I will use this space to share my experiences visiting colleges with you. Hopefully you will find these notes useful. If you like the schools I discuss you should do everything you can to visit on your own, but this will tide you over until you are able to.
In mid-December I visited Virginia Commonwealth University, a public institution which is located in Richmond, the capital city of Virginia. VCU is located on a vibrant, exciting urban campus and has well-regarded programs in medicine, fine arts and business. Students at my school have not paid much attention to VCU, but based on what I saw, they are missing out; VCU offers a lot, and at a very competitive price. During my visit I attended an information session and took a tour and I came away extremely impressed. I look forward to recommending Virginia Commonwealth University to my college counselees.
Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), is located in the heart of Richmond, the capital city of Virginia. As I mentioned in my notes about the University of Richmond, the city of Richmond is small to medium sized, with less than a quarter of a million people in the city proper, and a metro area population of about 1.3 million. Despite its size it offers many amenities typically found in larger cities, from effective public transportation, to multiple museums and ample opportunities for public and private sector internships. They also have excellent medical facilities, due in no small part to the presence of VCU's hospitals. VCU was established in 1838 as a medical school; it continued to add new programs for the next 130 years until in 1968 the Richmond Professional Institute and the Medical College of Virginia merged to form Virginia Commonwealth University. VCU continues to grow to this day, recently adding a campus in the Persian Gulf nation of Qatar.
VCU's main campus is located near Monroe Park in downtown Richmond. My tour did not cover the Medical College of Virginia campus which is across town. The campus is quite walkable and while I was there I saw a lot of construction, including a new main library addition that will open in late 2015. The campus is also car friendly, with ample on-street parking options and a wealth of parking garages available to cars with VCU stickers; all students are allowed to have automobiles, but they can also get city bus passes if they'd prefer to avoid the extra hassle of having a car. Richmond is served by Amtrak, and is easily accessible to the rest of the Eastern seaboard by high speed Acela trains, and to the world via Richmond International Airport so a car is definitely not necessary.
|Brandt Hall, freshman suite-style dorms|
VCU's campus seems to be pretty security conscious. The University has 362 emergency call boxes spread across the campus, along with 90 sworn officers in their campus police department. While I was on campus I saw several VCU cops and also a Richmond police car. My tour guide said that the VCU police were "nationally ranked" and attested that they were friendly and not viewed as adversaries by the students.
|a view through the window into the fitness center|
VCU has 15 varsity sports which compete at the NCAA Division I level; they are especially proud of their men's basketball team which made the Final Four a few years ago. They also offer over a score of club sports, ranging from badminton, to lacrosse to rugby. The athletic facilities are vast and well-equipped, including the student gym pictured at left; the climbing wall is changed every two weeks to present continual challenges to users. In addition to sports there are over 500 student activities, including such oddities as a "pancake eating club". Any five students can form a club at VCU. I approve of this approach; when I was in college, a friend and I formed a "Yahtzee and Onion Rings" club, where we went to a local restaurant to listen to jazz, play Yahtzee and eat onion rings. It was one of my favorite parts of college, and I am glad to see a large public university embracing the quirkiness of its student body.
|countdown clock in Visitor's Center|
|large ram's horns outside the student center|
Currently VCU offers over 60 majors in the following 13 schools and colleges:
- College of Humanities and Sciences
- School of Allied Health Professions
- School of the Arts
- School of Business
- School of Dentistry
- School of Education
- School of Engineering
- Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs
- School of Medicine
- School of Nursing
- School of Pharmacy
- School of Social Work
- VCU Life Sciences
- VCU Honors College
|poster in the Visitor's Center|
VCU combines a location in a thriving small city with a wealth of academic and cultural options for students to pursue. Despite the relatively large size of the student body VCU works hard to make sure that nobody gets lost in the shuffle; first year students, for instance, are required to meet with their advisors twice per semester, and many meet much more often. If you are looking for a large, urban college on the east coast (such as George Washington University, or Drexel University, or Pace University) I would definitely give VCU a close look. I know that I will be recommending it to my own students.