An Insider's Guide to Seattle U

Although I am two years out of high school, I still remember the weird limbo between being accepted into colleges and actually committing to said colleges. Right now, college advertising is in full swing, and many students are attending spring admission days where tour guides take prospective students around campus and make the school look as appealing as possible. Usually, these days fall on the same dates across the country (probably to limit students' abilities to attend multiple school’s programs), and not everyone has the ability to travel to their college of choice in the middle of April. I thought it would be helpful to outline a few things that have influenced my time at Seattle University for those who want a first-hand student experience (that isn’t orchestrated by the school itself). Spoiler alert: Seattle U was my top choice school, and I still am very happy being a student here.

 

For starters, one of the first things you might notice about Seattle U is its size. With a little over 7,000 students attending (compared to the University of Washington’s 46,000), this is a pretty small institution. When I was first searching for colleges I wanted to go to a big school like UW, and I never expected myself to be going to such a small school. I’m a pretty reserved person, and I really disliked how small my high school was because everybody knew everyone else’s business. The idea of going to a small college seemed too similar to high school for comfort. Other factors drew me to Seattle U, but I have learned to love the small size of the university. Firstly, the biggest class I’ve had so far contained 40 students, and that was a lecture-heavy class. Otherwise, most of my classes have been seminar (aka discussion) based classes with anywhere from 15 to 30 students on average. By the end of the quarter, I know everyone’s names and the class feels more humanized, which makes me feel more comfortable in expressing my opinions and engaging in class discussion. Also, this means that the professor learns your name and learns what kind of student you are. Because the professor can recall all the instances of me being a good student, they have been gracious and accepted late work with relatively few point deductions. Admittedly, this has probably gotten me out of a few sticky situations in which I’ve forgotten an assignment deadline. I also can have better relationships with my advisors and other faculty I meet on campus due to the smaller size (which can mean more people who you could ask for reference letters). Granted, there are exceptions to the rule; if you are a STEM student, classes are heavier on the lecturing (thus bigger in size) and contain less discussion. But the class sizes here are still going to be much more intimate than having 500+ students in a lecture hall.

 

If you don’t know already, Seattle U is on the quarter system, which means we have 3 quarters consisting of 10 weeks, plus additional summer quarter with limited course options. I know a lot of people (specifically professors) who dislike how fast quarters go by (as opposed to the 15 week semester), but I personally like having a quicker turnover, especially since monotony is often a big stressor for me in a school environment. As far as credits go, unless you’re planning a credit-heavy major (again, STEM-related majors likely apply) 3-4 classes seem to be the norm for an average quarter. I think devoting more work to fewer subjects is easier and less stressful than juggling work for 5 different classes.

 

Another thing that is distinct to Seattle U is the UCOR (University Core) curriculum. Again, this is a contested subject, as I know a lot of students who would prefer less UCOR classes. But the fact of the matter is Seattle U aims to educate the whole person, which is a goal of Jesuit education in general, and this involves classes that teach about real-world things, such as creative expression, global issues, and religion. Some of my favorite classes have been UCORs, and if you are able to choose classes that interest you, they are a great opportunity to branch out and learn about subjects that you otherwise may not come across in your major. Through UCORs, I have been able to take a class on dystopian literature (I got to read The Handmaid’s Tale, as well as watch Get Out in class), I have discovered a newfound interest in philosophy, and I’m currently taking a class on nonviolent social action (which, with our current state of affairs, I feel like this will certainly come in handy outside of my career). If you go into UCORs with an attitude of “what can I get out of this?” rather than “Ugh, I have to take this class in order to graduate”, then you will be much better off (and maybe even happier) in the long run.

Outside of the actual academics, the placement of Seattle U in the middle of the city is a great advantage. I’ve never been big on the whole “classic college campus with big ivory towers and acres of land” thing that a lot of people look for. For reference, my dream college when I was younger was New York University, and one of the reasons I liked it is precisely because it doesn’t have a campus as it is immersed in the city. I feel like Seattle University is the best of both worlds; we have our own campus that is absolutely beautiful as we have so much greenery on campus, and the buildings have large windows that let in a lot of natural light. We are about a 30-minute walk down to the waterfront (and the ever famous Pike Place Market), and many cool events (art walks, farmers’ markets, concerts, etc.) happen all the time. You only have to cross the street to go to a great restaurant or hop on public transportation to get anywhere in the city. Parking is pretty expensive, so this may not be a school where you drive for your commute, although I know both commuters and on-campus residents alike who decide to bring their car. One thing to take notice of is that because we are in the middle of a city, there is more crime (people breaking into vehicles to steal items seem to be the most common), and generally more homeless and mentally ill people on the streets. I know some people who came from smaller towns and were shaken by this difference. The important thing to remember is that these people are humans, humans who are struggling. They are not menaces, and statistically speaking, they are more likely to experience violence themselves rather than inflicting violence on you. Seattle has a huge homeless problem due to structural and social inequalities, not because there is something inherently “wrong” with these people. Obviously, be smart when you are walking around town, but I can say as a female who has walked around alone (yes, even at night, it can be done) I have had little to no trouble here compared to anywhere else.

 

Of course, there also tons of opportunities on campus. There are numerous clubs for all sorts of interests (including our lovely little HerCampus team) as well as organizations that have a lot of influence. That being said, there is a difference between student involvement in clubs and general attendance for on-campus events. Seattle U isn’t exactly known for school spirit, and I think this is attributed to a lot of different reasons. First is the lack of a college sports culture that is present on so many campuses. We have sports on campus, and I’m sure people make a point to attend basketball games, but there are few things on campus that social events revolve around (in contrast to other schools where the football tailgate is the place to be). If you’re like me and couldn’t really care less about sports, then this isn’t a big deal. In fact, I would go so far as to say I think the lack of sports culture may lessen the pressure of participating in harmful parts of college culture, such as binge drinking. But even the bigger events on campus have shockingly few participants. If school spirit is really important to you, then you might be disappointed here. I have to say, I didn’t go into school looking for a strong school spirit, but watching my friends plan events with little to no success can be disappointing.

 

However, this doesn’t mean that the events themselves aren’t engaging and exciting. Two events that typically attract bigger audiences are the Fall Ball (where you can relive the best parts of school dances with friends, food, and dancing) and the annual drag show which features local professional drag artists as well as students on campus who are either just starting or love to do drag themselves. We also have an annual music festival called Quadstock, and a Battle of the Bands. While Quadstock does have outside performers, both events also feature bands and musical artists who go to Seattle U, which fosters a great community of people supporting other’s creative endeavors.

 

Overall, I’m really thankful for my time at Seattle U so far. I get to live in a beautiful city, on a beautiful campus, surrounded by close friends and people who both share my values and productively challenge them. If you’re considering Seattle U, I would say take this account with a grain of salt as this is just my experience. Ultimately, college is your experience, and you will know what aspects of a school will serve you best. Nobody can dictate what your experience will be, which can be nerve-wracking, as well as liberating. Hopefully, Seattle U can give you the tools you need to succeed as it has for me.