CM’s Guide to the University of Virginia

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Also written by Molly Snelling.

University of Virginia-Charlottesville, VA

UVa’s Instagram

The Vibe

Traditional Millennials

What it Feels Like to Go Here

The University of Virginia’s rich history left many traditions students still follow today. Thomas Jefferson started the tradition of walking down the lawn for graduation when he founded the University in 1819.  Since then, students started their own traditions, like getting drunk dumplings and streaking the lawn. “It really does live up to a lot of the traditions you hear about, like the girls in pearls and guys and ties for football games,” said UVa senior Hazel Lindahl. “When I heard about that, I thought that the students would be kind of stuck up or snobby, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Everyone is so welcoming and nice, they made me feel at home right away. The people are definitely one of the things I love most about this school.”

UVa students’ “go-getter” attitudes allowed UVa to consistently rank as the second best public university in the nation. UVa students let loose by running and participating in the hundreds of CIOs (Contracted Independent Organizations) on campus, where students explore their interests outside of academics.  Although clubs set the bar high for student positions, every club ensures a social chair position to balance out the otherwise intimidating atmosphere. Students here commit to joining these clubs to not only meet people, but also to prove themselves as responsible young adults.

Awesome Alumni

There’s no denying it—UVa’s alumni reputation precedes itself. Tina Fey graduated in 1992 with her Bachelor of Arts in drama and returned to speak in 2013 as a wildly successful actress, comedian, star, writer and producer. Katie Couric graduated in 1979, ready to become a reporter after her involvement with UVa’s student run newspaper, The Cavalier Daily. New York Senator Robert F. Kennedy graduated from UVa’s law school in 1951. Finally, Edgar Allen Poe is one of most dearly remembered former. The Raven Society, a group dedicated both to academic excellence and the university itself, reference’s Poe’s famous poem and maintains and opens his range room to the public. Though we call him an alum, he didn’t actually graduate. Instead, he left the school in 1826, prompting students to tell each other, “If Poe can drop out of UVa, so can you!”

Where We Hang

Parents and professors avoid driving down The Corner, a group of restaurants and coffee shops right next to grounds, because it’s always packed. Students dash across crosswalks on their way to grab a Bodo’s bagel for breakfast or lunch from one of the many unique sandwich shops, like Little Johns or Take it Away. In the evenings and on weekends, especially during the spring, restaurants fill with students dressed up for formals or students out with visiting parents. Sometimes this crowd spills downtown, where students and community members merge for savory eats or concerts and film screenings at the classic Jefferson Theater or The Paramount. However, one hang-out place reigns supreme as the student favorite—The Lawn. Located in the center of Jefferson’s academic village, The Lawn hosts some of UVa’s most important events, from Rotunda Sing and Lighting of the Lawn to Graduation. Here you’ll find students picnicking or studying out in the grass, enos strung from every tree, impromptu a cappella performances and usually a slack line or two.

Q&A

1. How much are students partying? How much sex are students having?

“UVA students embrace the ‘work hard, play hard’ mentality. Everyone wants to have a good time but they also take their classes seriously. There’s a good mix of people going out and people staying in. You can do whatever you want really. And there is a hookup culture at UVa but I think it’s less prevalent than other schools. There are people who want a hookup but there are also people who want a relationship,” said second-year grad student Sydney Peterson.

2. What will you get in trouble for at your school?

“UVA has a very strict honor code (no lying, cheating or stealing), and students take it extremely seriously,” UVa senior Amani Farooque said. When she said extremely seriously, she meant it. Every semester, UVa students receive an honor update with a list of the trials in progress.  The entire school then votes on any changes to our Honor Code.

3. What would you tell incoming freshman about your school?

“I would definitely talk to as many current students and UVa alum as you can… It’s super helpful to see where you might fit in if you decide to come here. I would also explore the greater Charlottesville area when you visit…The city and surrounding area have so much to offer,” Farooque said. “Capitalize on all of the free events that happen, like First Friday’s, Carter mountain sunset series, Friday’s after five, events at IX, etc.”

“I would tell freshmen to find their place. UVa really isn’t that big of a school when you find a group you really connect with. Join clubs!” recent architectural school graduate Christina Griggs said. “There’s at least three clubs for every possible topic you could want.”

