University of Virginia
BackgroundInterview Date:December 2018
Gender Identity: Female
Sexual Orientation: Straight
Graduation Year: 2021
High School Experience: Private school outside of Boston with a graduating class of about 78 people. There was a culture of going to college
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Undecided, but I’m thinking I’ll major something in the realm of science.
Extracurricular Activities: I’m in a sorority, I volunteer at the CASPCA, I work at a restaurant on The Corner, I was part of HackCville this semester, and I work with Wild Virginia, which is a nonprofit that helps with national parks.
Have any of your extracurricular activities had a particularly big impact on your experience?
A bunch of them are more recent this semester. One of the biggest has been working at the restaurant because there are a lot of students who work there, so it was a very big way for me to meet people because I started working the fall of my first year, which isn’t very common but I just wanted to make money and meet people. The sorority has also had a big impact because it introduced me to people and helped me get a foot in it.
Can you describe your weekly coursework so far?
I’ve taken a bunch of science classes so far, but I came into UVA not thinking I wanted to do that. I was very undecided. I took classes in computer science and economics, I’ve taken an assortment.
What’s been your favorite class you’ve taken so far at UVA?
I think it’s either my current Spanish class or my Academic and Professional writing class because of the professor, they’re not necessarily topics that I enjoy. I’ve just really enjoyed the small classroom because that’s what I’m used to from back home.
Is there anything that you feel UVA has done especially well or poorly academically?
Something they do especially well is we have so many resources available to students when they’re picking their classes. One of the professors named Lou Bloomfield created something called Lou’s List where students can go and see the different courses, see other students’ comments, and the average grade distribution. A lot of students use it if they need a class to help their GPA.
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
I think it’s a healthy mix of both. It’s definitely competitive in that there are very intelligent students. Some students are outwardly intelligent and competitive, but then there are a lot of people who are more collaborative who don’t necessarily come across as being super intelligent, but then you find out there are some of the smartest people here. People are competitive in the sense that they’ll ask you what grade you got on the final and enjoy knowing that they’re one of the people doing best in the class.
How accessible have your professors been?
I’ve never had an inaccessible professor in my opinion. They’re all very accessible, some more so than others. For some professors, especially if it’s a huge lecture class, you need to go to the T.A. first. I don’t mind that because if the T.A. is unable to help you they’ll send you to the professor, or you can just go straight to the professor because they all have office hours. Also, in my experience, most of them are very understanding about setting up a time to meet outside of office hours if you can’t meet with them. I’m happy with my choice.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on and around campus?
Freshman: Humphreys, which is an old dorm-style housing, with one roommate.
Sophomore: Off-campus apartment with three roommates
How was transitioning from your hometown in Massachusetts to Charlottesville, VA?
I didn’t have any difficulty transitioning, I don’t know if that’s a typical experience because I just tend to be someone who can adjust to changes rather easily. I wanted to move out of Massachusetts, so the change in location is something I looked for, and it’s nice being down here because it’s warmer for longer.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
UVA does a great job of having ambassadors all around campus. They’re posted on The Corner too. I have been proactive with my safety so I tend to walk home with friends, and if I can’t walk home with friends, I take Safe Rides. At the same time, we do get emails from campus police alerting us of different things that do go on around campus. I’ve never witnessed anything or felt unsafe.
Favorite off-campus restaurant?
The ones in the Downtown Mall are really great because they’re nicer. There’s a Japanese restaurant called Ten that’s great, but that’s more so for when your parents come into town or for special occasions. Most often I go to Trinity because it’s a really easy way for a bunch of friends to sit down for lunch or dinner and they have so many deals throughout the week they really cater to college students.
Favorite place to get away from campus?
I go on runs a lot, so there are some great places to go around the gym. I recently got a ZipCar, so that is how my roommate and I get over to the CASPCA to volunteer.
Pros and cons of being located in Charlottesville, VA?
Pros: (1) Charlottesville is a big town, which I didn’t know before going to UVA.
(2) There are so many restaurants, it has the [14th] most restaurants per capita in the United States.
(3) My roommate was from Charlottesville. About [2/3 of the class of 2020 are from in-state], which makes it cool for me coming from out of state because there are a lot of people from Virginia who can show you around and show you the ins and outs of the town.
Cons: (1) The airport. It can be really inconvenient to fly to it if there isn’t a direct flight and it can also be expensive.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you like to participate in?
The nightlife at UVA is really great. It has Greek life, but the Greek life parties here are very monitored. They have lists, and if you’re not on the list or you’re not an invite of someone you’re not allowed in. I thought that was really interesting. On The Corner there are a bunch of restaurants and bars that people go to at night, and they’re so close. Those are the two biggest types of nightlife people tend to do, they’ll start at bars and then go to frat parties and then go back to bars or do some other combination of the two.
What nights of the week do you regularly go out? Are there certain things that happen on certain nights?
