First Year of College with Lauren Cheetham, WCDS ‘17

Lauren Cheetham at the University of Virginia

We like to keep up with our graduates to learn about their first impressions of college. Where are you studying, and how did you choose your school?

I just started my second year at the University of Virginia in the School of Architecture.  When I was a child I would get really excited whenever an IKEA furniture catalog arrived in the mail because I loved to look at all the modern rooms and study how they were staged. I also loved touring open houses with my mom, ever curious to see how other people styled their homes. As a teenager, I’d spend time browsing modern furniture websites like CB2 to look at all the sleek new designs. And I’ve always loved taking art classes, but when considering a major, the field of design or art seemed too competitive. The summer before my senior year at WCDS, I decided to go to Virginia Tech’s Inside Architecture + Design program, and that experience inspired me to choose architecture as my major. I knew UVA was a good fit for me because their A-school is design focused rather than engineering focused.

How did a small independent school prepare you for a large public university?

In some ways college is not very different from WCDS.  I am so thankful that WCDS has given me the tools to be a competent and articulate writer. Starting last year—for the first time ever—UVA required all first-year students to take a writing class. I took a writing class on Virginia Woolf, and I was so glad I studied her works in high school and knew how to analyze literature and rhetoric. I am also thankful that Wakefield allows students to participate in a variety of clubs, sports, and extracurricular activities because learning how to balance activities with rigorous school work while in high school is so very helpful in college.

What surprised you about UVA?

It feels much smaller than I originally expected.  The school has a student population of 22,000, but I see my friends and people I know so often that it feels like a very small college. I can’t go a day without seeing a familiar face in the dining hall or on my way to class. Living in Brown last year, a residential college, also made the school feel even smaller as a new student.

What’s the best lesson you’ve learned in college? 

Procrastination is not an option in college. Professors expect you to work on your own time, and lengthy term papers come with strict deadlines.

Do you have a personal definition of success?  How did it come to be?

Success for me is mainly about having a job that’s fulfilling and doesn’t feel like work. Design work doesn’t feel like a typical 9-5 job to me.  Time flies when I’m making a model or drawing an axonometric projection because it’s my own creation and I always want to improve it.

Where do you see yourself in ten years?  Twenty?

Hopefully, in ten years I will be working as an architect. In twenty years, I hope to have my own architecture firm.