Timothy Peck 5 min read 11th Grade, School Spotlight

What is WashU in St. Louis Known For?

Do you know how to improve your profile for college applications?

See how your profile ranks among thousands of other students using CollegeVine. Calculate your chances at your dream schools and learn what areas you need to improve right now — it only takes 3 minutes and it's 100% free.

Show me what areas I need to improve
 

What’s Covered:

 

It’s hard to discuss Washington University in St. Louis without mentioning first its confusing nomenclature; named after George Washington, the school is sometimes mixed up with the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. For the sake of clarity, many refer to Washington University in St. Louis as either “WashU” or “WUSTL.” Whatever you call it, WashU is known for its exceptional academics—it consistently ranks in the top 20 national universities—and its devotion to the betterment of its students. 

Overview of WashU in St. Louis

 

Location: St. Louis, Missouri 

Undergrad Enrollment: 7,700 

Acceptance Rate: 16%

Middle 50% SAT: 1450-1560

Middle 50% ACT: 33-35

 

WashU has a reputation for protecting its yield by outright rejecting strong applicants who admissions officials suspect may consider the school their  “safety” option. One way that applicants with exceptional profiles and a strong desire to attend WashU can demonstrate their commitment is by applying Early Decision or Early Decision II. 

 

The recently added supplemental essay is another way to assuage any leery admissions officer’s concerns—consequently the school places a great deal of significance on both it and the Common App essay. Effective essay topics demonstrate deep academic passion and show extracurricular experiences that support those interests, while demonstrating a student’s fit with the campus culture and values.

 

Unique Aspects of WashU 

 

What’s WashU known for? For one, it is recognized as one of the best colleges in the country. The school is referred to in some circles as a “Hidden Ivy,” or a school with exceptional academics, challenging admissions, and unique student experiences. In some cases, WashU even surpasses the high standards set by its Ivy League counterparts.

 

Academics

 

WashU offers over 90 fields of study—from Accounting to World Music, Dance, and Theater—through its four undergraduate schools:

 

  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • Olin Business School
  • Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
  • McKelvey School of Engineering

 

 

The largest of the undergraduate schools is the College of Arts & Sciences, due to the enormous popularity of WashU’s Pre-Med program and the respect it has garnered nationally. General chemistry is one of the most popular classes at WashU and is infamous for its ability to weed out students not up to the rigorous Pre-Med program.  

 

Despite demanding academics and intense coursework in programs such as Pre-Med, WashU retains a supportive and non-competitive academic environment. WashU isn’t as cutthroat as other prestigious schools, but it asks a lot of its students. In 2016, Business Insider ranked the school 13th on its list of the 30 most intense colleges in America.  

 

Pre-Med isn’t the only STEM-focused undergraduate program at WashU, though; the McKelvey School of Engineering has the second-largest undergraduate enrollment. U.S. News ranks it 46th best engineering school in the nation. 

 

Extracurriculars

 

What is WashU known for? Academics, obviously, but the school has a sneakily great athletics scene as well. The Bears have won ten NCAA Division III women’s volleyball championships and five women’s basketball championships. The men are no slouches either, winning back-to-back basketball championships in 2008 and 2009. 

 

Even if you’re not a big-time athlete, sports are an important part of culture on WashU’s campus with about 75% of the undergraduate study body playing on one of the college’s 30 different intramural teams. The school also has 37 sport-focused clubs. 

 

If sports aren’t your thing, there are approximately 500 other clubs on campus encompassing all types of interests ranging from The Burning Kumquat—the student-run organic garden—to Mama’s Pot Roast—the school’s longest-running improv group. 

 

Another popular extracurricular activity is Student Life, or as it’s affectionately known on campus, StudLife. One of the oldest college newspapers (it made its debut in 1878), StudLife is staffed by 19 undergraduate editors and over 50 undergraduate staff members. The annual February Sex Issue is a must-read and features the results of a campus-wide sex survey along with body positive photos. 

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.

Traditions

 

With more than a century and a half of history, WashU is filled with interesting traditions. One of the most notable WashU legends involves the university seal at Brookings Hall—it’s said that students who step on it won’t graduate. If you do happen to make a misstep, touching the Chancellor’s Medallion can reverse the curse. 

 

Over the years, WILD (an acronym for Walk In, Lay Down) has evolved from a movie screening at Brookings Hall to a musical festival and the largest student-run event at WashU. Normally headlined by local bands and artists, big-name stars like Childish Gambino will occasionally take the stage. 

 

First 40, or First 40 Days, is something experienced by nearly all WashU students—it’s a series of social and cultural events specially designed for incoming students. Events include everything from a concert put on by the St. Louis Symphony Orchestra to a trip to Six Flags. 

 

Dorms

 

In recent years, WashU has become more and more well-known for its dorms—many students find them nicer than their rooms at home, which is saying something for a student body that skews as wealthy as WashU’s does. Niche ranks WashU second on their list of the best college dorms in America. Interested in learning more about WashU’s dorms? We’ve got the scoop from a former student. 

 

Financial Aid

 

WashU has a reputation for having a lack of socioeconomic diversity; according to a 2017 New York Times story, it has more students from the top fifth in median family income than all the other 2,395 included colleges. This is in-part because WashU is a need-aware institution (rather than need-blind), meaning it takes a student’s financial situation into consideration when making admissions decisions. 

 

That said, WashU will meet 100% of the demonstrated need of admitted students and has no-loan financial aid packages for students from families with annual incomes of $75,000 or less. In 2018, the average loan debt for graduates was $22,500. 

 

Resources

 

Research plays an important role in the lives of many WashU undergraduates, with more than 60% of students involved in faculty research. The school maintains an Office of Undergraduate Research to help facilitate undergraduate research experiences and connect students to mentors and opportunities. 

 

The Mildred Lane Kemper Art Museum is part of the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and one of the oldest teaching museums in the country, dating back to 1881. It’s also one of the nation’s most distinguished university collections, housing works from artists such as Pablo Picasso and Jackson Pollock. 

 

Location

 

The “WashU Bubble” is real. Because the school does an excellent job of meeting student’s needs and keeping them busy with coursework, some students never fully explore the surrounding city of St. Louis. 

 

Students who do escape campus will discover that the city is very affordable and offers a plethora of free activities, including everything at Forest Park, where you’ll find museums, a zoo, trails, and an abundance of open space. 

 

Another appealing aspect of St. Louis for career-minded college students is the numerous big-name businesses that call the city home, including TD Ameritrade, Anheuser-Busch and other corporations across various industries. Students in St. Louis also love the fact that the city gets four seasons. 

 

What are Your Chances of Acceptance at WashU?

 

WashU is a selective school that a lot of college-bound students are anxious to get into; they received nearly 28,000 applications for the class of 2024, with 88% of admitted students in the top 10% of their high school class. If an applicant fails to meet WashU’s strict academic standards, there’s a chance admissions officers will not look at the rest of their application. Extracurricular activities can boost an applicant’s odds of acceptance, however, especially when they align with academic interests.  

 

CollegeVine’s free admissions calculator can help applicants better understand their chances of getting into WashU. Our free chancing engine uses metrics like GPA and standardized test scores, along with extracurricular activities, to estimate your odds of acceptance. It also spotlights places where you can improve their profile.

 

Want more tips on improving your academic profile?

We'll send valuable information to help you strengthen your profile and get ready for college admissions.


 

Timothy Peck
Blogger at CollegeVine
Short bio
A graduate of Northeastern University with a degree in English, Tim Peck currently lives in Concord, New Hampshire, where he balances a freelance writing career with the needs of his two Australian Shepherds to play outside.