“We have but one rule - that every student must be a gentleman.”
— Robert E. Lee
Why I Came to Washington and Lee

Why I Came to Washington and Lee

By Alex Wilkerson ‘22

 

My decision to apply to W&L was a product of pure happenstance. Having lived abroad all of my life, I had a rather limited knowledge of universities in the United States and was only planning to apply to large state schools and some well-known private schools in the Northeast. In the midst of the college application process, my parents and I were making our way down from Washington DC to visit family in North Carolina. While on that trip, we decided on a whim to stop at a bed and breakfast on the edge of a small town named Lexington. I had read an article or two about the Mock Convention prior to this trip, but did not think much of it at the time. However, it was during this trip that I first became truly aware of W&L’s existence. Compared to the imposing, grayish walls of VMI that line the streets leading up to W&L, the lush greenery surrounding the beautiful redbrick buildings and white columns of the Colonnade was quite a sight to behold.

 

Although I did not participate in a tour, I explored the campus extensively. The display at the museum in Lee Chapel gave me a new perspective on General Lee, who is often portrayed in a negative light by the media and various other organizations. Prior to my visit, I had been completely unaware of his contributions to the American education system during the postbellum period. My time on campus and in Lee Chapel led me to reflect on many ideas I had simply accepted without considering all available information. I had attended a very politically one-sided school for my entire life and looked forward to the opportunity to engage with and learn from people of manifold ideologies, especially those with whom I disagreed.

 

Several months passed after I submitted my application, and I eagerly awaited a response from the admissions office. When I opened the online portal and saw that I was accepted, I promptly ran down the stairs to convey the good news to my parents. They seemed puzzled that I was so excited because I had not expressed a similar level of delight upon being accepted to other institutions. However, W&L had always been my first choice. Both the quality of education and vibrant campus culture appealed to me, but I was especially intrigued by the history of the school and the opportunity to engage with facets of American culture that are not present at other schools.

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