4. Is it hard to come to UVa from out of state?

“Coming from out of state, I was worried about making friends, but I’ve met some of my best friends here…I don’t think it’s that much harder coming from out of state. It was a little scary because I didn’t know anyone, but there are actually a lot of out of state students. The majority are from Virginia, but it’s a state school so that’s expected; I wouldn’t say I feel overwhelmed by them,” senior Madeleine Gates said.

5. What’s one thing you would change about your UVa experience?

“My second year, I took a lot of classes and joined a bunch of clubs. I was pretty busy but I loved everything I was doing. So my third year, I picked up even more activities. But then I was overloaded. I was stressed out and couldn’t finish all my work. So I decided to take fewer classes and drop all but a few clubs, and then everything was much better! Busy can be good, but it’s important to know your limits,” engineering senior Collin Berman said.

Overall Experience

“All of my best memories are related to people… counter to what you would expect, I have a lot of fond memories of late nights in the A-school [Architecture School] because there was something really communal about them. If you got stuck on a drawing, there was always a friend to help—and sympathize.” –Christina Griggs, Architecture School, Class of 2016

“My experience at UVa has been very positive.  I have joined communities here such as Shakespeare on the Lawn and Morven Kitchen Gardens that have supported my passions and put me in absurd situations such as figuring out what to do with 3+ pounds of kale for a garden donor dinner and getting in touch with my inner battle-worn-on-his-death-bed father in a production of Richard the II.” –Emily Kelly, Global Sustainability and Environment Major, Class of 2017

“I’ve always loved UVa because my dad went here. Ever since I was little, it was kind of assumed I would go here, I think my dad saw it as a family tradition of sorts because my older sister is also an alum. I was always worried I wouldn’t like it or it wouldn’t be the school for me, but as soon as I visited the first time I felt right at home. Walking around grounds, letting my dad show me all the places he used to visit, telling me the stories of his time here and seeing how happy all the students looked, I knew this was the place for me.” –Hazel Lindahl, Biology and Cognitive Science Double Major, Class of 2017

“It’s been great! I’ve made some really close friends and have enjoyed working with my professors. The workload is challenging but the hardest part is managing your time. I’m involved in a lot of different CIOs and I really enjoy being a part of so many different groups on grounds. I’m excited to live in the ADPi house with my sisters next year and for my studio class. I’m also just looking forward to another year of stories and UVA traditions especially lighting of the lawn.” –Annalee Jackson, Undecided, Class of 2018

“I took a great course with a cool professor my first year, and after class I’d stick around just to talk about related material. We got pretty close, and the next year he asked me to do research with him. I thought it would be a good learning experience, so I agreed. But the professor’s field was so far removed from what I was studying, I had to learn a lot of background information just to understand the problem…It’s good to get to know your professors outside of class, and research experience is good to have, but once you’ve started to specialize in a particular field, trying to learn a whole new field can be too much.”–Collin Berman, Computer Science (Engineering School) and Math Major, Class of 2017

Top 3 Majors

1. Politics (Government or Foreign Affairs)

2. Economics

3. Commerce

Top 3 Most Popular Student Organizations

1. Theatre groups/A cappella Groups

Among the hundreds of student organizations, student theater groups and an overwhelming amount of a cappella groups thrive at UVa. From renaissance plays through Shakespeare on the Lawn to musicals from First Year Players, UVa CIOs meet all of your theatre needs. “I have a lot of fond memories of Tis Pity rehearsals. A bunch of friends hanging out in a classroom trying to make sense of Jacobean tragedy was pretty amazing,” Griggs said about her involvement in Shakespeare on the Lawn. If you just want to sing, not act, an a cappella group will welcome you with open arms. From the No-Tones, a group for people with passion, but not necessarily pitch, to the Glee Club, the oldest musical organization on grounds, each a cappella group is popular and passionate. From the first co-ed a cappella group to the “oldest and most established all-female group” (the Virginia Belles) you’ll find a group that suits you.

2. Greek Life

Greek life is definitely—well—alive at UVa. About one third of students participate in various types of fraternities and sororities. Students commit themselves to not only typical sororities and fraternities, but also co-ed fraternities like the honor fraternity (Phi Sigma Pi), academic fraternities (such as Alpha Chi Sigma, the Chemistry Fraternity) and the service fraternity (Alpha Phi Omega). “Joining Alpha Phi Omega, our only co-ed service fraternity has been one of my most fun experiences. Through it I’ve been able to do hundreds of hours of community service while finding my closest friends and an incredible support group,” Farooque said.

