Wake Forest University
BackgroundInterview Date:July 2018
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: I went to a private school in Minneapolis, Minnesota with about 200 students in my class. I would say that virtually almost student graduated went to some form of community college or four-year college.
First Generation College Student: No
Major: Politics and International Affairs
Minors: Global Trade and Commerce, which is kind of like International Business, and Environmental Studies
Extracurricular Activities: Cultivate Consciousness, which is a green-solutions think tank, so like Clean Tech. I am also part of a fraternity.
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
I would say a moderate impact. It’s more of an interest of my own and I’ve been happy to find a space for it on campus.
Can you describe your weekly coursework for your major?
I have about 300 pages of reading every week, so I’m probably doing 4-5 hours of work at minimum a day. That’s just kind of the manic of Wake Forest in general, you get a lot of work. I mostly have readings and essays, and then also some tests. Usually, the way it’s structured by the time you’re an upperclassman is you have a midterm and a final test with essays sprinkled in throughout the semester.
Is there anything you feel either of your major’s department does especially well or especially poorly?
They are phenomenal when it comes to foreign policy. They have some real thought leaders in foreign policy. They also have a couple of professors that are really well connected. For example, we had a professor who had her own show on MSNBC and now she runs something called Wake the Vote, which is essentially being able to take college students and plug them into really unbelievable opportunities within campaigns. For those that are accepted in the program, you tour nationally and meet all these senators and congressmen who are really well-connected people on the Hill. It’s a very cool opportunity.
The biggest part to be cognizant of with the Politics and International Affairs department at Wake is that there are so many Wake alums in DC just because it’s relatively close to North Carolina. We’re lucky that Wake educates well, and so you have good connections after school.
Can you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s competitive or collaborative?
I would say it’s collaborative. I wouldn’t say it’s cut-throat. That’s one of the beauties of Wake, it does not have the cutthroat feel, but it does have the rigor. There’s dialogue at Wake that perhaps students at Wake get more work than they would at an Ivy League but without the name behind it. It’s much more collaborative, that’s a big difference between it and other [top tier] schools. At Wake, everybody understands how much work they have, so they would rather find a more efficient means of getting it done.
What has been your favorite class in your majors?
A foreign policy course called Insurgencies and Counterinsurgencies, which is phenomenal.
What has been your least favorite class in your majors?
A Political Theory class called Agency and Ethics, but that was because I’m not a huge theory guy. That’s one of the requirements of the major, you have to take a course that satisfies that area of the department.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I’ve always been interested in politics. I think Political Science is able to take a lot of different things into account. It’s a pretty comprehensive major in terms of being in civics, government, geography, history, and economics. You have all these interlocking elements going on depending on the class you’re taking. I really like courses in the Political Science department at Wake because it’s really hard to come out without having written at least 50 essays with each probably being five to ten pages long. So, you can be well written from sheer exposure to that. Plus, I wanted to have more critical thinking, holistic exploration of different subject matters and Political Science was able to satisfy that pretty effectively.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: Johnson Residence Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: Davis Residence Hall with one roommate
Junior: Fall semester abroad, came back to live in Davis Residence Hall.
Senior: Off-campus house.
What was your favorite living situation?
Most seniors live off-campus now, and I would definitely say the off-campus house has been my favorite living situation. On campus, my favorite living situation was Davis. It’s in a really good location.
The weird thing about Wake is there are no official fraternity or sorority houses. There Greek lounges in residence halls on campus and then off campus houses. What was nice about Davis was that there were a lot of Greek lounges in the residence area, so there was a lot of fun people there and it was a great location. So, I couldn’t have asked for a better spot both socially and to get to different places on campus.
Do the off-campus houses get passed down from fraternity class to fraternity class or do they rotate between people?
There are always other fraternities that can come in and take the lease, but more often than not they are passed down from class to class. There have been a lot of houses that have switched between fraternities while I’ve been there.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
On campus is super safe. Winston-Salem has had some issues with crime in general. I think some of that has been overblown. I think there have been a lot of Wake kids who have been living in their gated communities and if they go out into an actual city atmosphere they complain about a whole lot of nothing. There have been instances, like the [Winston-Salem State] student who was shot, that has rightfully created a lot of concern. So, there are instances, but overall the campus is very safe and off campus is generally safe. I think that a lot of Wake students get into a regular city area and feel that is a lot less safe than what they are used to. I think you will get varying answers depending on who you speak with, but I would say for the most part it’s very safe.
