UVA vs. UNC vs. Vanderbilt

<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>

<p>Overall reactions and comparisons:
I am not going to try to compare academics at the three schools. All three have somewhat similar curriculum requirements and offer enough variety of majors that it is difficult to determine academic fit for a D who is so undecided on future area of study. I think the small classes at Vandy would be great, though I am not a believer that one can't learn adequately in a large class. Both my other children thrived in a school with large and small classes and both made their way without any problem. I am more than confident that all these schools would support D in academics.
We are not a prestige/rank influenced family. Fit at a "good" university is what we are after. All of these schools more than fit the bill. So does U of Wash (she will be there next week). Unfortunately for our pocketbook, all of the above mentioned schools seem to us like a better fit than either UCLA or Berkley-our in state choices. Is perceived fit worth the extra $$$? And if it is...can you say no to your dream school (UVA) -based on a one day visit? Maybe we just met the wrong people on an "off" day at UVA?? Maybe it IS as much fun and as nonelitist as the other schools. We KNOW the academics are good--did we miss something?? D is also considering eliminating Vandy. She says it just feels too much like a "private" school. When I asked her what that meant, she couldn't really answer. I could only imagine what many CC addicts would say to that comment! Perhaps it felt too elitist? She loved the look and feel of the kids. Could it be that there wasn't enough activity and vibrancy for her. Maybe the grounds were TOO clean and she suspects campus "trash" police are hiding behind the bushes... I don't know. Do I try to reason with her?? All she has grown up with is large U's (many visits to UW to see siblings) and is perhaps seeking comfort in the familiar rather than seeing beyond that day and what would be her best opportunity to thrive.
Anyway, that's it. D is trying to make up for lost time in school and is buried with homework. We have not been able to think since coming home.
We welcome any insight you have. I am not completely comfortable that we got true views of the campuses. It's funny how fate plays it's hand in the process. But maybe that is how it is supposed to be. Thanks for listening.</p>

<p>Wow...if I were you I'd figure out how to cut and paste this on the parent's thread. Or maybe not, you'll probably get so many responses that your head will continue to spin.</p>


<p>I'm considering UVa and UNC also. Thanks for your thoughts. I think I am more undecided than before reading this post; so, I don't know that I have much advice. Good luck. And for what its worth, you sound like a very supportive mom!</p>

<p>Wow-thanks 2tired. And bluejay-you are right. I would probably get all kinds of opinions on the parents thread. I actually considered that, but thought that our experience was so school specific that the info might be more valuable over here. I'm hoping to find "enlightened" people who have informed opinions about these schools. Thank you both.</p>

<p>Well I'm not very knowledgeable on this topic because I've only actually been to UVA but here are my 2 cents worth</p>

<p>Basically I'm at Tufts right now (in Boston) and I dislike it very much. Just a bad experience overall. I'm looking to transfer to UVA....I got in last year as a senior but chose Tufts instead (oops!). The thing that I've learned from this whole experience is that everyone I know who goes to UVA- a very diverse crowd of about 25 or 30 students from my high school- love the school. Absolutely love it. They just rave about it. When I say that I'm not having the best time at school they're like "COME TO UVA!!! It's so much fun!". But Tufts is different. I've heard all of 3 people i know who are that in love with Tufts. When my best friend who is still a senior came last week to visit Tufts because she's still deciding where to go next year, she and I walked around different dorms and talked to some people I didn't know. None of them were all that excited about Tufts. They would say "Tufts is good, but....". My friend's mom quickly pointed out that everyone we met was definitely hesitant when answering whether they liked being at Tufts.</p>

<p>The point of this whole thing is that in terms of UVA, it just seems like everyone there absolutely loves the school. Who knows why, but I guess once you go, you'll find out. From UNC, you know one kid who loves the school. But does everyone? Maybe look for stats online; like there are surveys and lists of how students rate their happiness there. It's really hard to tell where you'll fit in or be happy next year. But at those big schools, I'm sure at any of them you're daughter will find her niche.</p>

