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My W&L

"It is the strength of community and society that really makes W&L more than simply another great university."

Austin Pierce '15

W&L is truly one of those hidden jewels on the education scene. However, for those lucky enough not only to have found it, but also to have made it their home for four years, they have stepped into something bordering on the magical.

The rudimentary facts about W&L stick out easy enough: the students are smart, the campus is beautiful, and it has strong cultural traits like the Honor System and Speaking Tradition. However, what makes W&L as strong as an institution as it is to its students requires more than that. I call it "the W&L Effect." It is the strength of community and society that really makes W&L more than simply another great university.

For me, this has been apparent in several different areas of university life. First and foremost, the cross-section of students in many different extra-curricular activities helps to weave a fabric of student connections across the university. My experience in choir shows this heartily. Most afternoons, students hurry into Wilson Concert Hall to work on creating ephemeral yet stunningly beautiful art. What is most amazing of all is that students do not simply come down from practice rooms where they had been practicing arias for a music major recital. Yes, some students do just that, but most come from studying in the Science Center, volunteering at local schools, or taking a class in one of many subjects. Through that musical experience together, we reveal some of the most intimate and personal parts of our souls, and it creates a family within the confines of the University.

This is not limited to the University's aesthetic endeavours. Indeed, several of the strong links I have seen forged at W&L have been formed in other social arenas. Personally, I have remained outside of the Greek system, but I willingly laud it for helping many students on campus to form strong connections both with members of their own class year and with members of other class years who meld well with a particular group of individuals. Outside of the Greek system, I have personally worked to develop more such opportunities for those who remain independent and those who wish to participate in alternatives to the traditional party scene. With the efforts of a few friends, this developed into PLAY, one of the university's newest but fastest growing student organizations.

Through the roughly biweekly activities hosted through PLAY, I have seen so many friendships and connections grow that might otherwise have not come to fruition. In its first months, it helped me to become close to several members of my class who were just acquaintances beforehand, and are now indispensable parts of my college career and subsequent life. Aside from this, I have been blessed to witness people from very different parts of campus come together and forge new friendships because they now have a forum of interaction that is attractive and entertaining to a large portion of campus.

The last major note I have on this subject ties into another of my great blessings at W&L—being a general co-chair of the First-Year Orientation Committee. This has really helped me to develop an even greater "big plan" appreciation for the W&L Effect. Here, students come together with faculty and administration to prepare our orientation activities. W&L Orientation is different from many other colleges in that we don't bring in small groups over the summer for a few days. Instead we welcome the entire incoming class through a whole week of orientation talks and activities, and provide checkpoints for them throughout the term. This would be almost impossible without the dedicated support of so many students, and the sheer fact that we have pulled off such a massive event for years shows how much the whole W&L community—students, faculty, and administration—bond together in one of the best university experiences available.

I was originally reticent to come to W&L, but I realize now that I could have made no better choice. I am so grateful for the experiences and memories I have made here, thanks to the powerful ethos and strength of community at this school. I can truly say that the students here take ownership of a family, and we are all proud to be able to call it "Our W&L."

Austin Pierce '15

Hometown: Yorktown, VA

Majors: Philosophy, East Asian Languages and Literatures (Chinese)

Extracurricular Involvement:

  • General Co-chair of First Year Orientation Committee
  • Co-founder and President of PLAY
  • Baritone in Chamber Singers and General Admission

Off-Campus Experiences:

  • Research Archivist at Texas Wendish Heritage Society

Post-Graduation Plans: Graduate School

Favorite Class: MUS 110: W&L Singers

Why did you choose W&L? The abundance of meaningful, intellectual conversations, the sense of community, and the strength of traditions.

Why did you choose your major? Philosophy provides the opportunity to study and thoroughly analyze many different facets of life. Not only do you study how to construct a valid argument, but you also study questions such as what makes a good life, how do we know things about the universe, and what actions are permissible or obligatory in certain complex situations.

Advice for prospective or first-year students? Embrace W&L and let it embrace you. The campus is certainly flexible to whatever goals you have, so long as you find the right channels. Everyone wants you to be successful, and if you look, you can find people to really nurture who you want to be.

What do you wish you'd known before you came to campus? How willing the faculty, administration, and students are to help you tailor the best possible experience at the university.

Transformative Education

Washington and Lee seeks to foster an atmosphere of self-discovery and an environment where anything is possible.

In Action People and Programs

Washington and Lee fosters an atmosphere of self-discovery and an environment where anything is possible. From research theses to fully student-led theater productions, the University makes it easy for students to follow their dreams. Every year, students present research proposals to faculty and pursue hypotheses in both the sciences and the arts. Student research can occur both on campus and off, with research grants specifically designated for both areas.

With an average class size of 16, it's easy to find faculty advisors for both major projects and new clubs. Many students propose self-guided majors or pursue a double-or even triple-major, given the inclusive nature of a liberal arts education. This provides students with the opportunity to discover their passions, and also with the support to pursue them.

The University's four-week Spring Term is designed to be transformative. The courses offered during the term are set up with the dream-class concept in mind, remarkable examples of creative and expansive teaching: studying painting in Italy; the Freedom Rides throughout the South; the physics of music; code-breaking in mathematics and history; aerial dance; and many, many more. Rigorous internships and co-curricular programs like Mock Convention, the Venture Club and the Williams Investment Society immerse students in real-world learning situations that bring the concepts they've studied in the classroom to life.

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At a Glance Facts and Figures

At W&L, 22% of classes have 2-9 students, 49% have 10-19 students, 27% have 20-29 students and just 1% has 30-39 students.
44 Johnson Scholarships are awarded annually.
114 Johnson Opportunity Grants have been awarded since 2009 to support student summer experiences.
The W&L course catalog includes 1200+ courses in 37 majors and 21 minors.
190 new courses were created by W&L faculty for the new four-week Spring Term.

Visit, Interview, Apply See Yourself Here

Ready to learn more? Come visit us in Lexington for a campus tour and class visit, or connect with one of our admissions counselors in a city near you. We look forward to meeting you.

Visit Tours and Interviews

Step One:

Schedule your visit with a campus tour and/or info session online.

Step Two:

Call our office to schedule your interview and/or class visit (for high school seniors only). We will coordinate your interview and class visit with your already scheduled visit. (540) 458-8710.

Can't make it to Lexington?

There are various ways in which you can still connect with Washington and Lee University and the Office of Admissions:

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Apply Quick Guide

  • Early Decision is a binding commitment; enrollment is required if you are accepted.
    • ED-1: Nov. 1
    • ED-2: Jan. 1
  • Regular Decision is for students who want to maximize options.
    • Deadline: Jan. 1
  • Johnson Scholarship (additional essay required, instructions on the W&L Writing Supplement to the Common Application.)
    • Deadline: Dec. 1
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Financial Aid and Scholarships

We seek to ensure that the cost of attending W&L does not prevent outstanding students from choosing to enroll. A generous need-based aid program and merit-based scholarships can make that investment more manageable than you may think. Visit Financial Aid for more information.

The Johnson Scholarship Program awards over 40 full tuition, room and board scholarships annually. Read More

Admitted students who meet financial aid deadlines and are found to have need will have their full need met with grant funds and a work-study job -- no loans.

The W&L Promise guarantees free tuition to any undergraduate student admitted to Washington and Lee with a family income below $100,000. Learn More

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Washington and Lee University provides a liberal arts education that develops students' capacity to think freely, critically, and humanely and to conduct themselves with honor, integrity, and civility. Graduates will be prepared for life-long learning, personal achievement, responsible leadership, service to others, and engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.