What is your favorite off-campus restaurant?
Dioli’s, a sandwich spot in Winston-Salem that is a really popular Wake spot. People just love it.
What is your favorite place to get away from campus?
They call Wake Forest a bubble because there are a lot of kids who don’t get off campus a lot. It’s kind of a gated community campus. Getting off for most students is a little more of a rarity because the campus is not embedded in the downtown area or anything like that. I would say the spot I would go to is downtown Winston-Salem. If the social scene on campus is getting old, I would grab a few buddies and go to the 4th Street bar scene to hang out.
How was transitioning from Minneapolis to Winston-Salem?
I would say it was a really good choice for myself. There are a lot of people who want to stay home because it’s comfortable and easy, but I pushed myself significantly by going from Minneapolis to North Carolina because everybody I’ve met has had completely different experiences [than I have]. I think a kid moving from the Northern Midwest to the Southeast to experience college is a really cool opportunity to get a feel for a completely different region. You’re also not the only person coming from far away because Wake does a good job of getting kids from all over.
Pros of being in Winston-Salem, NC?
Pros: (1) It’s a super affordable city to live in. Wake’s on-campus fees don’t really reflect that, but the city itself is really affordable.
(2) You get to experience an up and coming and increasingly difficult school to get into, but also allows a lot of students to get something that is different from the normal elite schools up in the Northeast. You to get a really unique feel for North Carolina which is nice. You get a lot of northerners that come down and get a taste for the south.
What kind of weekend activities or nightlife do you like to participate in?
I would say the nightlife has died down a little bit since my freshman year, but it’s still very much a work hard play hard atmosphere. A lot of kids will work really, really hard during the week, and are either smart enough or are able to structure their schedules where they’re able to go out in the middle of the week. Wake Wednesdays are something that’s a big thing. There are kids that will absolutely grind during the day and then be able to free up some time at night. It’s a really social school.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
I would say in terms of the social atmosphere for me personally, Greek life allows you to meet a lot of people and do whatever you want to be doing socially. And unfortunately, that’s just not the case if you’re not in a fraternity or a sorority. There’s a huge divide between Greek and non-Greek. [See Old Gold and Black article, “Wake Forest Does Not Offer Enough Alternatives to Greek Life” and article, “Greek Life Wields Too Much Power.”]
We do this thing called deferred rush, and that means that during the first semester nobody can get a bid [from a fraternity or sorority]. The start of the second semester, the guys will have Rush Week, which is a week where they have a ton of parties and then they give bids. But really, they’ve been rushing these guys for the whole first semester. The first week of the second semester is just icing on the cake. Once the second semester rolls around and you’re not a guy, it’s really, really hard to get into parties depending on the fraternity’s party that you’re trying to attend.
What have been your favorite times at Wake Forest?
The football tailgates are unbelievable. The student attendance is really low for football games because everybody just has a great time during the tailgates. So, the tailgates are unbelievable, and the basketball team hasn’t been that good since I’ve been here but when they are good I’ve heard it’s a really awesome atmosphere. Finally, I would say you have beach weekend and mountain weekend for fraternities and sororities. Mountain weekend is in the fall and you go somewhere in Tennessee and beach weekend is in the spring and you go to Myrtle Beach. Those big events are another really big highlight.
How happy are you with the weekend options? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I don’t like how there are rivalries between fraternities, and that aspect I really do not enjoy in the slightest. I’m personally somebody that tries to have a good relationship with everybody. I’m not one to have unnecessary beef with somebody just because you have a different Greek letter. So, the Greek drama is something I could do without.
The one other thing I would add is it’s a very rich kid driven social scene. The school is expensive and you have a lot of kids that are really wealthy that attend Wake. I think for students that are not as well off, that can be really intimidating because they just don’t have the financial means to keep up with some of this stuff. My fraternity offers a scholarship and we subsidize our events for people that are not able to meet those needs. But, for the vast majority of Wake students in Greek life are financially comfortable and they absolutely act like it. So, that’s something I could do without. The Wake Forest wealth allows for fun parties, but it also embodies an unrealistic social scene compared to the real world because you have people that are so wealthy and they don’t realize it, so it can lead to a bit of an ignorant mindset. [Socioeconomically, 22% of students come from the top 1% and the median family income is $221,500.]
