain any questions that I have. For the most part, outside of the class professors do try to help students.
Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
In high school I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to go into, in fact when I applied to most schools I applied as a business student and thought I wanted to go into accounting. Senior year of high school I took AP Physics and AP Calculus, and it was truly the first couple of classes that I really enjoyed and really pushed myself for in high school, so I decided to switch my major to Physics and I’m really satisfied with it so far. I don’t know if I’ll definitely go into physics after school, but I know that I can take what I have learned and apply it to other fields, which is really nice.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: I lived in Claflin Hall with one roommate, which is in West Campus. It had communal bathrooms and was typical freshman living. East Campus is typically where the academic buildings are and West Campus is typically where more of the social and cultural events occur.
Sophomore & Junior: Student Village 2, or “Stuvie 2.” Those are bigger suites of eight people. I had one roommate and then six other suitemates sharing two bathrooms and a common room. It’s probably one of the nicest places I’ll live in for a while after school.
How was transitioning from Utica, NY to Boston, MA in terms of location?
The winters are pretty bad in both places. In Boston you’re in a big city. In Utica, there is not the same kind of metropolis and people are pretty friendly. Boston in different in that you’re interacting with so many people every day that sometimes not everyone is quite as friendly. That was an adjustment. The city is also chaotic at times and BU has a very urban campus, so you really are a part of the city, and that’s also been something to adjust to. Overall, I do like the fast-paced lifestyle.
Do you ever feel like you’re more so a resident of Boston than you are a student of Boston University?
Probably not. When I’m at BU, you get sucked into the bubble. It doesn’t often feel like I’m living in Boston, it more feels like I’m a resident of the campus just because of that bubble effect. Everything that is going on is involved with the university, and then sometimes I’ll go into the city, but that’s more of an excursion.
Do you like having the city campus? What effect does that have on your experience?
I do like the city campus, it’s very unique. I visited a lot of campuses when I was choosing where I wanted to go, and it wasn’t really the campus itself that made me pick BU, but the urban campus is something to take into consideration. It’s not your classic old campus with a big beautiful library. It’s a very dynamic campus that changes every year. There are new buildings every year and things are being remodeled every year, it’s very fast-paced.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
Yeah, I’ve never experienced any sort of unsafety. It’s overall a very safe campus and they have people who will walk with you places at night.
Pros and Cons of being in Boston, MA?
Pros: (1) Boston’s a beautiful city and everything you could ever need is there.
(2) The opportunities of being in Boston in terms of internships and jobs make living there worth it.
Cons: (1) It’s expensive.
(2) Everything closes pretty early. The entire city shuts down around 9 or 10PM.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
Me personally, I don’t go out too much. I prefer staying in. I’ll have a relaxed, small gathering in a quieter environment with a few friends as opposed to going out to frat parties. I haven’t gone out to bars or anything because I’m not 21. Once I turn 21 I’ll definitely go out to bars more often.
Greek life exists at BU, but is not big in the sense that if you’re not part of it you feel like you have to be a part of it. It is there, and a lot of people go out to the frats. I went to frat parties probably eight or ten times my freshman year. I was lucky in that I knew somebody on my baseball team who was in a frat, so I was able to get in through him. If you don’t know anybody in the frat it can be very difficult to get in.
What do you and your friends like to do together?
Typically, we’ll hang out and watch a sports game or a movie. The Red Sox are right next to campus, so when it’s baseball season we’ll go to a lot of Red Sox games because you can get $9 tickets with a student ID. Every once in a while, we’ll go into the city, maybe go to the public library, or just go explore and eat food that’s not in the dining hall.
How happy are you with the weekend options at BU? Is there anything you would change if you could?
Sometimes it can be kind of exclusive, if you do value going out it’s important to make connections. The Club Baseball team has been really helpful for me with that. For me, whenever I’ve wanted to go out and have a good time I’ve been able to, but that’s not always the case for everyone, so it’s important to make friends and connections.
What have been some of your favorite times at BU?
I’m personally a Yankee fan, so I wasn’t very happy when the Red Sox won the World Series, but when the parade came by it was a very electric environment and a lot of people went to that. I would also say Marathon Monday, which is when the Boston Marathon happens every year in April. That is probably the most fun day of the year in Boston because the streets become basically one giant party for a day.
How did you meet your closest friends?
