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Old Gold & Black

Old Gold & Black

The Wofford Way

The Wofford Way

By: Kelsey Aylor, Staff Writer

Coming into college, I truly wanted to experience the cliché of living out the best four years of my life. Especially coming to a smaller school where the sense of community has been relentlessly emphasized, I assumed that I would never meet a stranger, would breeze through my classes and make some of the best memories of my entire life. Sure, I expected to be challenged, but I had predetermined ideals of how college life should be – invigorating, rewarding and never dull.

However, upon my arrival here, I was exasperated to find that college life wasn’t nearly so simple. Things aren’t black and white like the standard college party movie conveys. It’s more accurate to describe the college atmosphere as gray – it is multifaceted and difficult, bittersweet and exhilarating. The academic culture of Wofford in particular is extremely intensive.

Wofford as an institution is exclusive in its admissions. Therefore, it seems that the “average” student is not quite so average: they are involved in a multitude of endeavors, from advanced academic pursuits like research projects and internships to involvement in the plethora of extracurricular groups and organizations. Wofford students, by nature, tend to be leaders, givers and trendsetters. In an atmosphere where the stakes are high and the well-equipped players are numerous, it’s difficult to find your own place and purpose.

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As others are continually innovating or thriving in their specialties, it can feel as if you have little to contribute and therefore are less important to the community. Either you are successful in your efforts or you are somehow outside of the standard “Wofford Way” of excellence. This unconscious delineation of the “other” or the “outsider” inhibits the vitality and growth of campus as students become embroiled in trying to achieve perfection.

“Perfection” or even “success” as defined by Wofford’s apparent standards is ultimately unachievable as records are continually broken and the bar is constantly being raised. The interactive community that is encouraged has become weighed down in a self-defeating cycle wherein students place Wofford’s successes above their own individual experiences.

In attempting to surmount this pedestal, students endanger their own happiness as they overextend themselves in the pursuit of the next résumé point or academic honor. And the Wofford culture does nothing to discourage this. Instead, people shrug their shoulders, give a derisive laugh and simply respond, “Why Wofford.”

But sweeping these issues under the rug will not benefit anyone. These issues need to be discussed rather than being falsely misattributed to friendly competition or increasing levels of dedication and drive. In truly becoming an open community of support, students will become less inclined to portray the “perfect” worker that is so often seen on campus. Students should be encouraged and inspired to embrace their true interests. Less emphasis should be placed on how many organizations you participate in, or how high your GPA is and more on what makes you happy and what you are doing to pursue those passions. As John Steinbeck once said, “Now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” The “Wofford Way” should emphasize integrity and growth but outside of the context of the community in order to minimize external pressures. I believe the true “Wofford Way,” if focused on the individual, can draw forth a stronger, healthier and happier student body.

 

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    Will BarbourJan 11, 2016 at 2:36 pm

    Love the East of Eden quote.