How did you meet your closest friends?
They were all in my freshman hall. Then we all rushed and got bids from the same fraternity.
How would you describe the overall social scene at Wake Forest?
Vibrant. It’s a lot of fun. People are willing to blow off some steam and also keep up with the rigorous course load. I love that Wake knows how to have a good time.
To what extent do you think people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
Wake is incredibly homogenous. I’ll just be very realistic about that. I think Wake needs to improve significantly on that front. [There has been a 49% increase in diversity from Fall 2010 to Fall 2017.] A lot of the racial diversity and sexual orientation diversity will be mainly reflected in the non-Greek community. When you look at the Greek community it is overwhelmingly white and heterosexual. Not that there aren’t gay people in the Greek community, there is, it’s just more of a rarity. There is definitely segmentation. [About 70% of students are White and, socioeconomically, 49% of students come from the top 5%.]
How would you describe the student body?
Generally, well of financially. There is a segment of students on scholarship, but the vast majority of kids at least seem wealthy. It’s a really well-dressed campus, and I think that’s partially reflective of the wealth of the community. I think it is pretty homogenous looking, you’re not going to see a lot of people with dyed hair or people who wear their hair in an interesting way. It’s kind of a cookie-cutter student body, and not in a bad way. It’s a really good-looking student body, a lot of people are in really good shape and I think that leads to more homogeneity. [22% of students at Wake Forest come from the top 1%, while 2.3% come from the bottom 20%.]
Do you think people are happy with their choice of Wake Forest by the time they graduate?
I think it would depend on who you ask. There are a lot of people who have had a phenomenal experience at Wake, and I’ve had a phenomenal experience as well. I just think it’s healthy to be critical of the things that you think the school could improve on, and that’s kind of what I’ve shared. When I leave Wake, I will absolutely be passionate about it and have had a great time, and I think that’s reflective of most people here. I think the vast majority of people leaving Wake are coming out with a positive experience.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
The alumni network is pretty incredible at Wake. The alumni network is really, really well connected, pretty affluent, and very willing to reach out to Wake kids. If you are looking at D.C., New York, Atlanta, and Charlotte there are a lot of alums willing to help you out. I think one thing that separates Wake is that they put a whole lot of resources into students. They want to see you go out and get a good job. I’ve had employment through Wake connections during the summer too, so I would definitely say they’ve helped me find opportunities.
How much have you used the career office?
Incredibly helpful. I know they’re regarded as one of the best and I think they’re top notch. They’ve helped with resume building, mock interviews, career tips, and preparing yourself for a career path that you want to take personally and they help you find that. It’s an incredible asset that Wake has and it has significantly helped me prepare for my post-grad endeavors.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about Wake Forest before entering as a freshman?
I wish I would have known that Wake’s social scene was going to change. There has been a lot of adjustments that the school has made. They’ve cracked down significantly on Greek life, so I wish I would have known that coming in so I would be prepared for it. I think that has taken a lot of students by surprise.
What is something a prospective student may have missed on a visit that is worth checking out?
I think a student should try to connect with a current student and try to experience a night out on Wake’s campus or a fraternity party to give them a more organic feel for the social scene. I think that will give kids a much better idea of the type of social atmosphere that Wake has to offer and how they could potentially see themselves in it.
Reasons to attend Wake Forest:
1) Amazing faculty. It’s an incredible education.
2) Resources that Wake has. If a student seeks it out, there are different faculty or different services that will try to help maximize the student’s experience. It is the perfect spot for students that want to take advantage of resources, have deep, meaningful relationships with faculty, and really dive into their education and take ownership of it.
3) Wake will be able to challenge a student with a vibrant but competitive social atmosphere, and also a really rigorous intellectual experience. I think kids coming out of Wake have been able to be adaptive socially, they can handle a lot of different situations, and they’ve had a really rigorous academic experience. So, you’re getting challenged on both fronts, and that prepares kids well for what happens after school.