<p>So..........D and I (with big sister along for the ride--she's presently a senior at U of Wash.) just returned from a whirlwind visit to all above mentioned schools. We hoped that something along the way would make D's decision clear and easy. It just isn't. To set the stage...We are from Ca. and D is very unsure about academic direction (one day premed, next day teaching). She is an extravert who has always loved everything about school--learning, sports, leadership opportunities, and socializing. She wants a school that offers the "whole package". Following are our impressions after seeing each school for one day--way too small a "slice of life" to judge each school by. Comments, and criticisms welcome!!</p>
<p>UVA-We actually had almost 2 days on campus, since we arrived Sunday and Days on the Lawn wasn't until Monday a.m. This school began the trip as D's favorite--her dream school for many years. (Sometimes I wonder if this may have been partly due to the fact that no one from our school/area has been accepted there?!) We checked into the Marriott, a perfect location with ample parking in the garage--I was a happy camper with hotel choice! The "corner" merchant area was great--lots of eateries and shops,and it's proximity to the campus was ideal. But it seemed like such a small area for 12K kids to use?! Compared to many schools I have seen, this off campus hangout area just seemed tiny. (Would love to hear comments on that from present or past students.) We spent the balance of the morning in the Downtown outdoor mall and again were mildly disappointed. Taking into account that it was a Sunday morning and all....it still didn't feel like a happenin' place for kids. Both D's were done looking after one sweep, and except for the eateries and coffeeshops, I wondered what the draw was for students to be there. Seemed like a trek off campus just to get coffee or whatever. I had the feeling that it was designed for the Charlottesville family-not the students there. Perhaps I am missing something regarding this....are there events there during the year that attract students?
The campus is beautiful and so overwhelmingly rich in history. Older D became obsessed with the Secret Society heritage and couldn't stop talking about it. The Rotunda, the Lawn, the Honor Code.....the campus definitely has a distinguished and unique feel to it. We met up with a student (and her visiting family) that we knew slightly and they all raved and raved about the school. The "old" dorms were conveniently located, hall style, and average for what we had seen elsewhere.<br>
Monday's Days on the Lawn was interesting. D sat in on a religion class with her friend which she thought was boring and dry. The required curriculum did not seem overwhelming and accomodates D, who is very undecided as to academic direction. Most requirements can be "APed" out of-not a concern. I like the fact that students are asked to explore some academic areas that might be previously unknown to them. We took the walking tour, sat and people watched, ate lunch, and spent the balance of the day trying to get a feel for the campus. In hindsight, I think D wished she had loved it more. She definitely had moments of "I'm done looking--UVA is it", but they seemed to be sporatic. We perceived (I want to be wrong about this!!) that part of the draw of the campus was it's image. That perhaps many of the kids loved their school because it was UVA and what that, in turn, made them. Maybe a bit impressed with themselves? We briefly saw the campus last summer and did NOT get this impression, so I am wondering how it happened this time. We also realized afterwards that the campus felt quiet--that most of the activity we saw that day was admitted seniors. Where the heck were 12K students? Maybe we hung out near the Lawn and Newcomb too much and that is not where kids congregate. Most of the kids we encountered were freshman who were very (overly) enthusiastic about being at "UVA!", but did not provide the substance of WHAT they liked. We left campus with D feeling she would be very happy there....she thought.</p>
<p>We drove to Chapel Hill and arrived about dusk. Tried to drive the campus to get an initial feel for it, but aged eyes and lots of construction and one way streets put an end to that very quickly. We parked on Franklin St. and had dinner at Top of the Hill. What a great meal. Our waitress was from Washington (we are UDub alums) and was a doll. The good vibes began in earnest... Lots of students and parent types in the restaurant. What a great feel the place seemed to have. We toured Franklin after dinner. Got ice cream and people watched. D loved it already. Casual, clean cut, and diverse kids. We compare Franklin St. to "the Ave" at the UDub or Telegraph in Berkeley without some of the personality extremes found at those places.<br>
Explore Carolina began the next a.m. in the Student Union building. They quickly separated kids from parents for different sessions--smart idea. I ran outside to grab a tablet from the student store and bumped into the ONLY person we know from our high school who attends there. We had unsuccessfully tried to find his # the night before. Karma?? He was headed to a test and told us to call him after the program.
Construction is everywhere--but I guess that is a good sign. The campus felt like a typical state university to us. Beautiful, huge, and (to steal a perfect description from Interresteddad) a bit "frayed around the edges". However, the newly constucted and renovated projects were impressive and seem to be a ongoing priority. The "pit", a large cemented area outside the student union, bookstore, and dining hall is definitely the heart of the campus and was absolutely bustling that day. Lots of tables set up to recruit members of organizations, people everywhere sitting on the steps eating lunch and talking, groups of kids laughing and walking thru the area--a truly vibrant feel. Older D pointed out that she had never seen so much blue---almost every student was either wearing blue or had some type of UNC clothing on. It was remarkable. Maybe they were still feeling the basketball "high"?? Don't know, but it felt like a happy, active, and involved student population. The south dorms, where many freshmen live, were WAY far south. Rumors to that effect are not exaggerated! I am a walker, and even I was a bit concerned. D figures it would be good exercise though, and there is a bus system if necessary. Later we spoke with our friend from high school. He loves everything about UNC-everything. His enthusiasm seemed straight from the heart and passionate, without any concern for image or status. He thought classes were tough but not overwhelming and had gotten classes he needed first year (he is a recruited athlete however.) D was obviously struck by campus activity and spirit. Having the football stadium in the middle of campus was something we had never seen--D loved that. She stated again that she was "done looking". However, plane tickets already had us heading to Vandy...
We arrived in Nashville at dusk. Loved the easy access to campus from the airport. We were surprised how urban the campus was, though removed from the main downtown streets by about 1-2 miles. What a great set-up. What we could see at night from the campus looked nice, and the downtown area was fabulous. Large city without being too big to navigate, lots of choices for food, music, shopping, fun. We all feel in love with the downtown immediately and loved its proximity to the campus.
The following a.m. we walked into the Admissions office expecting to just look around--we had missed all the Admit Days. We were greeted by the Dean of Admissions and immediately felt that this was an organized, together office. Efficient and well run. Our tour guide was a darling blonde "southern" cutie. Yikes--not what I wanted to see right off the bat. However, she won us over--competent, very informed, involved with all aspects of the campus, and a great source for info (so much for first impressions). The campus was spectacular. I was stunned. How come we don't hear more about the beauty here?? 330 acres,national arboretum, stunning foliage, old brick buildings--perhaps the prettiest campus I've seen (besides Duke-I love Duke). We were impressed with small average class size(19), prof. accessibilty, sereneness and beauty of campus, stats of enrolled students, location and access to the city, carpeted and beautiful dorms----everything. Most of all, this is the cleanest campus I have ever seen. I NEVER saw a piece of trash on the ground-really! What's with that?? This is a great school. Kids looked totally friendly and "normal". No excessive jewelry, no dressing up on campus, lots of smiles and social activity, everyone in flip-flops and tennis shoes--even some jammie bottoms and sweats among them. Older D commented that this campus felt most like the UDub of all the campuses she had seen. Sororities are on campus, but not lived in by most members, so I would think that would limit some of the exclusivity that a Greek system may normally promote. 90% of the kids live on campus all four years-a big contrast to most of the other (state) schools we have considered. It simply did not fit the "southern rich kid" image that I half expected to feel on campus. Older D and I were ready to enroll.....
Oh, I forgot to mention that D has a 15K/yr. scholarship here, which brings it in line (or less) than the publics she is considering.<br>
continued on next thread....</p>