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The University of Alaska - Fairbanks

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Date: May 20 2005
Major: Computer Science (This Major's Salary over time)
I graduated in 1983, so I can't comment directly on the current qualities of UAF. I live in California now, and revisited UAF about 5 years ago. My sense was that things hadn't changed drastically, so my comments are hopefully still relevant.

I grew up in Ohio, and after my freshman year transfered from Ohio State (50,000+ students) to UAF (approx. 3000 students). At OSU, I would sit in lectures of 300-400 students; actually speaking to a professor was almost inconceivable; none of the graduate teaching assistants spoke English; and I was pretty much on my own. While I had alot of fun, I wasn't motivated and wasn't learning squat. At UAF, most classes were in the 20-25 student range, and my largest classes were around 60 students. I had more access to professors at UAF than I did to the teaching assistants at OSU, and the personal attention that I got going to a relatively small school made all the difference in the world. For me, at least, it was a great fit. The small class sizes were great for teaching, but UAF also gets alot of research funding, so it shouldn't be too difficult to find a job on an interesting research project if you are so inclined.

If you grew up in Alaska, it would probably be good to go to college elsewhere in order to experience the real world. But if you grew up outside of Alaska, going to school in Fairbanks is really a unique experience. Some people couldn't handle the isolation and weather, and would only last a semester. Many others, like me, fell in love with the place. I never felt more alive than during my years in Fairbanks.

I eventually got a graduate degree from USC, and have taken classes at probably 20+ colleges, ranging from community colleges to Berkeley and Stanford, for personal interest and professional development. As is said many times, school is what you make of it, and taking classes at all these different schools convinced me that I could learn just as much as UAF as I could at anywhere else. I won't pretend that at UAF degree is anymore prestigious than a degree from someplace like Eastern Washington or Sacramento State, but early in my career, when job interviewers saw that I went to school in Alaska, would usually say something like

Wow, what was going to school in Alaska like?

If you want to go to a college and care only about academics and/or partying, then UAF wouldn't be the best choice. But lots of students and professors go to UAF because it's in Alaska, and it's location is a big part of the experience. I was never bored there. I'm not a big arts guy, but I went to more plays and symphony concerts in Fairbanks than I did while living in New York City and California. I've never even seen a U.S. Senator or Governor in person while living outside of Alaska, but at UAF it was not unusual to have the Governor or Senators come to talk to your political science class of 25 people. If you get off campus and experience the surrounding environment, you could have a fantastic few years.

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