How to Get Into WashU: Admissions Stats + Tips
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- How Hard Is It To Get Into WashU?
- Average Academic Profile of Accepted WashU Students
- What is WashU Looking for?
- How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into WashU
Known as the “Harvard of the Midwest,” Washington University in St. Louis was founded in 1853 and quickly proved itself to be a renowned research university. With four undergraduate schools — Arts & Sciences, McKelvey School of Engineering, Olin Business School, and Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts — it consistently produces leaders across numerous fields.
Opportunities abound for students with a multitude of interests and goals, and perhaps that’s why WashU draws people from across the country and all over the world. Admission is highly competitive, so it’s important to understand what it takes to be accepted.
How Hard Is It to Get Into WashU?
For the class of 2024, 27,949 students applied, and 2,375 were admitted, for an acceptance rate of 16%.
The previous year’s overall acceptance rate was also 16%, and the Early Decision acceptance rate was 38%.
This rate is, of course, extremely low, but your personal chances of admission could be higher or lower, depending on the strength of your profile. In order to estimate your own odds of acceptance, we suggest trying CollegeVine’s admissions calculator. This free tool uses your grades, test scores, extracurriculars, and more to predict your real chances of admission to WashU, plus it gives you tips on how to improve your profile.
Average Academic Profile of Accepted WashU Students
The average high school GPA for the freshman class at WashU is 4.21, with 67% who had a GPA of 4.0 or above.
The middle 50% SAT score range is 1480-1560, and the ACT range is 33-35. Thirty-seven percent of students in the freshman class submitted SAT scores, and 67% submitted ACT scores.
One-quarter of students submitted class rank, and 86% were in the top 10% of their graduating class. 99 percent were in the top 25% of their high school class.
What is WashU Looking for?
Like other schools of its caliber, WashU employs a holistic admissions process, taking into account factors including grades, test scores, extracurriculars, essays, and recommendations.
Bear in mind that WashU seeks students whom they believe want to attend the university. If you have an exceptionally strong profile and WashU is your first choice, it’s a good idea to apply Early Decision I or II so the adcom knows you want to attend. Otherwise, you risk the suspicion that you’re applying as a safety option.
Remember, too, that each of the undergraduate divisions offers different experiences, appealing to unique areas of academic interest. Students will indicate their division of choice when they apply, so it’s important to ensure that your interests and experiences align with the focus of that school. You can change majors and take courses in other divisions down the line. However, you should still have preparation in the division you initially indicated.
For example, if you’re applying to the College of Art, you should have a portfolio and evidence of your artistic skill and talent. Meanwhile, if you’re applying to study at the School of Engineering, high-level coursework in math and science courses is a must.
How WashU Evaluates Applications
According to the 2020–21 Common Data Set, WashU considers the following factors “very important”:
- Rigor of secondary school record
- Class rank
- Academic GPA
- Standardized test scores
- Application essay
- Character/personal qualities
WashU considers these factors “important”:
- Extracurricular activities
- First generation
- Volunteer work
- Work experience
These are “considered”:
- Alumni/ae relation
- Geographical residence
- Racial/ethnic status
- Level of applicant’s interest
These are “not considered”:
- State residency
- Religious affiliation/commitment
How to Improve Your Chances of Getting into WashU
1. Achieve at least a 4.21 while taking the most challenging classes available
Most schools with WashU’s selectivity use the Academic Index to initially evaluate students. This metric combines factors like GPA and test scores to determine whether students meet the initial threshold, before considering qualitative factors.
WashU’s average weighted GPA is extremely high, so it’s pivotal that you not only get all (or mostly) A’s in your courses but also take the most challenging curriculum available to you. This should includ plenty of APs and honors courses, especially in or related to your area of focus. (Learn more about how many APs you should be taking.)
In fact, WashU says, “Your main goal should be to challenge yourself in high school to the extent that your high school allows, so you’ll be better prepared for the academic challenges in college.” While it’s ideal to get an A in an advanced class, if you can get at least a B in, say, an AP course, you should take that option over the regular version.
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. Aim for a 1560 SAT and 35 ACT
At WashU, the middle 50% SAT score range is 1480-1560, and the ACT range is 33-35. Anything within this range is fine, although you should strive for as high a score as possible to be competitive.
