University of Rochester
BackgroundInterview Date:July 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2018
High School Experience: Private school in Baltimore, Maryland with a graduating class of about 100 students. There was a culture of going to college.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Double major in Financial Economics and Behavioral Neuroscience
Extracurricular Activities: I played club squash and I was in a fraternity.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
For Financial Economics, it was a lot of homework. We had weekly problem sets. For Behavioral Neuroscience it was reading and then mostly research papers and final tests.
Is there anything you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or especially poorly?
For Financial Economics, I thought they did a really good job of showing the quantitative work behind finance, so a lot of math and accounting. I would say it doesn’t prepare you very well for the non-quantitative parts, so more of the day-to-day work in finance. I think they could have done a better job of showing the different roles you can play at a bank or something like that.
For Behavioral Neuroscience, I would say there are a lot of really cool teachers who are really ahead of their field and doing a lot of cool research that you can get involved with. I did research for the psycholinguistics department.
What did you research?
I studied speech behaviors in people with certain accents and looked at how different people are able to make these sounds using two ways of basically using the same consonants in different parts of speech.
Can you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
Behavioral Neuroscience is definitely more collaborative. I did a lot more work on my own in Financial Economics. It’s something that you can just teach yourself and compare yourself with textbooks. I would say that a large proportion of the Economics and Finance departments are foreign students, and, for a lot of them, English isn’t their first language so it’s kind of hard to collaborate and study with them. Of the people I got to know through Greek life, I stuck with them and took a lot of courses with them. The Behavioral Neuroscience department was a more collaborative group. Everyone knew each other and was more involved in research and stuff outside of class, so there were a lot more familiar faces to reach out to.
What were your favorite classes in your majors?
Financial Economics: Behavioral Economics, it was a good combination of both of my majors. It incorporated cognitive science into economic theory, which I liked. That was really cool because the teacher was ahead of the curve and had been working for the lab of the guy who just won the Nobel Prize in Economics.
Behavioral Neuroscience: Psycholinguistics, it made me want to do my research on it.
What were your least favorite classes in your majors?
Financial Economics: Quantitative Finance Mathematics, it was really hard and has one the of highest fail rates in the school. I barely passed and it sucked, but that’s just kind of how the course goes.
I don’t have any least favorites for Behavioral Neuroscience. Maybe the intro courses just because they’re very general and boring.
Why did you choose your combination of majors? Are you happy with your choice?
I came into school wanting to do pre-med. I had done research for a neurologist before I went. Then I took an intro Economics course and was reading a lot about Behavioral Economics at the time and how that was an up and coming field in Economics. I was interested in Neuroscience and Economics so I decided to do both. I did Financial Economics because it was a little more challenging and a little more applicable to the job market. I’m definitely happy with it. Rochester makes it really easy to double major. I only had to take 3 classes outside of my requirements for both of those departments. I would not have been able to do both of those things at a different school.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Tiernan Hall, that was pretty small. I was kind of bummed because it wasn’t the best place to be. I would rather live in Susan B. Anthony [or Sue B.] Hall, which is massive
Sophomore: I lived in the fraternity house. I always had a single in the fraternity house.
Junior: I lived in the fraternity house first semester. Second semester I went abroad to Copenhagen.
Senior: Off campus with four of my friends.
What was your favorite living situation?
I really liked living in the fraternity house because it’s a good mix. You’re right on campus and where you do most of your social life. The building is owned by the school, so the school cleans it and keeps it up, but you can still have parties and you live with all your best friends.
Moving off campus was good too because real estate in Rochester is mad cheap so we were able to get a huge house with four of my friends and do whatever we wanted. Freshman year sucked, I hated living in the dorms.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
On campus is pretty safe. U of R is nestled in a really sketchy area called the 19th Ward, which is across the river, and then on the other side is a cemetery. So, you’re surrounded on all sides by nothing good, but they definitely keep the campus safe. Once you go off campus it gets pretty suspicious.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
I like the bars. [The corner of] East and Alexander is the area that we go. There are a bunch of good restaurants and bars there. It’s just a good place to hang out.
Pros and Cons of being in Rochester, NY?
Pros: (1) The cost of living is cheap.
(2) The summers are amazing. I spend a summer doing research and it’s great. There’s plenty of markets and open concerts.
Cons: (1) Rochester is not a happening place. There are not a lot of jobs there. If you are trying to get an internship here you pretty much have to do it through U of R.
(2) It’s not a very safe community. [The overall crime rate is 71% higher than the national average.]
