Washington & Lee University
BackgroundInterview Date:August 2019
Gender Identity: Male
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2019
High School Experience: Private school in Baltimore, MD with a graduating class of about 90 students. There was a culture of going to college
First-Generation College Student: No
Major: Business Administration
Minor: Russian Language and Culture
Extracurricular Activities: I was a student-athlete and I was part of a fraternity
Did any of your extracurricular activities have a particularly big impact on your experience?
Both of them did, but I’d say my sport did more for me because a big part of the reason why I went to W&L was I wanted to continue my athletic career. But, once you become part of the Greek life system also had an impact because you make a lot of friends that you probably wouldn’t have met otherwise. You’re able to expand your friend group and connections throughout all four years of being part of it.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your major?
For most of the classes, we had reading on your own. Some of the classes would go through the textbook and then apply it through worksheets, case studies, or whatever it may be, and some of them expected you to read it on your own and apply it during class time. As you got older, the classes were more case study-oriented so you could get more real-life experience. For most of the business classes, they want to have at least two exams, but the classes weren’t all test-based. They wanted to see how you could apply the knowledge that you learned, and they did that through group and individual projects and papers.
Is there anything you feel your major’s department does especially well or poorly?
Because it’s a liberal arts school – it’s one of the few liberal arts schools that offer a business school, which I was really attracted to – we have really small class sizes. The largest group of people I was with was around 25, and those were the intro classes that a lot of people wanted to be in. It made it so you were able to meet with your professors and get to know them, which really helps you understand the material and learn what your strengths and weaknesses are. I also think all of the classes did a great job of identifying those little aspects of the material that helped you learn more, made you more interested in the material, and help you once you get to find a job after school. [About 72% of classes at W&L have fewer than 20 students.]
How would you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
It’s pretty competitive but in a good way. It challenges people to work even harder. You aren’t necessarily competing to get the best grade, but you’re challenging yourself on a daily basis. It’s also collaborative because as you get older you have a lot more group-related projects so you can figure out what you’re good at doing in a group setting. You realize the importance of communication and are working in a way that sometimes those projects can feel more like a work environment than a school environment
What’s cool about W&L is we have an Honor System, which is an understanding that you wouldn’t disrespect that academic culture of the school by cheating, plagiarizing, or anything like that. That makes it so you stay true to your values and working so that your results are based on your effort and what you put in time-wise.
How accessible are your professors?
They’re pretty accessible. They have office hours two or three days a week and they did what they could to make sure they’re accessible to you. Being a varsity athlete, you oftentimes have practice during those times so making the office hours can be difficult, but if you reach out and talk to them they do a great job of accommodating to you and finding different times that work for you. With it being a small town, everybody lives nearby so they’re willing to go out of their way to help you which was really helpful.
Why did you choose your major? Are you happy with your choice?
I was looking to do something business-oriented and I didn’t want to do Accounting or Economics, so I followed the Business Administration route because it offered classes through all the divisions of business. I took Economics, Accounting, Finance, and Marketing classes to understand all of them and get a sense of how each aspect of business works. I think it was the right decision for me because it allowed me to have a little bit of flexibility. I’m definitely happy with my choice.
How was managing both your sport and your coursework?
At first, it was a bit of an adjustment. I will say I think my experience in high school did a great job of preparing me for that, so I didn’t have any giant struggles from a grade standpoint. It was more just acclimating myself to the new environment, the social life, and all of those things. Fortunately, my sport is in the spring so the fall was more laid back and I had more time to adjust. I think it actually helps when you’re in season because you have to manage your time better and make sure you’re not messing around.
On and Around Campus
Where did you live on and around campus?
Freshman: Gaines Hall with one roommate
Sophomore: Most students who are in Greek life live in the Greek life houses this year, but I was one of a few teammates of mine who decided to stay away from Greek life housing so we could be together. We lived in the Wood Creek Apartments with four of us total. It was cool, but definitely an adjustment because it was the first time living on my own.
Junior: I moved back on campus and lived in a six-person townhouse. It was great because we had a washer and dryer and had our own space, so there were never issues with other people.
Senior: Off-campus house about five-minutes away from campus. It was in a more residential area, which was nice because we had some separation away from campus life. I lived with four other people.
What was your favorite living situation?
Probably junior year because the townhouses were pretty new. It was also cool because you had your own house but everybody from your class was living in the same area, so you could walk 200 feet to see your friends. It was really convenient and fun. It was almost like you were back in the dorms but in a more adult setting.
How was transitioning from your hometown in Baltimore to Lexington, VA?
Location-wise, it was definitely a different environment. Living in the dorm rooms definitely helped because you’re in a condensed area with a lot of people, so you’re not on your own. As any student experiences, there are some changes that make you feel uncomfortable by being in a different environment. Once you start to see the town and see what you see within the town or outside in nature, you get acclimated to it and appreciate it for what it is.
