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.
Backed up against the Appalachian Mountains in the small town of Blacksburg, the expansive Virginia Tech campus has a minimum of distractions from schooling. That seems to suit the Hokies just fine.
A sizable number demonstrate that on a daily basis with the gray-and-black uniform they wear. Virginia Tech is one of six U.S. colleges that offer full-time military training toward guaranteed commissions as officers in the armed forces. In the beginning, all students were cadets; today's cadets endure boot camp, march to meals, and live together in dorms, but military service after graduation is optional. Still, 75 percent take the commissioning oath, and many students who have no connection with the corps of cadets still have the campus motto on the tip of their tongue: "That I may serve." The university's Service-Learning Center places hundreds of students annually in volunteer work complementing their studies.
Service has taken on special significance since the 2007 shootings on campus. The family of one of the 32 victims has challenged all faculty, staff, students, and alumni to pledge to perform 10 hours of volunteer service; one group is teaching French in a local elementary school in memory of French teacher Jocelyne Couture-Nowak. Students also erected a memorial to all of the victims on the main quad in the heart of campus, called the drill field, and asked that a volunteer day be set aside as a day of remembrance. Administrators honored both gestures.
Some of the Hokies—the nickname dates to 1896—view the administration's response as classic Virginia Tech. "Things get done here," says Jen Vaziralli, a Student Government Association board member from Virginia Beach. "Students care enough, and the administration listens." Vaziralli took a year out of school to work with a nonprofit, then entered Virginia Tech as a sophomore. Her goals: bachelor of science degrees in human resources management and marketing with a concentration on executive management, followed by an M.B.A.
"Virginia Tech is like a buffet," Vaziralli says. "Students have a keen role in making it what they want."
More About Virginia Tech
Plus factor: Easy access to the New River and Cascades National Recreation Trail
Undergrad enrollment ( '07): 23,041
Est. annual cost, '07-'08 (tuition, fees, room and board): $13,697