William & Mary vs Emory vs Emory-Oxford vs George Mason vs UNC Chapel Hill

Context: Current HS senior, T-minus 11 days to May 1st, and still no idea where to go.

Current options + intended major/track for each + most obvious pros/cons + net costs:

  1. William & Mary (BS, Kinesiology, conc. in Public Health), $41k/yr


  • Monroe Scholars program → $3000 research stipend + priority course registration + special housing
  • In-state tuition
  • Close to home
  • Campus/location
  • Support for student entrepreneurship
  • Pricey despite in-state rate
  1. Emory (BA, Human Health, conc. in Health Innovation), $78k/yr


  • Name brand, especially in public health → potential access to more high-level employment opportunities in the future
  • Great creative writing program, which I’m thinking of possibly double-majoring in, or at least exploring
  • In Atlanta → right by CDC + in the public health capital of the US
  • Intellectual environment/rigor
  • Fresh start; no one else from my high school will be attending
  • Diversity! This is a huge pro for me, and I’m really excited to meet students from all over
  • Tuition
  1. Emory-Oxford (same as above), $54k/yr


  • Scholarship bringing overall cost of Emory education down by $25k
  • Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’ve heard the Oxford campus is less academically-oriented than the Atlanta campus/doesn’t have the same reputation
  • Having to readjust to life at Atlanta campus again after 2 years

George Mason (BS, Health Administration), $16k/yr


  • University Scholars program (super selective program w/ annual cohort of 20ish students; full tuition scholarship)
  • Accepted to Honors program —> priority class registration + special programming
  • University as a whole is not very prestigious, especially in terms of their Health Admin major
  • I’m not sure if the public health programs are oriented to the national/global level; they seem to focus more at the level of community health
  • Concerned about not finding intellectual community/academic fit
  • Very few options for vegetarian food on campus

UNC Chapel Hill (BSPH, Health Policy and Management), 54k/yr


  • #2 school of public health in the country (or, as they like to say, the #1 public school of public health)
  • Campus/environment
  • Accepted to Honors program —> priority class registration + special programming
  • Proximity to Research Triangle —> research opportunities
  • Support for student entrepreneurship
  • Out-of-state tuition

Career-wise, I’d ultimately love to work for a government agency or NGO to help tackle public health issues in the US or abroad, or potentially start my own business in the same vein.

Out of all these schools, and given the pros and cons of each, which would you say is the best choice?

Can’t help with the decision, but don’t know where you got the idea Emory Oxford is less academically inclined (rigorous?) than the main campus, it’s not. However it is super small, with nothing in the immediate area. My son loved it, but it’s not a fit for everyone. On the other hand, it gets you an Emory degree for $100,000 less.

Best of luck with the decision, you have some excellent choices!


Spend some time digging in the course requirements for the majors and then related areas for each as they put you on different paths.

George Mason has some minors that may pair well including Global Affairs and Global Health:

The proximity to DC and opportunities for internships is a huge benefit as lots of NGOs are on that side of town and there are federal contracts with George Mason researchers. You could also do a semester or year abroad while saving money for grad school.

Based on your interests, if George Mason is not for you, then UNC is probably a better match than William and Mary and the cost is not prohibitive more if it is still on the list. You can take classes at Duke I believe in some exchange.

I would not spend that much on Emory in Atlanta, but the Oxford location might be ok. I think you can go to the other campus for the final two years maybe, but I guess at the higher cost.

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What is your budget? Or what have your parents told/given you? It’s not what they can afford - but what they want to afford.

I ask - because in reading your first blurb which is on W&M, you say at $41K that it’s pricey even though it’s in-state.

So if that’s an issue for you - then how can you consider Emory ($78K), Oxford ($53K), and UNC($54K). In other words - take residency outisde the equation.

You’re likely headed to grad school and cost matters - but you have to take the instate / out of state out of it - money is money no matter your residency.

So what can you afford or what are your parents willing to pay? That might make some decisions for you. You need to have that chat.

W&M is remote. Oxford is very remote. UNC obviously is very suburban and has lots of life on and around campus. And GMU is in the DC area and is growing out of its commuter life.

If you are concerned with money, then GMU saves you $100K over the next cheapest W&M. Does that help your family; are they financially stressed or when you lay it out like that doesn’t that impact their thinking about this expense?

So undergrad public health is hard to find rankings - but UNC and GMU do very well. Emory, in fact, couldn’t even find it ranked even though obviously it’s a power house - maybe at grad level…or a tangential major. I used niche.

You are looking at different majors at different schools. You should look at the curriculums because public health can be more medical or more policy, etc. You sound like policy - which is what my daughter is doing as an international studies major at C of C (she’ll double in something policy related and take health classes but their public health is too sciency for her).

Anyway, assuming you see grad school in the future - I’d go for cheap.

So I’d look at GMU and W&M. The Monroe Scholars is a nice plug for the resume - but in additional the Kinesiology with the Public Health Minor, you might also look at the sociology major with the 1. Health, Medicine, & Well-Being Concentration - it sounds like it might be more up your alley.

Money isn’t important to everyone - or they have the $ or their parents are willing to spend - but your comments are related to it and I see grad school in your future - so I’m putting that out there. I think you can get to your goals, frankly, from any of these schools.

Congrats on your fantastic options and best of luck.

Good luck.


You have great options, so look at it that way. I had a nephew at GMU in honors, and although he thought the academic package was good, he ended up transferring as he thought the overall experience wasn’t as good as he expected. Your experience may differ. It is also a full step below the other schools in reputation.

