An Interview On
University of Michigan

Academic Experience

Gender Identity: Male
Race/Ethnicity: Hispanic/Mexican
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Public school in Western Michigan with a graduating class of about 300 students. It was split on who went to college. Predominantly for White people, there was a strong culture of going to college but not many minorities went.
First-Generation College Student: Yes
Major: Biopsychology, Cognition, and Neuroscience (BCN) – on the Pre-Med track
Minors: Community Action and Social Change and Intergroup Relations Education
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in Greek life; I’m in La Casa, which is the Latin Student Union; I’m in PILOT, which is a program that helps first-generation students apply to the University of Michigan; I participate on the advisory board for administrators, and I’m in the Michigan Community Scholars Program.

Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
All of the student organizations that I choose to be involved with have a pretty large impact because most of them are what established my major, the classes that I take, and the service that I do at school.

Academic Experience

Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
I have quite a few readings and also spend time reviewing lecture work for chemistry classes and psychology classes. [The major graded assignments are] mostly exams.

Is there anything that you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
It’s very exam heavy for many of the pre-med courses, so they more so focus on how well you perform on exams and not how you know the material in other ways. That’s something that can be improved on because some people might know the material better in different ways.

How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s extremely competitive.

What has been your favorite class you’ve taken in your major?
A research class that I have where I get credit for doing cancer-based research with a lab.

How accessible have your professors been?
Generally pretty accessible. They all have office hours and try to make themselves available. You have to establish an appointment and make sure you have a proper connection with them because it is more difficult in the large lecture classes. Generally, you have the opportunity to get closer to them if you want.

Why did you pick your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I chose my major mainly because the classes give you a large variety of options. Some of it focuses on medicine and neuroscience and the other portion is social psychology. That gives me more career options, can also let me focus on research, and be a pre-med student. I’m pretty satisfied with my major so far.

On and Around Campus

Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: West Quad with one roommate.
Sophomore: I moved off campus and live in a house with five other people.

How was transitioning from your hometown to Ann Arbor?
It was pretty easy for me. University of Michigan is predominantly White, so that was a little different for me. Also, the socioeconomic status is very high here. There are more people from the top 10% than there are Black and Latinx students put together. The culture is a lot more affluent here than my hometown. [65% of students are White, 5% of students are Black and 6% of students are Hispanic. Socioeconomically, 49% of students come from the top 10% and 3.6 come from the bottom 20%.]

Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
As a male, I’d say safety is pretty good. I haven’t had any issues. We have a lot of prevention tools, like the Blue Light System is on campus and also places a little off campus.

What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
That’s hard because there are a lot of good places around here. I’ll go with Madras Masala, which is an Indian food place

What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I live like a 10-15 minute walk away from campus, so going home at the end of the day to get away from the crowd a little bit is nice. I’ll also go to coffee shops around Ann Arbor. We’re pretty integrated into downtown Ann Arbor so there are lots of things to do.

Pros and cons of being in Ann Arbor, MI?
Pros: (1) Everything’s pretty close together. Generally, buildings aren’t too far of a walk from each other.
(2) Our bus system. If a building is a 30-minute walk away, that’s minimized to a 10-minute bus ride. The buses are also free.

Cons: (1) Sometimes you’re too close to the Ann Arbor locals because we’re so integrated into the city. It’s sometimes hard to distinguish the students from regular people and also the locals can get a little frustrated with the college students every now and then.
(2) Having so many bars on the main streets of campus. If you live near South University Ave, which is a huge street for bar hopping, people are super loud until 2 in the morning around there.

Social Opportunities

What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
Mainly parties and hanging out with friends. I usually go out on either Friday and Saturday.

What have been some of your favorite times at Michigan?
The cultural events. Not just my own but also the collaboration events. For example, the Latinx community has a coalition event with Arab students. Those cross-cultural events are really great for me.

What is an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a night out?
Michigan has UMix events which are free for students and you can do fun activities like video game competitions or movie nights and things like that. We also are a Big 10 school so there are games every weekend for our very large sports teams.

What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
Greek life controls a lot of the nightlife. If you’re an underclassman you tend to go to parties because you’re not old enough to go to bars. Greek life pretty much controls that part of the nightlife.

