College Spotlight: University of Puget Sound
Junior Year Update
By Charlie Bjork
Two years ago, as a high school senior, I chose the University of Puget Sound because I was looking for a small, liberal arts college with a tight-knit community in the Pacific Northwest—and those are the reasons I decided to return. I was a freshman at UPS in the 2014-2015 academic year. During that year, I started a Politics and Government major, explored the Cascades and Olympics, and made enduring friendships with my floor mates, fraternity brothers, and other individuals on campus. In the spring of my freshman year, I struggled with the decision of whether to transfer to the University of Minnesota. I questioned whether UPS was the right size for me and decided that if I was on the fence, cost should be a deciding factor. My time at the University of Minnesota was positive and I enjoyed the unique aspects of a big university. I now have had two very different college experiences: a small, liberal arts college and one of the largest state universities in the country. In my time away, I have come to appreciate what I truly value in my college experience: the liberal arts focus, location, and community that Puget Sound offers.
The academic experience at UPS is a better fit for me. I have now experienced the lecture hall with 400+ students and fully appreciate the small, discussion-based courses. Most of my classes at the U involved listening and thinking about ideas while classes at Puget Sound focus on discussing and sharing ideas. At Puget Sound, I am genuinely excited to go to class because my professors and fellow classmates alike challenge me to think in innovative ways. Classes of 10-20 students allow for high-powered academic conversations that are nearly impossible to reproduce in a lecture hall. Small class sizes give students an incentive to attend and be engaged in class because they feel like their voice matters.
The beauty and adventure of the Pacific Northwest was another crucial factor in returning to UPS. The Puget Sound campus, like many small liberal arts schools, is quiet and serene with a residential neighborhood surrounding it, starkly contrasting to the hustle and bustle of urban living at the U. Tudor Gothic buildings, forests of fir trees, and wide open quads make-up the UPS campus. Likewise, the U campus is very integrated into the city and offers a variety of restaurants, music venues, and sporting events that are very easily accessible to students. While a small campus like UPS cannot offer this, there is so much to explore not too far off-campus. I often jog in Point Defiance, a beautiful urban park in Tacoma that overlooks the Sound. The Pacific Northwest location also allows students to explore famous outdoor hotspots like Mount Rainier, the Cascades, and the Olympics. The well-established Puget Sound Outdoors club offers trips nearly every weekend to gorgeous areas within the Pacific Northwest.
In my first year I spent at Puget Sound, I made friendships that have endured the test of time and distance. My friends come from states like California, Wyoming, Massachusetts, and Colorado, each of them with a unique and interesting perspective to share. The intimate size of UPS fosters strong friendships. Moreover, I found that students at the U get involved to make the school feel smaller while students at Puget Sound get involved to make the school feel bigger. That is, Puget Sound students join multiple organizations and form friendships with a vast number of the campus community. While the U offers more organizations, students must limit themselves more or they will be lost in the enormity of the student body. The tight-knit yet expansive community of Puget Sound is distinct and something I found essential to my college experience.
Attending two very different institutions has given me a unique perspective. I have had the chance to immerse myself in both and determine what I value most in my college experience. I value the discussion-based classes, the five-minute walk to class, the serene yet magnificent beauty of campus and the Pacific Northwest, and the lasting friendships with students and professors alike. The list could go on. Overall, I am so thrilled to be back and for my final two years at Puget Sound.