I just went to UF cause it was free and the best school in Florida. It made sense at the time.
Best school in Florida?!
I understand that the school tries to instill a sense of pride in its students by feeding them the 'gator nation' brand slogan down their throats on a constant basis but to say that they're the best Florida has to offer is an exaggeration! You have two other tier 1 schools in the state: UM (with superior broadcast journalism and music programs) and FSU (with excellent programs that UF doesn't offer: computer criminology and merchandising). Furthermore, there are high-caliber and competitive film programs in the state coming from UCF and FSU which UF can't even match. There is also Ringling College of Art with its many animation majors being recruited by Pixar (my ex-boyfriend went there). Not to mention public honors colleges such as FAU's Harriet Wilkes and USF's New College of Florida. Last, but not least, South Florida has FIU's five star accounting and international business programs; Barry's one-of-a-kind ecological studies and diving programs; and NSU's first rate marine biology and pre-med track. I made sure to research my options carefully after making the mistake of going to football-obsessed UF my first two years. I ended up transferring to UM (no budget cuts, stellar faculty, small classes, resort-like campus) on a full-tuition transfer scholarship and found two killer internships in Miami which definitely helped me land my first choice LS (NYU). I'm not saying that UF is substandard. It's a good school but certainly not the best.
While all of those programs you mentioned are certainly not without merit, for someone who isn't specializing in something like computer criminology, accounting, diving, or marine biology -- UF is a better deal.
UM is equivalent to UF in undergrad rankings, but UM is private and costs a ton of money that I wasn't ready to part with. They offered me half tuition and that wasn't a good enough offer to pull me away from the FREE and better ranked (by a little bit) UF. Even if I had my half of the $34,000+ to give them, I am from South Florida and wanted to live somewhere different.
Also, I would agree that New College is also an excellent school, but coming from a high school of 4,000 kids, I wanted to go somewhere larger. New College offers a student population of under a thousand, which wasn't for me. Sarasota is nice, though. Also, they don't have regular grades. I definitely considered New College as an option (my father wanted me to go there BADLY) -- but no, not for me. True enough about it being a good school, though.
If you're talking about the run-of-the-mill undecided high school graduate who is heading to a Florida school for undergrad, UF is much, much better than anything else in the state. UF isn't the best school out there, but in terms of Florida: UF is #49 for US News' National Universities ranking, UM is #52, FSU is #102, and FIU & FAU are unranked (I suppose they don't rank the honors college separately, but, yes, I've heard good things about FAU) .. FIU is not a great school for undergrad if you're not aiming at one of their 'five star' programs. Oh, and NCF is #94 under US News Liberal Arts rankings.
Anyway, #49 is as good as it gets in FL.
So, yeah, perhaps I implied that it was a frivolous and rash decision to go to UF. Really, when faced with the reality that I was staying in-state, there was no better option (especially considering the price). End story.
EDIT: (apparently not 'end of story') -- also, if your profile isn't toally BS-ed, I'd guess that your numbers helped you get into NYU law more than anything else. Though your comments about our budget cuts are true enough. I've been pleasantly surprised with my class sizes once I got out of the intro level auditorium classes, though. Two of my classes last semester had fewer than 15 people in them.