The word “college”, evokes images of a small liberal arts institution, but the College of Charleston is a public university enrolling more than ten thousand undergraduates on a campus included in the Registry of Historic Buildings in the heart of Charleston, South Carolina. COC combines an elegant architectural past and contemporary design, presenting stately buildings of historic note and up-to-date facilities with every modern amenity. An exceptionally successful athletic program and a strong set of fraternities and sororities have made COC a happy choice for students from every region.
A recent graduate of the Honors College, a Creative Writing major, blogged about her first impression of the College of Charleston; her voice is more particular and comprehensive than mine, so please enjoy this account by Leah Knapp:
“I visited College of Charleston for the first time in April of 2010. On a Friday
morning, my mother, sister and I set out for the Admissions Office to find our tour guide. We walked through Cougar Mall, past the clock in front of the Sottile House, and finally through Cistern Yard. Spanish moss draped across tree branches like Christmas tinsel and hot-pink azaleas burst from each side of the herringbone walkway. I tripped on a disrupted cobblestone and looked up, mortified, only to realize that none of the students walking around me had noticed—or if they did, they didn’t care. Randolph Hall stood regally above the Cistern, where I’d read that students graduated in white sundresses and dinner jackets. Tan, smiling students passed by, many of them with swimwear under their clothes. I was smitten.
“I’m going to college here,” I said decisively, before the tour even began.”
Are all visitors to COC smitten? Probably not, but many do trust a strong first impression followed by good information to settle into this lively university in the midst of a lively and historic city.
The College of Charleston’s setting has much to do with its evolution as a prominent university. Charleston is not just one of several distinctive cities in the Southeast; it may be (with Savannah) the city that most completely reflects the traditions, culture, and aspirations of the South. Evidence of Charleston’s prominence in the Ante-Bellum South is evidenced in its plantation era homes and public buildings. Charleston was at the heart of the cotton trade and the slave trade, and both have left historic buildings and ports. Charleston also had a sizeable number of free people of color, and those African-Americans who came to the city from the Sea Islands and the Low Country speaking the creole language known as Gullah. Rich in cultural history, Charleston is equally impressive in its support of art and music. The annual Spoleto Festival is one of the most vibrant art festivals in the nation, bringing performers of every type to Charleston during the seventeen-day festival in the spring. For students, however, the charm of the city includes great places to eat and relax. One of the most helpful publications written by current students identifies the many local establishments that give discounts to COC students.
The life of the city is inevitably part of the life of the university, but the strength of programs here, and the variety of opportunities available should make COC an interesting option for anyone seeking a university in a manageable urban setting.
COC is a public university, part of the state university system in South Carolina. Although the university is one of the country’s oldest, founded in 1770, its emergence as a national institution really began with its incorporation in the State College System in 1970. Growth was rapid, and in short order, the university established itself with more than sixty-six programs granting an undergraduate degree. In addition, COC is one of the few land-grant universities participating in both Sea Grant research and outer space research through the National Space Grant and Fellowship program.
The academic program consists of more than fifty possible major areas of study offered in seven academic divisions: The School of the Arts, School of Business, School of Education, Health and Human Performance, School of Humanities and Social Science, School of Science and Mathematics, and the Honors College. In addition to the separate schools, facilities pertinent to academic interests have also been established. For example, COC operates centers dedicated to work in particular majors. These are five of the more uncommon centers:
The Halsey Institute of Contemporary Art includes a significant collection and exhibition space but is also in the service of one of the signature programs offered at COC. The university is the only one in the nation that offers a major in Arts Management and specialization in the combining of historic preservation and urban planning.
The Carter Real Estate Center housing the full-time professors in Real Estate, offered by the Department of Economics and Finance.
The N.E. Miles Early Childhood Development Center operates an accredited school for children from the ages of two to five as part of the school of Education.
The Avery Research Center for African-American History and Culture houses a collection describing slavery, the Gullah culture and the civil rights movement as well as acting as a research facility.
The Dixie Plantation is an eight hundred acre ecosystem allowing study of long-leaf pine forests, wetlands, savannahs, tidal marshes, and saltwater ponds. Both historic Preservation and Forest Management make use of the plantation.
Undergraduate education is sound, professors admired, and classes kept reasonably small (the average size is about twenty-six per class). The Honors College is a particularly good option for students who want challenge, inter-disciplinary study, and independent study, under the supervision of a Peer Facilitator. Students in the Honors College can major in any area.
Residential life at COC includes an active and healthy Greek system. The university has had a number of fraternities and sororities on campus since the mid-Eighteen Hundreds; currently fourteen national fraternities and eleven sororities carry out recruitment of new member during the school year. Five of the fraternities live in a fraternity house; nine sororities have a house of their own. Most students live in one of the eleven modern residence halls, or in one of the nineteen historic homes owned by the university.
Rollicking spirit can be found throughout the university, particularly in support of the COC Cougars, a perennial powerhouse in several Division I athletic programs. Basketball and baseball are probably the best-known programs, and they are very successful. The university often sends its basketball teams to the National Invitational Tournament or the NCAA’s March Madness. COC baseball is high-powered, sending graduates into the major leagues. Two of the most successful program, however, are less widely known. COC’s equestrian program regularly competes in the highest level of national competition and often lands at the top of inter-collegiate equestrian teams.
I’ve saved the most impressive program for last. COC has an extraordinarily successful sailing team, almost always one of the top two or three in the nation. The team consists of a co-ed squad and women’s squad, both of which compete at major regattas. The team currently sails eighteen 420’s, eighteen FJ’s, eight lasers, and two J22 sloops. The depth of the program is impressive, but I have been most struck by the remarkable work the sailing team does in educating and recruiting students new to sailing. The sport of sailing is not available to many people in the real world; at COC, experienced sailors will be delighted to welcome a new student aboard.
Although the great majority of students come from the Southeast, COC has kids from every part of the country and is a warm and welcoming university in one of America’s most charming cities.