5 Reasons to Go to a Research University

The University of Rochester is one of the top research university in the United States, but what does it mean to be a research university? How is it different than any other university or college?

A research university is a university where the primary responsibility of professors and faculty is to not only teach undergraduate courses but also to conduct and publish research. Research universities tend to be on the larger side, anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 students. Some common misconceptions about research universities are that they don’t care about teaching undergraduate courses, the professors don’t want to teach, the focus is only on research, there are fewer chances to connect with faculty, and and that it can generally lead to a below-par undergraduate experience.

However, as a student at the University of Rochester, I can tell you that these are far from the truth for students considering research universities.

While research is a top priority for faculty at a research university, faculty are frequently teaching undergraduate classes within their department or are even teaching their own research. Because these topics are something that these professors have dedicated a lot of their life to, they are passionate about not only teaching those courses but also getting as many undergraduates excited about their field as possible. It’s commonly heard that when you ask a professor about their research, be ready to listen for hours. When taking a course that a professor specializes in, it gives undergraduates an opportunity to learn the fundamentals and the cutting-edge updates and innovations in that field. As a result of going to a research university, I have had the pleasure of learning from individuals who are experts in what they teach, something that I might not have gotten if I did not attend a research university.

Now that we have gotten those misconceptions out of the way, here are some reasons/benefits to attending a research university;

1. More majors/minors/concentrations to choose from

Because research universities tend to be on the larger side, there are a variety of faculty and students resulting in more majors and/or minors being offered. Not only are there more majors offered, but these majors are also very refined and specific with different concentrations within the major. This is great both for students who are not sure what they want to focus on and students who have a very particular interest.

2. Getting hands-on experience

Research universities tend to dedicate a lot of real estate to developing the best laboratory and facilities for their faculties projects and endeavors. However, these resources are not just for faculty and graduate students. Big laboratories mean a need for as many helping hands as possible. Undergraduates at research universities have the chance to work with faculty and graduate students on projects that also align with their academic interest. Combining the fundamentals of the classroom with practical exposure is a priceless opportunity for undergraduates. Specifically, at the University of Rochester, undergraduates can get involved in research as early as their first year. Because of the nature of our university, professors are very open and inviting to undergraduate students participating in their research or are even willing to supervise independent studies or projects with the undergraduates.

3. Interested in graduate school, law school, or medical school? Get a head start!

As mentioned above, undergraduates can get research experiences very early in their academic career compared to students at non-research schools. This gives those who plan on applying to graduate school a competitive edge over their competition who might not have research experience or their name listed as a contributor on a paper. Research universities also frequently have in-house programs for undergraduates to formally participate in research over an extended period of time like summer breaks.

These programs can focus on giving undergraduates a sense of what it is really like to have research as a full-time career. In addition to gaining resume-building experience, research universities facilitate a lot of graduate students and undergraduate student interactions through recitations, workshops, or on-campus resources. The opportunity to network with graduate students can help undergraduate students get an idea of what it is like to be a graduate or PhD student. This exposure can be great for students who are trying to decide what their academic and career plans are.

4. Like what your learning? Want to know more? Take graduate courses!

At the University of Rochester, undergraduate students have the option of taking graduate courses as their advanced electives. This allows students to get a more in-depth look at a subject that they are passionate about and again decide if a graduate degree is for them.

5. Want to go international?

Research universities tend to have more name recognition internationally because they are frequently publishing papers or in journals that are viewed by universities across the globe. Faculty and students, both undergraduate and graduate, frequently participate in, present at, and attend conferences in their respective disciplines, which has allowed for the University of Rochester to become a well-known name among other distinguished institutions.


I hope that this post has at least, got you thinking about the possibilities that a research university can hold for you. Whether you decide to attend the University of Rochester or any other institution, I wish you the best of luck in all of your future endeavors.

About the author

Sharifa Sharfeldden

Hello! I am a member of the Class of 2021, majoring in Electrical and Computer Engineering. I am from Brooklyn, New York and I am involved in a variety of on-campus organizations and offices like the Gwen M. Greene Career Center as a Peer Career Advisor (PCA), the National Society of Black Engineers, and the Society of Women Engineers.

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