Club Baseball is a big one, I hang out with guys on the baseball team a lot. I have a few friends from classes who are also Physics majors. I’ve met a lot of really nice guys in the Physics department who I hang out with pretty regularly. Then also this year, just by random chance, a few of my suitemates became pretty close friends of mine.
How would you describe the social scene?
It’s definitely complex in that there’s a lot going on. Pretty much every social niche exists. If you want to be in a frat you can join a frat, if you want to play club sports you can do that, if you want to join a more academic or cultural group that exists. It’s a pretty diverse campus. I met a lot of great people through the Rocket Propulsion Group I was in sophomore year, so there are a ton of ways to meet people, and every kind of social niche exists if you seek it out.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix on campus?
Pretty well. Generally, I think BU is a pretty accepting community. In my experience, I have never seen an instance where students have been cast out, or anything like that, because of their race or sexual orientation.
How would you describe the student body?
It’s very hard working. A lot of times students are pretty focused on their studies. People are focused on getting their own stuff done first and then go out and have a good time. The students are very driven.
Do you think people are generally happy with their choice of BU by senior year? Do you think people love BU?
What I’ve seen from my friends who have been older and have graduated is that a lot of the times it can be pretty stressful and there are weeks when you don’t have a chance to hang out with friends too much because you have to get your stuff done. For the most part, at the end of the four years everyone is in a pretty good spot. The experience at BU can be overwhelming, but after the four years people tend to end up with a good job, internship, or in graduate school. [92% of recent graduates found employment or other placement within six months of graduation.]
How do you like the size of BU in terms of undergraduate enrollment?
It’s pretty big, there are about [16,600] students. It’s nice because you can find any group within that that you want. At the same time, there are a lot of people who you’ll meet once or twice and then, other than passing them on the street, you’ll never talk to them again because it’s such a big school. Overall, I enjoy it because it makes it a more diverse and competitive environment.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Me personally, no. That’s because I’ve only had one real internship and that wasn’t through an alum, it was through a student group. Generally, the BU alumni network is very powerful and there are BU graduates all over the world. I have friends who have gotten interviews just because somebody at the company went to BU.
Have you used the career office at all? If so, how helpful have they been?
I’ve actually haven’t gone to the career office too much.
Have you learned any computer programs through your coursework that will be helpful to you professionally?
Through my courses specifically, I’ve learned Python and Java. Java specifically helped me get my internship this past summer, and learning both of those languages has been really useful. On my own, either through student groups or independent study, I’ve used Excel a lot and also some AutoCAD from the Rocket Propulsion Group.
Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating were they to your needs?
I have used financial aid, and when I got my financial aid offers from the private schools I applied to they were all about the same. I think it’s pretty average.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Boston University before entering as a freshman?
Probably just how demanding the courses were going to be and how some of them were going to be structured. I wish I would have known the way the classes were going to be graded, so some of my Math classes I’ve taken are giant lectures with 100-150 students and you just take a test. There are sometimes curves and it can be difficult to get ahead of the curve. I also wish I knew just the sheer amount of work a typical week can entail and what a typical week would look like.
What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
They didn’t show West Campus at all on the tour. That’s where I’ve lived all three years, and I think that’s the most aesthetically pleasing part of campus. It also has resources like the fitness center, there’s a nice dining hall, and there are athletic fields there.
Reasons to attend Boston University:
1) First and foremost, if you come into BU with any goal, you can accomplish it. The resources are there for you to do that. There’s funding in all kinds of places that you couldn’t even imagine. No matter what field you want to study, you can find a program through extracurriculars or classes. [See Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program.]
2) The professors are some of the most knowledgeable people I’ve ever met in my life.
3) The workers at BU, whether they are the professors or the health services or the dining hall works, everyone tends to be pretty helpful and accommodating. Sometimes you get thrown around the loop and have to email a few extra people, but, overall, you can get whatever you need sorted out.
Reasons to not attend Boston University:
1) It’s really competitive and can feel cutthroat at times. Sometimes you’ll spend 80 hours in a week doing work and you have to wake up the next week and do it again. You have to be ready for that. You can accomplish the goals that you want, but you really have to know that that’s what you want to do.
2) If you don’t join a club, it can be hard to find a real friend group. I struggled a little bit freshman year and I know a lot of people who have as well, but if you get involved in clubs and are outgoing you will be able to make some long-lasting friends.