Review and FAQ from Wake Forest 2020 Grad

Unsure why this was flagged before…let’s try reposting.

Hello there everyone! I remember being a senior in high school (almost 5 years ago now) scrolling through College Confidential for advice on which colleges to apply for! I was reminded of this site when I ran into a few students from my high school and, I figured, it’s my turn to help the community that helped me.

The following post will be helpful for potential applicants in this next cycle, students going into Wake this upcoming year, and parents who are just curious. First a little about me:

I graduated this past May with a B.A. in Biology and a minor in writing. I’m currently enrolled in a Masters in Biomedical Science. I had quite a few extracurricular activities while at Wake including being president of a library organization, PR rep of a multicultural sorority, and a writing tutor. I think it might be important to mention that my ethnic background is Asian and Arab since often Wake has a reputation of not being the most diverse campus (I will get more into that later).

Now for my review: I’ll first cover the academics, then social life, diversity, Winston-Salem, and a quick FAQ section that might be more helpful for incoming students. For the record, I’m not an admissions counselor but I had a pretty diverse range of friends who also helped me shape this review with their experiences in addition to my own.

Academics:
Wake lives up to its reputation of being a competitive “southern ivy.” I was an A student throughout high school. That was definitely not the case in college and it was a hard lesson to learn that good grades don’t come easy. However, I find that courses get easier as you progress into a major. Weed out courses will often encompass your freshman and sophomore year (for pre-health it would be organic chem and for business, most likely, accounting). If you find yourself performing well in weed out courses, you will most likely do very well the rest of your time at Wake. If you aren’t performing well, it’s not something to fret over. Professors are almost always open to talk and are supportive of student success as long as they see you putting in the effort. They might help you develop a better learning style which would help you out in later courses.
A downside, however, to a competitive university is how cutthroat students tend to be about grades. The atmosphere can sometimes be suffocating and you’ll feel a little down or inferior when your grade isn’t above the average. It’s not the best place to go if you don’t take stress easily (I don’t take stress well but I learned to cope).
Wake, in itself, provides great connections and a powerful education for your resume. Most students have success finding a career or grad opportunity after graduating. My class is just a unique case (darn you COVID-19).

Social Life:
Wake is indeed a party school as stated on several posts here. Wake has parties maybe 4-5 days a week at lounges, frat houses, and a club a few miles away called Last Resort. I wouldn’t consider myself a party person. I went to Last Resort maybe 4 or 5 times during my entire undergrad. Also went to maybe 2-3 frat parties to see what they’re like. I think Last Resort is a place to visit for all students at least once during their time at school because it doesn’t have that stuffy frat basement atmosphere and is a good chance to see what going out is really like. If you enjoy a spontaneous social life, Wake’s parties would definitely fit the definition of a crazy college party. If you aren’t a party person, that’s totally ok. There’s still a large portion of students who prefer hanging out with friends at their dorms. My friends and I would often just play video games in one of our rooms or we’d have a nice dinner over at Reynolda Village (highly recommend visiting, walkable distance from campus). Student union, the library, and other orgs also host events on weekends like movie nights, fairs, game tournaments, etc. There’s also a biennial extravaganza called President’s Ball that’s often something people look forward to (the next would be not this school year but the year after).
My closest friends did not participate in greek life. Some of them felt isolated due to the heavy influence greek life had on the student body. I felt a bit of that influence especially due to a lacking of female friends. Junior year, I joined a very small multicultural sorority that isn’t a part of the panhel council (the big-name sororities). Because of its small size, the relationships felt a lot more genuine. Several of the girls in that sorority were a part of the larger panhel ones and dropped due to a lot of forced relationships and annoying obligations. That being said, I also had a few friends who really enjoyed being a part of larger sororities and fraternities because it provided connections while also giving some necessary distraction to our heavy workload.

Diversity
Wake Forest is unfortunately not the most diverse campus. In most of my classes, there was maybe a proportion of 8 white students to every 1 non-white student. I’ve heard of several incidents of prejudice against black people, Hispanic people, and most especially Asian international students. I am privileged to have not experienced such prejudice despite not being white but my Asian friends have been ostracized both in and out of the classroom. I had a black friend who felt she was often looked down upon despite her being just as smart if not smarter than others in her class. My boyfriend who’s Hispanic would often avoid the community areas and lounges because he felt out of place. However, I will not totally devalue Wake’s efforts towards promoting diversity. There are groups to join such as the intercultural center and multicultural sorority which are great at promoting inclusivity and intersectionality. Wake is in the works of also adding a multicultural fraternity. There are also living communities and organizations targeted for specific groups (an all-Asian club, Hispanic club, etc). These groups don’t necessarily promote inclusivity but rather give a safe space for these groups of students who feel extremely ostracized and are looking for support from fellow students of the same background. I won’t lie: the campus is polarized. However, almost everyone ends up finding a positive and supportive group of friends. Inclusive and open-minded people are on that campus, you just have to look.

