The College Visit: Chapel Hill to Asheville–Carolina in their Minds

by Lisa Campbell Warren

Asheville_map If you grow up in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, you're bound to have high standards when it comes to choosing a college.

Home to the nation's oldest public university, the esteemed University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, as well as several other highly regarded colleges and universities, Chapel Hill and the surrounding area represent the best in higher education in general, and public (state-funded) schools specifically.

Curious about how a student from such a place might approach the college-search process, Smart College Visit (SCV) talked with Jessica Young, a junior at Chapel Hill High School, and her dad, Michael, about their recent visit to the University of North Carolina at Asheville, in the mountains of western North Carolina.

Note: All 16 public educational institutions that grant baccalaureate degrees in North Carolina now are part of the University of North Carolina, which was chartered by the state’s General Assembly in 1789. For 136 years, after admitting its first class in 1795, UNC’s only campus was at Chapel Hill.

SCV: We want to know everything about your visit to UNC-Asheville! First, why did you want to visit?

Jess: The idea of going to college in the mountains appeals to me, so UNC-Asheville and Appalachian State (in Boone, NC) both are on my list. I had stayed in the dorms at App State for a cross-country camp, and had run all over the campus, so I felt like I knew what it was like. I still want to do a more formal visit and tour there, but it didn’t seem quite as urgent.

As for Asheville, I had visited the city twice before with a friend, and the second time we drove through the UNC campus, but we didn't get out of the car and walk around. I did get the feeling that I liked the atmosphere, though. Since the last guided tour for the school year was coming up, and I knew I was really interested, we decided to do it.

SCV: How did your visit go, in terms of your expectations and what you were looking for?
Jess: I knew I liked Asheville and the school, and I was expecting to be impressed, but it was even nicer than I expected. A lot had to do with our tour guide. He was so energetic and knowledgeable and was really good at explaining everything.

Michael: The tour was the highlight for me, too. At first, when our guide said he was a freshman, I thought we might be in for a bit of a disappointment. But he was brilliant. He could relate to the prospective students and was a wealth of information. And he was so excited and passionate about what the school had to offer. He also walked backward the entire time — for an hour-long tour! He is called an “ambassador,” and I could see why.

SCV: Did you learn anything you didn't already know about UNC-A? If so, what?

Michael: We knew that UNC-A was the UNC system's liberal arts university, but we learned what that might mean for Jess through the Admissions information session and tour. I had suggested to her that she should be prepared with clear questions to really focus on her academic and career goals. But we learned that they take liberal arts seriously to heart there, so they encourage students to come with an open mind and the curiosity to try different things. It's a phenomenal environment for being able to explore your interests.

Jess: Also, the integration of the city and the university became clear. I already knew about all the great restaurants, cafes and coffee shops from my previous visits to the city. But I learned how closethe campus is to downtown, and that there are free buses that take you all over, and you can ride your bicycle anywhere. So it’s all very accessible, and there are always things going on — music, art, dance, all kinds of events that students would find interesting. I would recommend that prospective students plan to stay in town the night before or after their campus visit and get a feel for the city.

Michael: I really loved it! Our tour guide said that more and more older people and senior citizens arecoming to Asheville and enrolling at the university for classes. Now I want to go, too! [Laughing.] I told Jess that after I move there, if she sees me on campus, she doesn’t have to say hi or anything, we can each do our own thing!

Have you visited UNCA? Did you love it? Feel free to post a comment about your visit to UNC-Asheville. If you'd like to share your college visit story, please click here.