From modest beginnings as a regional university, Washington University in St. Louis
has emerged as a national leader in undergraduate and graduate education. The university
now draws approximately ninety percent of students from outside of Missouri, with students
from all fifty states, two U.S. territories, the District of Columbia, and approximately sixty
countries. Nearly sixty percent of the students come from more than 500 miles away, making
this one of the most geographically diverse universities in the world. As a medium-sized
university, Wash. U. provides the perfect combination of a friendly smaller campus with the
resources of a large university. Visitors will notice a unique spirit of camaraderie. Some
might attribute it to midwestern friendliness, but more likely it is the product of the common
desire to learn that pervades the campus.
Washington University’s Danforth Campus is set on a hill overlooking Forest Park,
one of the nation’s largest urban parks. The World’s Fair brought international ambassadors
and exhibits to the park in 1904, and Brookings Hall served as a gathering place much as it
does for students today. From this vantage point, seven miles west of downtown St. Louis,
the offices, restaurants, theaters, and stadiums nearly blend into the horizon. Known for
the majestic Gateway Arch, St. Louis offers a variety of cultural experiences from concerts
and theater performances to Cardinals baseball games and the second largest Mardi Gras
celebration in the nation.
“Students here are academic rock stars. They’re genuinely passionate
about learning. They’re also tremendously diverse in their intellectual perspectives, and that
diversity has influenced every paper, project, and conversation I’ve had at
Washington U.—Alex Rosenberg, Olin Business School and College of Arts & Sciences, 2010
Students can choose from four undergraduate colleges: Arts & Sciences, Business,
Design & Visual Arts (including Architecture, Art), and Engineering. (There are also graduate
programs in these colleges, plus those in Law, Medicine, Occupational Therapy, Physical
Therapy, and Social Work.) The choices don’t end there. Many students opt to pursue combined studies through double majors, minors, or dual-degree programs. It is easy to pursue
multiple interests even if they involve two different undergraduate schools of the university.
Flexibility is a key component of an education at Washington University. Faculty advisors guide
students on a path that explores a variety of interests.
Wash. U. provides a dynamic, challenging academic environment. Students can choose
from unique courses such as “The Cultural History of the Robot” and “Strangers and Savages,
Aliens and Outcasts.” Opportunities to learn don’t end in the classroom either. Research projects
are open to undergraduates, and every year many students choose to travel and study
abroad through a university-sponsored program.
Technology helps Wash. U. students develop skills for learning that will make them successful
later in their careers. In addition to resources located in the libraries, the university
offers wireless access to the Internet in many locations as well as computer labs in the residential
colleges and other campus locations, and wireless Internet access in each residence
hall room. Most courses offer an online element whether it is a home page, tutorials, or one of
several interactive online learning tools.
Improvements are also taking place on the campus landscape—new buildings are
sprouting up every year. The Danforth University Center, which opened in fall 2008, has quickly
become a student gathering place on campus. In recent years, a new building housing law and
social science departments from Arts & Science—Harry and Susan Seigle Hall opened, and
Olin Library completed renovations that include a popular Internet cafe. Washington has a
commitment to improvement, and it shows.
My undergraduate research experience has given me great hope. I have
watched neurosurgeons implant tiny electrical circuits deep into the brain,
observed neurologists program the circuitry, and witnessed the subsequent joy of
newfound independence that engineering brought to life. —Jennifer Wu, School of Engineering & Applied Science, 2009
However, the real value comes from students. At Wash. U., students set high academic
standards for themselves, but they also enjoy participating in community service, playing
Frisbee in the Swamp, and going to parties at one of eleven fraternities. Social, cultural, politi -
cal, and religious groups design programs to educate and entertain their fellow students.
Ursa’s, a corner cafe that accepts university meal cards, offers a patio where students meet on
warm afternoons. Issues of Student Life, the 130-year-old student newspaper, can be seen on
tables and in backpacks all over campus. Whether students choose to live in a Residential
College, the Village, a fraternity, or a university-owned apartment, they will enjoy the benefits
of a close community.
