College Connections: Katherine Cadzow at the University of Virginia


What does comedian and actress Tina Fey have in common with poet and author Edgar Allan Poe? Both Fey and Poe attended the University of Virginia (UVA). Located on 1,682 acres in suburban Charlottesville, the campus is often referred to as the “grounds” and has been ranked as one of America’s most beautiful college campuses. UVA is the only American university to be designated as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. UVA students can easily access hiking trails in the Blue Ridge Mountains, enjoy historic downtown Charlottesville, or visit Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello. 

After Thomas Jefferson completed two terms as the third President of the United States, he founded the University of Virginia in 1819 because he believed a democracy could survive only if its citizens were educated. Jefferson served on the board of UVA along with James Madison and James Monroe. Based on Jefferson’s belief that one never stops learning, UVA students are referred to as first, second, third and fourth years. 17,011 undergraduates attend this public research university, including Katherine Cadzow (’19), who returns to UVA this fall as a third year. Katherine kindly reflects on her college experience at UVA and shares helpful advice for the college application process. 

What is your favorite Casady memory?

Katherine: My favorite memory from Casady was playing in the “Pops” orchestra concert during my freshman year. Professional musicians came to play with us, and it was fun to show our friends and family members how much our musicianship had improved over the course of that year. After getting to know the seniors who belonged to the orchestra in 2015-2016, it was especially inspiring to see how excited they became as they prepared to play their last concert, and their passion in turn made me equally enthusiastic about what was to come over my next three years.

What is your major/minor and what do you want to do after completing your education?

Katherine: I am pursuing a double major in Math and Computer Science. At this point, I am unsure of what I will be doing after my graduation, but I can see myself attending a graduate program in which I can study the intersection of these two fields.

What extracurricular clubs and activities are you involved in? Which one of these has had the biggest impact on you?

Katherine: Outside of my classes, I am primarily involved in several programs sponsored by the Music department. I take private lessons with the violin professor, play in several chamber groups, and participate in the Charlottesville Symphony. My involvement in the department is especially meaningful to me because it allows me to continue playing violin at a serious level without pursuing a Music major.

What does your average school-week and weekend look like? 

Katherine: Last year, Covid had a large impact on my weekly schedule, so I spent most weekdays either attending classes on Zoom or working on my assignments. Charlottesville is in a very pretty part of Virginia, so for breaks on the weekends, I took walks through some of the parks or went hiking on nearby trails. Prior to the start of Covid, I spent my weekdays on our campus attending class, studying in libraries, and participating in rehearsals. On the weekends, I would often go to concerts put on by the Music department, exercise at the gym near my dorm, or explore some of the cool shops and restaurants in Charlottesville with my friends.

Describe UVA’s personality and what you enjoy most about your college.

Katherine: Based on my experiences, I believe that UVA is filled with hard-working, engaged, and passionate students who care not only about their own personal goals, but also about making a positive impact on their community. The students at UVA spend a lot of time on their studies, but their desire for intellectual growth does not prevent them from placing a high value on comradery and fellowship. I have seen here that it is possible to work very hard on a daily basis while also gaining lifelong, supportive friends.

What are some fun traditions at UVA?

Katherine: UVA is a historic school with lots of enjoyable traditions. My personal favorite is “Trick-or-Treating on the Lawn,” which happens every Halloween. Hundreds of community members and children come to walk around the “Lawn,” or the historic center of our campus, and pick up treats from the lines of booths set up by clubs. The fall in Virginia is absolutely gorgeous, so it is always fun to see kids running around in costumes and jumping into enormous piles of multi-colored leaves. Another tradition we have is called “Lighting of the Lawn,” which occurs just before the holidays and serves as a celebration of unity and community. This event features the performances of many a cappella groups and a spectacular light show on UVA’s most significant building, the Rotunda. It is an exciting way to celebrate the end of the semester before beginning final exams.

Were you able to live on-campus and attend classes last school year during the pandemic, and what modifications will UVA make in regards to the pandemic for this year?