<p>Wow that's quite the description of your visit. Sounds like quite the decision to make in a week. I can't speak for UVA, but I am a current student at Carolina and your description is quite accurate. Aside from the weather which does turn a bit worse in the winter months, campus is pretty much exactly how you describe it for most of the school year, including a large percentage of students wearing Carolina blue. All I can say is that Carolina is the perfect school for me and I could not possibly be happier anywhere else. And trust me, pretty much every one here (at least in my group of friends) absolutely loves this school. </p>

<p>I've never been to UVa, but the only thing I've heard bad about it is that it has a heavier Greek influence than we do. I'm not much of a frat/sorority person, so I definitely appreciate having many other options. I'm sure there's lots to do there too, but it's definitely nice not having an overwhelming Greek/party scene from my perspective at least.</p>

<p>I visited Vanderbilt on their scholarship weekend, and I was really impressed with the professors I met. I got to sit next to the head of the Poli Sci dept. at a nice dinner, and they introduced me to the head of the European Studies program, who was also great. But I also felt like I could be quite constricted socially there (also seemed to be a heavy greek/party influence and less of an intellectual student body -- admittedly this is pretty hard to gauge accurately in a two-day visit though). So I didn't really consider it much despite the full-tuition scholarship I ended up with. </p>

<p>You probably can't go wrong of any of your choices, but please trust me when I say that UNC is an amazing place to get a great education and spend four years! Good luck with your decision, and we hope to see you next fall walking through the pit wearing Carolina blue!</p>

<p>Caseyatbat, I think your daughter should go with her gut. I've always believed in following one's instinct. If that means passing on UVa her dream school, then c'est la vie. UNC is also a stellar school.</p>

<p>In reading your posting, I couldn't help but ask myself, "where did I and my friends hang out during the day?" Yes, UVa can seem quiet during class hours, but that's because most students are either in class, hanging out w/ friends at the dorms, exercising in the gym (over 90% of the student body works out. Kaplan even named UVa the "Hottest School for Fitness"), studying (or in my case, goofing off) in the library, conducting research, or doing some extracurricular activity. UVa kids get really involved w/ their organizations/clubs. They tend to be very focused. When I was there, we studied hard, worked hard, and partied hard.</p>

<p>If I wasn't in class or in the library or at Newcomb Hall, I would either be hanging out in the University Programming Council office planning events (i.e. speakers, concerts, etc.) for the school, volunteering at the Admissions Office or DJing at the radio station. I don't remember just goofing off at some random spot on Grounds. I think UVa really wakes up at night and the weekends after everyone's done studying. (It is still a party school after all.)</p>

<p>As for why UVa students and alums love the school. It's hard to put a finger on it. There are special intangibles that UVa has that are pretty rare at most schools (esp. other public schools.) We place such an intense reverence on the University. Maybe it's the history, or world-renowned architecture, or interesting classes, or amazing friendships, or fun activities we get involved in, or the principles (honor, excellence, student self-governance) the school was built on. All I know is that I just loved the place and was never bored. I remember during summer vacations, I could be visiting a very exotic locale in June, but my friends and I would then start reminiscing about school and get excited about going back to UVa in Sept.</p>

<p>Also, how was the weather when you visited? I do remember now that people hang out more on the Lawn when the weather started to get nice and warm. You often find people reading, studying, or playing frisbee.</p>

<p>Globalist already wrote exactly what I was going to write, but I'll add a few things. You were there on a Sunday to MOnday, & I remember that when my D was at UVA Sunday was a study catch-up day from not doing work all weekend :) I was just in C'ville a week ago, & can tell you that the downtown mall is full of students at night. There are a bunch of bars & restaurants 1 street back from the mall. There is a movie theater there, & a live stage theater, & an ice rink. As Globalist mentioned, UVA students are VERY involoved in volunteering. They actually stand in line at Madison House at the beginning of the semester to sign up for various volunteer activities. It seems that everyone jogs, swims, works out in some way. There are many outdoor adventures in the area from hiking to skiing. Barracks Rd shopping center has plenty of shopping & is accessible by a short bus ride, or a long walk. Of course the different organizations on grounds also provide concerts, plays, sporting events to attend. D loved her time at UVA, as does everyone who goes there. They DO have a pride in their school that seems to me to be unmatched. Good luck with your decision !</p>

