Wake Forest Campus Vibe

My S is looking at a number of liberal arts schools, mostly in the New England area. However, Wake Forest interests him due to size, alignment with his stats, ranking (at least on paper), and what seems to be decent sports environment.

Can anyone comment on the campus vibe? Compared to the perhaps more liberal/intellectual places in New England, I’ve heard it is a conservative, white, frat guy/sorority girl kind of place. I’m not being pejorative, just looking for some frank observations.

Definitely search past threads, there have been discussions in the past year about the vibe and the Greek life.

Our impression was that Greek life was a large part of the social scene, and then there are the “Work Forest” and “Work Hard Play Hard” phrases that go along with the school. These turned my son off but for many, it’s a great fit and great school. And I’m personally a big fan of the midsized schools!

Based on your post which started this thread, my impression is that WFU is not for you. Does your son feel the same ?

Hi! I was recently accepted to Wake Forest for the class of 2025! Personally, I was looking for a midsize school with football, school spirt, sororities, great academics, and a strong ranking. For me, Wake Forest was a perfect fit that met all of my requirements. I have visited the campus and loved it! I also have a family friend who attends WFU. My friend told me that greek life plays role in the social scene on campus and the “work hard, play hard” reputation is very accurate. I would have to say that Wake is not dominantly conservative, however it probably differs from the small liberal arts colleges in New England. It all depends on what your son is looking for! Hope this is helpful!

I’m not really sure what you’re asking, but I feel that Wake is a pretty academically focused environment. Sure there are white people in Greek Life, and probably more conservative students than most T-30’s, but it’s pretty balanced in my opinion.

On Greek Life, the school is definitely waging a war on it. I guess they are just reflecting current cultural tides in higher education. But most students come from the north, so it’s not really a southern school IMO.

But that’s just my opinion, as a white male in a fraternity from Mississippi.

Have posted on similar threads. Am doing so again as it would be easy or natural for opinions to change / evolve over time but mine have been consistent during son’s 4 yrs at Wake (current senior).

Academics: rigorous, seeking depth of knowledge in all classes (no easy As), dedicated profs who teach and research (with a primary focus on teaching). Essentially all classes taught by profs, small class size (something like 90% under 30 kids). Easy to form very solid relationships with profs (and they like that)

School Spirit: Abundant. Not just athletics but in everything. There is a certain energy about campus. I think much of this stems from the three yr residential living requirement, the housing scheme (Pre Covid - all freshmen live in south campus, sophomores tend to cluster on the quad housing, etc.) and that there are no residential Greek houses (so even the Greek kids live on campus). Community service is a big deal at Wake. Nothing required but most get involved. There are marquee events that bring the entire campus together and it’s not hype. As an example, they just did the annual Hit The Bricks running event which raises funds for cancer research (Brian Piccolo Foundation). Over 1200 kids ran with many others involved in setup, handing out water bottles, etc. Tons of staff, admin, and profs participate too.

Social: Ah yes, to go Greek or not. This comes up a lot on these threads. Greek life is prevalent at Wake but is not the only way to have a very full, fun satisfying experience. S is non Greek and has had a blast while working his butt off. For those that join frat/srat life, it seems far more important to them Freshmen and Sophomore yrs. Is Greek life the leading source of large college parties? Yes. But S would tell you they’ve had many great nights at house parties, dorm parties, etc. I would describe the Greek vibe as more than “it’s just another activity for those who want that” and less than “You have to go Greek to have fun at Wake”.

Social2: Aside from the Greek debate - their is plenty to do via clubs, friend groups, cultural events, outdoor activities due to local geography / weather.

Political: About half the students are full pay which means their families have a certain amount of financial resources. Many associate that with wealth and conservatism. There are certainly those that fall into those categories. But half do receive aide. Wake draws heavily from the south, mid-atlantic, and northeast (and a pretty good following from the midwest and CA / TX). Point being there are all types. It’s not the stereotypical “southern school” (I hate those labels!) Yet it’s in the south and that comes with a certain southern charm within the overall community. S has several wealthy friends and several that come from quite modest means. They all just get along great.

Campus Vibe: From what we’ve seen and what S tells us, Wake is full of very smart, sharp, active students that are serious about their studies but like to have a good time. Plenty of Vals / Sals, class presidents, sports team captains, community service leaders. Active! Most are involved in several things and manage to juggle that with rigorous academics. Being part of the ACC adds a enormous element to the school spirit and games are well attended. The kids get to see some of the best national talent in several sports. A nice blend of the small, connected LAC feel (although bigger with 5k students) with the bigger national schools. There are plenty of “intellectuals” but I would say the scale weighs more heavily to the equally smart, but more active types.

