The worst thing about the University of Wisconsin-Madison is that some of the classes, mostly introduction classes, are lecture halls full of hundreds of students. Therefore, it is possible for students to go entire semesters in a class without ever meeting the professor. However, the professors teaching assistants are usually fairly good at holding office hours for students to walk in and ask questions. Also, most professors do not treat their students as only numbers; they are usually open to questions and criticism. If someone has a question however, they cannot be shy about asking it.
One inevitably leaves the University of Wisconsin – Madison with a sense of regret. Unlimited paths lie before you as an undergraduate at Wisconsin, but which will you choose? Without question, there will not be enough time to do it all. The worst thing about Wisconsin is its abundance. As a student, you certainly have the time and ability to pursue any passions you could imagine. But no matter how many clubs, games, excursions, concerts, lectures, coffee shops, parties or sledding hills you find, you will eventually discover that another wonderful adventure escaped your grasp.
Personally, I think the large class sizes make it more difficult for me to grasp subject matter and concepts as swiftly as I might in smaller classrooms. Even though many lectures have discussion sections, I prefer to learn and review material more often than once a week (which is the typical frequency of discussions). Additionally, smaller classes help me to stay on top of my work and I usually ask many questions which cannot be as thorougly answered by professors in lecture halls. Plus, I enjoy hearing other students ideas and opinions regarding the material.
While Madison is fantastic, its endowment is nowhere comparable to, let's say, a university like Harvard. We have money and grants constantly coming in, but resources are limited. I have seen fantastic research done by so many grad students and undergrads, but I have also seen projects cut short or the failure to pursue a project due to lack of funding. In this sense, discovery is probably stunted, and while Madison's biotech is world-renowned, this emphasizes that fact that even more discoveries and more innovation could be cultivated if there was more money.
The worst thing about UW-Madison is the Wisconsin winter that descends upon campus in November and stays until March. The winters are filled with storms of heavy snow, frigid temperatures, and poorly plowed roads and sidewalks. The long walks students make on their commutes are lengthened by these unfortunate conditions that occupy the campus for many months. Although the snow can be beautiful upon first glance, that magnificence is deceiving. I am looking forward to migrating to place with a more hospitable year-round climate upon graduation.
If I had to choose the worst thing about my school, I'd probably have to say the class sizes. The reason for this is that with more students per professor, one loses the student teacher interactions that were so common during high school. People really have to take it upon themselves to meet with their teachers if they have concerns whereas in high school, the teachers kept close tabs on all of their students. While I'd say this could be considered bad, I also am able to find a good side in that it builds independence and responsibility.
My college was exceedingly large. The smallest of my classes had about 50 people in them -- so they weren't small classes at all. Many had hundreds of people in them. Even getting around campus could be difficult; you need a large amount of space to accomodate all those people! It never felt cozy to me. Also, most people are from a small or medium-sized town in Wisconsin, and it rarely felt like they were friendly to outsiders. In a lot of ways, small town beliefs prevail, even at a world-class institution like Madison.
Probably the worst thing about our school is the off-campus housing. The area property management companies know that college students need places to live and therefore charge high prices for pretty low-quality housing. In my experience, the companies are fairly good at responding to calls about house problems. Just make sure you speak with the property managers before they change anything in your house (or just read your contract) because they may charge you for damages, even if they are just from normal wear-and-tear.
I think the worst thing about our school is the academic advising and some of the professors. I have switched majors 3 times, and have had more than 5 different advisors. I feel like I don't get any help from them because they are too concerned about their research, or have way too many other students' problems to deal with because we have 40,000 students on campus. The professors teach classes of 400 sometimes, so it's really hard for them to remember you, and therefore get a letter of recommendation.
The worst, and the best thing, is that you are on your own at this school. The school really doesn't care how you're doing academically and your advisor won't seek you out to see how things are going. It can be really overwhelming at first. But then again, it's a good thing, because you know that if you graduate from here having taking full advantage of all the opportunities, you'll be ready for whatever life throws at you, because you had to fight for things you wanted during college.