Can my student fit in and be happy at UNC-CH?

My NC daughter is having serious troubles with her decision for next year. She really gravitated towards small schools and never liked UNC-CH but applied and was accepted. We chased merit with some good success, but she didn’t get much money at the top, more rigorous schools. To our surprise, she really loves USC (SoCal) but it’s a little different for a big school - small classes, seemingly really good mentorship and personalized experiences. But it’s $85k. We are STILL waiting for the financial packages from two schools. If those are too pricey, she says that she may just “have to go to UNC” because of the value for us being in state. She’s mostly undecided but is interested in communications/business. SO…my question is: can she be happy at UNC? She’s pretty reserved, a serious student who really likes discussion-based classes, has ZERO interest in traditional greek life or celebrating sports wins. She would love close relationships with a small group, playing board games and some sober singing/dancing parties on a Saturday night. She would go in with a lot of AP/DE credits - I think she would be waived all but two core courses. If she didn’t have to take the Univ. Gen Eds would she be skipping most of the giant lecture classes? How large are the classes in the major?

Her other remaining options: USC $85k; Santa Clara $64k but still awaiting Johnson Scholars decision, Univ San Diego (she loves this school) $73k but waiting on merit appeal; Furman $39k; Rollins $43k

Of course she can be happy at UNC…if she tries to be. It’s a large school with many different types of students. The school has a ton of clubs and activities where she can meet a smaller group of friends. She might also become friendly with folks in some of her classes or in her dorms.

Good luck with an appeal at University of San Diego. We tried that for our kid, and the aid person we had an appointment with when we visited boldly told us they don’t change their offers…and then got up and left the room. Let’s just say…it came right off of our kid’s list.

Your daughter has some smaller schools on her list that are more affordable than the CA schools. Is she considering any of those?


She absolutely can find her people at CH! Lots of people are there for the same reasons she would be: it offers strong programs at a great (in-state) price.

The hometown option often struggles to get love, but let’s get practical for a moment & see if we can’t put some lipstick on it.

Q1: Communications jobs typically do not pay well out of the gate. How much can you pay outright for college- no debt? If the answer is 0 - there will be debt either way- then that is a super easy question: going into debt for an UG comms degree is (as my MIL used to say) “making a stick to beat yourself with”.

Q2: CH in-state, all - in, will come in under $30K / year- ~$120K for that BA. USC is 55K more per year., so 225 THOUSAND dollars more than CH. Is a USC BA in communications worth $225,000 more than one from CH? Not a hard question! So, what would she say to the difference between what you can pay out of pocket and the $120K for CH as a graduation present, a ‘congratulations for making the financially responsible choice, here’s something to get you started with the cost of moving to the city where you have just gotten a job’.


Adding…our kid did not choose the least expensive college option, but we had no financial constraints at all. No loans for parents to support that undergrad degree.

It sounds like that $85,000 a year would be a challenging number. We paid a little more than half that (our kid graduated in 2010). I doubt we would have paid $85,000 a year for undergrad school.

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Not necessarily that small for lower level courses. Here is USC’s class schedule of communication courses that shows class sizes: Classes Offered · USC Schedule of Classes

That’s the feeling I’m getting from San Diego.

She would definitely get involved in clubs, etc. She’s the type that would try to do too much. But just the sheer number of people was super overwhelming to her on our visit. The campus at USC is more open so the flow of people is diluted. It seems that so many students funnel into that one area near the pit between classes so it just felt busier. While I know that sports are a big part of USC, there was almost zero mention of it at Admitted Students Day, whereas here in NC the sports teams are celebrated more than the academic strength of UNC.

I really like Furman for her but it just doesn’t excite her. Maybe too close to home. She doesn’t think she can justify spending more money on Furman or Rollins than Chapel Hill. I think that she would thrive both academically and socially at Furman.

Believe me, husband has tried to bribe her with post-UNC “gifts!” She’s a very practical and sensible person so she may select UNC even if she doesn’t think she will be happy there. And of course, that’s what I don’t want.

Kids go to their dream schools and struggle. Kids go to a school they didn’t want to go to but love it.

It’s part attitude, part getting a great roommate and profs, and part maturity. Many get homesick so being closer may be better.

Anyway $85k for a degree in communications…whether mass, journalism, pr or otherwise is pure lunacy.

Every time I think about my four years at Syracuse I think how much of my dad’s money I wasted.

Her hard work paid off in getting a wonderful deal to UNC, Furman and Rollins. I can question why Furman if she didn’t want to stay close.

She’s got great choices. There’s smart kids everywhere.

So going to the highest rated is not necessarily the right thing.

And as parents, you have the right to say - $360k is too much, especially if you get a degree that will put you in a low paid job. 360k? Yea COA is $86k at SC and there’s inflation.

She may not realize it. But she’s got great choices.

But you need the right mindset no matter where you go. Think of how much you can help her later with what you save or how much ahead you’ll be in retirement.

Good luck.


Mine went to UNC and she was OOS. She had no interest in Greek life or parties (Greek life is not big and there’s plenty to do without going to parties), and she wanted to have relationships with her professors. She did not attend one party over her 4 years and was always very busy. She did love the basketball and felt it brought them together as a campus- she also loved this in HS and went to many games.

She was very involved in clubs and activities, spent her weekends with small groups of friends, went to dinner, attended occasional weekend guest speakers, etc. She was close with her professors, went out with them (still does), tutored their kids, was very involved in research, socialized with her research group, etc.

It’s a big school, and she will find her friends. My daughter loved class discussions, but did not like small schools. She had a mix- her smaller classes were discussion based. Several of her larger intro classes operated as flipped classrooms (she was used to this from HS) where they also broke off into small groups during class.

Does your daughter have any smaller schools that are affordable?


Did your daughter apply to any smaller NC public schools?

Also- UNC students can take classes at Duke (the reverse is also true). I don’t know the details, but it’s something to investigate. She can also go abroad, if that’s something that interests her.

Daughter goes to UNC and is very social. So, her experience might not be appropriate. First, it is an amazing school with so many opportunities, both academic and social. Greek life is frankly limited to the streets near Franklin. There is a service oriented frat that many kids join. Tons of clubs and other activities.
Smaller UNC schools like UNCA might be a good option for her or even UNCW. Have you looked into those?

Hi! My daughter just committed to UNC and plans to study some mixture of communications/business/global affairs. I also graduated from there. I was a transfer student and a bit like your daughter and I did have a bit of trouble finding a niche. My daughter is super social and we’ve been talking about ways to find community other than a sorority, but if she wants to join a sorority in the spring, I’m okay with that, too. Our son was in a fraternity at Carnegie Mellon and he is very intellectual. He explained it this way–it was good to have a physical place to go to hang out with people you know. That made sense to me. I do worry that Greek life at a big school is different, though. My daughter has been looking at dance clubs and the instagram group to make friends. She also knows several people from high school. I think she’ll do well but I’m keeping my fingers crossed! (She was also looking at American in DC where she got a nice scholarship.) Has she made a decision?