3. Literary and Debating Societies

Many UVa students flock to clubs related to academics. The Jefferson Society and the Washington Society are two very popular literary and debating societies. Both groups’ meetings are open to the public and feature guest speakers, speeches, debates and literary presentations. Senior and Jefferson club member Rick Yoder said, “Nowhere else have I found such students with such a broad and deep commitment to intellectual life. Beyond that, it’s lots of fun—we spend much of our time mingling on the Lawn, where we have a room. I’ve loved my time in the Jefferson Society—because of its history, its traditions, its discourse—but most of all because of the people I’ve met.”

Getting In

The UVa  admissions office tells prospective students to take advantage of the classes your high school offers, prepare for standardized tests, get to know your teachers and get involved in your community. The University of Virginia’s high standards for admission ensures that the competition between prospective students can be particularly fierce. Due to its status as a state school, out-of-state students compete for fewer spots. However, just because many students from Virginia attend, doesn’t mean that all Virginians automatically get accepted. UVa values a strong supplemental essay and loves to see motivated and active students, so make sure you highlight your extracurricular activities.

STATS

Location: Charlottesville, Virginia

In-State Tuition and Fees: $15,714

Out-of-State Tuition and Fees: $45,058

Total Cost on Campus (room, board, books, etc): $13,000-$15,000

Undergrads Enrolled: 15,891

Grads Enrolled: 6,500

Total Enrolled: 22,391

Acceptance percentage: 29.9%

Percent Admitted who Enroll: 40.2%

Enrollment: 3,720

Percentage of Male Students: 46%

Percentage of Female Students: 54%

Percentage Virginian: 68%

Percentage Non-Virginian: 32%

Percentage Receiving Financial Aid: 33% of applicants for aid are found to have financial need and 100% of that need is met

LOOKING TO FIND OUT MORE? CHECK OUT MORE INFO ABOUT WHAT LIFE AT UVA IS LIKE.

WHAT IT FEELS LIKE TO GO HERE

As traditional millennials, UVA students embody more than just an oxymoron. This very diverse group of millennials finds common ground in the rich history and traditions that make UVA unique. In the greatest year in our country’s history, 1819, Thomas Jefferson founded what would become a school full of preppy kids who refuse to admit they’re not hipsters: The University of Virginia. UVA students love their founding father, TJ, more than life itself. School pride at UVA reaches another level as students, faculty and staff have adopted unique lingo to honor Thomas Jefferson’s ideals and vision for the school. While this lingo sets UVA apart, it confuses outsiders, visitors and sometimes even the Wahoos themselves.

Back to those preppy kids. Though you can find some hipsters in the English department or the A school (Architecture), walking around Grounds daily you would likely pass a mixture of students who dress up for class and those that prefer the more casual athleisure look. Lululemon leggings find a home in almost every UVA girl’s closet.

But don’t let any casual outfits deceive you: A highly competitive atmosphere permeates UVA. First years quickly learn that you’re not lame if you study in Alderman until it closes almost every weeknight, and that actually, the coolest kids become involved in the most extracurricular activities. Tired Hoos let loose on weekends as darties, bands, bars and fraternities provide a much needed break from the books. Maybe we’re all little bit nerdy and overly obsessed with our school, but one thing’s for certain: We love the Hoos.

WHERE WE HANG

Naturally a school as wonderful as the University of Virginia finds its home in Charlottesville, Virginia, one of the best college towns in the country. We aren’t biased. On the smaller side, Charlottesville has an eclectic yet southern feel. Directly off campus, or Grounds, as we say, exists a strip of bars and restaurants known as the Corner. You can find everything you need and more along this beloved, and of course traditional red brick, stretch. Favorite bars on the Corner include Boylan Heights, Trinity, the Biltmore and Crozet. Classic restaurants such as the Virginian, Bodo’s, Take-It-Away and Roots nourish UVA students after long library hours, a particularly terrible hangover and anything in between.

Currently, students are celebrating the summer opening of the Juice Laundry on the Corner, a response to frequent cries for more healthy options. This past spring, a new study and recreational space, 1515, opened on the Corner, marking the first space of is kind along this stretch and bringing a nice chance of pace to this almost exclusively social area.

Charlottesville has a great music and art scene, with venues including the Jefferson, the Southern and the Pavilion. The IX Art Park offers free concerts, art events and crafting and is home to the best tacos in Cville: Brazos Tacos. Nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Charlottesville not only features stunning views, but students also enjoy a wide range of hikes and trails as they try to stay sporty enough to match those Lulu leggings.

