State College Tours: Virginia

 By: Howard Clemens
The Commonwealth of Virginia is home to some of the oldest and most distinguished colleges and universities in the United States. For residents of Virginia, this can mean a first class education for the price of in-state tuition. Out-of-state residents will attend these schools because of their reputation for academic excellence and historical significance.

This list is not inclusive of all state colleges in Virginia. I have highlighted the most widely known universities for this particular tour that is designed for high school juniors and seniors who are preparing for college.

College of William and Mary (Williamsburg)

Founded during the Colonial era in 1693, by King William and Queen Mary of England, this state college became publicly funded in 1908. The College is located in the heart of downtown Williamsburg and retains the character of centuries gone by with historic buildings and English gardens. With nearly 6,000 undergraduates and 2,000 graduate students, the campus community is sizable. The student faculty ratio is 12:1. Academic emphasis at the College of William and Mary is on the liberal arts. Student tours visiting campus may also want to explore Jamestown Island, Yorktown Battlefields and Colonial Williamsburg.

University of Virginia (Charlottesville and Wise)

Founded by Thomas Jefferson in 1819, the University of Virginia is steeped in political and social history and inseparable from Jefferson's vision of training the best minds as leaders. With approximately 14,000 undergraduate students, 5,000 graduate students and 1,700 law and medical students, the university offers 51 bachelors degrees, 84 master's degrees, two professional degrees in law and medicine, as well as 57 doctoral degrees in 55 fields. Located in Charlottesville and Wise, Virginia, the heart of the main campus was designed by Thomas Jefferson and is visible from his estate, Monticello. The original curriculum of University of Virginia was liberal arts and medicine, and the student body retains this character today.

Virginia Commonwealth University, VCU (Richmond)

This university serves 32,000 students with two campuses in Richmond: Monroe Park and Medical College of Virginia (MCV). VCU traces the founding date to 1838, when the medical college of Virginia was created. The Monroe Park Campus opened in 1917. In 1968, VCU was established as a public university. Renowned as a research university, VCU offers the following degree programs: 60 Baccalaureate, 67 Master's, and 40 Doctorate. The university has a history of liberal arts teaching and also emphasizes medical research and health care. Student life is focused in the historic downtown Fan district and at the many residence halls on campus.

Radford University (Radford)

Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains, in the New River Valley, Radford University is an aesthetically pleasing rural campus with an interesting history. It originally began as the State Normal and Industrial School for Women in 1910 and the curriculum was designed to train teachers. Later, it temporarily merged with Virginia Polytechnic Institute (VA Tech). When the turbulent 60s came and went, it impacted life on campus dramatically. Radford began a shift from a finishing school for girls to a public university open to men in 1972. Late in the 70s Radford attained university status. Radford serves 9,000 students and provides 153 undergraduate and graduate programs. Though Radford began as an institution that trains teachers, it has expanded to a university that encompasses diverse academic studies. Colleges and departments include: Business and Economics, Education and Human Development, Health and Human Services, Humanities and Behavioral Sciences, Science and Technology and the Visual and Performing Arts.

Virginia Tech (Blacksburg)

Virginia Polytechnic University, also known as Virginia Tech, is home to the Virginia Hokies football team and has established a name for excellence in engineering and technical fields. The school serves over 30,000 students and has a 16:1 faculty student ratio. Virginia Tech was founded in 1872 and boasts one of the largest number of degree offerings in Virginia. This public land grant university also houses a 1,700-acre agriculture research farm located close to the main campus. Like Radford, it is also located in the New River Valley, in a particularly scenic, rural area of the Blue Ridge Mountains. In addition to engineering, VA Tech is known for Architecture and Urban Studies, Science, Business, and Agriculture and Life Sciences programs.

College tours of state universities in Virginia are worthwhile for in-state and out-of-state students who are juniors and seniors in high school. There are so many excellent state colleges to choose from in Virginia, all with rich and varied histories and curricula.
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