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The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

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Preface: I'm an out-of-state student from the Northeast

Jun 17 2014History/Histories (art history/etc.)
Preface: I'm an out-of-state student from the Northeast who attended UNC-Chapel Hill for two years. This fall, I'm transferring to an Ivy League University to study history. I'll break my experience down into categories, then leave you with a few general observations.

Academics: Overall, I give my academic experience at UNC a "B" grade. With the exception of a few duds, the teaching quality was generally excellent and I had some outstanding mentors. However, I often found myself unimpressed with student participation and the quality of class discussions. Although large lectures present challenges at every school, even small seminars and honors courses frequently failed to facilitate participation. Many students were very involved outside the classroom, which may have detracted from the university's academic focus.

Sports/Student Body: I'll give this one a "B-/B." The student body is generally active, energetic, and pleasant. Like many southern schools, Div. I sports were extremely popular, especially basketball and football. Sports fostered incredible school spirit and represented major opportunities for high-quality recreation. However, they also siphoned millions of dollars away from academic programs and represented a step away from sheer academia. As a casual fan at best, I sometimes felt out of place and alienated by the sports craze.

Nightlife: An easy "A-/A."There were ample opportunities for parties and other small social gatherings. Greek parties are the most active and often do not admit male non-members, and first years may sometimes have a little trouble finding open events. By sophomore year, however, social connections made it extremely easy. For non-partiers,the downtown has quality restaurants, shopping, and a discount movie theater. Study sessions on Saturday night were not "frowned upon."

Conclusions:
1. UNC is a great school for bright, in-state students. As a well-traveled student from New England, I quickly realized that there was "more out there." With tuition on the rise, the niche of high-achieving, yet non-full-scholarship OSS students seems to be getting smaller.

2. The sports craze is pervasive, influencing everything from the student body to university policy. For sports fans, it's heaven. Personally, I found it alienating and, at times, disturbing. The widely-publicized athletic scandals speak for themselves.3. UNC is at a crossroads between "highly prestigious public university" and "non-elite, athletic powerhouse." Unfortunately, it seems to be moving towards the latter. In essence, this is why I left. Please consider my advice!

2nd Year Male -- Class 2016
Campus Aesthetics: A, Individual Value: B-
May 04 2013Economics

Received excellent, well rounded education. Attending UNC was a great experience.

Alumnus Male -- Class 2000
Preparedness: A+ Reputation: F

Things I wish I knew before I went:

Sep 08 2013Economics
Things I wish I knew before I went:

I recommend that any serious student find some way to get into seminar level classes as soon as possible. Either AP out or take some college courses somewhere else. The difference between the upper level courses and large freshman/sophomore courses is vast. I only found the great UNC my junior and senior year. I kept on looking for aid to transfer to University of Chicago (a very serious school) my first two years. I was shocked at the lack of academic intensity. Luckily, I found it when I got into high undergraduate/ graduate classes.

It helps to know what you want to do before you start-remember, you want to get into those upper level classes as soon as possible. Smaller and more expensive private colleges might give you a better search experience if you are undecided. But you have to pay!

Unless you are sure that you are stopping at a BA or BS or you want to be a businessman in North Carolina, don't join a fraternity. Although there are some good students in frats, I found them to be very Southern and somewhat anti-intellectual. Remember, I took a lot of math, statistics, economics, and physics classes and it seemed to me that the frat guys were either not in these classes or were filling out the low end of the curve. On the other hand, the rare smart frat guys I met had impressive resumes.

My guess is that statistically, the frats don't look mediocre since so many people leave. I remember at matriculation-"look to your left, look to your right, one of you will be gone." The frat guys are probably happier and they stay (I wrote my honors thesis on sample selection bias).

Strangely, I didn't find the same thing for sororities, so if you are a serious student and female, go for it.

I taught at the University of Virginia and in comparison I noticed three big differences: 1) the top students were slightly better at UNC while the average student at UVA was better and 2) students crammed much harder at UNC toward to the end of the semester and played more the rest of the time (this may be related to 1) and 3) UNC if far more liberal than UVA.

As an aside, if you are a good crammer either by nature or due to poor habits, you will like it here better than other places. But this also may account for the 1/3 drop-out rate.

People are more modest here. Really. It is part of the fabric. My twin brother went to Duke and it was different, especially if you were poor. The women I met did not care that I came from a broke single mom family and lived in a trailer out near Chapel Hill Airport. My brother (on scholarship) at Duke had a country mouse feeling the whole time he was at Duke.

Alumnus Male -- Class 2000
Starting Job: lecturer Preparedness: A Reputation: C-
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