Washington University in St. Louis
College review by Lisa Bleich
Updated on April 11, 2013
Gorgeous, pristine, Gothic style, Ivy league-like are all words to describe Washington University of St. Louis’ campus. My daughter and I arrived on a Tuesday afternoon, a day earlier than we had planned, but the Admissions counselors greeted us warmly and quickly found us a folder and invited us take the earlier tour. As we toured the campus the beauty of the buildings (there is a castle right on campus!) and the friendliness of the students impressed us. Our tour guide hailed from Toronto, Canada and she came to WashU for the strong sense of community and excellent academics.
About 25-35% of students participate in Greek life and 75% do some form of community service. Students can choose between traditional and modern dorms. The modern dorms are suites with 4 singles with a common area and shared bathroom. The dorms are separate from the main campus. Several student run businesses and shops surround the residential halls. This provides great opportunities for students to test their entrepreneurial chops while still in school. The Loop, with cute shops, restaurants, and theaters is about a 15-minute walk or short bus ride from camps. Forrest Park (like Central Park in NYC) is directly across the street from campus; it houses a zoo, museum and huge park.
The following day, we sat in on a General Chemistry class taught in the largest lecture hall on campus, Lab
Sci 300; the class had about 250 students. The professor lectured the entire time while students took notes. My daughter enjoyed the class while I read the paper! I sat next to a very friendly young man who walked us to the cafeteria for lunch and told us about his experience at WashU. Overall everyone we met went out of his or her way to engage with us. Students were smart, hard working, kind, and clean cut; the vibe felt competitive, but not cutthroat. In fact, the pre-med students help each other study together and there are upper classmen tutors available for most classes.
Getting into WashU has become increasingly difficult. They accept about 1/3 of their freshman class from early decision. In 2013 the accept rate for regular decision was 15%. WashU offers several merit-based scholarships for each college that require a separate application. WashU values academic rigor and test scores equally. They also look for nice students with strong integrity, a passion for learning, and who want to get involved on campus. They superscore both the ACT and SAT and do not require the writing section for ACT.
My daughter’s impression: I love it here. It feels like a competitive, but nurturing environment. The students seem well-rounded, nice, inclusive, happy hardworking high achieving and subtly intellectually curious. I could definitely see myself here.
Washington University in St. Louis
One Brookings Drive
St. Louis, MO 63130
Guest blogger, Ben Cristol (class of 2011 from Paschal High School in Ft. Worth, TX) writes his impressions as he tours WashU.
Climbing up the steps to Brookings Hall, I already had a positive feeling about my visit to WashU. Brookings is an immense castle-like building which houses the admissions department, and serves as an entrance to the gorgeous Collegiate Gothic-styled campus dotted with buildings of pink granite and limestone. In the information session, it became clear that WashU is a truly “customer service” oriented institution. The admissions officer who spoke to our group was so encouraging that a parent even remarked, “so…everyone in here is accepted?” A unique aspect of the school that speaks to its “customer service” bent is the advisor system. Most schools have traditional advisors to help pick classes and residential advisors that live in underclassmen dorms, but at WashU advisors play a much bigger part of a student’s life. A student has an advisor to help pick courses, an advisor for his or her major and minor, upperclassmen residential advisors, as well as student health advisors and a residential college director employed by the university. Multiple students I spoke with confirmed they had an intimate relationship with their advisors, and explained that it was not only normal, but expected to stop by your advisor’s office regularly.
Despite the frigid temperatures, the campus was still bustling. The campus tour was excellent in its depth and comprehensive view of the college. I met up with a friend from whom who is a current sophomore. I sat through her International Public Health class, which she referred to as her favorite class this semester. The class consisted of around 100 students. The professor primarily taught the class with two teaching assistants; however professors teach most WashU classes. The class was both informative and interactive. My friend handed me the syllabus, and it was clear that the professor’s expectations were high, but at the same time, wanted students to succeed. Students at WashU have the chance to take one course pass/fail per semester and this particular professor even had an extra credit opportunity for students who were in jeopardy of failing.
My favorite part of the Wash U campus was probably The South 40 residential community. The South 40 is separate from the academic part of campus and houses virtually all underclassmen. There is a unity amongst the residential dorms as well as a rivalry between them with an annual athletic tournament that takes place. The dorms are either traditional or modern, but in several years they will all be modern and equipped with Tempurpedic mattresses! Each hall included convenient study rooms. The South 40 has its own dining hall called The Bear’s Den, and along with the school’s other eating venues, WashU has been ranked best food on several list among the offerings were a grill with burgers, steaks, and ahi tuna, a tandoor with traditional Indian food, and arguably the most popular, a Mongolian grill with stir fry. In addition, The South 40 has a café with a creperie and hot chocolate bar as well as several student run businesses such as an IT store, a dry cleaners, a Laundromat, a nail salon, and a hair salon.
Wash U is a wonderful school that is strong in all areas – engineering, architecture, humanities, pre-med, and more. The students are very driven and focused, but they are also friendly and welcoming. Students are collaborative and friendly. Students are also social with countless extracurricular groups, and almost 30 % involved in Greek life. Best of all, Wash U wants its students to succeed, and this is evident in many ways from constantly renovating facilities to the vast amount of research and internship opportunities that a student can obtain on campus.