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Happy to provide a frank observation as requested. For those who object, a reminder that a forum on which only rosy opinions are acceptable becomes useless to its audience. This forum has a regrettable track record of trying to drive off parents who post less-positive reviews, while amplifying positive reviews from parents whose students were accepted to the B-school, which provides a different experience than that available to the general undergraduate population…

Our take was the students who fit in best/are happiest/most successful at Wake are pre-professional/pre-business students from wealthy conservative families, ideally from the Southeast or Northeast. Students with high-level capabilities i.e. “high-stat” or socially gifted may also do well here regardless of background.

Culture is for sure dominated by the Greek scene. Administration is working diligently to weed that out by targeting mid and lower-tier chapters for extinction, although this leaves the elite houses, which arguably behave worst of all, in place. Ultimately this may mitigate the Greek influence on Wake culture, although since it’s clear the University does not intend to completely ban Greek life, it’s hard to say how it will all look in the end.

Our politically liberal daughter did not feel she was ostracized here exactly, but she did feel her views isolated her from her peers at times. Wake is definitely not a hotbed of intellectualism. Its officials, when they’re being honest, acknowledge there is a heavy pre-professional vibe that influences many things on campus, from course registration to general level of inter-student competition. As a side note, the pre-med program here is set up so not every student is guaranteed a letter of reference from the pre-med committee; potential pre-meds should be aware of that going in.

Not a lot of mixing between groups here. We were surprised by definite undertones of elitism present in certain administrative policies/decisions. Any time you have a wealthy student body of course there will be elitism, but we were surprised to see university policies reinforcing that. There’s also a lot of competition for what appear to be somewhat limited resources and opportunities, possibly related to the fact that Wake’s endowment is not as strong as that at comparable institutions.

In conclusion, this is not a place where you will find a lot of people wandering around wearing MAGA hats–Wake families are slicker than that-- but there is a distinctly different vibe than at the northeastern LACs and boarding schools I’m familiar with.

Seems to be a lot of disdain for the business school in the above post, a view consistent with older alums who I have talked to. But in my experience, the “disconnect” between the business school and the college is largely overhyped. Liberal arts majors complain/joke about how great the business school career services are, B-school kids complain/joke about how the college hands out free A’s compared to b-school . . . the grass is always greener. But other than that I mean the b-school is like 5 min away from dead center campus. Besides, the B-school is not remotely selective in its admissions process.

I would disagree about the comment that Wake is not intellectual, as it is in the top 30 I believe nationally, but I assume that’s a fair point in comparison to the Harvards and Stanfords of the country.

WFUparent1 has been grinding the same axe for so long. His/her daughter graduated years ago. Why are they still on here? It’s odd and tiring. I would take their feedback with a huge grain of salt.

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Thank you all for your comments. As some of you rightly noted, it’s my son’s decision. I am curious since I don’t know much about the school, other than having a fairly high ranking.

Thank you for your comment. By “intellectual” I mean dedicated to exploring a subject/concept in a spirit of thorough and open inquiry. This doesn’t necessarily mean gunning for the highest grade in the class.

I went to RPI as you may have surmised from my username :-). It was NOT intellectual in that sense and as a result I missed out on a full college experience.

Thanks for the detailed response. No school is perfect; your candor is appreciated!

Hi there, 2020 graduate of Wake here if you’re interested in a relatively current view of the school. When applying for colleges, I was also mainly interested in T-30 schools in the Northeast but Wake Forest caught my attention due to its beautiful campus and emphasis on small class sizes.

Wake Forest definitely has a different vibe than that of Northeastern schools but I wouldn’t say less “intellectual.” Greek life definitely has a large presence on campus but students who decide not to join greek life tend to find student orgs that are more suitable for them. I personally joined a multiculutral sorority and found it a great fit!

As others have said, the school does have a larger conservative presence than most t-30 schools but I didn’t find myself ostracized for having more liberal views.

I think in comparison to a lot of schools in the New England area, Wake does have a lot of school spirit and campus camaraderie. Party culture is big at Wake but, if your S doesn’t care for that, there’s always people there who prefer playing video games in the dorms or out taking a hike on the neighboring trail. I personally wasn’t the party type and I found a lot of other alternatives for a Friday/Saturday night.

I’m unsure what your S plans to study or what type of social life he would be interested in but I go into a detailed review of my experience as a biology student here if you’d like to read!


