The George Washington University in Washington, DC is the most populous private university in the area. Another distinction is that it is only four blocks from the White House. Founded in 1821 by a Federal charter, it has grown into an internationally reputable educational institution and a highly selective university, admitting fewer than 40% of applicants for five years in a row. In addition, due to its location in DC, there are many non-academic opportunities within walking distance. GW, or G-Dub as many students call it, has two undergraduate campuses, one at Foggy Bottom and the other, the Mount Vernon Campus, also known as “The Vern.” I graduated in the Fall of 2006 with a BA in Political Science. Now, here’s the good, the bad, and the ugly.
*Its location in the nation’s capital makes many attractions accessible by walking. The White House is only four blocks away from Mitchell Hall, and other attractions like the Smithsonian and National Archives are barely several blocks away. Washington’s public transportation system makes bringing a car unnecessary.
*Career opportunities and internships are plentiful, and the Career Center, Program Board, etc. hosts many internship fairs, job and career fairs, and employer information sessions.
*Small classes on the Mt Vernon campus, as class sizes on the campus are capped at 40 students.
*Meal plan cards (“Colonial Cash”) are not only accepted at on-campus eating venues, but are also accepted at the bookstore, Hippodrome, and at select off-campus businesses such as CVS, the Shops at 2000 Penn, and many off-campus eateries serving GW students.
*Fairly strong alumni community, especially in the DC area.
*Some of the best on-campus housing in the country and even for freshmen (Potomac House, Somers Hall). Many dorm rooms, especially for upperclassmen, have their own kitchens!
*Lots of computers and computer labs. You don’t need your own computer, but bringing one helps.
*Comprehensive library system: Well over 2 million volumes and other items. If that’s not enough, there’s always the Library of Congress near the US Capitol, accessible by the “Capitol South” Metro stop.
*There are lots of extracurricular opportunities available, from internships to joining at least one of over 200 student organizations to joining an athletic team.
*Expensive for a second-tier school. With tuition and other expenses approaching $50,000 per year, you can save a little money by attending an Ivy League intitution or equivalent (Amherst, Stanford, MIT, UCBerkeley, Duke, etc.).
*Cannot withdraw cash from your meal plan account.
*Very high cost of living, and a 10% sales tax on food ordered from restaurants, including fast food. However, food purchased on-campus with meal plan dollars is tax-exempt.
*Introductory classes are often huge and held in crowded lecture halls, especially the ones in the first floor of Funger Hall.
*Computer labs are often crowded, especially around exam time.
*Not many green spaces, and the quad is kind of small. If you are looking for lots of green spaces, you can either go up to the Vern, or to another institution altogether.
*Dorm room rates can be expensive, considering that in most cases, you will have to share a room with at least one other person. Although the rates include furniture and basic utilities, including cable, expect to shell out the equivalent of anywhere between $1000 (Thurston Hall, with 4, 5, or 6 people) and $1430 (select singles with kitchens) per month in “rent.” Upperclassmen (juniors/seniors): Live off campus, even in Foggy Bottom, save lots of money.
*Lots of red tape, and not enough staff available for students. This especially applies in the academic and financial aid departments. Have plenty of patience with them.
*Some instructors have excessively difficult grading policies (they are hard graders).
*Get caught with a joint: lose housing for at least one year.
*Some of the buildings look ugly, especially Funger Hall, the Marvin Center, Gelman Library, and the Academic Center.
Overall Verdict: Not bad, considering GW’s location, which gives students access to opportunities that are not easy to come by in most colleges.