Beyond that, this past fall, the UVA community celebrated the reopening of the Rotunda, the most iconic and beloved landmark on Grounds at UVA. The heart of the school is now more beautiful than ever, and you can catch students studying inside its elegant dome room or hanging out on its marble steps with friends in between classes.

Q&A

1. How much are students partying?

“Let me give you a low down on the typical Thursday or Friday. First thing people do is a pre-pregame at their own place with their closest friends (I know some people on occasion rip shots alone at their desk to catch up because they’re running late). Then there’s the pregame, which is more formal and usually started through a Facebook event. The night continues with frat-hopping and then bar hopping and usually ends around 2 a.m. with some high-octane crap from White Spot or a late night at a fraternity. People usually day drink on Saturdays, and nights are a bit more mellow…And some people drink on Tuesday for some reason. But don’t get me wrong, that’s not all we do here and not everyone goes out that much,” fourth year Jace Krakovitz said.

2. How much sex are students having?

“Sex is a little less straightforward. It truly depends on the person. Some people do it a lot with people they hardly know, some do it everyone once in a while, some do it only in relationships and some don’t do it at all, regardless of how often they go out. UVA does have one defining feature though, and that’s Trin. If you want to watch and/or partake in some raunchy, sweaty, anonymous hookup scene, this is your Mecca. Do not wear your nice clothing there, because it will get ruined by either a spilled drink, your sweat, another person’s sweat or falling down the stairs,” Krakovitz said.

3. What will you get in trouble for at your school?

“Definitely breaking our honor code. Like many things at UVA, our honor code is student designed and as such is a core part of the school. If you lie, cheat or steal, you’re definitely going to get in trouble here, with expulsion as a real possibility. Critically, it’s not some faceless administrator that would deliver any punishment. Rather, these actions would violate your peers’ trust, and they would be the ones to ‘get you in trouble,’ which in this case means having to leave the UVA community,” fourth year Henry Pollock said.

4. What would you tell incoming first years about your school?

“I wish I had listened to people when they said that I really shouldn’t take an 8 a.m. class—I thought that since it was only my first semester of college, I wouldn’t be too far removed from the days of waking up super early for school. I took intro to anthropology, and I was excited to take a class that wasn’t a typical high school class. Since my roommate was in the class too, we were pretty good about motivating each other to go to it in the beginning of the semester, but then we both slowly started to hate that thought of waking up too early. I think 8 a.m. classes at UVA are particularly hard, because Grounds is a lot hillier than you would expect. When the cold hits in the winter, it makes the early walk to class that much worse,” second year Courtney Peters said.

5. What’s your best advice for registering for classes?

“I believe that one reason signing up for classes at UVA is so stressful is because many first years need to take pre-reqs for whatever track they are on. They also may be unsure of which major to pursue, which means they inevitably have to take even more of those popular pre-requisite classes. Part of education seems to be lost in this pursuit. We end up trying to get into the “best classes” and earn the “best grades” so we can have the “best GPA.” I encourage first years, and any incoming UVA students, to focus on the element of education. We are at this university to broaden our perspectives, challenge our beliefs and discover new ideas,” fourth year Emma Feinman said.

OVERALL EXPERIENCE

“Football weekends are really fun in the fall. Everyone rallies early to get ready for the games, and it’s fun watching the games with friends after a hard school week. Spring at UVA is great after a long winter, because we get to hang out in our front yard and get the classic rock going on our speakers.” –  Jack Hall, Class of 2018.

“The greatest challenge I’ve faced at UVA is figuring out how to appropriately divide my time among all of the school’s different opportunities. UVA is amazing because it has so many clubs, classes and fun activities, but sometimes it is tough to determine how much time is appropriate to spend doing what, especially at first. I suggest trying to find a couple things that you enjoy doing, and don’t worry if you don’t find your favorite activities right off the bat. Your scheduling skills will improve with time. Always remember to save time for fun!” – Robert Larmore, Class of 2020.

“I definitely want to try and get out and see more of Charlottesville off Grounds. Whether it be going on hikes, spending the day at a vineyard or brewery or checking out a restaurant on the downtown mall, there’s so much to do in Charlottesville off the Corner that I haven’t done yet since being at UVA. I think I’m one of the few kids at UVA to still not have been to Humpback, so I’m looking forward to hiking it next year.” – Luke Shields, Class of 2018.