<p>Thanks for your comments. They are insightful and give good perspective. D will definitely read them and continue to consider. She is the type of kid that would take advantage of all the activities that Globalist mentions--probably within the first week! And those are all great reasons NOT to be hanging around campus. We also missed seeing the ice rink and movie theatre street--are they on Water??
We were in C'ville from Sunday a.m. to early Monday afternoon. In hindsight, I realize that might just be a naturally quiet time around campus. Sunday afternoon, when our friend took us to see her McCormick Rd. dorm, there were all kinds of kids around the dorm area. They were soaking up the sun, throwing a softball, playing frisbee, etc. D couldn't stop smiling. Monday was the day that seemed unusually quiet. We did leave town by early afternoon and never got down to the athletic facility area since we had seen it on a previous visit.
We know that UVA kids are extremely active and involved with their school and community. And lets face it--you just can't hide 12K kids- they had to be there somewhere! If D decides on UNC based on what she knows and feels, so be it. What a great school it is! I guess what bothers me a little is that her final impressions of UVA may just not be representative of the school. We will continue to discuss....I think she simply fell in love with the Pit. Thank you again--any and all perspectives welcome.</p>

<p>Caseyatbat: First disclosure, the deposit check is in the mail to UVA. I dropped it in the mailbox a bit hesitantly. Like you, I feel the strong academics should be a given especially if the student is willing to pursue relationships with professors and has the option to enroll in higher level classes because of AP credits. My daughter attended a large and small class and thought that both were fine. I also agree that part of the lure of UVA is its image. You cannot deny the presence if the history, traditions, honor code....and of course the awesome "grounds." But coupled with the academics that should be a positive. I believe my daughter was equally swayed by the rankings. The freshmen retention rate and overall graduation rate show that the school is doing something right. Comparing it to UNC I think the plus is that UVA has a larger population of out of state students, 30%? to UNC's 18%? I have also heard that the overall caliber of instate students from Va is higher than the instate at UNC. As far as the Greek scene, 30% girls join at UVA, 50% at Vanderbilt, and 20%(?) at UNC. My daughter is not interested in that at all and is a bit concerned with preppiness factor at UVA but hopes that in a school that size she will find her niche. Another comment is that only about 50% of UVA kids live on campus so that might account for some lack of activity. Good luck with the decision. If your daughter was accepted to these 3 schools then she will do well anywhere.</p>

<p><a href="http://www.icepark.com/%5B/url%5D"&gt;http://www.icepark.com/&lt;/a>
The movie theater is on the downtown mall near the Omni Hotel. The Paramount Theater is about the center of the downtown mall.
I understand your reservations about The Corner being small. When we first visited with D I thought the same thing as I compared it to State College, PA. The longer she has lived in C'ville however, the more she/we have found that the area is just rich with things to do. It takes the students a couple of semesters to branch out (perhaps due to not having cars first year) beyond the campus & Corner, & explore the town & outskirts of Albemarle County, but it is truely a wonderful place to live.</p>

<p>Bluejay--Congratulations! That is wonderful news and I am sure a great relief. I know that your family has put a lot of thought into this also.
The best part of this decision making is that I am confident that it is a win/win situation. I am totally confident that D will be perfectly happy at either UNC or UVA. I keep reminding her that we should all have problems like this. In hindsight, she may realize that this was one of the most fun "traumas" that she will ever experience.
I too get the feeling that UVA provides a stronger academic climate-for the same reasons that Bluejay and others have stated. Socially, both D and I thought that UNC had a more casual feel to it, maybe more like what we are used to in Ca. We both definitely felt that UVA was the preppier campus, though D doesn't deny that she could probably trade in her Ca. beach apparel for a collared shirt or two. Funny...we both found ourselves on the lookout for popped collars like they signify something evil. We were pretty sure that at least 2 kids at UVA for the admit day (not UVA students) had ironed their collars upright--we got a laugh out of that. I am positive that both schools allow for all kinds of activities related to the school, and, like pamvanw said, we keep hearing that the area around Charlottesville is filled with opportunities to be active and social and that kids really take advantage of that.<br>
At this point, D seems enamored with UNC's school spirit and support of it's sports programs. Obviously, it is strong in many areas, and the yearly basketball frenzy sounds like heaven to D. But if we really got down to it, I think D equates needing a good sports scene to the traditional Saturday afternoon football game. And I am certain that UVA supports it's football...right?? I know she wants an atmosphere where Saturday afternoons in the fall mean that everyone heads to the stadium. Pamvanw or Globalist-can you enlighten us about that?<br>
Oh well, enough thinking for today. Tomorrow I print out this thread (and a few others) and we begin talking in earnest. Thanks again everyone. I love hearing from people who KNOW.</p>