From the friendly smiles on the oak-lined paths to the group study sessions in Ursa’s
Cafe, visitors pick up an atmosphere of community at Wash. U. This atmosphere extends into
the classroom, where professors are eager to share their knowledge and students are engaged
in active analysis. Flexibility is also prevalent in the selection of classes, majors, and extracurricular
activities. Students with initiative can define their own experience, and Wash. U. has
the resources to support innovative thinking. Professors who lead in their field, the latest technology,
and the surrounding city of St. Louis all create opportunities for learning. Still, much
self-discovery takes place outside of the classroom—in residence halls, at student group meetings,
and even at social events. The size and location of Washington U. make it a perfect fit for
students who don’t want to be lost in the crowd but are excited by the opportunities at a
Flexibility is central to academics at Wash. U. Students are encouraged to pursue their
interests even when they change; multiple interests are not only tolerated but encouraged. It
is common to have a double major, even in different schools of the university. Sixty-four percent
of students earn a major and minor or more than one major. Some students even choose
to design their own major. With over ninety programs and 1,500 courses offered, no wonder students
get excited about multiple subjects. Wash. U. students experience self-discovery by taking
challenging classes in many divisions, working with renowned professors, and using their
Many students receive credit for AP, honors, or IB courses taken during high school.
In addition, placement exams are offered for areas such as foreign language and
mathematics. Even when credit is not awarded, honors courses are beneficial in the
admissions process because they represent a student’s desire to be challenged.
Many students begin their studies with optional freshman seminars and special programs,
such as the Mind, Brain, and Behavior program, which prepares students for
research during sophomore year. FOCUS seminars, concentrating on controversial issues in
society, are also popular. Wash. U. is a pioneer in combined studies, with majors such as
Philosophy, Neuroscience, and Psychology (PNP) and American Culture Studies. The University Scholars Program is another unique opportunity, in which students apply
for both undergraduate and graduate study at Washington University in specific areas.
University Scholars work with a faculty mentor who guides them toward their desired
The school year is organized into two semesters, with a wide selection of courses also
offered during the summer. Students typically take about fifteen credit hours (or five
classes) per semester. By junior and senior year, many students are able to schedule classes
with Fridays off. One of the only required courses at Wash. U. is writing 1, a freshm an-level
writing course. Writing provides the foundation for communication in nearly all
disciplines, so its importance is stressed early. Later, course selection is guided by each
undergraduate school. In Arts & Sciences, classes are chosen through a cluster system.
Core courses cover the following areas:
- Physical and natural sciences and mathematics
- Social and behavioral sciences
- Textual and historical studies
- Languages and the arts
I like that you can take classes in any school—art, business, arts and
science. I like it open-ended. I came here for a liberal arts education, and that’s
what I’m doing. —Daniel Gealy, College of Arts & Sciences, 2009
As in the selection of a major, class options are numerous and flexible. Students in the
undergraduate schools are encouraged to take classes from the other schools. An
architecture student may take an engineering class in computer science, while a political
science major takes management in the business school.
Classes at Washington challenge students to think analytically, to become problem
solvers, and relate ideas to the big picture. More than eighty percent of classes have fewer than
twenty-four students, encouraging personal attention from the professor and a prominent role
in discussion. Classes can be larger the first year, especially in introductory courses that provide
a prerequisite for many majors. By senior year, students find themselves in much smaller
classes, among a community of their peers. Classes provide solid preparation for graduate
school or a career by emphasizing communication skills and critical thinking.
Students are automatically assigned to a four-year academic advisor upon arrival.
Advisors are guides and resources for self-discovery. They help students achieve their
goals and outline a career path, but they rely on students to challenge themselves.
Freshmen also are given a peer advisor, an upper-class student who can provide assistance
in making the transition to college. Once a student declares a major, he or she chooses a
major advisor. Major advisors have experience and knowledge in their fields and can be
especially helpful in discussing career options.
Learning Beyond the Classroom
Outside the classroom walls, experiential learning shapes the Wash. U. experience.
Many students participate in internships, whether they are during the summer or the
school year. The Career Center maintains relationships with many companies to facilitate
internships for students.
Study-abroad programs are available for every discipline, and are typically completed
during junior year. Programs include economics at the London School of Economics, business
in Hong Kong, and health care in France.
Ultimately, it is the daily experiences of the university—interacting with peers, conducting
research, or joining a student group—that complete the learning experience.
With more than 3.7 million books, periodicals, and government publications, Wash. U.
libraries provide excellent resources for research—including wireless Internet
access. Electronic resources are also plentiful with subscriptions to many electronic journals
and databases available through an Internet connection. In addition, all campus rooms
are supplied with wireless Internet access, and each residential college has its own computer
lab. Courses in computer science and electronic media are also available for interested
students even if they are not students in the School of Engineering.
