University of Virginia – Charlottesville, VA
In 1819 in his retirement, Thomas Jefferson wanted to establish a place of learning where education was interspersed with living spaces, where the pursuit of learning was not separated in any way from daily life, and thus the University of Virginia came to be. He designed the “dorms” on the lawn which to this day are coveted housing that look up to the stately Rotunda building (the old library) and have fireplaces in each room. This is where many UVA traditions take place like the “Lighting of the Lawn” – an “a cappella” concert held in December for students, faculty and residents of Charlottesville, and “Purple Shadows,” a celebration of Thomas Jefferson’s birthday. Students at the University of Virginia to this day embody the spirit of Jefferson’s vision and are heavily into self-governance as well as their studies. Admissions is highly selective, especially as they are mandated to take 2/3 of their applicants from the State of Virginia. Applicants enter the university through 5 schools: Arts and Sciences (the largest), Kinesiology, Architecture, Nursing and Engineering. Even though there are 14,500 undergrads, a member of the student panel said “the more involved you are in the school, the smaller it becomes.” There is no limit to the opportunity for involvement on this campus.