FRESHMAN FOCUS: Max Schmitz finds WashU’s friendly students, less-structured majors and dorm Olympics exhilarating

(Photo used by permission of Schmitz)
Max Schmitz stands in front of the Brookings Quadrangle Arch. According to Washington University in St. Louis’s website, this quad is the only remaining example of what the campus looked like in the mid-19th century, when the university opened.

Find out what the members of the class of 2016 are up to in their first year of college. A college freshman is featured in the Freshman Focus every week.

Max Schmitz is a freshman at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri. He currently isn’t declared but plans on majoring in history and business.

Q: Did you apply to any other schools?

A: Washington was the only school I applied to because I applied early decision, knowing that I could write my apps during winter if I didn’t get in.

Q: The school is famous for social services (such as helping the local St. Louis community). Did this influence your decision?

A:  No, I picked Washington University because their programs are not structured in the traditional sense. There are no requirements for what you need to take, and you can really take whatever interests you and build your own major.

Q: How did it feel getting into a college with such an exclusive admission rate (around 17 percent)?

A: It was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had in my life. It was exhilarating.

Q: What classes are you taking?

A: Japanese Civilizations, Islamic Civilizations, Greek History: The Birth of Democracy, Monuments of Antiquity and Calculus I.

Q: What’s your favorite?

A: I really like Japanese Civilizations because the topic is really interesting and the professor is funny.

Q: Least favorite?

A: Calculus I – by far.

Q: Most classes have under 20 students. How do you feel about that?

A: Because the classes are smaller, there is a lot of interaction between the students and the professors, and it leads to a more Country-Day environment. There are a lot more discussions and open conversations. It’s a lot more active learning.

Q: Have you participated in any traditions?

A: Oh yeah. So each dorm has a team, and it gets really competitive. My dorm is DJKL (each dorm is assigned four letters), and on move-in night there’s a big ceremony with a chant-off between all the different teams. And then on the second night there’s a big dorm Olympics, where we all compete against other dorms. There was a twerk-off and stuff like that.

Q: What is the overall attitude of the student body? Are the majority very studious or are they big partiers?

A: It’s a good mix. People here know when to have fun and when to work hard. It’s the right level of seriousness.

Q: What is your favorite thing about the community?

A: The friendliness of the student body. No one is judgmental. People just want to make friends. They want to talk to you. They just want to have fun, exchange ideas and learn.  

Q: Do you plan on participating in clubs or extracurriculars?

A: Not right now, but I plan on rushing a fraternity in the spring because you’re not allowed to rush in the fall.

Q: Are you participating in any sports?

A: I’m thinking of doing rugby, but not until spring, because I’m still trying to adjust to college. But we are planning on starting a flag football team with my dorm.

Q: What is St. Louis like? What is there to do there?

A: St. Louis is fantastic, but if you leave the WashU area, it’s a bit hairy. But for the most part it’s fantastic. The area is hip and trendy!

Q: What is your dorm like?

A: The dorms are great. We have some of the nicest dorms in the country. I’m in a traditional dorm, which isn’t as nice as the modern ones, but the dorms are great, and the common areas are huge for only four of us. I highly recommend dorm life here.  

Q: How are your roommates?

A: I have a single room in a suite, but the common rooms are where we spend time with our suitemates. The individual dorms are pretty small. Most of my friends are in other suites, but I like my suitemates. They’re cool.

Q: What is the weather like?

A: Holy hell! It is horrible right now. It’ll start to get better in a week or two, but right now it’s hot and humid. It’s absurd. It’s just warm and sticky. It’s worse than Sacramento.

Q: Has college lived up to your expectations so far?

A: It’s been better than I thought it would be. I’m having way more fun and enjoying my classes way more than I thought I would.

Q: What don’t you like about your college?

A: The weather is basically it.

Q: What makes your school unique?

A: I guess I want to say the availability of professors and ease of access. It’s really easy to talk one-on-one with your professor.

Q: Have you made any freshman mistakes?

A: Oh, I got lost going to class at least three or four times in the first week! I went to a dining hall on the other side of the campus because I didn’t know there was one on the south side.

Q: Do you have any advice for the class of 2017?

A: Don’t sweat it! I mean, you’re going to wind up in a great place regardless of where you get in, and you’re going to get the right fit. And as soon as you get to college, just make the most out of the experience. Be friendly, be happy, stay positive.

By Mehdi Lacombe

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