(3) It’s cold. The winters are just absolutely brutal and they take so much out of you.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I’d go to house parties on Friday and Saturday and then bars on Thursday. I did Greek life and had a lot of fun. It’s pretty small, my fraternity had like 60 brothers but some are smaller and have 20 or 30. It’s a good time, but it’s a very serious school. There are a lot of people that are very focused on schoolwork, so I’d say only like 20%-30% of the school would go out and socialize on the weekends, so it’s kind of a close-knit social life but it’s still a lot of fun. [21% of undergraduates join Greek life.]
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
You don’t get to join Greek life until second semester freshman year, so first semester it’s a lot of doing nothing. Thursdays you’d just try to find out what bars people are going to because sometimes sororities will rent them out. If you know somebody in the fraternity you can get in. The older brother of one of my friends was in the fraternity I ended up joining, so I was able to get in because of him.
What’s an alternative to a party or a bar that you and your friends like to do?
There’s nothing. That’s the thing, it’s a super nerdy school so unless you and your close friends plan something, there’s nothing to do. Maybe you’re in a club? But outside of that, there’s not a whole lot to do. I also didn’t really learn a whole lot about stuff outside that so that’s not really my thing.
How happy are you with the nightlife? Is there anything you would change if you could?
Freshman year I was still finding my crowd, especially when I hadn’t started pledging yet. But once I got involved in Greek life I loved it. I wouldn’t change anything about it. It’s certainly not a party school, people there are really serious. Everyone is really smart, pretty driven, and really interesting. I really liked my high school because there weren’t a bunch of [stereotypical “bros”] or people that were just [mean] to people. Rochester was nice because nobody was that cool. Everyone still went to U of R which is a super nerdy school, but you could still find a lot of people you could have a lot of fun with.
How did you meet your closest friends?
A couple of them were on my freshman hall and then through Greek life. Not even just my fraternity, but meeting guys through other fraternities and stuff.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Rochester?
Small, but a lot of fun. I think it’s pretty strong and people that pledge are very invested in their organizations. It’s not the kind of thing where you just join the fraternity to go to parties and put your name on it. It’s like your base group of friends. There are a lot of people who have no desire to go out and meet people which is kind of frustrating at times, but I’ve enjoyed a lot of it.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
A lot. Fraternities have people of all creeds, races. We had a very diverse fraternity. Two of my best friends were from Zimbabwe and Malawi. [In the 2018-2019 academic year, 37% of first-year students are from foreign countries.]
How would you describe the student body?
Really diverse. Pretty serious. Nobody has ever said, “Oh yeah, I want to go to U of R because of the parties,” so people go there for the education. People are studious and take their work seriously. And it’s a very international school. I would say there was a single class where there weren’t people speaking at least a few different languages participating.
Do you think people are happy with their choice of Rochester by the time they graduate?
Yes, definitely. I think people might be a little concerned their freshman year, like figuring out how you’re going to make the time pass or during your first winter. But once you settle in and get your group I think almost everyone at least appreciates it. I think it takes a little bit to become content, though.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Yeas. I can’t really speak about the general alumni, but fraternity relations have been super helpful for connecting with people. I know so many people who have gotten internships or jobs from brothers who have recently graduated. I have not personally gotten one, but I have gotten interviews. I’m going to be doing data analytics for an e-commerce company.
Have you used the career office much?
Not much. I’ve maybe gone in there once or twice to get my resume looked at. The Financial Economics department was great because they would contact companies for research assistance or internships and they would blast that out to people on email.
Have you learned any computer programs that have been or will be helpful professionally?
For Financial Economics, you have to learn regression software, so R Studio and Stata, which I’ll be using in my job. Then obviously you need to be pretty proficient in Excel. For my Behavioral Neuroscience course, I needed to learn a programming language to program a lot of the software I was using, so I worked with Python a good amount.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
How helpful was the study abroad office?
They were really great. They helped me get all of my courses accredited. It was super easy to get them to approve my courses and help me apply. It wasn’t a pain in the ass at all.
What is something you wish you knew about Rochester before entering as a freshman?
I was definitely a little freaked out when I showed up at first and everyone was super nerdy. I didn’t think I was going to have a lot of fun and I thought the fraternities were kind of lame. Just get involved and know that it doesn’t have to be the big state school party scene to have a great time.
What is something that a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
People definitely find their groups and their social scene and it may be hard to see that because there’s no real school spirit. So it may seem like everyone is there just to take classes, but if you stay there long enough you will realize how many social groups there are that are closely knit, like sports teams or fraternities.
Reasons to attend University of Rochester:
1) Great academics.
2) Beautiful campus.
4) It’s a great community. There are a lot of smart people and interesting people.
Reasons to not attend University of Rochester:
1) The winters.
2) There is no school spirit. If you’re looking to be on a sports team, nobody is going to go to your games no matter how good you are.
3) It’s pretty demanding. You will have a lot of work.
4) It’s super competitive. There are a lot of smart people and some people get frustrated if they aren’t the smartest people in their class.