The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

The student newspaper of Washington and Lee University

The Ring-tum Phi

Does Washington and Lee prepare us for the workforce?

The WSJ ranked W&L third for career and learning-related opportunities, but do current students and alumni agree with this ranking?
Georgia Bernbaum
A study room in Washington Hall.

With the college application deadline quickly approaching, many high school students will be doing last-minute research to decide what schools to apply to. Factors such as location, campus, distance from home, academics, prestige, and more will all play an important role in deciding where to go to school, but perhaps the most important factor is the school’s ability to prepare its students for the workforce.

This year, the Wall Street Journal ranked Washington and Lee University third for career and learning-related opportunities. The evaluation for the rankings consisted of surveying current students and alumni on their satisfaction with their school’s (or alma-maters) academic opportunities, career preparation, and learning facilities.

But rankings can sometimes be superficial and vague. So, what resources does Washington and Lee University actually provide for its students? How do these resources help prepare us for the workforce, and what do some current students and alumni have to say about W&L’s ranking on the Wall Street Journal?

To begin my own investigation on this topic, I first decided to learn more about the resources that are available for students on campus, and how those resources prepare students for the workforce.

The Office of Career and Professional Development (CPD), “supports and empowers students and alumni to discover, navigate, and achieve their career and professional goals through hands-on advising and tailored resources, programs, and events”. Whether it be exploring career options, beginning the never-ending search for jobs and internships, looking for application resources, or preparing for graduate school applications, the office of CPD is there to help. Besides having a plethora of resources, students can also opt to join the CPD Canvas Course, which updates students on career opportunities and offers tons of other resources.

The CPD, which is located on the third floor of the Elrod Building, also offers many in-person resources. The Career Advisors partner with students to help them by providing them with the resources needed to achieve their career goals. These resources can include building and preparing a resume, practicing for an interview, or developing a plan to search for internships.

I visited the CPD two weeks ago and made an appointment with a Career Advisor. I found the experience to be very enriching, and on top of being exposed to lots of resources and opportunities, my Career Advisor and I were able to curate a list of relevant internships that applied to my career and workforce goals.

The CPD’s Career Fellows are students who have volunteered to help other students work towards their professional goals. Head Career Fellow, Yewon Shin, ’24, said that the most common way Career Fellows help students is by reviewing and editing their resumes, cover letters, and other professional documents. Even if students simply have a conversation with the Career Fellows, they can get a lot out of it.

In general, students can benefit greatly from the CPD, especially because it offers resources to students interested in any type of career. When asked how prepared he felt for the workforce, Armando Mendez, ’24,  said, “I feel well prepared, though it still seems like a looming transition. W&L has provided me with the technical knowledge for the workforce, and offered opportunities for career development.”

Another valuable resource that Washington and Lee offers its students to prepare them for the workforce is the Office of Fellowships. An important part of being prepared for the workforce is starting your job with experience, something that internships and fellowships can provide. The Office of Fellowships helps students by identifying the opportunities that most interest them and will benefit them both in their time at W&L and after. In my appointment with the Office of Fellowships, I was able to go over fellowships that interested me, and would benefit me in both the short and long term. Aside from this, I left my appointment knowing what programs exactly to apply for to succeed in my professional goals.

The small class sizes at W&L bring students lots of benefits. They are able to foster relationships with professors, which in turn, allows for many doors to be opened. “I have participated in multiple summer research programs at W&L,” said Mendez. “Courses in [Computer Science] gave me the basic knowledge needed to work on these research projects. Additionally, the courses connected me with the professors with whom I worked”.

So, does Washington and Lee prepare us for the workforce? I think it does, and it goes above and beyond while doing so. The resources that are available to students, the opportunities that are handed out, and the skills taught in the classroom and by professors all lay out a strong foundation for students to confidently transition into the workforce. While the process may seem intimidating, W&L students should be confident that all of their hard work will pay off and be worth it in the end.

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