July 16, 2016

College Touring Recap: South

Over our school's April vacation, my mom and I ventured down to Virginia and North Caroline to look at colleges. It's taken me quite some time to get this post together, as it was a super action packed week of touring; we saw 7 schools in 4 days! Honestly, I needed to process my thoughts about the schools I'd seen, as my reflections on the many tours I've done have helped me to narrow down where I actually plan to apply. We stayed at first in Virginia for two nights touring University of Virginia, University of Richmond, and William and Mary. We then drove into North Carolina and stayed with my cousins for two more nights, able to take trips to University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Duke, and Wake Forest. All in all, it ended up being an exciting and rewarding trip as I realized I could see myself attending several of these schools. Plus, it's always such a nice treat getting to see my cousins that live in North Carolina more than just in the summer. Here are my thoughts on the schools I saw.

{University of Virginia}
Charlottesville, Virginia, 16,730 undergrad
UVA was the first school I toured on my southern expedition, and it set the bar extremely high. Up until this point I'd always heard people rave about the beauty of the "southern campuses," but I never understood the magnitude of this statement until I saw UVA. This school is absolutely beautiful. From the buildings, to the grounds, and even the dorms, every single part of the campus fits with this traditional southern architectural theme that is, in a word, enchanting. As I walked around the campus, I realized that every student around me seemed lively and upbeat. People were active in the green space, doing intramural sports, meeting for clubs, or just relaxing with friends. Not to mention, UVA is located in an adorable college town with a great restaurant scene. Founded by Thomas Jefferson, UVA has a rich historical background which plays significantly into the school culture, another unique factor that I found very appealing. On the downside, UVA is big, probably a little outside of my comfort zone size-wise. As beautiful as the buildings are, there are a lot of them, and they stretch down the streets of Charlottesville for miles. However, for me the pros outweigh the cons in this example, as UVA is definitely a school I could see myself thriving at. 

{University of Richmond]
Richmond, Virginia, 3,000 undergrad
I was equally wowed by the beauty of Richmond's campus as I was by that of UVA. It felt like it's own little community, each of the buildings with a sort of old-fashioned charm from the exterior, while being practically new on the interior. The campus is set on a lake which just adds to the picturesque nature of this school. I never thought I would like a small school and almost skipped Richmond on my list of tours, writing it off as not the right fit. I couldn't have been more wrong. Beginning with the information session, I knew that Richmond provided a great, and inclusive community for its students. Everyone on campus that I spoke with, whether asking for parking directions or just getting their thoughts on the school, was ridiculously friendly! Everyone just seemed happy, and excited to be going to school at Richmond, what more could you ask for?

{William and Mary}
Williamsburg, Virginia, 6,300 undergrad
I went into my tour at William and Mary expecting to love it. From what I knew just from google and people I'd talked to, it had a beautiful campus, was located in a cool, historical setting, and was a comfortable size. All of those things were true. The campus was lovely (but then again, what southern school isn't?) and colonial Williamsburg was so unique. That being said, I knew almost instantaneously that this school wasn't right for me. I realized from this tour that I wanted a college town that was a little busier and more cosmopolitan, Williamsburg just didn't provide that. Where UVA and Richmond really stood out to me, William and Mary didn't invoke that same type of reaction. I'm happy I toured here, though, as it has helped me to narrow down what it is I do and do not want in a school.

{University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill}
Chapel Hill, North Carolina, 18,400 undergrad
I knew that UNC Chapel Hill was the largest of the schools I was to see in the south, which was an intimidating thought before I even got there. The information session was packed with people, making that undergraduate enrollment number seem even more daunting. However, once we broke up into groups for the tour, I felt so much more comfortable. I absolutely loved my tour guide, she was a fellow Parks and Rec lover which was a cool connection to make. The best way I can describe the UNC campus is alive. Walking around, I got a feel for the diversity of the student body, along with immense school spirit that seems to radiate off of students. I'm definitely looking for a school where spirit has a huge presence; I want to go to sporting events and feel like my peers are just as into the games as I undoubtably will be. I drove through Chapel Hill after my tour and recognized it to be yet another adorable college town, exactly what I'm looking for. UNC is most definitely out of my comfort zone, but I almost think a school like this could be good for me, a change up from what I've become used to in high school. 

{Duke University}
Durham, North Carolina, 6,640 undergrad
I think most of us can had a "dream school" when we were in middle school or earlier. We probably knew next to nothing about the school, yet it sounded pretty perfect in theory and became a dream. For me, Duke was that school up until around my freshman year in high school. At that point, college becomes more of a reality and it dawned on me that Duke is very, very hard to get into and maybe wasn't the most practical choice. However, my curiosity with the school never wained and knew I wanted to see it while I was in North Carolina. Walking onto Duke's campus, I got a completely different feel from any of the other school's I'd seen. Duke is a extremely competitive school when it comes to acceptance (only 10% admitted!) and that intensity seemed to radiate off of students and the campus as a whole. For that reason, I was able to distinguish that Duke was not the right fit for me. Disregarding the extreme selectiveness of the school, it was satisfying to see a school that I once considered to be a "dream" and realized that I had grown past it.

{Wake Forest University}
Winston-Salem, North Carolina, 4,900 undergrad
Wake Forest is lovely. Everything on campus is so well maintained and in pristine condition, and it seemed that every building was brand new on the inside. As a bonus, at the information session they passed out, by fair and away, the best welcoming packet/pamphlet I had seen at any school. It has the rolling green hills and brick exterior, the way colleges always look in the movies. Academically, the school is so impressive with very small class sizes and incredible study abroad opportunities. I truly liked Wake Forest, but not as much as some of the other schools I saw. I think it would be a place where I (or anyone, really) could be really happy, yet it also didn't quite feel as special as, UVA, Richmond, or UNC did. 

Have you toured any of these schools?

Preppy by the Sea


  1. I toured all these same schools when I was looking at colleges 2 years ago! It's so true about Duke, the whole school feels competitive and tense. My top 3 schools were Wake Forest, University of Richmond, and UNC Chapel Hill. I fell in love with Wake Forest as soon as I stepped on campus, and that is where I'm attending this fall! I know you'll end up at your perfect school, and if you have any questions about Wake; I'd be happy to answer them!

    Ashley // MyWellDressedLife.com

  2. I love your blog and especially this post. I just got home today from a 2 week summer camp and Johns Hopkins and met so many people that also loved touring southern schools. I met this guy who's mom is a professor at University of Virginia and he also raved about the campus.

  3. these are literally thee exact schools I toured too! I really wanted to go to Wake but they didn't give me financial aid :((( I'm about to go to UVA though and I'm SO excited!!!!! good luck with the process!!!

  4. These are the exact schools that I toured going into my senior year, and it's so funny to me reading your opinions on all of the schools, because it reminds me almost exactly of what I had thought of each of the schools. I just finished my freshman year at Wake Forest and will be heading into my sophomore year in the fall; however, I did heavily consider attending UNC and Richmond as well and did lots of research and multiple visits to each when it came time to choose, so if you or Catherine have any questions about any of those schools (and their app/admissions process, all three are very different!) I would be more than happy to help you guys out, I remember how stressful that time was!