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The University of North Carolina Chapel Hill

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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-
May 04 2013Economics

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

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

I'm going to divide my comments on UNC-CH

May 02 2013Political Science
I'm going to divide my comments on UNC-CH into sections.
ACADEMIC: Difficult. These guys don't mess around. The thing is, UNC is a flagship research university, so understand what you're getting into. Seminar classes (that is, those higher level classes) are much easier to get a good grade in than introductory level classes. Working very hard will get you a B. Working casually/normally will give you a C. The A is basically indicative of mastery or excellence: at least in my experience (Natural sciences and political science), getting an A is a huge achievement. Be warned.

Now that I've talked about the bad, here's the good: like I said, it's a flagship research university. This means your professors are the best of the best. Don't take this lightly: the experience, insight, wisdom, and potential opportunity they have to offer you as a student is immeasurable. If you have any interest whatsoever in research, UNC-CH is a goldmine. It's a rare combination of professors who are exemplary but who also really enjoy engaging their students. Don't underestimate the value of leaving a good impression: I was rejected from a study abroad program, but because I did well in a professor's class, I was able to land the opportunity to assist another professor in his research.

Bottom line academically: be passionate, be committed, and be focused.
SOCIAL: UNC wasn't my cup of tea, but this is a very personal preference. Also, I found my niche, so I definitely wasn't miserable--in a big school, you'll find friends. Join clubs, be social, and make conversation with your classmates. UNC students are easily accessible in terms of conversation and introductions. Having said that, if you'd like to hear my complaints: I felt like, as it is at many college campuses, UNC really favors the indigenous (to NC) and the generally fratty. It's a bit elitist in that sense. The other group I noticed getting the most notoriety was the activist. But like I said, these things are personal and while I didn't really quite fit in here, there's a lot of people here who absolutely love it.

ADVICE FOR COLLEGE STUDENTS: Take advantage of opportunities. Seriously. There's funding opportunities for unpaid internships, study abroad options for dirt cheap, research being done by professors that (if you are good/passionate enough) you may be able to help with. Other than that, just remember to work your butt off.

ADVICE FOR HIGH SCHOOLERS: I don't want to beat a dead horse, but I wasn't kidding about passion. If you can convey your passion, you'll be competitive for UNC admissions. Find what you like, and do things which signal your commitment to excelling in it. Grades are great. Extra-curriculars are great. Being focused is ideal. Your A+ in biology is pretty good, but it's amazing if you want to be a doctor. Same with English. Or History. Understand your coursework, extra-curriculars, and volunteer work as being a stepping stone to whatever it is you want--even what you think you want--to do. The End.

Alumnus Male -- Class 2000
Preparedness: - Reputation: B

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