University of Virginia (UVA)

Founded by Thomas Jefferson, the University of Virginia (UVA) is considered a “public Ivy,” a nod to the rigor of the education it provides.  UVA is not actually a member of the Ivy League, which is a sports league with 8 private colleges.

UVA has seven undergraduate colleges; incoming freshmen apply into four of them.  The School of Liberal Arts & Sciences is the largest, but all students take the liberal arts core.  It’s easy to double major in A&S, or to create your own major.

Engineering is UVA’s second largest school, with 10 majors and a very structured first year schedule.  Engineers choose their major at the end of their first year; no majors are capped.  However, it’s very difficult to transfer into engineering after starting at UVA; they recommend that students interested in engineering apply for this school from the outset.

Incoming students may also apply into the Schools of Architecture and Nursing, and students interested in kinesiology apply directly to this major.

UVA has three upper divisional schools:

  • Commerce – this is UVA’s undergraduate business program.  Students must take prerequisites before applying, and only 60% are admitted. Those who don’t get in can still major in economics.
  • School of Education
  • School of Leadership and Public Policy – UVA students apply to this school for their 3rd and 4th years, and a one-year master’s degree program is also offered. This program was founded in 2007.

UVA History, Traditions and Student Life

UVA prides itself on fulfilling the original mission laid out by Thomas Jefferson.  The Great Lawn is part of UVA’s “Academical Village,” where professors and some honored fourth-year students live together adjacent to the iconic Rotunda.  UVA has several secret societies – some more secret than others – which scrawl society slogans across campus.  About 30% of students join social fraternities and sororities – this is an active part of campus life.

Advising here is both formal and informal, and with a 16:1 student-to-faculty ratio, there is lots of professor interaction.  Our tour guide told us that some professors invite students for Thanksgiving.

Charlottesville has a thriving music scene and great restaurants, and UVA definitely has a sports culture, with students taking advantage of free tickets to all sports games and actively participating in competitive club and intramural sports.

UVA Admissions process

UVA is a public university, and the state of Virginia mandates that 2/3 of the student body must hail from Virginia.  However, 2/3 of UVA’s application pool comes from out of state, which makes UVA a very competitive school for non-Virginia residents.

UVA admissions officers lean heavily on student transcripts; they say they are more interested in how you have done over four years of high school than how you did on one four-hour exam (but really only 3 hours as they don’t require the writing section of either the SAT or the ACT).  Admissions officers will consider SAT subject tests if you submit them, but you will not be penalized if you don’t.

UVA requires students to write two supplementary essays; they encourage you to “tell whatever story you want to tell.”  However, because UVA is an extremely competitive institution, the presenter in my information focused on students writing their own essay, warning students not to submit what she termed “the committee essay” – you know, the one where mom wrote one line, dad wrote another line, cousin Bob who went to an Ivy League school brushed it up at the end.  They see this happen regularly, and they can tell when an essay is not truly a student’s own work.

UVA seemed to be a “work hard, play hard” type of place.  Students here enjoy the prestige of a highly-ranked and well-known school without the harsh northeast weather, all while forming strong relationships with both professors and their intellectual peers.

You can scroll through all of the photos we took during our Spring, 2017 visit to UVA below.

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