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How to Get Into Washington and Lee: Admissions Stats + Tips

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What’s Covered:


Located in Lexington, VA, in the Shenandoah Valley, Washington and Lee is composed of The College, a traditional liberal arts college; and the Williams School of Commerce, which offers Bachelors of Science and Bachelors of Arts degrees in the areas of business and politics. W&L is also home to its School of Law. Undergraduate students at W&L enjoy the personal and engaging experience of its small liberal arts college, as well as the resources of the other two schools, like the Connolly Center for Entrepreneurship and the IQ Center. 


In this post, we cover W&L’s selectivity level, the average profile of its admitted students, how to optimize your application, and other tips and deadlines. 


How Hard Is It to Get Into Washington and Lee?


In 2020, Washington and Lee University received 4,998 applicants, of which 1,225 were accepted. This means that last year, Washington and Lee’s acceptance rate was 24.5%, making it a selective school. That same year, Washington and Lee received 514 early decision applicants, of which 270 were accepted, which yields a 52.5% acceptance rate for early decision. Washington and Lee does not have early action.  


Want to get a sense of how your application may stack up against other potential applicants?


Try using our free admissions calculator. By taking into account multiple elements of your profile, including your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and more, we’ll estimate your odds of acceptance, and give you tips on improving your profile! 


Average Academic Profile of Accepted Washington and Lee Students


Class Rank


Of this year’s freshman class at Washington and Lee, 77% graduated in the top 10% of their high school class, and 98% graduated in the top 25%. A full 100% graduated in the top half. 




From the current freshman class, 52% submitted SAT scores, and 48% submitted ACT scores. The 75th percentile of scores was a 1500 on the SAT, and a 34 on the ACT


While standardized test scores are usually required for applicants to Washington and Lee, due to disruptions to testing access, the requirement will be suspended for the next two application cycles (applications for the classes of 2025 and 2026.) Although optional, test scores will be considered if submitted.




Washington and Lee does not release the GPAs of accepted students, but given that more than three-quarters of admitted students graduated in the top 10% of their class, you should aim for all A’s. 


What is Washington and Lee Looking For?


In addition to academically-talented students, Washington and Lee seeks individuals who are curious and engaged—often leaders in their schools and communities—with an ambition to impact those around them after graduation. 


How Washington and Lee Evaluates Applications


According to their 2020-2021 Common Data Set, Washington and Lee considers the following factors “very important”:


  • Course rigor
  • Class rank
  • Application essay
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Character/personal qualities


These factors are “important”:

  • Academic GPA
  • Standardized test scores
  • Application essay
  • Recommendations


These are “considered”:

  • Interview
  • Talent/ability
  • First generation
  • Alumni/ae relation
  • Geographical residence
  • State residency
  • Racial/ethnic status
  • Volunteer work
  • Work experience
  • Level of applicant’s interest 


And these are “not considered”:

  • Religious affiliation


Discover your chances at hundreds of schools

Our free chancing engine takes into account your history, background, test scores, and extracurricular activities to show you your real chances of admission—and how to improve them.


How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into Washington and Lee 


1. Take the most challenging classes available and aim to graduate at the top of your class. 


It’s important to note that Washington and Lee considers GPA to be less important than course rigor and class rank. While the school doesn’t offer information on students’ high school GPA, remember that 98% of accepted applicants graduated in the top quarter of their class. A competitive candidate for Washington and Lee will be challenging themselves in their course rigor, so you should try and take advanced honors, AP, or IB classes. In addition, aim for all A’s. Graduating as valedictorian of your high school will give you a great boost at your chances of acceptance to Washington and Lee. 


Selective schools like Washington and Lee receive a massive number of applications and use a tool known as the Academic Index to sort through them. Academic Index consolidates your entire academic performance into a single number which is used to see if you meet a school’s academic standards. If you fail to meet a college’s Academic Index threshold, you risk not having your application read. 


If your GPA is lower, and you’re earlier on in your high school career, check out our tips for increasing your GPA. If you’re a junior or senior, it will be harder to increase your GPA, so the easiest way to increase your Academic Index is to get a higher test score.


2. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”).