Winston-Salem
Hmm…to put it lightly, I thought Winston was quite boring. I came from a bit of a more bustling city in Florida so I found Winston-Salem to be a bit of a downgrade. I was able to find some more niche places in the city like cute coffee shops and a barcade later in my undergrad years. The city itself looks quite industrial, once being a city heavily influenced by tobacco producers. However, during my last year or so at Wake, I noticed Winston has been getting a lot of new developments that make it look a lot more “young and hip.” I believe they’re converting one of the central abandoned tobacco plants into an event space or park? So for you all that may be coming in later due to the pandemic, it might be a bit different than when I left back in March.
It’s also not the safest place to be at night. If you do decide to walk around, visit with friends. Food options are pretty great downtown though if you have some extra spending money or run out of cafeteria swipes.

Phew…that was a lot! Now I’ll do a brief FAQ in the next comment.

FAQ:

Are the dorms nice?
My underclassman dorms were not very nice. Old and lower floors had mold issues. However, Wake has recently renovated most if not all the older dorms and they look a lot nicer. I would also say invest in getting a single room in your later years, it’s a bit more expensive but very much worth it.

Should I bring a car?
In my opinion, yes. I think the transportation options aren’t necessarily bad at Wake but, since it’s in a relatively rural area, it’s hard to get to niche places or places that aren’t in downtown. Didn’t bring my car freshman year and I often felt trapped. Nearly all my friends brought their cars too. Beware though that the freshman and sophomore parking lots are quite a distance from the dorms.

Is Wake easily a walkable campus?
Very much yes! It takes maybe 30 minutes max for me to walk from one side of campus to the other. Also Wake is a scenic campus so it’s a nice walk anyway.

How’re the sports?
Was never super into watching any sports but our men’s soccer team have done well in the past few years and I enjoyed watching their games since they were on-campus and walkable from my dorm. Went to only one football game while others I know went to every home game. Also heard great things about the basketball games but never had a chance to go. There’s an interesting tradition to teepee the quad after wins.

What’re the fast food options on campus?
From when I was there, it was Chick-fil-a, Moe’s, Subway, and Starbucks (along with some Wake-specific options).

What’re good places to visit off-campus?
Well…I could make a whole new post in itself for this question (I saved most of my money from work to eat out, I’m a big foody). If people are interested, I can make a list for this in the future.

Thank you for reading! I did not regret my time at Wake because I met the most amazing people there! It had its ups and downs but I’m glad I didn’t transfer out or chose a different school. It’s a school with a reputation for many things but I think it deserves being considered a top 30 university. Please feel free to leave questions below and I’d love to answer!

Very nice, balanced and thoughtful analysis of the school. Also accurate; most of these observations are consistent with our impressions of Wake after four years there.

OP: To which other colleges or universities were you accepted ?

P.S. Thank you for writing such an insightful & balanced review !

I was accepted to several FL schools like UF, USF, and UMiami! I was also accepted into University of Richmond with a pretty hefty merit scholarship. Deciding between Wake and U of Richmond was a hard decision but I’m happy with it in the end.

Sorry, I should’ve said Wake Forest is surburban. I came from a big city so it seemed rural to me but I would say compared to a school like Davidson or Gardner Webb, it’s definitely not rural.

Congratulations on your graduation!!! Your last semester must have been quite trying to say the least. Really feel bad for all the seniors but you proved you are resilient. You’ll tell your kids about Covid -19 some day and how the world basically stood still for months.

Best of luck to you and your future endeavors.

“A downside, however, to a competitive university is how cutthroat students tend to be about grades. The atmosphere can sometimes be suffocating and you’ll feel a little down or inferior when your grade isn’t above the average. It’s not the best place to go if you don’t take stress easily (I don’t take stress well but I learned to cope).”

Ok. I need the real story on this. In Wake’s virtual programs this summer, they insist that the vibe in collaborative but don’t all schools say that? Do you think it’s mostly competitive in the pre-med route or is this overall?

We did get a little drip of competitiveness when one of the AOs in a virtual session told kids that they will look at senior first semester grades and “even if your high school is remote, we expect you to buckle down and get it done and turn in high grades”. Wow. Fifteen minutes earlier in the presentation, they were talking about how collaborative the vibe is at school and that comment does not match. Some other schools (notably Davidson and Richmond) have much more pandemic-friendly attitudes and say they understand that kids are going through a rough patch, to prioritize staying healthy, and doing the best you can at school under the circumstances. Those messages make those schools seem like much more friendly places.

Thoughts @LG_Dent ?

FWIW WFU has a long standing reputation as a fairly intense, competitive school hence the many decades old nickname of “Work Forest”.

Right. But S19 works like a horse at Bowdoin and he would never call it “competitive”.

OP has already commented on the competitive nature she experienced at WFU.

FWIW I would never confuse the campus culture of WFU, Davidson, or Emory (all hard-working, highly competitive schools located in the South) with that of Bowdoin College.

