Mid-Atlantic Road Trip: UNC-Chapel Hill

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You're about to spend four years of your life on a college campus; you need to make sure it feels right. So hit the road—we did! We took three typical road trips: East Coast, West Coast, and in between. By the way, college visits don't have to mean hours on the interstate. Use our Directory to locate schools near you and walk through the gates. You may find what you're looking for.

Going to a state school close to home makes sense for many students, and with 16 public colleges and universities, North Carolina has a strong state system. We looked at three possibilities: a historically black university, the state's flagship school, and a liberal arts college. Then, to sample what neighboring states had to offer, we drove north to Blacksburg, Va.

At the nation's oldest public university, even the team colors have a history. The light blue represented the campus Dialectic Literary Society, and the white stood for the Philanthropic Literary Society. The colors weren't intended to evoke the sky and the clouds, but they now seem appropriate to a school that occupies a pinnacle of academe.

UNC-Chapel Hill maintains a magnetic pull for faculty and staff. It brought a full professor, sociologist Robert Miles, from Scotland to direct its study-abroad program in 2000. Last year, about 1,400 UNC students earned credit for study abroad. Among the edgier venues: the University of Havana, Cuba.

[Check out our Mid-Atlantic Road Trip Photo Gallery.]

For North Carolina residents, the campus has the attraction of tuition held down by a state constitutional guarantee. Jiayin Xue of Greensboro chose between Carolina and Duke, in nearby Durham, when she graduated from a state boarding school for science and math students. "UNC had the lowest tuition rate, and they offered me a scholarship," she said. Xue came to Chapel Hill without a specific major in mind; looking for research opportunities, she found a friendly faculty partner in Matthew Redinbo, who is studying resistance to antibiotics. She was sold on a chemistry major with an English minor and passed the medical school entrance test two years ago.

Ten percent of Carolina undergrads majored in biological and biomedical sciences last year, but communication, journalism, and related subjects are the most popular majors on campus. While the school still teaches the fundamentals of weekly newspapering, the Carolina curriculum offers courses in electronic media and public relations as well. Students produce a twice-weekly news show that goes out on cable.

All UNC students have the distinct advantage of living in Chapel Hill, a town with an almost romantic charm; "Carolina in My Mind" came from songwriter James Taylor, who had spent his childhood there. Chapel Hill is still small enough to nurture young people newly out of the nest. On Franklin Street, bordering the campus, the town caters to carless UNC freshmen with stores, bars, and restaurants; those who have wheels can find live music and other entertainment west of town in neighboring Carrboro.

UNC-Chapel Hill is swamped with applications: In the spring, about 500 visitors arrive every day. Once they have made it in, though, students mellow, but only a little bit. That becomes clear on Franklin Street whenever there's a basketball triumph. It turns into a sea of Carolina-blue body paint.

More About UNC-Chapel Hill

Plus factor (for some): State law limits out-of-state students to 18%.
Undergrad enrollment, fall '07: 17,628
Est. annual cost, '08-'09 (tuition, fees, room and board): in state: $13,514; out of state: $30,412

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