“My favorite semester at UVA so far has been the second semester of my second year. It was great because I still had a bit of the lingering excitement and newness of first year, but I also felt like my UVA experience had begun to take a more defined shape. It was a nice mixture of feeling comfortable and settled in a place while still being excited by it.” –  Claudia Muratore, Class of 2018.

“Knowing that UVA is a state school, though it’s a good one, I thought that there would be more temptation to slack off. But almost everyone seems to take not only their studies but also their extracurricular activities very seriously and are passionate about it. Not only that, friends and fellow peers push each other to be better. I guess you could say I’m not surprised people are working hard, but I’d say people are positively competitive. It’s not an ‘I need to be better than the people around me’ attitude, it’s more of a ‘Let’s all get better together.’”–  Charlie Pickell, Class of 2020.

TOP 3 MOST POPULAR STUDENT ORGANIZATIONS

1. University Guides

UVa university guides

Claudia Muratore

University Guides provide admissions and historical tours of UVA. One of the most competitive organizations to join at UVA, Guides has a knack for drawing in UVA’s most outgoing and spirited students for its team. You can spot a guide from a mile away by his or her emphatic gestures in normal conversation and his or her refusal to ever really leave the Lawn or stray too far from the Rotunda. Guides almost always choose to sport their easily identifiable Guides sweatshirts as their primary attire. “Guides is unique because it allows you to interact with people outside the University—perspective students and tourists interested in history—but all while keeping the focus on the school,” fourth year Mary Long said. “So you get to see a bit of two worlds. You’re constantly learning about interacting with the University—discussing its history, sharing its present—but you’re doing that while engaging with people you wouldn’t otherwise be introduced to.” With their booming laughs and wide grins, guides provide a great first impression to perspective students touring UVA.

2. Pancakes for Parkinson’s

UVa Pancakes for Parkinson's

Henry Crochiere

The largest student-run philanthropic organization at UVA with over 330 volunteers, Pancakes for Parkinson’s brings students and members of the Charlottesville community together by raising awareness and collecting donations for Parkinson’s disease. Pancakes for Parkinson’s occurs annually during Homecomings weekend in October on the Lawn as friends and families gather for a free pancake breakfast. Members of the P4P team execute a whirlwind production of delectable pancakes, each assigned a different role within the assembly line. Team members play the parts of flippers, mixers, PR/merchandise, kids area, donations, Parkinson’s awareness and cleanup. “My favorite part of Pancakes for Parkinson’s at UVA is when the entire P4P team congregates on the Lawn at 4:30 a.m. to set up. Normally I would have trouble waking up that early, but this is our Super Bowl,” fourth year and P4P co-chair Henry Crochiere said.

3. Honor Committee

UVa Honor Committee

Amy Dalrymple

UVA takes great pride in its Honor Code, which calls students never to lie, cheat or steal and to accept that the consequence for breaking this pledge means permanent dismissal from the University. To match the elevated lingo of the rest of UVA’s vocabulary, the Honor Code has become so deeply rooted in the identity of the school that the University considers itself a Community of Trust. There’s no doubt Thomas Jefferson would take great pride in the Honor Committee, the group of students in charge of upholding the Honor Code in the UVA community. Fourth year Daniel Meador serves as an Honor Support Officer working to educate UVA students about Honor initiatives and to work as an investigator, adviser or representative during Honor violation cases. “Above all, my favorite part of being a part of Honor is communicating the philosophies and benefits of a Community of Trust and personal integrity that will outlive the four years that we spend in Charlottesville,” Meador said.

GETTING IN

Ranked the #2 public university in the country in the 2017 U.S. News & World Report, UVA takes admissions seriously. UVA admissions deans stress that the review process remains the same for each application received, regardless of whether or not the perspective student is a resident of Virginia. As previously mentioned, all UVA students get as involved as possible during their time at UVA. Admissions deans look for students who followed a similar pattern in high school, demonstrating breadth and a wide array of interests. Make sure your application highlights your quirks and uniqueness in your essays. If you know anything about Thomas Jefferson, it couldn’t hurt to throw that in there, too.

Updated on July 5, 2017 by Molly Snelling to include more details about life at UVA.

Kristen is a Senior (or fourth year, as we call them!) at the University of Virginia, studying Art History and Media Studies. She loves modern art, walking around New York and fancy cheese.

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