<p>From the one game I went to last year (I was not a student then), UVA definitely supports its football. With Al Groh becoming the coach, the crowd has lost its wine-and-cheese dressed up style to some extent and is now the 'Sea of Orange', wearing all UVA colors and being normal vocal fans. Scott Stadium is a great facility and the day I was there (against Syracuse) it was visibly full and the crowd had a huge amount of energy. I can only imagine what it'll be like next year for Va Tech and Florida State at home next year.</p>

<p>While UNC is known for its basketball tradition, we also have quite a good football program and the games are quite entertaining. I really love game days, not only because I'm a big football fan, but because one of the main quads gets turned into a big pregame barbeque festival, and a lot of alumni come back for the games and there's a great atmosphere in Chapel Hill. The stadium is right in the middle of the campus (I live literally right across the street from it) and it is surrounded by trees, which is a refreshing change from stadiums in the middle of parking lots. The student section is lively, and there is usually a lot of energy. Hope you don't let the football experience influence your decision too much, but I figured I'd chip in so you know you wouldn't be missing anything at UNC. Again, good luck to your daughter with her decision, and I hope to see her on campus in Carolina blue next fall!</p>

<p>Yes, Saturday afternoons in the Fall are very much about football. Like TheSlammer said, the stadium is now a sea of orange. (Back when I was there, we still wore jacket and ties and women wore cocktail dresses, and that was just in the 90's.) I do miss standing up, putting my arms around my neighbors' shoulders, swaying left and right, and singing the "Good Ole Song" after every touchdown and field goal. Ah, the camaraderie.</p>

<p>As for sports in general, UVa does support its teams. We have a new (and hopefully) better basketball coach. Back in the 90's, Virginia was the national champion in men's soccer for 4 years in a row. In '99 and '03, the men's lacrosse team was the national champion. The polo team (as in w/ horses, not water polo) had been the national champion for the last 3 years losing the title this year to Cornell, and the women's lacrosse team is currently the national champion. </p>

<p>Besides that, plenty of UVa students play intermural sports between dorms and student organizations/clubs. Like I mentioned, UVa was named by Kaplan as the "Hottest School for Fitness" since over 90% of the student body works out regularly and utilizes the various gyms on Grounds.</p>

<p>One thing interesting that I've noticed about other public schools w/ a lot of school pride in their sports is that that is where the majority of their pride lies. All they talk about is their sports teams. UVa pride goes beyond just sports with our presidential antecedents (Jefferson, Madison and Monroe all helped to establish UVa), Jeffersonian history and traditions, stellar academics, professors that are happy that you visit them during their office hours, and sense that you can change the world. The greatest lesson that I learned from attending UVa is "self-governance" - the idea that I control my destiny. I think it's because of this idea that over 50% of UVa undergrads conduct out-of-classroom research. I read that one is trying to save refugees in Thailand from Burma, and another even devised a simpler sign language system for the mentally challenged. UVa kids are go-getters. That is why this year alone, UVa students have one 2 Rhodes Scholarships (graduated more than all other public schools and the Ivy League save Harvard, Princeton, and Yale), a Truman, a Luce, and Mitchell.</p>

<p>Shoot, I hate bad grammar. I type too quickly. I meant to write, "That is why this year alone, 2 UVa students have WON Rhodes Scholarships (UVa has graduated more Rhodes Scholars than all other public schools and the Ivy League save Harvard, Princeton, and Yale), 1 won a Truman, another a Luce, and yet another a Mitchell scholarship."</p>

<p>Again Globalist is right on. Football & basketball are huge at UVA, as are intramurals & fitness in general. Another good point he makes is the pride extending to other aspects of the university, not just sports.</p>

<p>If you want real tangibles: 3 of UNC's top basketball players just indicated their wishes to go pro!</p>