Why I Came to Washington and Lee
By Jack Fencl ‘22
College admissions is a scary process for everyone, but for conservative students it can be downright terrifying. Going into college, I️ thought that most schools were extremely liberal and that conservative voices were generally unwelcome on campuses. As a conservative student, this naturally gave me some unease. While looking for colleges, I️ grew increasingly concerned that I️ would be forced to choose between being socially ostracized or hiding my views. Neither of these were desirable options, but I️ was convinced that it had to be one or the other.
With those fears in mind, I️ began to look for schools where I️ felt my views would be respected rather than resented. Although fears of political discrimination did play a role in where I️ chose to apply, I️ had many other characteristics in mind when looking at schools. For example, I️ wanted a school that would help me grow my character along with my mind. Additionally, I wanted to go somewhere that was academically selective, had small classes, and had strong alumni connections, so it didn’t take me long to realize I️ wanted a liberal arts education. Once I️ had established that, Washington and Lee immediately and clearly grabbed my attention.
W&L seemed to have everything I️ wanted, so the decision to apply was an easy one. However, W&L did more than check a few boxes on my must-have list. W&L brought things to the table that other schools simply couldn’t. For instance, look at our school’s history and the pride we place in it. With figures like George Washington and Robert E. Lee deeply involved in our community’s past, W&L is truly a storied place. This not only appealed to me as a conservative, but also as a lover of history. To be sure, W&L’s past isn’t perfect. Far too frequently we failed to do the right thing, but if we as an institution can learn from our past shortcomings then our future will remain bright.
The history of our school certainly caught my attention, but perhaps a more important factor in my decision to apply and attend W&L was the atmosphere. By visiting campus and talking with alumni, I️ had a pretty good sense of what the school environment would be like. I️ had the impression that my, and all other, opinions would be respected and welcomed at W&L. People here may disagree, but as far as I’ve seen, they do it peacefully and respectfully. The same cannot be said of other places, which is yet another reason I️ believe W&L is a special place. Ultimately, this played a huge role in my decision to attend.
I’m happy to say that my time at W&L has thus far exceeded my wildest expectations. From the minute I stepped on campus, I️ immediately felt like I️ was part of the community. I’ve met people from all walks of life with all kinds of political opinions, many very different from my own. Personally speaking, when looking for friends, I️ don’t care what their political views are. I️ care more about if they are a kind person who I️ like spending time with, rather than if they happen to agree with me on any given policy issue. Having been in college for roughly a month, I️ now believe most people approach life the same way. Even if liberals are in the majority on college campuses, I️ don’t think that that they would actively discriminate against someone based solely on political opinion. At W&L I️ haven’t met a single person who refuses to be friends because of political disagreements. I’ve met only kind people, and I’m confident it will stay that way.