Wake Forest is a rare find in higher education—a medium-sized university that consistently ranks in the top thirty undergraduate programs nationwide with an active and involved student body and a tight-knit community of professors, students, and administrators. With just 4,476 undergraduates, the university strikes the perfect balance in size. It’s impossible to walk across the campus without seeing the faces of your classmates and friends, but there’s still the opportunity to meet a new person each day. Only twenty-five percent of students hail from North Carolina, while the rest are transplants from all over the United States and abroad. All these factors combine to create a close, supportive community of students interested in pursuing a liberal arts degree.
Wake Forest students often fondly and with some seriousness refer to their school as “Work Forest.” In its defense, they are also prone to say that at Wake, we “work hard and play hard.” The academic curriculum is not for the casual student. Core curriculum requirements are extensive, including at least thirty-three credit hours that usually dominate the first two years of the college tenure. Though the classes are hard, the typical Wake Forest student enjoys the challenge and the accompanying celebration that’s sure to follow. Students are also able to develop amazing relationships with their professors, all of whom will learn every student’s name, meet with students on a regular basis, and probably host a class dinner at their house at least once a semester. The student to professor ratio is small at 10:1. Lecture-style classes tend to top out at thirty students, while more discussion-based seminar classes are limited to between fifteen and twenty students. Larger lectures are virtually nonexistent. The largest classes are perhaps in intro level sciences and they rarely exceed forty-five students. Even with these intimate class sizes, students still experience the perks of a big-time national university in resources, technology, and athletics. The undergraduate school of arts and sciences offers thirty-seven majors, most with corresponding minors, and an additional twenty-seven interdisciplinary minors, which allow students to take a wide variety of courses toward concentrations in journalism, film, Middle Eastern studies, and more. There is also an undergraduate program in the Calloway School of Business and Accountancy, which has been consistently ranked in the top twenty-five programs nationwide by BusinessWeek.
Wake Forest is situated in the heart of Winston-Salem, the fourth-largest city in North Carolina. Though Winston-Salem is home to four colleges, including the University of North Carolina School of the Arts and Winston-Salem State University, the city does not have the feel of a typical college town. Rather, it is suburban with a bustling art scene downtown and the largest mall in North Carolina, Hanes Mall, just fifteen minutes from campus. Its most impressive attraction is perhaps the plethora of amazing regional restaurants that combine fresh seasonal ingredients with college-friendly budget pricing. There are also a good number of bars for the over-twenty-one crowd, including a nice downtown wine bar, a micro-brewery, and several bustling sports pubs. The city’s only social void is perhaps the current lack of dance clubs, which is mostly made up for by frequent on-campus events and open fraternity parties.
While Winston-Salem is home to the 340-acre campus today, it wasn’t the original site of the college. In fact, Wake Forest was established in 1834 by the N.C. Baptist Convention in the town from which the college takes its name, Wake Forest, N.C. However, the entire campus moved to Winston-Salem in 1956 with the help of a grant from the Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation. In the 1980s the university formally severed ties with the Baptist Convention and remains unaffiliated with any religious denomination. Today, the campus is one of the most beautiful in America, bursting with blossoming magnolia trees in the spring and colored with the gorgeous red and gold leaves of ash trees in the fall. The southern Georgian architecture is a repeated motif in each of the buildings, and the campus is compact enough that a brisk fifteen-minute walk will take you from end to end.
Who should apply to Wake Forest? The right match will be a serious student with the desire and willingness to dedicate himself or herself to academic pursuits. You can’t expect things to be easy; students who found high school easy may spend late nights in the library. The right applicant will also follow his or her passions outside of academics. Wake Forest students often dedicate as much time in groups and clubs as they do to school, whether in a fraternity or on the student newspaper. A successful Wake Forest student must also embrace Winston-Salem and the southern culture that’s a part of the experience. If you aren’t willing to welcome the occasional chicken biscuit or sundress, you may need to rethink your decision. Generally, the student body has a welcoming southern spirit, where everyone can come to appreciate the history and culture. To become a Deac, be prepared to loathe your archrivals at the nearest Carolina schools and come to think of yellow and black tie-dye as an appropriate fashion choice. Expect to sunbathe on the Quad beneath the magnolia trees in the spring and have snowball fights during the two or three snow days each winter.
What defines the Wake Forest experience? The small student body and the dedicated faculty form a tight-knit community and a bond that lasts well after graduation. Alumni feel a special camaraderie, as if Wake Forest is our own personal secret hidden in North Carolina.