I don’t do this, but there are people going out every Tuesday, Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I’ve never been able to go out on a Tuesday because I have schoolwork. I have gone out on Thursday night. Each week is different. The only times I have gone out on a Thursday night is when my sorority has something going on. Friday’s tend to be bar nights. Saturdays during the day in the spring and fall there are day parties which are really fun because those are less so about being on a list and more so people gathering in a field talking and having fun.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
Greek life kind of adds to the nightlife, but it’s not the kind of thing where if you’re not in Greek life then you won’t have a nightlife. A lot of people do go to frat parties and go to sorority date functions. On a given weekend there are a lot of date functions and other Greek parties going on, and it does help to be in Greek life because a lot of sororities are on the lists and frats will be the ones throwing the parties. However, first-semester my freshman year I wasn’t in a sorority, but you get to know people in classes and if you’re not in Greek life, you’ll still go to parties if you want to. Also, since there’s the bar aspect, the entire social life doesn’t revolve around Greek life. A lot of people will go out to the bars. [31% of undergraduates participate in Greek life.]
Can you describe a typical night going out freshman year? How did it differ before and after you were in the sorority?
The first few weeks you meet people on your hall or in orientation, and you go out with. Some buses take you to places all around campus, and they take you to The Corner, so at the beginning of the year when it was warmer we’d walk, but when it gets cold we’d take the bus.
How happy are you with the nightlife at UVA? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I’m very happy. The one thing is sororities are very expensive, and it factors in enough to make you wonder if you need to be in a sorority because it’s not necessarily needed for a social life. You also wonder if it’s worth paying for after you’ve already made all of your friends. I’m very happy that I joined my sorority because it was a way to make a bunch of different friends that I probably wouldn’t have been introduced to otherwise.
How would you describe the social scene?
Greek life is very big, but in my opinion your social circle is very small. I feel like most nights I go out and see a lot of the same people. It’s a very big school but it can feel very small because there are large portions of people who don’t want to go out. If you don’t want to go out, it’s very easy for you to surround yourself with people who don’t want to go out or do different things. I’ve found a nice mix of people who do enjoy going out and also don’t. I like that it’s so easy to do what you want at UVA. You don’t need to be in Greek life, you don’t need to enjoy going to bars, you don’t need to have a fake ID because there are so many aspects that cater to different people so you can still have the social life that you came to college hoping for.
To what extent do people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I know a bunch of people in frats who are gay. Going down to Virginia I wasn’t exactly sure what I would encounter, but, as far as I’ve seen, people are very open and very accepting of everyone. I mean, I’m a straight White female, so I don’t encounter much adversity when it comes to that, but, as far as I know, people are accepting.
To what extent do people inside and outside of Greek life mix?
That’s up to each individual. I know people who are in Greek life and only associate with people in Greek life or only talk to people in certain fraternities, which I think is a closed mindset to have. I have a bunch of friends who are not in Greek life. It also depends on who your initial friends are because in the beginning you don’t know who is going to be in Greek life or not because you don’t rush as soon as you get there. Some of my friends rushed, and some of them didn’t, and the ones who did rush ended up in different sororities and fraternities. For the people who ended up not rushing and through my friends who rushed, I’m friends with people in lots of other fraternities and sororities.
How do you like the size of UVA in terms of undergraduate enrollment? [There are about 16,000 undergraduates.]
I love the undergraduate enrollment. I knew that I wanted a bigger school because I didn’t know what I wanted to do going into UVA. It’s a fairly big school, but it feels a lot smaller based on the circles of people I know. I don’t think I’ve ever walked to class and not run into someone I knew or said hi to someone. In the beginning, a lot of the classes are bigger and you might not know anyone in them, but now I sign up for a class without knowing anyone in it and I as soon as I walk in there are a bunch of people I know. I think it’s great because it’s a big school but feels small in terms of the people who you know.
Have you used the career office at all? If so, how helpful have they been?
I’ve gone to the career office because I’m undecided and they give great advice for helping pick your major.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
Something you wish you knew about UVA before entering as a freshman?
I came in not knowing anything and I feel like that worked out for me. There are some things I did unintentionally that I’m glad I did, like I didn’t go for a random roommate. I’m happy I chose old dorms because the old dorms are closer to classes and it was great because we were able to leave our doors open and people would walk in and walk out, and it made it a much more social environment.
What is something a prospective student interested in Greek life may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
I like the fact that we don’t rush until the spring, but I’ve heard people be uncertain about that because they like the idea of making friends right at the beginning of freshman year at schools that rush in the summer. It’s great the way UVA does it because they force you to make your own friendships in the beginning by postponing rush. Once you have established friends, people will join other fraternities and sororities, but you’ll still be friends with them. I think everyone should rush because there’s no harm in trying and if you don’t like it you can drop.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The Corner and the Downtown Mall. I think the Downtown Mall is really cool because it’s an outdoor shopping area. It’s a really good place to go if you have some time with your family.
Reasons to attend University of Virginia:
1) It’s the perfect mix of both big school and small school, especially for people who aren’t really sure of what they want to major in or people who don’t know what size of school you want.
2) There is the College of Arts and Sciences. It’s great because it’s a big liberal arts school where if you’re not sure what you want to major in, you can try a bunch of classes. We also have a lot of really strong specialized schools.
3) At UVA everyone can find their group of people and stuff to do that they enjoy. All the groups that I’ve joined I’ve found through different people and I’ve met different people through them. Because it’s such a big school, there are lots of clubs and organizations to become a part of.
Reasons to not attend University of Virginia:
I don’t really have any. I didn’t have the greatest first visit day. It was rainy and cold and I had a bad first impression. I stayed an extra day, went to the Downtown Mall, and met some students and that made a big difference. I think everyone’s different and prospective students should reach out to people they know to get a perspective on it.