Wake Forest

We had the opportunity to visit Wake Forest as part of a North Carolina college tour that Beth and I organized.  We arrived on a beautiful, brisk February morning.  We had an hour before the information started, so we wandered around the lovely campus. I had the opportunity to meet up with one of my former clients and hear about her freshman year experience.  She seemed happy and found the transition from high school to college easy.


Wake’s academics are rooted in the liberal arts with strong offerings in business, science, and soon, engineering. Their motto demonstrates Wake’s approach to learning: Innovation and Tradition.  On one hand, Wake offers small, seminar style classes reminiscent of old school learning, with an emphasis on critical thinking and discussion.  On the other hand, Wake provides students with state-of-the art, innovative programs in science and a new program in engineering.  The university recently developed a not so nice part of Winston-Salem by creating a science/engineering center which is a fifteen-minute shuttle ride from campus.  This center houses the Medical school, new undergraduate labs and classroom space for STEM as well as the new engineering, bio-chemistry and molecular biology majors with a concentration in medicinal chemistry.

My client said the shuttle is very easy and enjoys taking her chemistry classes in the new facilities.  Other students spoke about the interdisciplinary nature of the classes at Wake; for example, a senior Math major said his favorite class was socio-linguistics and number theory.  Wake prides itself on cultivating the critical thinking skills through its liberal arts education coupled with experiential learning.  A history major discussed how he conducted and taped interviews with older residents in Winston-Salem.  He documented his findings and created an oral-history of Winston-Salem.  Wake encourages students to participate in research as early as possible and 59% of their research is funded.

While Wake Forest is affectionately known as “Work Forest”, students say it’s less to do with workload, but more with the expectation that students will do the work and come to class.  To make the atmosphere more fun, librarians will reenact Romeo and Juliet or throw paper airplanes at kids with encouraging notes.  There is also a Humans vs. Zombies event.  The library closes Friday and Saturday nights to encourage students to have fun.

Wake offers outstanding academic and professional advising to students to help them succeed.  Their goal is to help students find majors and careers as early as freshman year and provide a path to potential employers.  And it’s working: 97% of Wake students are employed or in graduate school within six months of graduation.

Social Life

Greek life represents a large part of the social life, particularly for guys.  Fraternity parties welcome all girls, regardless of affiliation.  There are numerous parties and social opportunities on campus. Wake DI sports, particularly basketball, are a large part of the social life on campus providing school spirit and student engagement.  There are many clubs on campus for those who do not want to participate in Greek life or sports.  My tour guide, a Native American student, found a strong community through the inter-cultural center.  She said it felt like a second home there with numerous activities and events for students from a wide variety of backgrounds. The service club is the biggest club on campus and there is also a thriving arts community.

Student Body

The students we met described their classmates as: academic, preppy, collaborative, academically-focused with work hard/play hard mindset.  My tour guide found the student body balanced politically between liberal and conservative views, but was surprised by just how strongly conservative or liberal students were in their viewpoints.  She said that while students hold strong viewpoints one way or the other, they are always open to hearing the other point of view and student do not feel unheard.  When I asked her if anyone changed their point of view after listening to a classmate, she smiled and said, “Not really!”  However, she herself said she changed her political leaning after being a student and getting exposure to a wide variety of perspectives.

Surrounding Area

Wake sits on a hill surrounded by trees.  Students can walk down the hill on a path to Reynolda Village, a quaint, upscale section of restaurants and services including a yoga studio and other boutique fitness options.  Winston-Salem is 15 minutes away and Wake offers frequent shuttle services.  Winston-Salem is a bustling city undergoing gentrification with lots to offer students including: a wide offering of arts and theater, a big film festival as well as a festival of books and others.  The three other colleges in the area add to the vibrancy of the community.

Admissions and Financial Aid

Wake students are highly competitive, intellectual and academic.  They are test optional and their application reflects the type of students Wake wants to attract.  Their motto is Pro humanitate, which means “for humanity.”  Therefore outside of academic profile and extracurricular activities, Wake looks for students who align with their culture.  They have upwards of six supplemental essay questions ranging from “what is your top ten list?” to “what outrages you?” for a reason. Admissions wants to understand how students will fit within the Wake culture.  Another critical component of the admissions process is the interview, which can be done in person or via Skype. All these factors influence admissions decisions substantially.

Wake offers limited merit aid for students who apply by 12/1 (11/15 for the Presidential scholarship), but they do meet full demonstrated need and are committed to providing access to a wide variety of students.  Its main overlap schools include Emory, Vanderbilt, UNC Chapel Hill, and Duke University.  While Early Decision applications are due by 11/15, Wake offers rolling notification for ED and will let students know within eight weeks. Wake filled 45% of its class through ED last year.


Wake is a great school for students looking for a strong liberal arts education coupled with outstanding pre-professional programs and advising.  Work hard/play hard environment allows for students to learn and have fun on a beautiful campus with easy access to a small city nearby.

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