W&L from a First-Year's Perspective

<p>I remember searching through these forums as an anxious senior around this time last year and I told myself that once I finally make it through the process, I would try to make it a bit easier for those coming in. Another reason, I'm starting this is because I also remember posts that claim to hold "the truth" about W&L and frankly, it's just not accurate:</p>

<ol>
<li><p>Anyone who wants to be anything in the social scene must join the Greek system-This is by far the most naive statement I've heard. Yes, we have a 75%-85% Greek rate (people seem to enjoy inflating this number) but that also means that there's 25%-15% of people that aren't pledging or affiliated; people that probably share a surprising amount of things in common with you so that you'll grow just as if not closer to these people than those in a Greek house.</p></li>
<li><p>Everyone drinks: to not is social suicide-From my experience, there are three types of people (in terms of alcohol/social scene), those who do most of the drinking on campus (and a have a good time?), those who go out with those who do most of the drinking on campus and have a good time, and those who neither drink nor go out (and manage to have a good time). I'm not sure how this has been in the past but I can say with full confidence that there are people like you at W&L and anywhere you go. Because of the college stigma, I'll expound on the latter of the three by explicitly mentioning that there's a group of at least 30-40 first-year students on campus that obliterate the W&L social scene stigma not necessarily because they don't drink, but because they find other means to have fun (hide and seek in the academic buildings, game nights, scavenger hunts). Whichever category you fall under, there is a place for you at W&L. Times are changing and with Johnsons and Questbridgers coming in to populate the student body, an exciting change is upon us.</p></li>
<li><p>Blazers, boating shoes, sunglass straps, bow ties, etc-Simply said, yes people wear them. Do you have to wear them? No. Are there social pressures to wear them? I guess it depends on your group but based on my however limited experience, no.</p></li>
</ol>

<p>Don't let stereotypes blind you towards the opportunities that W&L stands to offer to you. If anyone has a question that they'd like an honest answer to, shoot.</p>

<p>Just yesterday I had an alum interview. I was very impressed and loved my visit to the W&L campus. The only thing I worry about is the small town of Lexington, as in will it still be something nice to return to for 4 years or so, or will it become very repetitive? Thanks!</p>

<p>Wonderful academic environment. Excellent education to be had. However, culturally, it still comes across like something out of the 1950s. Greek participation at 75-85%? Holy smokes. That's more of a conformist culture than Lehigh. 15-25% independent thinkers? You make it sound like that's a lot. </p>

<p>You believe drinkers and those who "go out" with them have a good time, but non-drinkers don't go out, and yet somehow "manage" to have a good time? </p>

<p>You mock the "30-40" (your estimate) frosh who hopelessly resist conformity by amusing themselves with kiddie games like "hide and seek" and "scavenger hunt." One wonders how you would know exactly what these non-drinking, non-Greek losers really do.</p>

<p>Talk about a conformist mindset. You'll be basically miserable, i.e., alone and a loser, if you don't do as we do. </p>

<p>Then this comment:
[quote]
Times are changing and with Johnsons and Questbridgers coming in to populate the student body, an exciting change is upon us.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>What does that mean? Poor people? Kids who ordinarily would not be able to afford W&L? Welcome to the 21st Century.</p>

<p>You've confirmed the validity of some of the stereotypes.</p>

<p>Dude, WTH is your problem?</p>

<p>W&L is a unique school. It is NOT for everyone, and that is well acknowledged.</p>

<p>You clearly have an issue with the greek system. Being greek =/= "conforming," being independent =/= "independent thinkers." People at W&L go greek, or become independent for many different reasons. There are a lot of different types of people in each of the fraternities and sororities, as well as independents. Some are wonderful, some are insufferable. If someone hates the greek system as much as you do, W&L is not the place for them, as they will carry a grudge about the majority of the population for four years. That's fine, W&L isn't for everyone.</p>

<p>As to drinkers/non-drinkers, as britta852 pointed out, Lexington is a small town. One of the reasons the drinking culture is so prevalent is that there simply isn't a lot to do in the town, outside of fraternity parties (especially freshman year). That being said, the school tries to provide entertainment outside of drinking. There are pool tables & games in the commons. Free movies every night. Various sports (some intramural, some [like ultimate frisbee and polo] organized by the students but run through the school). The greek orgs will organize various philanthropy events, such as a dance-a-thon, volleyball tournament, or 5k run, which are fun to watch or participate in.</p>