The most recent addition to the Wash. U. landscape, Harry and Susan Seigle Hall, offers
new classrooms and much-needed space for political science, economics, and education. Soon
new dorms under construction in the residence hall area will offer students additional living
options, and a new engineering building will provide state-of-the art laboratories.
Campus events such as lectures, readings, and conferences are another asset to an education
at Wash. U. The Assembly Series is a regular lecture program during the academic year.
In recent years speakers on campus have included NAACP Chairman Julian Bond, former
Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, New York Times columnist Tom Friedman, the
Dalai Lama of Tibet, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Bill Gates, and a number of U.S. Presidents.
Educational services such as the Writing Center, the International House, and the
Disability Resource Center offer help to students. Students can discuss an essay with a peer
tutor or simply brainstorm ideas at the Writing Center. International students benefit from
English Language Programs courses and assistance with the transition to life in the United
States. Even a student who breaks a wrist can be assisted with note-takers from the Disability
Resource Center ready to fill in while the student heals.
Most Popular Fields of Study
With over 22,000 applications in a recent year, Wash. U. is becoming increasingly competitive.
To compete, students must pursue a challenging combination of courses and extracurricular
activities. Admissions officers look at course selection and grades, recommendations,
essays, extracurricular activities, and standardized tests.
Academic excellence, demonstrated by transcripts and test scores, is only the first step
in the admissions process. At Washington U., applicants must also show how they have challenged
themselves or pursued a personal talent. Initiative—taking honors, AP and IB courses
when available, conducting independent research, or leading a team—separates high achievers.
Recommendation letters and essay responses are the best methods for applicants to
emphasize their unique qualities.
Either the SAT or the ACT is required and should be taken in the fall of senior year, if not
earlier. Early Decision applications are due by November 15, whereas regular decision
applications are due by January 15. Regular admission decisions are mailed on April 1.
Admission Procedures by School
General admission procedures require sending a high school transcript, which should
include the following:
- 4 years of English
- 4 years of mathematics (calculus is recommended)
- 3–4 years of history and social sciences
- 3–4 years of laboratory sciences
- at least 2 years of foreign language
High school courses should reflect preparation for the program you are pursuing. For
instance, students interested in the sciences, engineering, or the premedicine program should
have preparation in chemistry, physics, calculus, and biology. Art and Architecture students have the option of providing a portfolio, which should include drawings from direct observation
and a variety of media. A strong academic background is essential for success at
Washington University, but it must be combined with a desire to seek out challenges.
The diverse student body at Washington U. is a huge plus—for the first
time, I know people who are completely different from me. I’ve learned to think
independently and creatively.
Most students receive some form of financial assistance through scholarships, student
loans, and part-time employment. All scholarships are awarded based on merit, yet some are
given on both merit and need. Both the College Scholarship Service (CSS) PROFILE and the
Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) are acceptable to apply for need-based
financial assistance. Army and Air Force ROTC Scholarships are another option. Payment
plans with monthly tuition installments and long-term, low-interest loans are available for
Students have access to numerous campus jobs whether or not they have applied for
financial assistance. Approximately half of all students work part-time on campus.
These students can be found in laboratories, administrative offices, libraries, theaters, the
Athletic Complex, and the bookstore.
The University provides nearly $65 million each year in scholarships to undergraduates,
including both merit-based and need-based scholarships. More information is available
from the admissions Web site (admissions.wustl.edu).
Student Financial Aid Details
Leadership at Washington University is apparent both in and out of the classroom.
Students may develop as leaders through group projects in the business school, teamwork
in intramural basketball, or as an elected class representative. Avenues for developing
leadership skills include meeting with other student leaders in the Student Group Council,
attending leadership conferences, or participating in workshops during the Women’s
Leadership Training Initiative. The most valuable learning experience for many students is
simply diving into a leadership position. Advisors in the Office of Student Activities are available
for support, but student leaders make the real decisions for their groups.
It’s nice because there’s always something going on, events to go to with
groups and friends and be surrounded by friends. There’s variety academically,
too. I can do art and East Asian studies at the same time—and whatever else I
want. —Jonathan Yukio Clark, College of Art and College of Arts & Sciences, 2009
Elected positions in the Congress of the South 40 (CS40), the North Side Association,
and Student Union (SU) are highly sought after. These governing organizations allow students
to influence important issues that shape the Wash. U. community. CS40 and the North Side
Association are the government bodies for the residential areas of campus, known as the South
40 and the Village. Student Union, the primary student governmental body, allocates more
than $2 million in activities funds to student groups in addition to representing student concerns
to the administration. Students here have power to make a difference.