Katherine: Last year, I lived in an apartment off-campus with four of my friends that I met during my first year. Most of my courses were virtual, but I was able to attend class in-person for my course on nineteenth-century music history, my private violin lessons, and my chamber ensemble rehearsals. This year, all of my courses will be in person, but all students are required to be vaccinated and wear masks until further notice.

What has been the greatest challenge for you as a college student during the pandemic?

Katherine: The hardest part about being a college student during the pandemic is living with the disappointment of not being able to experience the benefits of in-person learning at UVA. During the pandemic, I was lucky to live with great friends that I met during my first year, but I missed meeting other students and feeling like a member of the larger UVA community. It has been hard to maintain focus and commitment while experiencing these feelings of isolation, but the hope of enjoying a more normal semester this fall has boosted my morale.

If you were giving a tour of the UVA campus, where would you take potential students to visit and what makes those places special?

Katherine: I would definitely start the tour at the Rotunda, which Thomas Jefferson designed to be UVA’s academic and architectural center. The building was modeled after the Pantheon in Rome, and it lies at the top of the “Academical Village,” where both students and faculty members live around the central Lawn. This architectural plan was based on the idea that learning is a lifelong process and that the proximity of students and professors is an essential aspect of intellectual growth. My personal favorite building at school is Old Cabell Hall, which houses the Music department and is located at the end of the Lawn, so I would finish my tour by showcasing the massive mural in the lobby.

What advice do you have for Casady’s Upper Division students who are in the midst of the college application process?

Katherine: This will probably sound easier to achieve than it truly is, but I would say that it is most important to be introspective, authentic, and honest with yourself during the college application process. When compiling a list of places to apply to, try your best not to become fixated with the reputation of your future college; it will be most gratifying in the long run to find a place that satisfies your personal needs and desires. I ended up attending a school that I did not even originally plan to apply to, and I cannot imagine being happier anywhere else, so I would recommend looking beyond the most familiar names when compiling a list of schools to apply to. When you are writing your applications, it is important to present your true and authentic self. If you create a fictional persona in your application, you may end up getting accepted to a school that does not actually suit you. Finally, after you are accepted, pick your college based on honest self-reflection, and remember that there is not one single school that will allow you to succeed! You can pave a path to success wherever you end up.

What tips do you have for one’s freshman year of college?

Katherine: First, I would say that going to college is a chance to refresh and reset—if you like your study and living habits, keep them, and if not, you can take this opportunity to make a change. Second, you may feel like you have a lot of free time at the beginning of the semester, but don’t be deceived—your courses and activities will become more time-consuming soon enough. I think that it is best to get ahead at the beginning of the semester and stay ahead for as long as possible. By doing so, you can plan to have questions on your assignments and get them answered early. In my experience, if you don’t have any questions, you may be missing something!

Is there anything else you would like to share with the Casady community?

To those in the midst of the college application process, I know that it is extremely long and difficult, but your hard work will pay off in the end! Good luck.

U.S. News & World Report listed UVA #4 as the Best Public National University in 2021. Students at UVA believe in honor, and first years pledge the Honor Code to not to lie, cheat, or steal. Self governance is one of UVA’s most important ideals. Thomas Jefferson believed students would hold each other accountable to the Honor Code by creating a Honor Committee comprised of students who have the power to expel their peers who break the Honor Code.  

Located at the center of campus, the grassy area surrounded by student housing is known as The Lawn and is a popular area for students to gather and where many social events are held. UVA traditions include the Lighting of the Lawn in December where students enjoy festive lights and acappella music. In the fall during Family Weekend, the Ring Ceremony is held for third year students who put on their UVA class rings with a Minerva signet. The Minerva is worn facing inward while they are students, and upon graduation the ring is worn facing outward.

UVA is home to the oldest collegiate debating society in the country, The Jefferson Literary and Debating Society which was founded in 1825. UVA has 19 active secret societies, several are over a century old including the Eli Banana Society that started in 1878.

UVA’s team mascot is the Cavaliers and they are often referred to as the Hoos or Wahoos. According to legend, in 1890 the Washington & Lee baseball fans called the Virginia players  “Wahoos” and UVA students adopted the Wahoo nickname and often shorten it to Hoos. UVA! Go Hoos Go!