P.S. It may seem a bit unusual, but my impression is that these three Southern schools have a campus culture somewhat similar to Columbia & Northwestern in terms of hard-working & competitive, while Bowdoin College’s campus culture may be more similar to that of Brown University.

P.P.S. After reading the two comments below, I would like to add that WFU is, & for many decades has been, regarded as a fairly intense academic environment.

I think you can make a distinction between being competitive and “purposeful”. S is a rising senior finance major. It is a competitive field (getting internships, full time offers, etc.) There is a sense of purpose to him / his friends in that they want to be on track towards a successful outcome but they aren’t competitive with one another. They push each other to be successful (collaborative). They don’t hurt each other by keeping info from or not helping with study groups.

As an example, getting hired by banks, consulting companies, asset mgmt firms is quite competitive (the industry, not WFU). To me cutthroat / competitive would mean not wanting your buddy to apply to the same jobs, or attend info sessions. It would mean not helping each other study or discuss concepts in order to maintain a higher GPA to be viewed as more competitive for an interview. It would mean not sharing networking contacts.

Maybe that does happen with some kids(don’t know) but it is definitely not the case with S and his fairly large group of friends (who all have very solid opportunities heading in to senior yr). They root for each other. They help each other (in class, prep for interviews, share contacts, etc.) A few of them just signed up for a program within career services to help others pursue internships (sort of a mentoring program as I understand it). And this is in a pre-professional area.

His room mate and several other non business student friends are social scientists. They do research with professors and sort of just go about their business.

I think there is an overall sense, regardless of major, of wanting to do well. Keeping a strong GPA and earning Dean’s list are simply ways to measure that. Kind of being competitive with yourself or pushing yourself. Not wanting to achieve at the expense of others (cutthroat).

Sort of like playing golf. If I’m in a match, I want my playing partner to do well. It’s more fun if we both play well. But I’m really competing with myself. I would rather lose the match and play well (and even help him read putts along the way) than win while playing poorly.

That’s the attitude we’ve seen for three years.

@rickle1 Hm. I think that’s a very business major type of mindset. Those kids are competing for the same jobs and maybe there are cut offs for GPA for interviews? It’s just icky if you ask me. D21 wants off of the crazy train. S19 feels very much off of it at a top five LAC. Kids don’t discuss grades. We’ve heard from alums that a 3.5 and up wouldn’t hold any of these kids back from whatever they want to do. Kids are more about the learning than the GPA, that’s for sure. It’s so refreshing after being at a hyper-competitive high school.

Maybe I need to find a non-business, non-pre med Wake student to ask about grades. I really don’t get any student who knows how many kids made the dean’s list both this semester and last semester. That just says something about the student body if he is representative of the whole.

We really want a place that is about the learning, not the grades. Period.

@homerdog that was actually my point. Even in a naturally competitive field like business where there are only so many seats for internships and jobs, the kids are collaborative. Helping each other to reach their goals, not harvesting for themselves.

I think the LAC kids are even more so and are about studying areas of interest and sinking their teeth into research to whatever end that leads (grad school, academia, workforce).

I think the best way to view Wake is as an LAC that happens to have a great bolt on business school. Fortunately even those kids are required to satisfy the substantial core curriculum. By their nature, kids who seek the business path will be more focused on passing certain gates in order to pursue their future careers.

I remember the b school kids at my state flagship being very much that way 35 yrs ago. Prepping for interviews, comparing offers, etc. I was a Comm major (broadcasting) and nobody discussed that stuff. Lots of independent projects and going to each other’s presentations for support. Went to UMass. However, we weren’t as loosy goosy as Hampshire College up the street.

The B school at Wake represents between 20%-25% (250 - 300 out of 1200) of the class. That means 75%-80% of the class is involved in other endeavors.

My D is very interested in Wake but is concerned about the grade deflation. She’s planning on majoring in business. So the obvious concern is, what happens if she gets into WFU but, at the end of sophomore year, doesn’t get into the B school? Then what?? I know there’s always majoring in Econ etc, but it’s not quite the same. Does anyone here have a sense of what percentage of kids apply to the B school but don’t get in? I’m obviously not expecting 100% to be accepted, but if the acceptance rate is quite low, that is something to consider…

@rickle1 SUPER helpful last post. Thank you!!

Acceptance to the B school is pretty high. Something like 60-70%. But, by definition, there are those who are denied. S knows several that opted out based on the accounting pre req. He also knows many that were accepted but moved from finance or accounting to the management track. (Finance requires several accounting and quant / stat classes so it’s more of a technical finance degree than other programs.

Don’t want to hijack this thread so let’s get back to students sharing there thoughts.

Not a respectful answer from a student to a parent. Too bad.

You are a poor ambassador for your school. I need to earn your respect? Just wow.

This thread needs to get back on track. No reason for hostilities.

That said @verycornfused , I highly suggest you learn to disagree agreeably. As you age, you’ll find no one will take you seriously otherwise. Yeah I know, I’m just an old guy from a different generation…the kind that hires and influences others to hire you young bucks. Wouldn’t play well with leadership anywhere.