Can you describe the level of safety you’ve experienced on and around campus?
I personally never had any safety issues. The public safety crew does a good job of keeping the campus safe. There were never any issues throughout my four years. I never had an issue within the town of Lexington, either. Washington & Lee is one of the two schools in Lexington, so there is a lot of respect between the town and the school. The school also created a program called the Traveller Safe Ride Program which helps students get around campus at night safely without worry of having to deal with drivers when you’re under the influence of alcohol. That’s benefitted the campus in a positive way.
Pros and cons of being in Lexington, VA?
Pros: (1) The size of the city. As you walk around the town more often, you like it more because you get close to the places and people there. You’re able to walk into certain places and talk to the workers, and go places and run into other students.
(2) If you’re a nature person, you’re going to love the town of Lexington. In the surrounding areas, there are a bunch of mountains, you can go tubing the rivers, you can go hiking and camping, which is really fun.
Cons: There are no major cities near the town of Lexington. The closest city is Roanoke, which is 45-minutes away. If you wanted to go to Richmond or Washington, D.C., you have to drive a few hours. [Richmond is about a two-hour drive away and Washington, D.C. is about a three-hour drive away.]
I think the school does a good job of always having things going on where it’s not as if you feel obligated to go travel that far.
What kind of nightlife or weekend activities do you participate in at Washington & Lee?
The majority of the nightlife at W&L is Greek-based. Because it’s a small town and there aren’t a lot of bars, people more so hang out with their friends whether it’s at fraternity houses or off-campus housing. Usually, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays are the nights when students do things, and that would often be fraternity and sorority based. But, it’s not exclusive because the school is so small that you know so many people and if you’re not part of a specific Greek organization it’s not as if you’re not able to go hang out there. Things start pretty early, so usually from 8:00 PM to 10:00 PM people do their own thing with their Greek organization where you don’t necessarily want to walk into another fraternity’s house, but once it gets later everything opens up. I didn’t know that going in, but it’s one of the things I really appreciated about the school. It’s a great way to run into friends and not feel like your social identity is based on the group you’re a part of. [About 74% of students are involved in Greek life. There are about 1,800 undergraduate students.]
What is an alternative to going to a party or a bar that you like for a weekend option?
You definitely could do a lot of outdoors-related stuff. Certain people would do a lot of backpacking and hiking throughout the region. People would also go into town and get food or go see a movie. Also, people would just hang out at their houses, be with their friends, and do their own thing on campus. I personally never participated in the arts community, but I know there’s a place called Friday Underground where there were live performances.
How happy were you with the nightlife options at W&L? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I think it’s very rewarding and I’m happy with how it was. If the school were in a larger city, I think it would be beneficial just because you’d have more options. One of the best parts of being at a small school is you get to know a lot of people but, conversely, you see the same people often and it makes you want to be around others. Sometimes you have to balance your friends and hang out with a different group just to have a different experience and meet others.
How did you meet your closest friends?
The majority came from my sport just because you see them every day at practice, lifts, and traveling together. You’re basically doing stuff together nonstop. The other large portion is from Greek life. A lot of living situations are based on that because when you join the group, you become close friends with them because there is a reason why you took part in that organization.
How would you describe the overall social scene?
I would say it’s pretty good. I made a lot of friends just by going out and getting to know people. You can have a great time no matter where you are just because you know a lot of the people there. You never have the uncomfortable feeling of not knowing anybody and feeling like you should leave. For the most part, it was always positive.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
W&L is definitely a unique place in regards to that. Over my four years, I could see it change for the better. Diversity can be something that it lacks from racial and sexuality standpoints, but when you look at it from academics, it’s very diverse in terms of people’s interests. Socially, I’m sure it can be difficult for some students, but from my freshman to senior year I saw a positive transformation in terms of inclusion and people being more comfortable in the environment. It’s improved and I think it’s going to get even better. There were never issues while I was there, it’s just not an accurate representation of how the rest of the world is. [About 80% of students are White. In January 2019, the president acknowledged that W&L has the least diverse student body among its peer institutions and sought to address the issue.]
How would you describe the student body?
You would often find two groups of people. There are big groups of people from the Northeast and big groups of people from the Southeast. It was interesting to see the dynamics between those groups as far as interests and hobbies. You could hang out with one group and then walk next door and have a completely different environment personality-wise. Because the school is so Greek life heavy, you could see certain fraternities be for certain groups of people who are usually from the same area. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just that you know your interests and there might be a group of people from the same area with the same interests who come together and are part of the same fraternity. [About 42% of the Class of 2022 come from the South Atlantic, and 22% come from the Middle Atlantic and New England.]