Of the others, William & Mary appears to be the most affordable if I am reading the costs correctly. This is not to be underestimated as it is good to keep your debt down for early career maneuvering or if you are also going to go to graduate school. It is also a very strong overall undergraduate school, with good access to D.C. UNC is a nice school, but is quite a bit larger than William & Mary. You need to decide if you have a preference in that regard. It is also the only school with Power 5 Conference athletics if that matters to you.


Are you planning to apply to the Gillings School of Global Public Health? It’s not an automatic admit - there is a competitive application process (not suggesting you would not get in, just saying they do not accept everybody). My D was there….until she decided to return to her original major which was not in Gillings (regular science major).

There are plenty of research opportunities on campus- you don’t have to leave the campus to do research. My D continued with her public health research (in addition to other research) even after she left Gillings. It is definitely a global program- she was offered opportunities to travel- not sure how common that is during undergrad, but she definitely had the opportunity.

Are your parents saying anything about cost?

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My vote is UNC Chapel Hill. Not that much more expensive than W&M but with the honors program and research opportunities you will be intellectually challenged in a school that is also socially fun. I love Emory main campus but does not sound like worth the extra $$. You clearly worked hard to be given these great options. I say go out of state - fresh start. However, I have a feeling you are on a great path no matter your decision.


Cost and family affordability is very important here.

If taking out lots of loans, I’d go with the cheapest option if you are committed to working at an NGO ( low pay). IF you want to run your own business go with the strongest program.

Have you looked carefully at the curriculum and programs. I didn’t get a sense from you post which direction you like best. It seems like there could be a lot of variability within each program.

50K might not seem like a lot but 200K is a huge amount of debt. Even if your parents pay 50%, you should run the numbers of any loans you’d need against average salaries ( make sure to take out 30% for taxes and see what you would be living on). Also, think about debt as not only being the money you have to pay for the loan, but the lost opportunity of having money for a house, to start a business etc.


I am assuming cost will be factor for OP based on his post.

UNC – top school, classes are hard, like pretty damn hard, Gillings is hard to get into but has top notch research opportunities and lots of local employers that work in health policy related fields. BCBS is right down 15/501, RTI, FHI and a host of other top companies are close by.

GMU – great if you want to work for the government! USAID will be a good place along with NIH and a host of other federal agencies. Plus, cost is low. I have been told that the classes are fairly manageable.

The other options are not comparable to these two IMO. If money is tight then choose GMU, if you want a better pedigree then choose UNC.


If cost is an issue, then the decision looks like it’s already been made for you. Go to GMU. If you’re planning on student loans for those other schools…stop right there. That kind of debt, assuming you could get the financing, would squash you like a grape. And just an FYI…you can’t eliminate student loans, even if you go bankrupt.


Oh, got it! I heard there was a perception that Oxford was a “back door” to Emory (which is why I was a bit nervous about choosing it), but it’s good to know that your son really enjoyed his time there, and that it is actually very rigorous/academically oriented.

That’s a good point, and the finances are really important… I’m just a bit hesitant about Mason because I’ve heard from multiple students that it didn’t really live up to their expectations (I have a few friends who have transferred out of the school after a year), and I don’t want to have regrets later on. I’m thinking about work-study or other options to pay for the other schools.


So money is clearly an option.

So stack rank them.

First GMU - you can find challenge anywhere - but if you’re gun shy.

Then you have W&M - but it’s much more - but much less than the others? Can you afford without significant loans? I think the sociology major with healthcare concentration sounded more up your alley than kinesiology…but it’s a great name…

All the other schools are far more expensive.

From their website - does this sound like you or not really?

Health, Medicine, and Well-Being Concentration

Why is it that African-Americans have experienced higher death rates from COVID-19? How are health and illness defined across time and place? And how do health care systems work in the U.S. and around the world? The Health, Medicine, and Well-Being concentration focuses on the connections between health, illness, health care, and society, illuminating the cultural and structural factors that influence the practice of medicine, as well as the social causes of illness and mortality. Students who elect this major concentration can take courses about: the social construction of illness, the social organization of medicine around the world, social responses to illness, social foundations of health behaviors, and the link between social stratification and health disparities. The concentration is ideal training for students interested in public health, government data analysis, social work, health policy, and hospital administration. It provides a necessary background about the interplay between health and society, especially for students who are planning careers as physicians, nurses, or other health care providers.


Thanks for the advice!!! I’ll definitely look into those minor options!!!

This seems like a really good major path, actually; I hadn’t considered it, but it’s exactly aligned with my interests. Thanks for bringing it to my attention!

Thank you for the input and for sharing your nephew’s experience!!! I don’t really have a preference when it comes to a large vs. small school, or with regard to athletics, but you’re right that it would be good to keep costs down.

Too many kids say - I don’t want to do this major or that major - but you always have to look within the majors.

My daughter wanted public health - but turns out it’s very science heavy.

Her college (Charleston) has urban studies and it has three tracks:

Planning and Admin
Policy and Social Problems
Sustainable Urbanism

So she can get her health stuff done partially through the second.

So I point this out (to help others who might be reading)- as it’s a learning process. I didn’t know this myself (to look deeper into the majors) - but as one comes across things, you learn…so now I tell everyone.

Don’t just say - well a “x” major is worthless…look within the major…you might find something you like!!!

Sounds like it might be W&M then…great school, beautiful school - loved our visit (just not the town).

Good luck.


Thank you so much for sharing!!! This really cleared up a lot of my doubts.

Thanks again for your insight!!! I hope it can help other students, as well :smile: