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Do not go here. Period. This school has a beautiful campus, and unique features like a farm, hippies running around, and an atmosphere that calls students. James Franco comes here for an MFA. What's not to like? Many things. The school social scene, at the end of the day, is smally, cliquey, ridden with gossip, rumors, and backstabbing. People talk about the "Wilson Bubble"- and what a bubble it is. School starts off with summer camp (orientation) but for adult-children. You get to skip activities as they don't matter AT ALL except for basics like registration. Instead, you will spend your time hiking, chatting excitedly, smoking weed, and maybe making out or getting laid. Seriously. You might go get some free pizza at the midnight madness theater event, which obligates you to nothing except free pizza. After this week of hedonism and insanity, some students are elated, others are terrified of the debauchery they saw. Things evolve, it seems, as those who are the party hardy are kicked out over the next preceding month or two. Many of the cool, fun people who came here as seekers end up leaving. Look at the statistics... completely ridiculous retention. The academics combined with the work program take your time, so you're ready to party. And Wilson students will party, and smoke a lot of dope, and drink fairly too. Watch out for the drunken violent good 'ol boys, who want to break things or people. Maybe, just maybe, you'll find a clique (no more than 5 generally, unless you're a huge stoner) with lesser associated people to hang out with. Welcome to your life raft. These people will make or break you. You will either keep your sanity based off the strength of your selection, or start desperately trying to find other groups to infiltrate. Maybe you can find success. But if you're more of a social butterfly, unless you can communicate exactly the relaxed, laid-back, liberal close-minded talking points everyone likes (perhaps a little more eloquently) you will meet with failure. I don't write this as a right wing ideologue, but anything that doesn't gel with the general sensibilities of the other students will raise hackles very quickly, and will lead to you being seen as pathogen, one that must be isolated and (hopefully) destroyed or forced out. Eventually, if you make it through the first year, some friends will have left by then, not to mention the entertaining "searchers" who drop like flies. You will know all about drum circles, tribal tattoos, how hemp can save the world, and many things except how to actually function in the world. But that's alright, you are building a foundation, getting your gen. eds out of the way. You will experiment with many classes, majors, and ideas. You will look in envy at the cool cliquey crews (NRC, Farm, Blacksmith, recycling, etc.) with envy, and if you're lucky and strike the right chord with members of that crew, be invited on. Be warned, though: being a people person with normal people is not the ticket; you need to fit the stereotypical behavior highlighted above. You will go for beautiful hikes (really, the Outdoor programs office is very cool, so much the better if you work in it...), and contra dance, kiss, and if not discover for the first time the joys of sexual interaction, then be able to partake. Be cautious though, as people care very much who is with whom, whether it be official or not. Walk to dinner with someone of the opposite sex (unless you are out) and whispers will start from people who don't even know you. Indiscretion can be quite frequent, but to get away with it, refer to the criteria above. Showing... more normal attitudes, or differing opinions, especially strongly on anything, and you risk pariah status again. Teachers can be quite variable; departments are generally strong or weak. The English teachers really know their stuff, but they are difficult, and some are quite reclusive, and you need to get to know them and their standards on your initiative. Science is very strong, and I've heard better reports from over there. Getting into the crunchy granola- Sustainable ag, Outdoor leadership, art, etc.- things can get more uneven. Especially if you need to deal with the students. Have I been repetitive with the stereotype and what persona you'll need to ape? Good, because that is what the echo chamber of 900 students that is 12 miles from a 70,000 person town, with a lackluster nightlife is like. You will wander the expansive campus, searching among the beautiful setting for something... more. It isn't here. Small, parochial, cliquey, and happy to be further led down their general structure of beliefs ("revolutionary" or "opening your eyes" happens only in the context of reinforcing general world views, not to actually change them) is the student who will thrive here. Things are rural, so trying to set up a network of outside social contacts to keep yourself out of the bubble is quite challenging. Living off campus might very well help reach a good balance, but the school uses every weapon in its arsenal to keep you on campus. Eventually, even the most ardent, happy students of Wilson who do graduate have more or less had it by senior year, of being on campus anyway. There's a black hole around Wilson and Asheville that suck people into it after graduation. The economy isn't great, but the beauty, and many times, a partner they've found at the school convinces them they want to knit, hike, drink chai, and die in Asheville. But there's good parties, right? Orientation is a cruel lie. The level of crazy is because no one knows each other. As soon as you get a few months in, the parties are monotonous, with the same people at the same parties. Awkwardly, many students like reggae or folk, which doesn't lend itself to dancing, so they'll put rap, hip hop, or classic rock on. Music selections are generally poor by the DJ, but sometimes, are quite good. Then, you are confronted by a bunch of awkward students who don't, as a rule, know how to dance. They might end up grinding, but, remember the monotony thing- you can get away with some limited hook-ups, but mostly you can't, because it's so small that picking people up at parties leads to gossip and rumors after you have become too successful (see above). Well, what about activism? Sure, activism... if that's a bunch of impassioned, ill-informed students talking about what would make the world better. "Legalize pot now!" "Where, exactly? On a national level? Don't you think a grassroots, state by state approach is better, like gay marriage or prohibition?" "Oh... huh... never thought of that" ad nauseam. Don't do that too often without pursuing and spearheading something that can be broken into easy, bite-size chunks for the other students, preferably where they can maybe march, or shout slogans. Anti-war demonstrations, or chaining yourself to the SOA fence and getting arrested is really productive, and courageous man! Let's see, what else... a lot of fakery on everyone's parts. People pretend to care about each other, but cheat behind each other's backs, gossip behind each other's backs, etc. Many kids become aloof in their own world, confident of their own difference when really, they are very homogenous. The joke you never hear is, "What's the difference between a wilson grad and a large pizza? A large pizza can feed a family of four". Much truth to this. Many students end up screwed by the career resources department and have their head too far up their ass to get anything but minimum wage jobs- and this was pre-recession. Credits don't transfer very well from here. In short, the academics here are great on the whole. Most of the teachers are wonderful people, concerned, and ready to help you whether in your academic life, personal life, spiritual life, or whatever. Unfortunately, they are saddled with a HORRIBLE administration that makes many myopic short-sighted decisions, is distant from the students (how they manage this is very hard to say, but most likely related to knowing the students are on the whole idiots, but they still manage to screw things up in most regards), and a group of students that talk a lot about making an impact, changing the world, but really... don't. I had the pleasure of knowing a high-achieving graduate who is actually quite famous now, having done interviews for TV, etc. She received ZERO support from either the teachers or the students, and achieved every bit of success on her own, with NO help whatsoever. For a better executed concept, please go visit Berea, in Kentucky. I was on a sports team and actually visited- the students there are actually intellectually diverse, interesting, and have a solid administration.
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