<p>I was always happy to return to Lexington. If you try, you can always find something to do, and someone to do it with. Sometimes you do have to try, though.</p>

<p>The Johnson Scholars don't really connote "poor kids," although as with ANY private school, W&L is quite expensive, and the JS helps to attract kids who can't afford the tuition. Johnson Scholars more connotes the really really serious students. Although W&L is extremely rigorous academically, and students work hard, Johnson scholars tend to (maybe are supposed to?) tamp down the "play hard" part of the W&L edict. It doesn't always work [one of the hardest drinkers I know was a Johnson Scholar], but that stereotype still exists. Overall, though, the Johnson Scholarship is really designed to expand awareness of W&L, get more applicants, and thus get a more diverse student body. </p>

<p>Not sure what Questbridgers are.</p>

<p>Pseudonym16-
do people that go to W&L hang out with VMI kids?
and do you know anyone that does RUF on campus?</p>

<p>Calm down bud, I dont think he was trying to say that he hates the greek system. He was just trying to turnover the stereotype that the greek scene is a "necessary" thing at the school. As far as we know he may be in a house, he was just trying to prove the point that W&L is a diverse and accepting environment for all types of people.</p>

<p>Plainsman, I would like to invite you to step off your high horse. Pseudonym was just giving an honest assessment of his school, and, as he says, W&L is not for everyone, including those with a holier-than-thou northern elitist attitude.</p>

<p>britta852-</p>

<p>Well I can't say with absolute certainty that Lexington won't get repetitive after four years but in my experience the answer to your question is both yes and no. I've lived in a major metropolitan area all my life and I thought I would dislike living in a small city. After the first month or two of college I felt like Lexington had lost some of it's luster but when I went home for Thanksgiving, I actually felt a bit homesick for Lexington and it was then that I realized how much I love it here (bear in mind I still haven't felt homesick for my hometown). W&L keeps you very busy whether its academic, social, extracurricular (or some mix thereof) and it almost feels like Lexington is an extension of W&L's campus. Small cities aren't directly comparable to big cities because one's pro isn't necessarily the other's con and vice versa. Being a part of a small city gives me a feeling that I've never really had before and while I can't completely explain it, I know it's there and I wouldn't exchange it for a big city.</p>

<p>Plainsman-</p>

<pre><code>Exactly what aspects of (your perception) of W&L's culture is "out of the 1950s"? As for your designations of Greeks as conformists and independents as independent thinkers, I ask you to pause for a moment and look at what you've done. For someone who is seems to passionately abhor stereotypes you seem to be creating your very own. Can independent thinkers not participate in the Greek system as well? Notice your the fallacies in your argument:
</code></pre>

<ol>
<li>You incorrectly assume that all motivations for going Greek are about conforming to societal pressures.</li>
<li>You incorrectly assume that societal pressures are inherently negative (isn't following the law a society pressure?)</li>
<li>You incorrectly assume that the Greek system is inherently negative.</li>
</ol>

<p>As for your comments regarding independents:</p>

<ol>
<li>You incorrectly assume that all independents are non-conformists.</li>
<li><p>You incorrectly assume that non-conformitity is equivalent to independent thinking.</p>

<p>The Greek offers advantages in it of itself besides the stigma of going Greek (if that is even an advantage). The most common phrase I hear when talking about W&L's Greek scene is that it's different at W&L than any other school. Your stereotypical Greek partiality doesn't apply to W&L because you don't understand it. Students don't go Greek because they feel pressured to do so, rather they join it because they feel that it offers more than you give it credit for. However, your ignorance is no excuse.
I use the word "manage" to indicate that, contrary to popular belief, fun exists outside of alcohol. Shocker eh? Nevertheless, I believe it is a fact that for those who find entertainment in a substance, such entertainment is more readily available than entertainment found in something more evanescent. As for "mocking", I have been painstakingly careful to avoid unnecessary bias in my posts and I can assure you that once you let go of your own bias, you'll see that no "mocking" has occurred. On to what you deem "kiddie games", you seem to be well over the hill to have forgotten what it was like to be a college student and I can again say with certainty that many if not most college students find these "kiddie games" entertaining, none the less.
Then again perhaps I should mention other "non-kiddie" activities that are offered. The Outing Club is awesome. For 40 dollars you get membership for all four years of your W&L undergrad they have weekly and sometimes bi-weekly trips. So far I've gone white water rafting down the New River and the Gauley River (one of the best commercial white water rafting rivers in the world), zipling through the canopy, repelling down the sorority bridge (a study break offered during exam week) and that's just with Outing Club. Furthermore, in as prestigious a school as W&L is, it follows that its students are smart, resourceful, and creative enough to create their own entertainment.
"Non-drinking, non-Greek losers"..? Honestly? I'm not even going to bother approaching this logically because clearly you refuse to. The same goes for "miserable" and "alone".
The Johnson Scholarship (along with the Robert E. Lee Scholarship) is a merit based scholarship and the Questbridge program is both merit and financial based. This means that people from different backgrounds and fresh perspectives are coming to W&L so that if stereotypes do exist within W&L, they will be challenged.</p></li>
</ol>

