College Search North Carolina

Rebecca Kenney

In early April I completed a college tour in North Carolina. Although Boston was still quite bleak after our atrocious winter, North Carolina was lush and green. Here is an overview of the campuses:

Elon University in North Carolina

Elon University in North Carolina

Elon University is home to just under 6,000 undergraduates and is located in Elon, NC, a tiny town situated between Greensboro and Durham. The campus is beautiful with a mix of old and new buildings in traditional red brick architecture. There are wide-open lawns across quads lined by majestic oak trees.

Elon is known for “Engaged Learning” and happy students. Faculty and administrators encourage education through hands-on experiences such as study abroad, internships, undergraduate research, civic leadership and service learning in a small, intimate environment. It has repeatedly earned Kiplinger’s label “Best Value University” based on their assessment of the quality and affordability of the education students receive.

Once enrolled, students choose among four different schools: arts and sciences, business, communications and education. The university offers “Fellows” programs within each of its schools. There are also the Isabella Cannon Leadership Fellows and Honors Fellows programs. Students who are accepted as Fellows receive scholarships, paid research assistantships or internships, significant faculty mentoring and multiple opportunities to share intellectual energy and camaraderie.

An Elon student recounted how he chose Elon. “I traveled from Ohio with my dad to see the school. We were sitting outside the admissions building before the tour and a friendly man approached us. He asked us all kinds of questions, wanting to know our story. At the end of the conversation, he introduced himself as Leo Lambert. After he walked away, my dad and I realized he was the President of Elon.” Mr. Lambert’s friendly, engaging style is representative of the culture of Elon. It’s a place where faculty and administrators want students to achieve and to find success.

An example of Elon’s collaborative culture is the “College Coffee” held every Tuesday morning on one of the academic quads. Faculty, administrators and students meet for coffee, pastries and conversation. No classes are scheduled during this sacred gathering time.

Wake Forest University in North Carolina

Wake Forest University in North Carolina

The Demon Deacons of Wake Forest University are a driven bunch. They work hard in school and cheer fervently for their athletic teams. They support theatre and the arts. They actively pursue undergraduate research and internship opportunities. They love to study abroad. The 4,800 undergraduates are notorious for “rolling the quad” with toilet paper after exciting athletic victories against their ACC opponents.

Wake Forest’s campus is easily walk-able and well contained in Winston Salem, NC. The north campus boasts a newly constructed business school as well as several new dorm buildings. The cafeteria in the new dorms does not deserve its title. It looks and feels like a swanky restaurant. Freshmen live in a cluster of slightly older dorms closer to the main academic quads.

The Z. Smith Reynolds (ZSR) Library is a busy place and boasts eight floors where students can study, nap, collaborate and conduct research. Wake Forest librarians have been known to liven things up with impromptu paper airplane competitions, ordering pizza in, serving milkshakes, arranging surprise visits by the Deacon Pep Band and even performing scenes from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet! They keep students engaged and interested.

Wake Forest does not require submission of standardized test scores (SAT or ACT). They accept the Common App and require six supplemental short essays. An interview (either at Wake or via Skype) is strongly recommended. Their goal is a more personalized application process.

Davidson College in North Carolina.

Davidson College in North Carolina.

The quaint little town of Davidson, NC was built around equally quaint Davidson College. Pretty shops and several fun restaurants line the main street that borders campus. Throughout campus there are lush green spaces surrounded by majestic brick buildings. Davidson is reminiscent of a classic New England liberal arts college but is set in a warm climate with generous doses of Southern hospitality. Another way Davidson differs from New England liberal arts colleges is that its sports are Division I even though there are fewer than 2,000 students. Think NBA MVP, Stephen Curry, who was a Davidson Wildcat.

Davidson’s academics are strong. Their pre-med program boasts an 80%-90% acceptance rate directly into medical school. That is much higher than the national average. The student to faculty ratio is 10:1. Davidson prides itself on uniquely combining academic rigor and challenge with student nurturance and support.

The Davidson Honor Code is a longstanding tradition. Every Davidson freshman signs a document committing to the honor code in a formal annual ceremony. Because of the Honor Code, there are high levels of trust on campus. Theft is rare. You can leave your laptop on a desk at the library and assume it will be there when you return the next day. During final exams, faculty members will leave an envelope outside their offices with the exam inside. Students sign up for a day or time of their choice to take the exam, complete it in a location of their choosing, and then return the exam back to the envelope.

Finally, Davidson students don’t need to worry about taking many loans to cover the cost of attending college. Per the Davidson Trust, created by their Board and faculty community in 2008, Davidson will meet all demonstrated student financial need (difference between Expected Family Contribution and Cost of Attendance) with grants and work study, no loans.

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