Academic organizations provide an opportunity to meet with students and faculty who
share your interests. Groups such as the Biomedical Engineers Society, Pre-Med
Society, and American Institute of Graphic Arts allow students to discuss their career interests and learn from a community of their peers. Honorary groups recognize outstanding
students and bring them together to help the community. For example, the sophomore
honorary, Lock & Chain, hosts the biannual book sale.
Surveys indicate fifty-seven percent of students at Wash. U. participate in community service,
whether on campus or in the St. Louis community. Volunteer opportunities range
from teaching children about environmental issues to serving food to those in need.
Community service also means raising money for charities through Greek philanthropies or
events such as Dance Marathon, a day of entertainment benefiting the Children’s Miracle
Network. The Campus Y offers many programs for students interested in volunteering,
including becoming a friend to senior citizens in the community through S.A.G.E. (Serving
Across Generations). While some students are enjoying Caribbean beaches, other students
choose an alternative spring break, devoting one week to community service projects such
as building homes for low-income families.
Fraternities and sororities complement life at Wash. U. by providing social activities,
community service, brotherhood, and sisterhood. About twenty-five percent of students
belong to one of twelve fraternities or six sororities. Rush takes place at the beginning of
the second semester, so students have a chance to learn about Greek life well before joining.
Fraternities have on-campus houses, managed by the university. Sororities have suites
to gather for meetings or relaxation, but no traditional living quarters on campus. “Greeks”
at Wash. U. are not in an isolated community. Fraternities and sororities provide a supportive
social structure for students, but most “Greek” students maintain or develop relationships
with “non-Greek” students throughout their time at Wash. U.
I have enjoyed my experiences at Washington U. because I have been
able to pursue my interests. It’s an incredible feeling to win a national volleyball
championship and show my designs in Saint Louis Fashion Week—all in the
same year. —Audra Janak, College of Art, 2009
Social Events and Performances
While students at Wash. U. work hard, they also take time to relax. Social events such as
concerts, acts by comedians, and a weekly happy hour are popular among students.
Artistic performances are abundant. Wash. U. is known for its excellent a cappella
groups—male, female, coed, ethnic, cultural, classical, gospel—you name it. The Performing
Arts Department puts on up to six productions a year. A battle of the bands called Sounds of
the Swamp features student bands in a showcase of Wash. U. talent.
Walk In Lay Down, better known as WILD, is a Wash. U. tradition and the most highly
attended event every semester. For one day, the Quad is filled with free food, drinks, games,
music, and people. Students, faculty, and staff come together to celebrate both the beginning
and end of the academic year. The day culminates with a headlining band, which is kept secret
until about a week before the event.
The oldest student-run carnival in the nation, Thurtene, is a Wash. U. community service
tradition. A junior honor organization called Thurtene organizes the carnival for one
weekend in April each year, complete with a Ferris wheel, cotton candy, and games.
Fraternities and sororities team up to build and decorate playhouses, or “facades,” to perform
plays and musicals written by students. Not only the university’s students, faculty, and
staff enjoy the carnival, but families from the St. Louis community also join in the fun. All
of the proceeds from ticket sales are donated to local charities.
Wash. U. students use media for artistic expression, to convey opinions, or to entertain
others, and at the same time they gain valuable real-life experience. The university TV
station (WUTV) and radio station (KWUR) are student-run and feature student broadcasters,
actors, and DJs. Written publications highlight the talents of student writers. Student Life,
one of the nation’s oldest independent student newspapers, is a forum for dialogue on controversial
issues as well as a way to find out what is happening on campus. Literary magazines
feature student essays, short stories, poems, photographs, and drawings.
Cultural and Religious Groups
Cultural groups offer a community for people with similar backgrounds while educating
others about diverse traditions, values, and lifestyles. Annual performances such as the
Indian celebration of Diwali and the Lunar New Year Festival create long lines of students
waiting at the box office for tickets.
Religious organizations such as Hillel and the Catholic Student Center create a home
away from home for many students. These organizations not only offer religious services, but
also fellowship with other students, community service projects, and contact with St. Louis.
Political groups on both sides of the spectrum are active on campus, and they encourage
students to discuss issues by sponsoring debates and voting drives. In 2008, the U.S.
