Midwestern Excellence: Washington University in St. Louis

By Coach Sara About a 20-minute drive west of the Mississippi River and downtown St. Louis lies the campus of Washington University in St. Louis. Established in 1853 to give students in the Midwest better access to higher education, Wash. U. now ranks among the most selective universities in the country. While admission to this school is extremely competitive, students looking for challenging academics, numerous opportunities for research and community service, and an educational environment that emphasizes independent thought and diversity of perspectives would do well to check it out!   The university had a bit of a rocky start. At the time of its founding, it lacked an endowment, and it ended up changing names three times within its first three years. The name “Washington University” was finally chosen to remind attendees of the first U.S. president—something the founders hoped could be a unifying factor in the divisive atmosphere that would eventually spawn the Civil War. Over the years, though, the school found its footing, transitioning from a night school serving mostly new immigrants to the area to a full-blown university encompassing liberal arts, sciences, a law school, and a medical school. Today, it boasts a total campus enrollment of about 14,000 students, half of whom are undergraduates.   Wash. U.’s biggest selling point for most students is the rigor of its academics. Honors received by WuStL faculty include nine Pulitzer Prizes, 15 National Medals of Science, and four recognitions as Poet Laureate of the United States, to name just a few! Over the years, 24 Nobel Laureates have been associated with the university. The vast majority of students—about 80%—have a minor or are double-majoring, and each year the university has more than 3,000 research projects underway. Wash. U. students are definitely not slacking off!   There’s more going on here than academics, though. On campus, around 75% of students participate in intramurals and about a quarter of students participate in Greek Life. In late 2016, students also welcomed a brand new recreation center on campus with facilities for fitness, play, socializing, and relaxation. Wash. U. students stay just as busy off campus, completing more than 7 million hours of community service each year.   The city of St. Louis itself is also a draw for many students. As a major Midwestern city, it offers the variety of social and career opportunities one would expect from a big city. However, it has a lower-key atmosphere than, say, Chicago, and a milder climate as well. Only about a minute’s walk from campus, Wash. U. students can also enjoy Forest Park, a 1,317-acre park with beautiful waterways, outdoor trails and pathways, the St. Louis Zoo, St. Louis Art Museum, a planetarium, golf course, tennis courts, the historic World’s Fair Pavilion, and much, much more. Many activities available are free or cheap—perfect for a college student’s limited budget!   While we’re on the topic of money, prospective WuStL students should know that the university’s sticker price is not cheap: about $65,000 per year for tuition, fees, room and board alone. However, the university pledges to meet 100% of students’ financial need, and the average financial aid package is more than $42,000. This is good news for students who can’t afford the big price tag, because, if you are admitted, the university will do its best to give you all the financial help you need. There’s good news for students who don’t qualify for much need-based aid as well. Unlike many universities with similar financial aid policies, Wash. U. does offer merit scholarships based on things like academics, leadership, and special talents rather than financial need.   If you want to attend Wash. U., you will need excellent grades and test scores. Of students admitted, 89% were in the top 10% of their high school class and 100% were in the top quarter. The middle 50% of admitted students earned between a 32 and a 34 on the ACT. In addition to top-notch academics, Wash. U. is also looking for students who have a demonstrated record of involvement outside the classroom, and they especially want students who have deep involvement in one or two extracurricular activities. Remember, this is a school that emphasizes students giving back to the local community!   With an acceptance rate of less than 16%, Washington University in St. Louis is not for everyone, but for students who fit the profile, attending here can be an academically and personally rewarding experience. CAA students who are interested in learning more about this school should give their coaches a call!