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College Rankings

Reader's Choice: UNC CHAPEL HILL

A periodic report in which we showcase our readers’ top choices among Kiplinger’s 100 best values in public colleges and universities.

We use hard statistics to produce Kiplinger’s annual rankings for best values in public colleges and universities, and we’re proud of the results. Now, we’re giving our readers’ favorites a chance to brag a little, by letting a student fill us in on what’s fun, cool, quirky and just plain great on campus and nearby.

This week we feature University of North Carolina, J.J. Raynor, a 2009 graduate with a major in Economics and Peace, War, and Defense (pictured left), gives us 12 insider tips. Stay tuned in the weeks ahead for more student-written profiles of the favorites in our reader survey.

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AT A GLANCE: Best Values in Public Colleges

VIDEO: Walking Tours of Our Top Schools

LOCATION: Chapel Hill, N.C.

UNDERGRADUTE ENROLLMENT: 17,895

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BEST ON-CAMPUS FEATURE:

The incredibly engaged student body. Almost everyone you talk to at Carolina is working on a project or with a group outside of the classroom. With over 600 student organizations and a strong emphasis on entrepreneurialism, Carolina’s student body is constantly looking for new ways of working together to make an impact.

BEST OFF-CAMPUS FEATURE:

The town of Chapel Hill. Students at UNC-Chapel Hill enjoy great town-gown relationships and a diverse and lively community that fosters dialogue and engagement. Chapel Hill is the perfect college town. It has more going on than many big cities but still retains a great community feel. We’re spoiled by having world-renowned coffee shops, such as Caffe Driade, as well as my personal favorites, the Daily Grind Expresso Café and the Global Cup Café. We also have an array of businesses and non-profits that frequently take on student interns. If you want to work at a successful boutique investment firm or rebuild used bikes with little kids, all you have to do is walk downtown.

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WHERE SENIORS WANT TO LIVE:

Seniors love living in the historic cottages in the neighborhoods off Rosemary or McCauley streets, within strolling distance of campus. In the morning, they can just wake up, jump out of bed, and be on campus within five minutes; in the evening, seniors living off Rosemary or McCauley are also just five minutes away from the best restaurants, coffee shops, and entertainment venues.

MOST UNUSUAL CAMPUS TRADITION:

For every home football game, a local farmer brings our live ram mascot, Ramses, complete with Carolina blue horns, to the stadium. A basic fact about rams is that they are huge and they are hungry. I’ve pretty much decided that the hedge ringing the football field was planted just for Ramses. He thinks so, too. For the entirety of a three-hour football game, Ramses calmly chews away while the teams clash around him.

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BEST PLACE TO STUDY DURING FINALS WEEK:

The historic reading room in Wilson Library has a rotunda that lets in tons of natural light. Surrounded by Carolina’s rare books collection, you can easily tap into the academic energies of the past.

MOST CROWDED SPOT ON THE FIRST NICE DAY:

On the first nice day in the spring, the main quad becomes covered in picnic blankets and Frisbees as students rush outdoors to take advantage of the weather. When you picnic on the quad, you can see half of campus go by in just a couple of hours.

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BEST PLACE TO EAT WHEN THE DINING HALL WON'T DO:

Chapel Hill was recently named one of the “foodiest” small towns by Bon Appétit Magazine. There are a number of restaurants that serve great locally grown food. Weaver Street Market, a co-op, has a delicious organic buffet and pastry shop that features local foods at prices students can easily afford.

WHERE YOU WANT TO BE ON A SATURDAY NIGHT:

The Cat’s Cradle music hall is a local music hub that attracts some of the best live acts while serving as a center for a vigorous local music scene.

WHAT WE WON'T LEARN ON THE CAMPUS TOUR:

That UNC-CH is a campus truly engaged in solving the world’s toughest problems. Students on a tour might not see the labs researching new production methods for solar panels or the labs pursuing an HIV/AIDS vaccine. Similarly, touring students might not meet the student who just returned from starting a non-profit organization in Cambodia over spring break or be able to travel sixty miles east or north to the two counties where students and faculty are working with communities to overcome the challenges of rural poverty.

CLASS THAT GETS STUDENTS TALKING:

Dr. Unks’ Education 441: Education in America is a class about the foundations of the American education system, its problems and potential solutions. It is designed for non-education majors. In his class, Dr. Unks boldly tackles the education system’s role in perpetuating societal inequality in a way that both challenges students’ assumptions and calls them to action.

BEST WEEKEND FOR FRIENDS TO VISIT:

Almost any weekend in March, when the weather is at its best and the men’s and women’s basketball teams are rocking the NCAA basketball tournaments.

SIX WORDS ABOUT YOUR COLLEGE THAT SAY IT ALL:

Excellence, with heart, for a cause.

UNC Chapel Hill