As I was walking around campus today, I noticed a lot of tours going on. I realized it is about the time when admissions decisions must be coming out. This article is intended for those high school seniors thinking about coming to the University of Richmond.
Richmond does an excellent job of selling the school. And for a good reason, the more students who want to come here, the larger the pool the school has to pick from to find and retain great students. I don't think any college admissions office intends to mislead students, but there are certain things that they might not specifically highlight.
To me, it is more important to be honest with you rather than hype up my own school. After all, I do have an interest in making the university better; I think it just fails in comparison to the decision you are about to make which will certainly impact your next four years and even the rest of your life.
So here is my "Report Card" and unfiltered thoughts. Keep in mind, some may disagree with me.
Without a doubt, one of the strengths of the University of Richmond is its academics. I am a Business; Econ and Leadership double major and I believe my education to me top notch. I can honestly say I am not sure if even Ivy League schools would provide me with a better combination of what I was looking for. The combination of the liberal arts as well as certain technical skills I think will give you an advantage over your peers at other schools. Most professors are excellent and will likely be more available and give you more attention than your high school teachers. Forget about the rankings, the professors at this school will expand your mind. There is a lot of built-in flexibility to find your passion and even double major.
Opportunities & Career Services: A-
The Richmond Guarantee, which I am sure you have heard about is a great program. There are a ton of undergraduate research opportunities, and you will more than likely be able to find funding for any sort of academic project you can dream up.
Career Services is excellent, and A LOT of money has been invested in putting the University of Richmond on the map and marketing you to employers. I have been on multiple career services trips that have taken me to the most prestigious of places such as Goldman Sachs in New York and Deloitte consulting in DC. It is a fantastic, once in a lifetime opportunity to have this kind of access and interest in you. I do worry however that we put to much pressure on students to work for certain companies in certain fields and think we could do more to promote entrepreneurship.
Food and Housing: A-
DHall is probably the best college dining hall you can ask for. You have plenty of dining dollars for the other food stops.
Most dorms have been renovated recently, and even freshman dorms are not bad. There are a lot of on-campus apartments which is convenient. However, if you want to live off campus there are not many great options, and few people do.
Social Life: D
This may vary from person to person but it is something the tour guides most likely won't get into. For background on me, I spent two years on the Varsity Football Team before an injury and then two years as a Resident Assistant and im in ROTC, so I've been everywhere. I may get into some uncomfortable characterizations here but stick with me.
The school is very cliquey. I describe it as being "more high school than high school." While diverse on paper, Richmond is not at all diverse in practice. People clearly stick to their socioeconomic groups. Chances are if you come from a high school (particularly northeast) that sends a few kids to Richmond each year you will fit in fine and enjoy the social life. If you are a minority, expect that you will most likely fit in with other minority groups and be critical of the greater social life. It is unfortunate.
Greek Life is a big deal at Richmond. If you are interested in Greek Life, great; if you are not so sure, you may want to give that a little thought. Because we are a smaller school, we have less greek organizations than say the 40+ at UVA. which leads to a clear "hierarchy of coolness" which is sometimes not specifically acknowledged but is present.
For more social commentary I suggest you check our the popular Instagram page @realmemesofur
For being a small school Richmond is incredibly resourced athletically and competitive at the D1 level. My experience on the football team was very positive. However, school spirit and attendance at sporting events is abysmal. The administration tries very hard to get students out to games with minimal success. One game a year, the VCU basketball game at home is an incredible atmosphere. If you are looking for tailgates and school spirit, this is not the strength of the school.
The City of Richmond: A-
Richmond is a beautiful growing city with a plethora of outdoor activities. It is arguably one of the best cities in the country for restaurants. The bars/clubs, although not very popular among the UR social scene are pretty solid. Having the James River right by campus is awesome.
The main fixture of UR parties are lodges: on-campus fraternity meeting houses that turn into big dance floors. They are really fun when you're a freshman but gradually you realize that they are more disgusting than fun as you get older. Off-campus parties (house parties) are fun but are a little more tricky than other colleges that have more of a college town feel. Fraternity brothers who are pledging will pick you up for free and drive you to these parties (if well connected enough). I would honestly say that getting into fraternity parties if you are not a brother or part of a sorority is a lot easier than other colleges, but there is still pressure to join. Going to bars and clubs do happen on Thursday night but it as not as part of the culture as it is at other schools.
While a little top heavy and some politics going on at the top sometimes, I think the administration and trustees have positioned Richmond well to become an even greater and more recognizable school while keeping students interests in mind.
Great academic, amenities, and opportunities make up for poor social environments (by some peoples definition). I would not change my decision to come to Richmond.