Feel free to message me with any questions!

Gotcha, that makes more since RPIguy. There are definitely students who pursue things outside of your interest, and even if you are planning on applying into the Business School, you don’t take majority business classes until your junior year. So you get to take lots of liberal arts stuff.

Another thing worth mentioning is that there’s a fairly generous pass/fail system. I took a 300 level Hispanic Linguistics class last fall that was really interesting but hard and disconnected from my major (Accountancy). I was able to take it pass/fail so I didn’t have to worry too much about binge studying for the test, and could approach it in a more leisurely manner.

The school definitely pushes and encourages your definition of “intellectual,” but obviously there are some pre-med kids and business kids who are so uninterested in classes outside their discipline. It’s really what you make of it.

Hi, I am trying to get a realistic picture of the student academic workload. I have read a few of the “Work Forest” comments about how kids work ALL of the time. Beyond focused on work to a point it is all they do and way above other strong and rigorous colleges. That it is very competitive between students etc. WF has everything my son wants in a school, size, location, strong academics, small student teacher ratios, liberal arts, etc. As he started to research he was turned off by some of the reviews of kids just hyperfocused 110% on work. Is that just with some majors or the B-school or per professional? I would love a current take from a student. With covid we are not able to visit. My son is on the edge of applying when I feel he is putting too much weight of just a few student reviews. But if that is the case, it would be good to know. Thank you!

@LD3790 Not a student but a parent of one (senior B school - finance). Have had many conversations with S about classes, grading, workload, etc. The average Wake student is pretty busy, juggling activities and classes. How busy generally depends on what role and how many ECs they have, if they work, and what type of student they are.

Like any college, you will find a spectrum ranging from kids who study all the time to kids who just do enough to get by. I would say the average kid wants to do well, is an achiever (that’s who applies and typically has a track record of great achievement in HS) and therefore cares about outcomes.

Classes are challenging but manageable. No easy "A"s. Some refer to it as grade deflation. I don’t buy that. It may feel like that compared to schools with significant grade inflation. From what S has shared with me, the profs want the students engaged and to get a strong handle on the subject matter. And they are quite supportive of students that put in the effort.

S and his friends are pretty busy with ECs. Most of them consistently make Dean’s List. They have a lot of fun and get their work done. One of S’ skills is being quite organized and structured. He blocks off time to get stuff done. Always has. That seems to be common in his group. He hovers around a 3.5 gpa. I’ve always asked him what it would take to increase to a 3.7 or 3.8 (too late for that now) and he would typically say the additional work wasn’t proportionate to the increase and didn’t feel it was worth it. He could certainly do more work but that would cut in to his overall experience which has been great. He also has landed a great job with a top firm, so he sees that as validation. I think the workload/ time spent is a pretty personal decision. He has friends that study far more and less. Some of them are naturally gifted / brilliant and just learn things like multivariable calculus quite easily. Others struggle. Suffice to say, you’ll find all types and if you’re organized, you will have time for lots of fun.

@rickle1 thank you for sharing your student’s experience. I appreciate it. I feel he really needs to hear from wide base of students regarding this. I am afraid he read a few that focused solely on how crazy the work culture is and beyond what even Ivy’s expect. So he has it in his head its not for him. Which is a shame. Hes a great student, works hard and I suspect he would do just fine. Tomorrow is a Wake Session for his school he will attend and make his decision after that. Its so hard when you cant visit, doesnt help.

Hi, it seems like your S may have already made his decision, but wanted to share my experience incase he was still unsure. I transferred to wake this fall from a T5 school and I absolutely love Wake even during a pandemic. I know people call it work forest but in total honesty, it is a MUCH better balance than most other schools. I have a demanding schedule but still have time to work a job down town, go to the gym, sleep 9 hours a night, or just hangout with friends. Wherever you go to college will require effort for school and your schedule is what you decide to make it. The campus is extremely positive/fun and it is not cut throat academic in the slightest from what I or my friends have experienced. I actually never visited campus before committing- the online tour is pretty good and the campus is even more gorgeous in person (we get a lot of reallyyyy good sunsets). Best of luck with the decision! Let me know if you have more questions.

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Hello!! I was off CC for while but now that my S has just about finished all applications I’m pleased to say he has decided to apply. He did his research and his diligence. I can’t thank you enough for your review, which I shared w him!! He will submit RD in a few days! :pray:t3::pray:t3::pray:t3: Good luck to all applicants and stay safe!


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Best of luck! Let me know if he has any remaining questions.