<p>marmaros
Some do, I actually know of relationships between VMI cadets and W&L students although it's uncommon. As for RUF on campus, I'm not actually sure what that is so I'm going to say no.</p>

<p>@Pseudonym
Oh its Reformed University Fellowship...like an on campus christian organization. </p>

<p>Once again sorry to like change the subject but do you like the way the semesters are set up? and have you/do you want to study abroad?</p>

<p>When I recently visited for some reason geology (?) was the most discussed major... Do a lot of students take classes in this area?</p>

<p>FYI, there is a fairly active RUF on campus. And while there is very little male W&L-VMI interaction, LOTS of girls date cadets.</p>

<p>We visited twice - once for a visit - once for interview - loved the place - met the regional rep at our high school also - have >1500 SAT ( math & CR) 3.8 GPA - hope we get a fair look.</p>

<p>@plainsman- What an incredibly narrowminded view you seem to have of W&L! As an attorney you know how dangerous stereotyping can be. My daughter is a freshman at Washington and Lee, and your views are contrary to her reality. While she is Southern, Episcopalian, and the product of a very selective private school education; she does not drink every night, wear here Barbour coat every day, nor wear her pearls to class!</p>

<p>Washington and Lee is not for everyone, nor should it intend to be. It is a fine, venerable, highly selective Southern liberal arts college with great history and tradition. Some may abhor it's perceived lack of diversity; we celebrate it! My wife and I find great comfort in the quality of our daughter's education, and that she is surrounded by incredibly bright, overachieving, well-raised students like herself!</p>

<p>
[quote]
Anyone who wants to be anything in the social scene must join the Greek system-This is by far the most naive statement I've heard. Yes, we have a 75%-85% Greek rate (people seem to enjoy inflating this number) but that also means that there's 25%-15% of people that aren't pledging or affiliated; people that probably share a surprising amount of things in common with you so that you'll grow just as if not closer to these people than those in a Greek house.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>You should hold off on commenting on greek or independent life until after your class rushes. It can be hard on some people. Lots of us ended up in organizations we love, but some don't. Friendships do change after rush...... ask any upperclassman.</p>

<p>Anyone know about the Johnson scholarships? What candiates have been selected in past years? Do they look for leadership and community service, as well as strong academic stats? How much does SAT/ACT matter? Would an ACT of 33 work as long as there is great community service (currently a semi-finalist for Coca Cola Scholarship based on 2,000+ hours community service) and won top national science awards.</p>

<p>"Do they look for leadership and community service, as well as strong academic stats?"</p>

<p>If they do, then DS is up a creek, because he does not have a lot of killer ECs. :)</p>

<p>I'd bet they do take a holistic view, though. You should be fine.</p>

<p>Pseudonym -- your posts not only accurately depict life at W&L, but they assure people like me -- a parent of both a W&L 2010 grad and a W&L hopeful younger sibling -- that the campus is in the excellent care of students like you.</p>

<p>Creative Crew - they're Middle 50% for the ACT is a 31. A 33 is more than sufficient.</p>

<p>PS 24 days until I hear about EDII!!</p>

<p>Older daughter did not make finalist with a 33 ACT 3 years ago (inaugural year). Younger daughter, also with a 33ACT has applied this year, so we'll see what happens.</p>

<p>
[quote]
Pseudonym -- your posts not only accurately depict life at W&L, but they assure people like me -- a parent of both a W&L 2010 grad and a W&L hopeful younger sibling -- that the campus is in the excellent care of students like you.

[/quote]
</p>

<p>Definitely agree. Good posts Pseudonym.</p>

<p>@marmaros: My son is a sophomore at W&L and enjoys the RUF group. They have a great brunch for parents at Parents Weekend at the RUF sponsor's home. My son has thrived in his W&L experience so far. Feel free to send a private message to me if you would like to know more.</p>