While submitting test scores is currently optional, we recommend taking the test if you’re able to do so safely. We also suggest submitting scores if they are at the 25th percentile at WashU—1480 SAT or 33 ACT—or higher, since those who do submit scores are typically admitted at a higher rate than those who don’t. Remember, too, that WashU superscores, meaning they will use only the highest scores from each section, so we advise taking the test 2-3 times.
Should you apply test-optional? Use our free Chancing Engine to find out.
Here are some resources to help you prepare for the SAT and ACT:
- How to Get a Perfect 1600 Score on the SAT
- How to Get a Perfect 36 Score on the ACT
- More SAT Info and Tips
- More ACT Info and Tips
Note that WashU encourages students who are unable to provide SAT or ACT scores to provide a teacher evaluation from a teacher in their area of academic interest.
3. Cultivate at least one or two Tier 1-2 extracurriculars (find your “spike”)
WashU evaluates activities according to the 4 tiers of extracurriculars. A Tier 1 activity is the most exceptional, rare, and impressive category, while Tier 4 is the type that is most commonly found on applications.
Your activities should align with your interests and the specific division to which you’re applying. Aim to develop interests in 1-2 areas, rather than have multiple, disparate extracurriculars without a common theme. WashU wants to see a “spike” — a well-developed passion.
For example, earning a national Scholastic award in art or writing will serve well as a Tier 1 or 2 activity for artists or writers. While many of your activities will be Tier 3-4, such as school club membership or minor leadership positions, you should have at least one or two Tier 1-2 activities, too.
“We try to get a sense of what a student is passionate about beyond the classroom. We look to see what occupies the student’s time when he or she is not in class,” WashU says. “Instead of a laundry list of activities, we look for those to which the student has shown commitment over time, the leadership roles that have developed, etc. We also understand that for many students, an after-school job or caring for a sibling or relative will be the primary extracurricular activity or commitment.”
4. Write engaging essays
After clearing the academic threshold, essays are one of the best ways to set yourself apart from other academically-qualified applicants. While WashU only recently added a supplemental essay to its application, it does weight this, along with the Common App essay, very highly in the admissions process.
WashU requires additional essays for specific programs, but the main supplemental essay topic is:
Please tell us what you are interested in studying at WashU and why. (200 words)
This “why this college?” prompt is typical among colleges and underscores the importance of interest in studying at WashU in particular.
5. Apply Early Decision
The ED acceptance rate at WashU is considerably higher than the overall acceptance rate — 38% to 16%. This indicates that you will have an advantage if you apply under this plan. Remember that WashU offers two ED plans — ED I and II — so you can apply under either of these plans to gain that benefit.
It’s important to remember that while applying early can increase your chances even when controlling for profile strength, you should still be aware of the limitations. You should only apply ED if WashU is your top choice.
6. Develop strong relationships with teachers
Recommendations are weighted highly in the admissions process at WashU — the school considers them “very important.” This is especially true if you choose not to submit test scores. That means you should begin to cultivate strong relationships with teachers early in high school, so they can get to know you as a person and student.
Here’s advice on asking teachers for recommendations.
7. Demonstrate engagement and interest
WashU seeks students who want to attend the university. That means you should be demonstrating interest by asking questions, engaging with admissions officers, opening emails the school sends, and visiting the school if possible. Ultimately, you want to show that you’re truly interested in attending WashU.
How to Apply to WashU
Early Decision I
Early Decision II
- The Common Application or Coalition Application (with essay)
- Grades and class rank*
- One counselor recommendation
- One teacher recommendation
- A 200-word response to the question “Please tell us what you are interested in studying at WashU and why.”
- Extracurricular and community activities
- SAT or ACT scores (test-optional in 2022), writing not required
- Portfolio for College of Art applicants (strongly encouraged for College of Architecture)
*Most transcripts include:
- 4 years of English
- 4 years of mathematics (architecture, business, and engineering strongly recommend calculus)
- 3-4 years of laboratory science (engineering recommends chemistry and physics)
- 3-4 years of history or social science
- At least 2 years of the same foreign language since the ninth grade
- The College of Arts & Sciences recommends both chemistry and physics for students who plan to do coursework in pre-medicine or the natural sciences.
Learn more about WashU
Looking for more information about WashU? Check out these resources: