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Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University

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What are the academics like at your school?

It really depends on what you decide to major in. I was an English major, which is one of the smaller departments at Tech. Most of my professors and teachers knew my name, and often I had the same professor for more than one class. Everyone kind of studies at their own pace. I generally tried to study and do homework for at least a couple hours a day, but one of my roommates literally spent her entire day doing school work. My roommates were Biology majors, and their classes were much larger and a little less personal. But they always told me that, even though their professors may not have known them personally, they knew they could always go to office hours and get the help they needed. Professors are always more than willing to help out in any way they can if a student takes the initiative to come to them. If you're in a class of 400 and you're worried about blending in, don't be afraid to speak to your professor afterward or during office hours. They'll appreciate your effort, and they'll be more likely to remember you and help you out in the future. My English major friends and I loved to have nerdy discussions outside of class, especially if we were taking a class that we particularly liked. Everyone kind of develops personalities and stereotypes based on their majors. My friends used to say "You're such an English major," every time I corrected their grammar, and friends in Architecture talked about every building we walked into. In college, studying and being smart isn't nerdy anymore. Everyone's there for the same reason, and you gain more respect for doing well and speaking up in class. Don't be that kid though - don't raise your hand every single time the professor asks a question, and don't be a know-it-all. Some students are pretty competitive, but the competition I found was normally on a personal level. My best friend and I were both English majors, and especially in our Literature and the Law class, we often found ourselves comparing our grades - he did better on the quizzes, but my papers were always better. (Turns out we both aced the final and got A minuses in the class.) Some classes are career-oriented, and others are more just learning for learning's sake. But if you're serious about finding a job after you graduate, there are plenty of people on campus to help you out with it. Professors are always willing to help students discuss their future, and Career Services also offers a ton of help. The most unique class I ever took was the Harry Potter Phenomenon. We got to read every book, watch every movie, and have really interesting (and fun) discussions.

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One of the great things about Virginia Tech is that you get the small college feel with the big university benefits. Once a student declares a major and he or she begins taking major-specific courses the classroom size shrinks, conversation within class increases, and strong professor-student and student-student relationships are formed. It makes for a great experience; the student feels more involved in the course and his or her education. It’s a wonderful feeling. Another great things about being a large university: there’s always an abundance of courses to choose from; more than you’ll know what to do with, actually. Believe me, you’ll have a hard time limiting yourself to just fifteen or eighteen credit hours. And the learning doesn’t have to stay in the classroom either. Here’s another great aspect of a large university: Virginia Tech has over 600 student organizations. These range from major related clubs to honor societies to sports clubs to Quidditch—yes, broomsticks and all. And if there isn’t a club that interests you, all you need is two other people and a faculty advisor and you can create your own! Going back to the professors though. They’re great. Every professor I’ve had has been incredibly passionate about the course they’re teaching. And that passion is infectious. It makes you enjoy the subject and the work. It makes for a great experience. Another thing: their doors are always open—virtual or realistic. They never turn down an opportunity to talk about the course or just life. And it’s all genuine. You can tell they care more about connecting with you, and being a teacher, mentor, and adviser than just about relaying their knowledge. As far as jobs go, Tech is geared toward preparing its students for the future. I get at least ten or more emails a day from my department informing me about business in the area or nationally looking for interns and part-time employees. It’s wonderful to know that the prospects for graduates aren’t as gloomy as the media paints them to be. There are myriads of opportunities, and they’re only growing. And Tech makes sure its graduates are prepared to compete and achieve in the world that awaits them.

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The most unique class I've taken has been Indigenous Ecology (AINS 4004). The teachers know our names, and class participation is about average. In general, students have academic conversations outside of class, but, unfortunately, participation in class is generally low. Some students spend hours upon hours studying each day, and others spend very little time. I spend some time with IDST professors outside of class, but not much. As far as academic requirements, I really really really really dislike general math (1015 for example) being taught online via the math emporium. It is an ineffective way for students who are enrolled in it because they aren't following a math based future to learn math, as they are the people who most need it to be explained by a teacher or TA. I feel like much of my education is learning for its own sake, but that is mostly because I have recently decided to go to Law school instead of graduate school. I also would like to see a sexuality studies department at Tech one day. Several schools have them, and I think Tech having one would do much to improve the quality of liberal education received by students. Back to the academic requirements, I think all students should be required to have more diversity classes - or maybe offer a catch all diversity class that covers issues of possible discrimination. This would also be helpful for students who are going into the work force who had little interaction outside their own race/religion/orientation/age/ect during their collegiate career (as is possible). I would also like to see more environmental classes being required by students. Students should be aware of what is happening physically to the world around them. Although it is possible for students to take either Human Sexuality or Resources Geology as part of area 7, some students don't take either and certainly not both. Both these classes, or others like them, should be required to ensure that students are well rounded in their education and general knowledge of the world around them.