How happy are you with the nightlife at Michigan? Is there anything you would change if you could?
Sometimes it’s too heavily focused on drugs and alcohol and that comes with issues with sexual assault. I’d like to see more awareness and prevention in those areas.

Campus Culture

How has being a first-generation college student affected your time at Michigan?
I’ve had to focus a lot more on finding resources my first year. I made sure I found mentors for my major, figured out how many credits I had to take for my major each semester, found resources for pre-med and financial aid, and things like that. It was a lot of looking around versus having things set up for me.

How did you meet your closest friends?
I participated in a learning community, so that was a really good way to meet a lot of my friends. We all lived on the same floor and we all did a community service activity together once a month.

What has been the impact of Greek life on your social life?
Greek life has helped me a lot socially. It’s allowed me to meet a lot of people. You have social events to attend pretty much every weekend or every other weekend to connect with people in other Greek organizations.

How would you describe the social scene?
It can feel kind of segregated at times, but you can also find a commonality with most people. You do see some mixture, but it is separated because people who are focused on their student organizations, people focused on Greek life, people who are focused on their classes are generally together.

How would you describe the student body?
The student body is split between people who are into their academics and into the party life. Some people are all party life and all academics and there are very few who intermingle.

Do you think by senior year people are happy with their choice of Michigan?
There’s a good majority of people who would say yes. There are a lot of very unique experiences you get at Michigan, like going to the Big House, which is the largest college football stadium in the U.S., to see a football game for the first time. There are also unique experiences, like going to parties and attending events with different student organizations. Most people can find a place to fit in.

Careers

Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Yes, it’s been extremely helpful so far. There are several different branches of the alumni network, it’s not just one big cloud, so you can find Latinx alumni, pre-med alumni, business alumni. Anything you need there’s a contact for. I got into good research opportunities and letters of recommendation for study abroad from the alumni network.

Have you used the career office? If so, how helpful have they been?
I’ve used the career office for free professional clothing and also workshops. They’re generally pretty helpful. Sometimes it’s a lot easier to find someone who is actually in your field. Like, if I’m looking for a pre-med internship, I should go to the pre-med office or go to the medical school. It’s a good first step if you don’t know where to start.

Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful to you professionally?
I learned how to code in Python through a random class I decided to take on the side.

Financial Aid

Have you used financial aid? If so, how accommodating were they to your needs?
Financial aid can be very disorganized at times, but overall, they can be extremely helpful. Sometimes you have to be persistent and talk to different people or make appeals. Whether it’s an emergency or something casual there’s always a solution and people are always willing to help you.

Advice for Prospective Freshmen

What is something you wish you knew about Michigan before entering as a freshman?
How academically rigorous it is. I came in thinking I could slack off every now and then but you really do have to stay on top of your classes and do schoolwork as much as possible.

What is something that somebody who identifies closely to you should know that we haven’t mentioned?
Just branch out to as many different communities as you can and find different people in different areas to help you out. Try to find multiple perspectives in anything whether that’s through clubs or student organizations or anything else.

What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
I would definitely say the nightlife is pretty important. Also, look at the different study abroad options. Late night studying is a big thing here, so there are 24-hour libraries and there are coffee shops open until 2AM and things like that. Also, check out the different student organizations there are because there are so many on campus.

Is there anything else you want to touch on?
[It can be tough here], the classes are difficult and it’s easy to get caught up in the partying. But, there is so much opportunity that you can be very successful if you try to be.

Reasons to attend Michigan:
1) Academics. We have a lot of top 20 programs. It’s also one of the top public universities in the U.S.
2) The alumni network.
3) The school has a lot of money and resources
4) The financial aid is generally pretty good and there are a lot of scholarship opportunities.
5) Sports are huge here. You can find any recreation team here to play on and a lot of good sports to watch.

Reasons to not attend Michigan:
1) The academic rigor. You have to stay on top of your work. It’s super easy to fail a class if you’re not on top of it.
2) It can be difficult to access resources. The resources are there, but you really have to search for them. It takes a long time to find resources. You have to talk to a lot of different people because there is not just one straight route.
3) There is a small percentage of minorities even though it is a very strong community. [65% of students are White, 5% of students are Black and 6% of students are Hispanic.]

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