The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor
The University of Michigan - Ann Arbor - Comments and Student Experiences|
Social life at Michigan is a bit less bleak. There are plenty of organizations to join, though I would argue that many student orgs are (forgive the expression) disorganized. Joining organizations, in particular, is haphazard with a giant sign-up free-for-fall called Festifall at the beginning of each school year. Greek life is quite big at Michigan. There's definitely a divide between the GDIs and the Greeks. While students are generally friendly and approachable, people do look at you differently when you don't have letters, wear Sperry's and Vineyard Vines, or end every sentence with "bruh." Obviously, if you're a sports fan, Michigan is the place for you. Football, basketball, hockey, etc. are all very popular, though football definitely takes the cake. However, game days seem to be more of an excuse to drink excessively at pre-games and tailgates than passion for the sport. My first few game days were magical, but I quickly found that I grew tired of losing my Saturdays (and quite frequently the contents of my stomach). As a pre-med student, I didn't get to take much advantage of social life at Michigan. I didn't have trouble making friends, but time spent hanging out often included studying.
I've heard many people say that Michigan has a beautiful campus. I disagree. There are perhaps three weeks during an entire school year in which I would concede that the campus looks nice. The Diag often looks and smells like a swamp, the buildings comprise a messy hodgepodge of disparate architecture, and the horrendous weather makes it difficult to enjoy strolling through campus. Quick note on the weather: I'm from Chicago, so I'm used to bad winters and somewhat unpredictable weather. However, the weather I experienced during my four years in Ann Arbor was NOTICEABLY worse Chicago. There was one day in which it snowed, hailed, rained, and became sunny. ALL IN ONE DAY. Even the animals had mystified expressions on their faces. My advice for someone planning to attend Michigan: get used to cold and gray. I've never stayed in a city with less sunshine than Ann Arbor.
Moving on to the surrounding city, Ann Arbor is great, particularly during the summer. There's a beautiful arboretum near the Medical Campus, and downtown is filled with many interesting places to eat. Seeing as it's Ann Arbor, there are quite a few hipster places, so if that's your thing...However, undergraduate students typically don't go into downtown. They mainly stay east of State Street with the exception of Skeeps bar. With this in mind, I think Ann Arbor is better for graduate students and adults.
I want to hit on an important topic, which is diversity. The University constantly jerks itself off as a champion of diversity. I will concede that there are many races represented at the school. However, the school mistakes sheer racial numbers for true diversity. The vast majority of people at the school come from the exact same mold - suburban, well-off, middle to upper middle class - yes, even many of the racially diverse students. Furthermore, there is a shocking amount of segregation among the students. Black people hang out with black people. Asians hang out with Asians. White people hang out with white people. Arabs hang out with Arabs. Indians hang out with Indians. There isn't much mixing of the races. Thus, I haven't gained many new cultural perspectives, which is why I have a major problem with the University's self-proclamation of outstanding diversity. Not to mention, the students can be quite racist. We've had our share of problems during my four years here.What else is there to say? Overall, Michigan did not live up to my expectations. The administrators believe that it is a "research institution" rather than a "school," and it shows. Unfortunately, that philosophy leaves thousands of students hung out to dry. It's definitely not worth out-of-state tuition. I would only give a half-hearted recommendation to attend Michigan if you're in-state or plan to major in business. The business school, while difficult to get into, is an absolute joke once you get in. They inflate grades, fill out your schedules for you, and hook you up with basically any internship you want. However, if you don't fall into the business or in-state categories, save yourself the money and headaches by going somewhere else.
Honestly, don't allow it to fool you: the university is a predominantly white institution that expects relentless praise for its few social justice efforts (ex. a presentation about micro-aggressions). The campus's LGBTQ environment amounts to a few organizations and a nightclub that has a "gay night." Never mind the fact that most students spew sexist, racist, heteronormative, classist, and/or transphobic comments on a daily basis. Personally, I've never experienced so much blatant homophobia in my life, and my town is easily the most reactionary in its county.
This segues into the next problem: the student body. Dear Christ, has there ever been a more complacent, egotistical student body? Excluding the Ivy League, of course. However, unlike the Ivy League, gaining admission here is not a significant accomplishment. The academic requirements are above-average. The slogan "Leaders and the Best" is just that?a slogan! Tragically, most students believe they ARE leaders and the best...somehow. One would imagine that the students, at some point during their four years here, would listen to their peers' comments and observe their (lack of) academic passion and realize the superficiality of the slogan. Instead, you have the vast majority of students parading around as though everyone owes them everything. This doesn't even comment upon their collective classism and exclusionary behaviors. Obviously, not everyone here is like this, but most are?probably around 75% or so. Why subject yourself to that?
As for academics, they're lackluster. As others have noted, the graduate programs here excel and earn the school international renown. The undergrad programs, especially those involved with LSA, aren't anything special. Only one of my classes, an art history course, has challenged my perspective, and it's worth noting that this is my only class taught by a passionate professor. The others disappoint me. A GSI teaches my math class. Every time I bother to attend the "class"?I've given up hope on his ability to teach long ago?students correct his basic mistakes during notes. Then, he silently slumps around the room after he assigns group problems. Ugh. I'm currently in an upper-level English class, and my professor (yes, professor, not GSI) consistently confuses "its" with "it's." Worse yet, she often fails to remember characters' names and their roles from the novels we read. How the hell does the university have the audacity to brand itself as a world-class undergraduate institution when it employs village idiots as professors?!
Thus, one might ask what the positives are. Ann Arbor. It's very beautiful and has several amazing restaurants, bookstores, shops, etc. There are also several nice nature areas engrained around the city. It's a wonderful location to live as an adult. The university's campus itself is also quite stunning, though it feels like a perpetual construction site. But you can at least enjoy the areas that aren't currently polluted by noise.
The academics are also very easy, so that might appeal to a certain type of slacker. The entire place feels like a high-end resort that's filled with snobby suburbanites. Don't expect your experience to be different if you're enrolling in LSA, excluding the obligatory mid-term "hell week."
I can easily state that enrolling here was one of my life's worst decisions. I blindly accepted the university's lies, but within my first week here, I realized that I had made a mistake. It's not the superior intellectual institution that it once was, nor is it the bastion of social and artistic progress it once was. Seriously, to future freshmen who have recently become disillusioned and are considering a transfer, do it! I allowed it a semester to prove its worth, and if anything, it only has further appalled me. At least apply to other universities now so that you have the option to transfer later. I didn't. Now I have to waste another semester here before I can transfer to a better university next fall. I have no idea how I'm going to survive another semester here.To reiterate: if you're a grad student, apply here; if you're an undergrad, apply to another university. To one that will treat you as an individual. To one that lacks an arrogant student body.