Vice Presidential Debate, featuring Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joseph Biden, was hosted at
the Washington University Athletic Complex. Students participated as volunteers and were
admitted into the audience.
As a pre-med student, I’m very appreciative of the opportunities to integrate
experiences at the medical school. There’s even a class that allows you to
shadow an ER physician. Pre-medical preparation here is second to none. —Andrew Hoekzema, College of Arts & Sciences, 2010
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
Wash. U. is an NCAA Division III school and founding member of the University Athletic
Association (UAA). No athletic scholarships are offered, which means that athletes
are dedicated to both academics and athletics. Student athletes are students first, athletes
second. Nineteen varsity sports are offered, and Wash. U. has had championship success in
almost every one. In 2007, the women’s volleyball team captured a record-setting ninth
NCAA Division III national championship. The men’s basketball team and the men’s golf
team also captured NCAA Division III National Championships in 2008.
Club and intramural sports are popular among students because they allow exercise,
competition, and camaraderie without the time commitment of varsity sports. More than
seventy-five percent of students have participated in at least one intramural sport. Some
unusual sports such as Ultimate Frisbee and inner-tube water polo are included in the intramural
Sports and recreation facilities at Washington are comprehensive. The Athletic
Complex includes an indoor and outdoor track, a swimming pool, basketball court, tennis courts, racquetball courts, and more. The South 40 Fitness Center provides a place to work out
just steps away from most of the residence halls. The tree-lined paths and golf course of Forest
Park are just across the street.
St. Louis is known as a great sports city, so even professional sports fanatics can be
happy at Wash. U. With teams such as the St. Louis Rams, Cardinals, and Blues, games take
place year-round. Busch Stadium is easily accessible from Wash. U. via the MetroLink, and
both peer advisors and resident advisors are known to take their groups to sports games on
The most popular majors for a recent year’s graduating class included biology, psychology,
engineering, and business. Graduates found jobs around the country and around the
world. Every year employers seek out the combination of skills developed at Washington
Students have access to the Washington
University Career Centers, where the staff is ready to
critique a résumé, discuss a career search, or provide
career resources. Career preparation covers all four
years with seminars ranging from “How to Find an
Internship” to “Interviewing Skills.” Approximately 200
companies recruited on campus in a recent year
including Microsoft, Bloomingdales, Teach for
America, and Bank of America. Wash. U. also offers an
opportunity to build connections with alumni through
a database called Career Connections.
An education at Wash. U. fosters a continued
desire for learning, and many students choose to continue
with graduate study. In fact, thirty-three percent
of the Class of 2007 planned to go to graduate school
immediately, and eighty-five percent said they planned
further graduate or professional education some time
in the future. Wash. U. prepares students for success in
master’s degree and Ph.D. programs. Some students
even pursue further study in one of the graduate programs
offered through the university’s seven schools.
I value being able to double major and take other courses I find interesting.
I studied Irish literature through a freshman program and attended
plays in Ireland. Nothing is watered down. These courses are very substantive
and challenging. —Chase Sackett, College of Arts & Sciences, 2010
- Clark Clifford, Former Secretary of
- Ken Cooper, Pulitzer Prize-winning
- David Garroway, Host of NBC-TV’s
- Frank Gladney, Founder of 7-UP
- A.E. Hotchner, Novelist and
- John F. McDonnell, Former CEO of
- Shepherd Mead, Playwright
- Condé Nast, Vogue Publisher
- Mike Peters, Pulitzer Prize-winning
- Harold Ramis, Screenwriter famous
for Ghostbusters and Animal House
- Earl Sutherland, Nobel Laureate in
- James Thompson, Former Governor
- Tennessee Williams, Playwright
- William H. Webster, Former
Director of FBI and CIA
Professors at Washington U. are leaders in their fields, engaged in research but also interested
in sharing their knowledge with undergraduates. They enjoy teaching. Professors
have been honored with awards that include the Nobel Prize and Pulitzer Prize. Yet, professors
are approachable and accessible in and out of the classroom. Frequently, students and
professors meet to continue a classroom discussion, discuss a paper, or clarify information
before an exam. Some undergraduates pursue research, working closely with a faculty mentor. Research is not constrained to laboratory science either. Opportunities exist in a variety
of fields, from anthropology to economics.
The professors I’ve had really keep our attention and keep us involved
in class by keeping the topics interesting and relevant. The professors are interacting
with us, not just lecturing. They bring in a lot of real-world information