Texas College Road Trip: University of Texas­—Austin

Learn what it's like to attend this school in Austin.

Hannah McDonald working in a lab through the Freshman Research Initiative at the University of Texas­—Austin.
By + More

Visitors to the University of Texas—Austin will likely first notice the 307-foot (ivory) tower. Attached to the Main Building, it overlooks the 431-acre, tree-lined campus with its distinctive red-roofed brick administrative buildings in downtown Austin.

Going to school in "the live music capital of the world" is one of the perks of studying at UT, says Michael Webber, who is both a graduate and a professor in the Mechanical Engineering Department.

The campus itself is home to a number of impressive music venues, agrees Rebekah Sosland, a senior majoring in aerospace engineering from Fredericksburg, Texas, such as the 2,900-seat Bass Concert Hall (Austin's largest) and Bates Recital Hall, a 700-seat performance facility for visiting musicians and student and faculty recitals.

The school also boasts the LBJ Presidential Library and Museum and UT's system of 17 academic libraries, the fifth largest system in the nation. The Harry Ransom Center on campus is home to tens of millions of literary manuscripts, photos, and works of art.

And even a simple walk or bike ride through the UT campus can reveal unexpected pleasures. Passersby can view works of notable artists, such as Anthony Caro and Seymour Lipton, that are on long-term loan through the school's Landmarks public art program.

UT—Austin generally ranks among the nation's top public universities. In 2011, it sent offer letters to 47 percent of applicants. The nearly 38,500 undergraduates can choose from more than 170 majors—engineering, biology, business, and psychology lead the way—within 17 colleges and schools.

[Check out the full list of the nation's top public schools.]

The student-faculty ratio is fairly high at 19 to 1. Though a 20th-century drama course might have only 18 students, an introduction to chemistry class might have 250. The larger classes can feel "distant" to some, but Huey Fischer, a junior from Rockport, Texas, says he has never had a hard time getting in touch with a professor.

For the roughly 80 percent of students from in-state, tuition runs about $9,800, while it's about $32,500 for out-of-state students. Room and board is about $10,500 extra.

International students represent 4.7 percent of enrollees, and Fischer says he enjoys the friends he's made from Switzerland, Kenya, and Mexico. Most freshmen live in high-rise dorms, while upperclassmen tend to live in the surrounding community, mostly in the neighborhoods around North Campus.

The school bustles with extracurricular activity. Sports are huge at UT, which competes in the Division I Big 12 Conference, and the Longhorns football team plays at the 101,000-capacity Darrell K Royal-Texas Memorial Stadium.

One can't start a conversation about the social scene without someone mentioning UT's having one of the largest Greek systems in the country. "Greek life is massive," says Ananta Prayitno, a junior from Houston who is majoring in advertising. More than 13 percent of undergraduate men and more than 15 percent of women pledge, and 39 of the 66 fraternities and sororities have chapter houses.

[Consider these seven things when thinking about Greek life.]

But Jessica Huff, a senior from Deer Park, Texas, says Austin often seems to have a split personality: The Greek organizations, which tend to be "very into country culture," are counterbalanced by a large segment of the student population she describes as "indie," who tend to live on North Campus.

Though Austin has a reputation as a progressive bastion within Texas, there are UT students who take their cowboy boots very seriously, says Huff. Still, at such a large school, there's bound to be someone who shares "the same quirks as you do," Prayitno notes.

Though UT's size can be a bit daunting, the city of Austin itself has a welcoming vibe. "It's very warm, and not just the temperature," he says.

More From the Texas College Road Trip:

Rice University

Southwestern University

Texas A&M University—College Station

Searching for a college? Get our complete rankings of Best Colleges.