To what extent do people in Greek life and not in Greek life mix socially?
They mix often. Those who don’t participate in Greek life, whether it’s just that they didn’t want to be a part of it or the social and nightlife aspect is not for them, there was never any exclusion. Greek life here is more about allowing you to find a group of people through a fraternity to hang out with and spend time with. I had a handful of guys on my team who weren’t in Greek life who I would hang out with all the time, they are just more so focused on school and sports. Greek life is not a huge commitment, but there are things you have to do as part of the organization.
How do you like the size of Washington & Lee in terms of undergraduate enrollment? How has that impacted your experience? [There are about 1,800 undergraduates.]
I really liked it for about 90% of the time. It’s awesome getting to know people and see them so often that you can establish really strong relationships. You find yourself encountering a large percentage of the student body. It was perfect to have the school year the length it was because you can go to a larger environment when you finish up with exams. When you see the same people you want space. That’s not a negative, I just think it’s important to get into a new environment when you’re doing the same thing over and over again. I was definitely happy with the size.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
For the majority of students, the alumni network is outstanding. They always want to help W&L students. What I have noticed is you can identify certain sectors that a lot of students want to be a part of. For example, if somebody wanted to work in finance, the options to find alumni were almost unlimited. But, because it is small, if you’re not in one of the main professions it can be difficult because there are small classes graduating each year. In my experience, they are always willing to help you out and answer the phone to give back to the school. [The top fields of employment for graduates are Financial Services and Economics/Finance.]
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
I used it personally to help finalize my resume and get some things under control before I applied to companies. I also used them a good bit when I studied abroad after my sophomore year. They helped me find a place to work and helped me with my resume. It was very helpful and they want to help. It’s very easy to meet with them and they’re very accessible by email, phone, and LinkedIn.
Have you learned any computer programs that will be helpful professionally?
There’s a class every business school student and a lot of other students have to take called INTR 200, 201, and 202, which is a programming course that you have to pass to get into the upper-level classes. You learn about the Microsoft suite and other programming tools that you can use in upper-level courses. Other business classes use a handful of data modeling tools like R, Sequel, and Stata.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
What is something you wish you knew about W&L before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew more about what I wanted to do. One of the great things about W&L is there are a lot of prerequisite courses that expose you to a lot of things that you never thought you’d want to learn about. I loved every moment of that, but then I got the second semester of my junior year and I figured what I want to do, which some of my major applied to. There were certain classes outside of my major that would have been awesome to take, but, because of demand from other students, especially the younger students, it was hard to get into them. For example, when I was a senior I wanted to learn a few more data modeling and coding programs to have in my arsenal, but, unfortunately, they keep the classes that teach those reserved for freshmen because they need that class for their major.
What is something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The atmosphere of the campus. We have a cool thing called The Speaking Tradition that may sound strange at first, but the premise is you’re always trying to do your best to be friendly and say hello to each other. Anytime you walk by somebody you can say hello to anyone and they say hi back. Because of the type of school it is, you get to know everyone and enjoy the type of environment it is. I was a big fan of it. I loved getting the chance to talk with individuals as I’m walking by. When I find myself outside of campus in a big city and you try to say hello to someone, it’s not the same.
What is something a prospective student interested in Greek life may want to know that we haven’t touched on?
The connections you establish with older alumni is very unique. When people come back to visit during alumni weekend, you take pride in the group you’re part of. The alumni will stop in the fraternity house and eat dinner with you. They’ll invite you over to dinner if you’re staying in the area. It’s a super friendly group that allows you to expand your network of people not only you went to school with but you have an outside connection with as well.
Reasons to attend Washington & Lee:
1) I love that it’s a small liberal arts school that has a business school as a part of it. It gives you the best of both worlds.
2) I love the Greek life aspect of the experience. It gets you closer with people that you probably wouldn’t have had the chance to meet without it. It helps you make life long friends.
3) I really enjoyed the housing and living on campus. The school does a great job of accommodating for you and making sure the experience is enjoyable.
4) I like the liberal arts education and the fact you have to take classes that you wouldn’t normally take. My freshman year I took an Asian film history class that I had no interest in, but by the end of the semester, it was one of my favorite classes.
5) The small class sizes. You have a lot of one-on-one time with professors and you feel like you learn a lot. [About 72% of classes at W&L have fewer than 20 students.]
Reasons to not attend Washington & Lee:
1) While they are doing a good job of improving it, the diversity within the student body can be a little disappointing. There’s nothing wrong with the people there, but sometimes you wish it was more similar to what you see in the real world. [About 80% of students are White.]
2) Don’t come if you’re not looking for a small school atmosphere or small class sizes.
3) Socially, you have to do things that are more house party-based whether it’s through Greek life or off-campus. You’re not going to be going into town.