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If you go to office hours and meet your professors, you will find that class becomes more personal and enjoyable, no matter how big the size. It's good to establish a relationship with your professors because that could very well come in handy down the line when it comes to needing reference letters, or even for a final grade. They will know who you are and that you are interested and willing to put in the effort for their class, and they will take that into consideration. I am a Spanish major (and adding Communications as well to complement it this year) and a Professional Writing minor. My teachers know my name and it really does make all the difference. If you estrange yourself from them or their class, you really won't get much out of it all, and the professors will certainly see that. So go introduce yourself! I promise they don't all bite. The most unique class I've taken so far has been a 3,000 person class called World Regions. It's actually famous at Tech, and on the official Hokie Bucket list of things to do. The professor is crazy and extremely passionate about current world events. It was held once a week and was like an educational comedy show. Everybody loves it, there are no papers involved, and best of all- you actually learn stuff and it's enjoyable! My favorite class so far has been a 10-person one called Spanish for Oral Proficiency. It's just what it sounds like- pure speaking. It was pass/fail and all we did was speak Spanish totally- we did skits, told stories every day, had conversations, and played games. Since there were only 10 of us, we all got to know each other and the professor, which made class much more entertaining. It was just fun and didn't even feel like a class. The education at Tech is geared towards the students' success after graduation. There are many job fairs and resources made available for students through Career Services. Hokies hire Hokies, so there are definitely jobs available for Tech's intelligent students.

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I am majoring, Human, Nutrition, Foods, and Exercise. With my major there are four options and I am pursuing the science option. I am also minoring in French. Now that I am pass the general education classes I am enjoying my classes more and more. My in major classes are all science related such as: Biology, Biochemistry, Anatomy & Physiology, and Organic chemistry. In comparison to my French classes which are about ten to twenty students most of my science classes are quite a bit larger, averaging about 400 students. I do not like this because it makes the class very impersonal and difficult to ask questions. It is possible however, my favorite professor, Dr. Maggie Bump is my organic chemistry teach and she has discovered how to appeal to practically every type of way a student may prefer being taught even in class of 400. She goes above a beyond the call as a professor by having plenty of office hours, a time to have lunch with her, review sessions, etc. Not all, in fact, most teachers unfortunately do not teach with such zeal as professor Bump. My laboratory classes (which I take about two each semester) are usually led my a graduate student who could care less about our grades. Many professors I have had for biology or chemistry are not solely teachers but also do research, and it is obvious when their desire is more geared towards doing research by their lack of aid teaching students the material. The atmosphere among the students is quite competitive and this leads to a healthy want to achieve excellence in our courses. With the vast amount of resources available, such as tutoring, the library, and study rooms this competition leads to a good use of said facilities. My advisors with my major do an incredible job to keep me on track with my course scheduling and even with guiding me towards what I am passionate about. There is no excuse for a student to have no idea what options they have as the resources and help is abundant.

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Blacksburg bleeds maroon and orange. I may have questioned the students’ devotion to the university before coming to Blacksburg, but I sure don’t question it now. School pride is off the charts and many Hokies will subsequently argue the school is the best in various aspects such as food, outdoor activities, football, sportsmanship, and scenery. I never had any school pride before attending Virginia Tech but now I safely put myself among those who think the college is amazing. Although a very large school, I felt safe in a small major, and really felt like the school catered to my needs. Well, except my need to park within twenty minutes of my destination. Parking really is atrocious at Tech and the surrounding town. There were a few times during the school year when it would take me twenty minutes just to settle on a spot thirty minutes away. My grade definitely suffered because of this inconvenience. Another unfortunate aspect about going to VT is the remembrance of the 4/17/2007 massacre. Whenever I tell someone new I am meeting that I go to Virginia Tech, I am met with a grimace and a wondering of how life goes on over there. It becomes quite annoying to have to deal with all that pity instead of the focus being on successes that Virginia Tech has enjoyed. The university has done tremendously in landscaping, leading to one of the most beautiful campuses I have ever seen. There is nothing quite like laying on the drillfield and looking up at the sun setting below the gorgeous Hokie stone. And there is nothing quite like jumping along to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” while the Hokies take the field for their huge annual nationally televised Thursday night ACC battle. And nothing quite like eating an upside-down burger at Mike’s, or the ring dance, or karaoke at TOTS, or cosmic bowling at Squires, or fireworks over the drillfield.

