Guest Post: Life at A Large Public University…Reality vs. Myth


In contrast to a university with a small student population, which another former Creative Marbles client shared in a guest post last spring, life at a large, public, flagship university brings its own benefits and disadvantages.   Sasha and Suzanna, two more past Creative Marbles Consultancy clients, now rising college juniors, share their experiences at the University of Oregon in the following post.

As background, both Suzanna and Sasha are part of accelerated honors programs at University of Oregon.  Suzanna was accepted as a student in Clark Honors College, a small honors school within a school, and Sasha was invited to join the College Scholars Program as an incoming freshman for her academic achievements and potential.  Both women take smaller, specialized classes and will complete additional requirements for graduation.  In either Honors program, students can be any major on campus.  Sasha is a History and Business double major;  Suzanna is a Cinema Studies major, with French and Theater minors.  In addition, Suzanna is involved in the University of Oregon sponsored television station, Duck TV, as well as theater productions.  Sasha has played club water polo for the University of Oregon team.  Sasha and Suzanna both graduated from high school in California.

Suzanna on the difference between Clark Honors College classes and general University of Oregon classes:

My experience at the University of Oregon has overall been a good one. I am in the Clark Honors College here, a “school within a school.” Coming here I thought it would be much more distinct, but sometimes I forget I’m even in the [Clark] Honors College, since I take mainly regular University of Oregon classes. The honors classes I have taken have taught me a lot and I’ve had smart professors. I do not know that many kids in the honors college, because on average I only have one honors class per term, and I made most of my friends through the dorms and the theater department, and other extracurriculars here. However, one of my best friends here I met at IntroDUCKtion (University of Oregon’s summer orientation for new students) because she was in the honors college group.  The honors classes are definitely what they are advertised as: less than 20 kids per class, lots of discussion around a table. I have had no advising yet for my thesis but am taking a 1-credit thesis orientation class this fall.  [All Clark Honors College students are required to write a thesis for graduation, and start the research and writing process as Juniors.]  Although the honors college claims to have their own mascot (a platypus), I have always felt like a duck, going to football games and being a University of Oregon student.

My regular UO classes tend to vary in size. Language classes tend to be intimate, while accounting and math classes can get bigger. As for difficulty levels, this varies as well. Some terms my honors class is my easiest class, while a math or acting class will require more time and effort. Difficulty also largely depends on the teacher’s grading standards which vary widely, even within the honors college. The biggest difference is the other students in the classes. The majority of students in honors classes tend to keep to themselves more and be a little bit standoffish, while kids in regular UO classes are friendlier and more social.

Well, in a way these [Clark Honors College] discussions put you on the spot because the teachers expect you to talk more and have more intelligent responses than other classes, but in another way there are less kids so there is less judgment than say in a classroom with 200 students. However, in my other classes of about 50 there is no pressure to answer, but you can if you think of something particularly fascinating… So in general I do not prefer the class discussion of the Honors classes, but this is more due to the fact that these classes are mandatory so I don’t have as much option as to the content, while my other classes are classes I have chosen specifically to take, on topics that I am very interested in.

Sasha comparing College Scholars Program classes with general University of Oregon classes:

I’m in the College Scholars Program, which just means I take a series of general education classes [i.e. graduation requirements which are separate from major requirements] in a smaller classroom environment with about 30 students. All the program does is help get my general education classes done, but other than that the program does nothing else. It has been helpful for me because I can get smaller class sizes that way, but I do not mind being in a big class, especially if I sit in the front of the room.

I am not sure yet whether I have to write a thesis for both majors, but I definitely have to write one for History. We have to take a specific class geared towards a specific time period in history and then write our thesis based on a topic in that time period. For business, I do not think we have to write a thesis but I only just got into the program. [Sasha entered the College Scholars Program as a History major, adding the Business major recently.]

Sasha’s thoughts on choosing to go to a public college out-of-state:

I am extremely happy with my choice and greatly enjoy all the good things the UO and the city of Eugene has to offer, including college football and other sports.  For seniors who are applying to colleges, your dream school may not actually be your dream school. I had always wanted to go to UCLA, like my father, but since I’ve been at Oregon, I do not regret my decision.

 Photo Credit: University of Oregon

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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