Washington and Lee highly values explorative and hands-on learning. Students will find a range of opportunities like Field Programs or Washington and Lee’s famousMock Convention—a 112-year old tradition of a student-run replication of the presidential nominating convention—at their fingertips. Predictably, Washington and Lee wants to see how students’ high school extracurricular activities show their engagement with the real world and non-academic passions, whether that be through service work, debate clubs, or music competition awards.  


In general, any activity that you do regularly outside the classroom counts as an extracurricular, as long as you can demonstrate that the activity has contributed to your growth as an individual. However, not all extracurriculars are created equal. Extracurricular activities can generally be divided into four “tiers.” To increase your chances at W&L, you should have one to two “Tier 1” or “Tier 2” extracurriculars. 


  • Tier 1 activities demonstrate exceptional talent, achievement, leadership, or merit. Activities and roles on the national level or which garner field-wide recognition count as Tier 1 activities. This may include winning a national award, qualifying for international competition and therefore gaining prestigious recognition, or starting a nonprofit that gains national traction. Having a Tier 1 activity marks you as a distinguished youth in the field of your activity, so having Tier 1 activities is rare. 


  • Tier 2 activities are more common than Tier 1, but still show high levels of achievement and potential. Holding school-wide leadership positions like student government president, winning regional competitions or awards, and local recognition as a student athlete or musician are all considered Tier 2. 


  • Tier 3 activities demonstrate sustained participation rather than exceptional achievement, and are frequently seen in applications, both across the board as well as in any given individual student’s application, as some students may have more than one Tier 3 activity. These activities can include holding minor positions in school clubs or being on a Varsity team.


  • Tier 4 activities are the most common and have the lowest entry bar; they demonstrate interest without particular dedication. However, they are still important to include, especially if you have higher tier activities, because they can help show the diversity of your interests. Tier 4 activities can include regular volunteering, general membership in clubs or organizations, or taking any kind of music or art lesson over several years. 


3. Write engaging essays.


Like most liberal arts colleges, Washington and Lee values a student’s ability to form arguments and articulate themselves through writing. Additionally, with the school’s focus on a student’s character and personal qualities, as well as real-world applications of skills, the essay is the perfect place for applicants to show his or her strengths, character, authentic voice, and written eloquence. 


Take a look at our guide on How to Write the Washington and Lee University Essays 2021–2022. 


4. Apply Early Decision.


Remember that Washington and Lee’s early decision acceptance rate is 52.5%, while the regular decision acceptance rate is 24.5%. As early decision is binding, you considerably increase your chances of acceptance to Washington and Lee when you apply as an early decision applicant—even after accounting for profile strength. If you have your heart set on W&L, applying ED can be a great way to show your commitment. However, there are some drawbacks to keep in mind about applying early, including less time to refine your application, fewer financial aid packages options, and the obvious inability to try your hand at other colleges if you do get in.   


How to Apply to Washington and Lee




Planning on applying to Washington and Lee? Here are some dates to keep in mind for the 2021–2022 cycle. 


Application Timeline

Admissions Application Due

Financial Aid Application Due

Notification Date

Early Decision 1

November 1

December 1

Late December

Early Decision 2

January 1

January 15

Late January

Regular Decision

January 1

February 15

April 1


Application Requirements


Washington and Lee accepts applications through the Common Application as well as the QuestBridge National College Match application. To apply, you will need the following materials:


  • Common App 
  • Official high school transcript 
  • Two teacher recommendations
  • One recommendation letter from your guidance or college counselor
  • The Common Application Secondary School Report form, completed by your guidance or college counselor


The following materials are optional:


  • Self-reported SAT or ACT scores 
  • A signed Early Decision agreement 


Learn more about Washington and Lee



Curious about your chances of acceptance to Washington and Lee? Our free chancing engine takes into account your GPA, test scores, extracurriculars, and other data to predict your odds of acceptance at over 500 colleges across the U.S. We’ll also let you know how you stack up against other applicants and how you can improve your profile. Calculate your chances for free!


Short Bio
Kimberly graduated from Smith College with a degree in English Literature. This year, she has been based in Beijing, China, where she works in the education field and rescues dogs in her free time. She will be starting her masters at Columbia University in the fall.