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Even though it may seem overwhelmingly big, Tech still seriously retains the small classroom feel. As an incoming freshman, you will have those big lecture hall classes, with over 600 students. Even in my freshman psychology class of 620 students, I was able to walk up and introduce myself to my professor. He remembered my name for the rest of the semester and when I was having trouble with a concept in prep for our final exam I was able to meet with him and he was incredibly helpful. I am an English and Spanish Major, so I have two advisors, both of whom I find crucial to my student career. They are so helpful when I am planning classes, and when I said I wanted to study abroad they were supportive and did everything they could to ensure I would get the necessary credits to graduate on time. I am currently studying abroad in Spain, and will come home with over 12 credits toward my Spanish Major. I have always been able to meet with Professors one on one at Tech, and when they get to know you it becomes much easier to understand what is expected of you. The Professors at Tech really take the time to make sure they know your name, and if you put in the effort to meet with them, it is so worth it! Although students are competitive in the classroom there are so many times when we help each other. Wether it is in study groups before exams, or discussing class concepts in the hallways, there is always someone there who is willing to help out. Tech encourages students to take classes that interest them, while at the same time helping them choose career paths that fit those interests. I have many friends who have taken classes at their advisor's suggestion and later changed their major option to fit their newfound passions.

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The academic knowledge I have gained at Virginia Tech has been unique and extremely valuable. Many universities may simply ask you to learn and absorb- Virginia Tech challenges this adage. Virginia Tech professors present their material in a way so that students do not simply "sponge" lectures, but rather take the knowledge given to them, find their own understanding, and apply it to their immediate world. A intellectual body of 30,000 students pushes one another to be their absolute best, and to compete to their fullest. Teachers are extremely wise and knowledgable in their subjects of choice, and are almost always willing to offer additional help to students in need. Help is also offered by many other sources, including help sessions, tutors, study groups, academic enrichment centers, and much more. No matter your major, there is assistance available. Virginia Tech is an esteemed school, and offers a cornucopia of majors to choose from; job possibilities out of this school are boundless. Classes within the school are overall very fair and easy to follow, and we offer a class for almost every interest a student could have. Some of our most interesting classes include World Regions (a modernized, 3,000 person geography class about global regions, leaders, politics, and culture), Mysterious Mushrooms and Malicious Molds (an inside look to many of the mysterious fungi that grow and thrive in our environment), and Brewing (a class where students learn to brew their own beer, learn about the history of brewing, and about the ingredients and flavors that go into creating beers.) The academics at VT are second-to-none and I personally know that I am learning more here than I would anywhere else.

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As an English major, most of my classes have fewer than 30 students, and all of my professors know my name. In my experience, professors (even those teaching 100+ student Chemistry courses!) have been happy to help students by answering emails quickly and providing office hours. The most unique class I've taken at Virginia Tech would have to be "Literature and Ecology." We probably read 100 pages a week, but the reading was some of the most interesting I've ever come across, and participating in class discussions was an eye-opening experience every time. I never thought I would study the Theory of Anarchy and Herman Melville in the same course, but we did--and comparing the two was totally fascinating. Though I've loved my English classes, I did not enjoy taking math at Virginia Tech. If you're not studying a math-intensive major, you only have two take 6 hours. However, the lower-level math courses (below Engineering Calculus) are taught through the Math Emporium. The Math Empo is a large computer lab located off-campus (easily accessible by bus), where you use online math modules to teach yourself. Your math teacher is available once a week for optional review, and he or she will usually go over problems on the overhead. Additionally, Emporium employees circulate the lab during daytime hours to answer questions and help students work out problems. However, Math Empo classes demand great time-management skills and the ability to learn from an online textbook. They're do-able, but most students I've talked to don't enjoy them.

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Whether the classroom encompasses 30 students or 300, Virginia Tech professors are personable, intelligent, accredited, and supportive. Throughout my academic career I have experienced a wide variety of courses within my communication major, marketing minor, English minor, and multiple electives. Each course was unique, and was taught by a professor in which I will forever remember for some important aspect they taught me about academics, society, peers, family, or most importantly, my future. Class participation is incredible. I have been in lectures of 350 students where volunteers were regular, and whose responses were inspiring and simply phenomenal. It is because of these other participatory students that I have gained such confidence to participate myself, for other students thrive on the opinions and thoughts of their peers. The only exciting feeling about leaving Virginia Tech is that I am reassured each day that my future is certain. I have received incredible information from professors and peers about building my resume, cover letter, job seeking, internship seeking, graduate schools, interviewing processes, and more. More than one course actually required a resume for an assignment, where the career center service would speak to our class and help us individually in class. Virginia Tech academia has allowed me to find myself and has given me the confidence required to land a successful future career.

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