read most of what the other respondents said. they're all
right to some degree. UNC is big, but it can
be intimate too. My best friends today were met at
Hinton James dorm our freshman year.
There is great music
and culture, good times, and lots of smart people. There
are lots of distractions and things not related to higher
learning per se. There are great teachers and terrible ones
focused on their research.
The program I started in, chemistry,
was a zoo full of pre-meds who wanted the grades
over all else. Switching to the earth sciences was great
because the department was much smaller and full of wonderful
teachers and students.
There were lots of bad grad student
teachers. That hasn't changed. There are lots of fun people
and a vibrant life outside of class. It takes a
very focused student to do well and graduate on time.
It wouldn't hurt to plan to take a year off
in the middle of your student career and just live
around the town. this holds true at UNC as well
as some of the other great lifestyle schools like Colorado-Boulder,
UVM, Texas, U of Colorado and many others. One woman
I knew was 28 and still an undergrad. She had
a steady job at Tijuana Fats (a great Mexican restaurant
now long-gone), and she just picked-and-chose classes that really interested
She wasn't the only one doing that....
you want pure education, this is only one of many
things that UNC offers. There are definitely other schools that
would be better. Pick a crappy town with long gray
winters, or a crucible of super learning.
But my wife
went to Harvard and she has lots of regrets regarding
the social life there, so it goes both ways.
thing to consider: UNC has long semesters (or at least
it did back in the late 70's). I found it
hard to stay focused on classes that lasted 17 weeks.
If you do too, think about a school with shorter
terms, such as a quarter or trimester system, or Colorado
College with its one-class at a time style.
a few classes at Duke and NC State (intermural scheduling
was available then, but I'm not sure if it still
is). Duke was exceptional, but then I cherry-picked really well-reviewed
classes and teachers.
If you are open to developing your
own curriculum, you can follow the best teachers at UNC
and get an amazing open-minded education. Some of my best
(and smartest) friends did that and they were very happy
and inspired their entire four (or five) years.
locked into a particular program such as journalism or chemistry,
you may end up feeling like a body in the
great digestive system of state-run higher education. That is probably
true at any big college/university.
If you're a very serious
academic, consider going to a school that really focuses on
what you love most and is small enough to give
you the saturation you want.
UNC was a great, great
experience for me, and an amazing value at the time.
I would gladly have passed on the foreign-language and disrespectful
grad student teachers in the big classes (like organic chemistry,
calculus and English), but what great memories!