Road Trip: Emory University

We toured some of Georgia's top schools and found out what it's like to attend them.

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Pink and white marble buildings surround the quad. Fragrant purple and yellow spring blossoms line the school's entrance. Still, from the abundance of pine trees to the large number of LEED-certified buildings, green is noticeably the most prominent color on Emory University's campus. Set in Atlanta's Druid Hills suburb, amid the Piedmont forest, Emory engenders an appreciation of place among students, one that embraces the history and natural landscape of the South as well as the progress of a globalized society. 

Often dubbed "Coca-Cola University," it has an endowment—sprung largely from donations by the locally based soda maker—rivaling those of the country's top schools. There is cash to build and renovate facilities; the newest are outfitted with sustainable materials and appliances that qualify them for the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design designations. Modern residence halls, for example, have renewable bamboo floors and water-saving toilets. And the computer lab in Cox Hall even implements revolutionary "interactive workspace" technologies, in which students can reshape their desks to match their studying style. 

Don't expect to find a slow, southern pace at Emory. In fact, overinvolvement may be the biggest trap. The student government association has roughly $2.1 million a year to allocate to student organizations, meaning lots of programming. About 30 percent of students are involved in Greek life, and with Emory's "athletics for all" mantra, almost 75 percent are on a team, be it varsity, club, or intramural. The administration even tries to force students into a healthy balance between schoolwork and play by restricting weekend hours in Emory's seven libraries. From Dooley's Week, a spirited tradition named after the school's skeleton mascot, to Wonderful Wednesdays, when students congregate by the hundreds to simply enjoy the weather, the student happiness factor is high. "There really are smiles all around here," says Alec Fox, a senior. 

Meanwhile, administrators can smile over Emory's reputation for academics. That said, according to admissions counselor and 2009 graduate Nicolai Lundy, the school would not be a great place for someone who thrives in a competitive environment. He describes the learning atmosphere as more about collaboration than individual aptitude. And if politics are your thing, he says, they aren't as apparent a priority as at many top-tier schools. Rather, there's a sort of nonpolitical activism or, as Lundy put it, a culture of activity geared for change. 

More About Emory University:

Fact: Former President Jimmy Carter, a member of the faculty, holds an annual town hall meeting for students and others in the Emory community.

Undergrad enrollment, 2009: 6,980

Est. annual cost, 2010-2011: $53,556 

Georgia Road Trip:

• Georgia Institute of Technology
• Oglethorpe University
• Morehouse College

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