I was set on going to college at UVA since I was 8 years old. No one, including myself, understood the root of my passion for a completely unfamiliar school. Everyone in my family had gone to school in South Carolina, and my friends all planned to go to schools near my hometown, Greenville. But for some reason, UVA always felt right.
During my senior year, my parents and three younger siblings road-tripped “to the North” to tour colleges. An hour before we arrived in Charlottesville, my dad took the Lexington exit to Washington and Lee (W&L). I told him there is no point in visiting such a small school, assuring him that I would never apply. But the instant that I stepped onto campus, I realized that W&L felt even more right. Little did I know, I would be fortunate enough to attend UVA four years down the road.
My time at W&L was incredible, and if I could rewind back to the day I made my college decision, I wouldn’t do a thing differently. After four years, I had grown into the person I am today.
After graduating on the Colonnade, I felt nostalgic as I said goodbye to my home of four years. Yet during the first days of the program, I found myself walking through a new row of columns that seemed strangely familiar. I’m pleasantly surprised how close to home I feel at UVA as a W&L alum. Each day, I realize how well the two schools complement each other. The M.S. in Commerce Program has been the perfect stepping stone, and has allowed me to have another year in an incredible place, with many of the elements that I love most about W&L.
Here are seven reasons why the two schools mesh so well:
1 – The History
I quickly learned that UVA students talk about Thomas Jefferson as much as W&L students talk about George Washington and Robert E. Lee. Both of the schools’ history began with two of our nation’s earliest presidents, and both hold tight to their extraordinary legacies. W&L and UVA were founded in 1749 and 1819, respectively. If age equals wisdom, why not learn from both?
2 – Quirky Traditions
I’m not sure how I felt when I realized that like W&L students, UVA students have bucket lists of traditions that include “streaking.” Streaking the Colonnade or Lawn is one of many quirky traditions that W&L and UVA have in common. From secret societies to floating the river, both schools has a plethora of traditions that make student life exciting and memorable.
3 – Honor
In the first weeks at both W&L and UVA, we attended extensive meetings about the significance of the honor code. At W&L, I was able to take exams in my room, leave my book bag unattended in the library, and know that everyone took my word for the truth. The centrality of the honor code made W&L incredible, and it was great to learn that both inside and outside of the classroom, UVA students hold honor to the same standard.
4 – Virginia is Beautiful
Yes, students at both W&L and UVA work a lot, but at least we’re working in beautiful places! You can’t deny the beauty of either campus, and in both Lexington and Charlottesville, there are countless activities to do both on and off campus. I was so excited to find that when you drive just minutes outside Charlottesville, you experience the same beautiful country roads as those surrounding Lexington.
5 – The Best Professors
To be honest, coming in, I was extremely intimidated of McIntire professors. I had grown accustomed to small W&L classes with the professors who invited us over for dinner, and I assumed that there was no way these relationships with professors could exist at a larger school. But by the first week of class, students had already formed a fantasy football league with Professor Harris, our systems and strategy professor and the head of the MSC Program. Like the professors at W&L, the professors in the MSC Program are outstanding. When you feel behind, they want more than anything to get you up to speed. When you’re sick, they understand and genuinely care. They love what they do, and students’ success is their #1 concern.
6 – Alumni Network
I once thought that no one loved and remembered their college as much as W&L alums. UVA has proved me wrong. When I reached out to W&L alumni during my summer job search, each person I spoke with was so excited to help. Being on the other side, I can understand why, and it motivates me to want to help current W&L students in any way that I can. UVA alumni share a similar passion for their school, and have the same excitement while recruiting UVA students. Having access to alumni networks at both schools is incredibly valuable.
7 – The Students
I assumed that the W&L speaking tradition didn’t apply to other campuses, especially at large schools. But I’ve learned that UVA students are just as friendly. The students I’ve gotten to know at both UVA and W&L are not only intelligent, but they are incredibly interesting and caring. At both schools students are mostly on the same page, and there’s a shared feeling of being “in it together.” Being surrounded by such hardworking, kind, and motivated people constantly pushes me to be my best self.
I can’t imagine a better place, and a better program, to continue my academic and personal growth. I’m so fortunate to once again be in a tight-knit community, where I can build meaningful relationships with incredible students, teachers, and faculty who genuinely care.
And one final perk of the program—even though I love Lexington restaurant Bistro, after four years it’s great to have a few more restaurant options right around the corner (even Chipotle!)
-Written by Katie Nell Taylor