As a recent graduate of the University, and having lived in and around Charlottesville for more than 10 years now, I have some unique perspectives (as both a “townie” and a past “student”).
You know, the more I think about my time and experience at the University, the more grateful I am for having gone there. What I have not mentioned in past posts about UVa is the Honor System, the financial aid for low income students and the programs at the University which do not get much recognition because UVa is primarily known for just a few outstanding departments.
First, the Honor System. No, it is not perfect. And yes, sometimes athletes get away with, dare I use the figurative expression: murder (e.g. Matt Schaub). But for the most part, the fact that you can trust 95 % of UVa students to keep their word, to take exams home and not cheat on them, and to have certain privileges from the libraries is fantastic. I am sure some students come into the University with a laisez faire attitude about the Honor Code, but by their senior year, it has probably rubbed off that being in this environment is very unique. Imagine what the political system would be like if everyone had to abide by the rules and they could be booted out of office for transgressions? There may not be many politicians for one! But I digress. The Honor Code at UVa is very unique and it inspires an environment of, at the very least, like minded pursuit of high academic standards with a strong ethical framework. If you got your grades and admission in a my-daddy-is-rich-so-my-college-agent-can-do-anything sort of manner, then UVa is not for you. You will most likely be caught and then what are you going to do?
Second, UVa has a program known as AccessUVa. This program helped me out stupendously. Being older, I was able to apply to the University without needing to give them my parent’s financial info. And since I have been living on my own since I was 18, this was very “fair” and a reflection of my reality. And of course I was worried about how I would pay for school. I figured I would take out loans and get by with some grants. I applied for some scholarships as I did very well at the local community college. It turned out however, I did not need to worry. Through Access UVa, and with some small loans and grants, I got my entire, and I mean ENTIRE, two years of school including living expenses paid for. What a surprise to receive that financial aid statement! Was there an error? Should I really be getting so much money? Yep, it’s yours, just do well in school and you will get it again next semester. Whoa!… I think Access UVa benefits something like 18 % of their students, so if you are from a low income background but you have the academic skills and grades to get in, have no fear. 🙂
Finally, I want to say a little about the various programs at the University. When people think of UVa, without having attended school, what do they think? It was Jefferson’s University. Right. It has a strong School of Medicine and Law School. Right again. Oh and you might as well throw in the internationally renowned School of Commerce and Business (Darden). And you’d be right again. And of course, UVa is always ranked in the top ten in public universities in all of the United States. So what gives? Well actually I’d like to shine some light on a few other departments that do not get enough attention from the academic world.
I personally graduated with my BA in Psychology. So I got to explore many psychology courses, along with psycho-biology and neuroscience options. That was perfect for me. Plus, being a Buddhist practitioner, I also took classes in the Tibetan language and in Religious Studies. And I would point out that UVa is one of the only schools to have such strong Psychology, East Asian Language and Religious Studies programs in the U.S.! For instance, UVa just built an entire building to house their Religious Studies department. Can you imagine? For someone studying Buddhism, there are three or four options or areas in which to devote oneself at UVa – and how cool is that? (Indian, Tibetan, Chinese / Japanese Chan). Then when it comes to Psychology, who knew that UVa had one of the best programs in the country? UVa has about 30 fully tenured Psychology professors – so if you want to focus on Development Psycho, they have you covered, or if you prefer Social Psych, Family Psych or if you want to go into Cognitive Science, they have great teachers for you. And you know, it is starting to sound like someone at the University paid me to say all these things. Maybe that is something I should pursue… But so far, it has not happened yet. 🙂
And finally, if you are interested at all in learning a beautiful language, or if you are interested in Buddhism of any flavor, or if you want to work around the Himalayas at all, you should consider studying the Tibetan language. The Tibetan culture is one of the few indigenous cultures left on the planet, at least in its pure form, although if the Chinese have anything to say about this, it won’t last much longer. At any rate, the Tibetan language program at UVa is also incredible. Whether you want to go into Colloquial Tibetan, there is a world-renowned professor for that area, and / or if you want to go into more of the Classical or Literary Tibetan, then they have several professors who teach those classes. So check it out! (Now you see my real agenda.)
In conclusion, UVa may desire to join the ranks of the Ivy League colleges across the States, but in reality they are better than that. They have world-wide respect for many of their less traditional programs without needing the prestige of a name like Harvard, and they have some of the best traditional programs as well – just in case you wanted to continue the family trend of being a doctor or lawyer. And of course, if you want to go relax and enjoy some solid NCAA sports events, then you are also going to do well at UVa. Just sayin’.
And thanks for reading.