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

A senior’s guide to doing college

Reflection and advice from a nearly-graduated student
Kevin Remington
Washington Hall is one of the most recognizable landmarks on Washington and Lee’s campus.

A friend passed me today and exclaimed “Oh! You are graduating soon!” I told him that I planned to, and continued on with my day’s tasks (yoga class, then eating a pack of lightly salted almonds).

Such is life as a senior these days. Graduation, jobs, cities, networking, all vying for our attention. It’s hard not to have a foot already out of the door. Trying to avoid falling into this trap completely, I have been giving some thought recently to what has really mattered during my time here. A little sentimental senior self-reflection, if you will.

This reflection will take the form of advice, listed out in the following paragraphs (I’ve already written about how many of you are coddled and how you shouldn’t eat in class or wear airpods on campus. An article on how you ought to be living out college seems only natural). This advice will cover a range of things here at Washington and Lee, with my best effort to take into account the scope of student life. And, having attended Washington and Lee for nearly four years at this point, I feel I can speak with some authority on how to live out a college experience here well. Take what I have to say or leave it, but I hope it’s helpful to someone.

Without further ado:

College is for cultivating your interests. On a superficial level, it is so you can have an intelligent conversation with someone about 19th-century American literature or the implications of the Peace of Westphalia and be able to participate in and understand this thing we call culture. Spending the entirety of your college days in the halls of Huntley, shuffling to and from classes on wealth management, doesn’t give you any material by which you might learn something interesting and therefore be on your way to becoming an interesting person.

Some of the very best and most important classes I have taken were random ones that I fell into through registration. A religion intro class I had to take freshman year with Professor Alex Brown led me to take another religion class, which led me to major in the discipline (I came into college, it should be noted, thinking I would do business or economics). I took a class on medieval art history with George Bent first semester of freshman year, which was the hardest class I have taken at Washington and Lee, and it made me realize really quickly I needed to change some study and work habits.

So find some interests. Pursue those interests, form new ones, pursue those, and onwards until you have a pretty good idea of what interests you and what doesn’t. And then, when you find yourself actually taking classes that are interesting to you, suddenly the readings are interesting and writing the papers is interesting, and then, by Jove, learning itself is interesting! Imagine that.

And take good professors. Ask around, get advice from upperclassmen. Spend the time getting to know them by staying after class, asking questions. Don’t take a class just because it is easy. That is very simply a waste of your education. When you think back on the only four years of your life where your sole job was to learn, and you realize you spent it watching videos and texting your friends on your laptop in all of your classes, you will be disappointed.

Get involved. Go to the activities fair, take a look at the clubs and organizations. Find some that you like and buy in. I didn’t ever write for the school paper in high school, but I decided I liked writing and then decided I liked giving my opinion, and so here I am. If you want to do something that isn’t already being done, then start an organization. Don’t do anything just because you want to slap it on your resumé.

Build friendships. Joining things is a great way to do this (Greek life, clubs and other organizations, etc.). Classes are another. You immediately have conversation material because you are learning the same things; talk to your classmates before and after class, be someone who makes the class culture better. It’s very easy to be an upperclassman and feel comfortable in your solidified friend group, but this shouldn’t stop you from making new friends. When I was a freshman, a senior made the effort to text and ask to get Dhall after class one day, and I have never forgotten that small gesture. Every semester I have met more people here who I wished I had met sooner.

Go out. Stay up until 2 a.m. (college is one of the last times in life when that is acceptable). Have fun with your friends and think you are a good dancer. One of my very favorite things about this college is that anyone at the school can go out. Fraternities may host the parties, but you don’t have to be in Greek life to go to them. Some of my best college conversations have been around the Windfall fire past midnight, and I have very rarely regretted going out, if even for a little bit. You don’t have to get slammed to have a good time. Find the balance of having some drinks but not ruining your next day.

Make a point to walk through the colonnade as much as you can. It is the heart of our campus and stunningly beautiful. Watching those small few acres change throughout the years is one of my favorite things about Washington and Lee. Seeing the leaves turning a vibrant and fiery orange and red in autumn, and then falling in winter and the trees being barren, and then color returning again in spring is incredible. Sit out on the lawn when it is warm. Throw a frisbee with some friends.

Get outside. Back campus, Chessie Trail, Brushy Hills, Jefferson National Forest, George Washington National Forest and Shenandoah National Park are all a short drive away (the first two don’t require a drive at all). It is likely many of us will never live in such a remarkable spot for outdoor activities again, so this is worth taking advantage of.

Enjoy Lexington. It is very easy to be a Washington and Lee student and not an inhabitant of Lexington, and I wish I had done a better job of this myself. Maybe you volunteer at schools or sports teams, or work in one of the restaurants, or just go to the farmer’s market on a Wednesday here or there. Whatever the case, find some time to know the place and people of Lexington, not just Washington and Lee.

Okay, I think that is probably enough moralizing. After writing all of this, I feel like a parent telling you what you should and should not be doing. That’s not really what I’m here for. Spend college how you like. But what I want to get across is that it does go fast (parent again here), and it is easy to squander it, in ways you may not even realize.

And I know we still have spring term. But for some reason, I thought this was the last Ring-Tum Phi edition, and I committed to writing an article about my senior reflections, so here you are. This will likely be my final article for this esteemed publication.

Friends, fans, loyal following (shoutout to Hal Fant), I thank you for your support and readership. To whoever’s eyes that have fallen, by accident or choice, upon my words in articles past or present, I hope I have stimulated a laugh, a conversation, an eye-roll, or else at least kept you engaged enough to finish the piece (no easy task! Only 11% of readers read a story all the way to the end). Good luck with exams and don’t be a stranger.

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