First-year class sees record international enrollment


Kevin Remington

International first- year students participate in a week-long experience each summer known as International Student Orientation, which helps orient them to American university life.

Veronika Kolosova, Staff Writer

Washington and Lee welcomed 478 new undergraduate students to campus this school year, with record international representation.

 The Class of 2026 hails from 43 U.S. states and 26 countries, making it the  largest class of international students. The admissions office reported a 9% increase in applications overall, and 25% more international students applied in this admissions cycle.

 Sally Stone Richmond. vice president of admissions and financial aid, encouraged diversity on campus. 

“W&L’s mission drives our admission objectives,” Richmond said. “Thus, welcoming more students from a greater number of nations to campus evinces the university’s mission to prepare students for ‘engaged citizenship in a global and diverse society.’”

The university’s mission is reflected in both international and general admissions at Washington and Lee. First-generation students make up 10% of the Class of 2026, 22% are domestic students of color and 6% are Questbridge finalists.

 For this application cycle, the Washington and Lee Admissions Office did both in-person campus tours and online sessions.

 Judy Park, a new admissions counselor, said providing these options makes Washington and Lee more accessible to people, which increases their interest in the university.

 “Students, especially with the pandemic, are realizing how accommodating and personal we are…and how high achieving our students are,” Park said. “All these things combined make us a better school, and so in general students want to apply here.” 

 Students in the class of 2026, like the class of 2025, had the option to choose whether or not to submit standardized test scores as a factor in admissions. More than half of the students submitted their scores, with the median SAT and ACT being 1470 and 34 respectively.

 Park believes that another reason for an increase in applicants is Washington and Lee’s financial aid.

“Our financial aid is fantastic, and I think more people start to realize that. Especially with the pandemic, meeting 100% of demonstrated financial need has been very helpful for students.”

 The surge in diversity for the incoming class has helped to bring new perspectives to the university. Dean of First-Year Experience Jason Rodocker said he believes diversity will lead to “even better learning in and out of the classroom.” 

“We want to be an inclusive community so that anyone who experiences W&L is better prepared to help others build good communities wherever they may go next,” he said.

The university is trying to accommodate students’ interests by introducing new leading edge trips, such as Beyond LEADership Around the World in Five Days and Making Meaning. 

“Leading edge is consistently rated one of the best experiences at W&L,” Rodocker said.“We grew the program this year intentionally by introducing new trips that offer a variety of experiences, which clearly resonated with students.”

The International Student Orientation program always happens before leading edge. It’s mandatory for all international students.

 Associate Director of Center for International Education Hunter Swanson has been working on ISO week since January, with help from 28 student leaders and mentors. 

“[A more diverse class] increases a sense of belonging among international students,” Swanson said. There are more people from same countries and with similar experiences.”

 Every year, CIE sends out a survey to all international students to assess their experience at W&L. As a part of it, they rate whether they agree with the following statement: “I feel a sense of belonging to the campus community.”

In 2021, 13.9% of international students reported that they disagreed with the statement. In 2022, only 4.2% disagreed.

 “While we can’t attribute this decrease in students perceiving that they don’t belong in the campus community to any particular variable without more evidence, I do think larger cohorts of international students create the perception that W&L is a welcome place for international students,” Swanson said. 

International student orientation involved everything from information sessions to evening activities. First-years met with university officials, got to know one another, settled in and prepared to start a new chapter of life at W&L.

 Anshika Patel, ’26, is an international student from India. Even though she’s been to the United States before, she still found ISO helpful in her transition to college.

“We definitely needed a kind of orientation where we would be given first-hand information about W&L, available opportunities and organizations. Orientation helped us a lot,” Patel said

Most orientation leaders were upper-class international students, but two were Americans with experience studying abroad.

Kit Lombard, ’23, applied to be a leader after studying at the University of St. Andrews last winter. 

“As a senior, I wanted to make sure I could help as many students as I could. With three years of W&L, I felt I finally was experienced and almost qualified, you could say, to impart tips to other students,” he said.

Patel said she appreciated meeting an American student like Lombard early on.

“He was so nice, and all of his comments were so valuable,” she said. “I definitely recommend having more American leaders in ISO in the future to diversify discussions and give us different perspectives.”

From Lombard’s perspective, ISO is a vital period for international first-years.

“Students learn they have an immediate family here that is willing to support them. ISO allows students to have fun, laugh and break down their worries,” he said.