There’s a popular saying that’s been circulating around the Georgetown University campus.
“The general joke here is that GW stands for Georgetown Waitlist,” said Scott Cheney-Peters, a Georgetown senior.
He continued, “(Georgetown students) feel that Georgetown is slightly superior to GW but not in a completely different league. It really is a joking rivalry, but with any joke there’s a kernel of truth to the matter.”
At least some GW students take that joking rivalry a little more seriously. Over the past five years, 272 GW students have applied to transfer to Georgetown. Of those applicants, 79 were offered admission – a 29 percent acceptance rate. Georgetown’s regular acceptance rate is 22 percent compared to GW’s 38 percent, according to the College Board.
In their transfer applications, GW students cited various reasons for wanting to make the move.
“These range from academic interests to campus life to personal preferences about where he or she finds the best fit,” Georgetown spokeswoman Julie Bataille wrote in an e-mail.
Last spring, sophomore Meghan Kerrisk got some important information. The then-GW freshman received word that she had been accepted to Georgetown University – as a transfer student.
Like some other Colonials, Kerrisk had applied to Georgetown in high school as her first-choice college. Failing to make it off her spot on the waiting list, she chose GW as the next-best option. And so, just like the scenario many GW community members loathe, GW was her second choice to Georgetown.
After beginning her freshmen year at GW, a part of her still wondered what things were like about 20 blocks away.
“I was torn about it all summer. I didn’t decide until July,” she said. “It was a really hard decision.”
Kerrisk certainly isn’t the only student who has grappled with this choice. A physics major, Kerrisk said her choice was “based solely on academics.”
“It seemed to me that (at Georgetown) they did a lot more undergraduate research in the physics department,” she said.
Owen Sanderson, a freshman at GW last year who is now a
Georgetown sophomore, said he transferred because he wanted a more traditional college environment. By his second semester at GW, he liked the school but felt that “it wasn’t what I pictured college to be.”
“I realized that I was looking for a school with more of a closed campus,” he said. “The idea of dining halls – not food courts – where students could talk and get to know one another was especially appealing to him.”
“The dining hall is what you expect when you think of college. It’s a place where people go to socialize,” he added. “I thought J Street kind of prohibited that type of interaction.”
Sanderson, who applied to Georgetown in high school and was not accepted, said he never stopped thinking that he might be happier on the Jesuit-affiliated campus.
“In the back of my mind, I think I always had a desire to go (to Georgetown),” he said.
What do they think of us?
Marguerite Collins, another Georgetown senior, said Hoyas think GW is overpriced.
“Often people make fun of GW students because they pay so much for a school that isn’t Georgetown,” Collins said.
Including tuition, room and board, GW costs about $4,000 a year more than Georgetown, according to CNN’s Web site.
“I think most people acknowledge that GW is just as good a school, it just doesn’t have the same name recognition,” Collins said.
Both Cheney-Peters and Collins said that Georgetown students envy GW housing and dining facilities, as well as the entertainment acts the University attracts.
“The Jon Stewart thing hit us pretty hard,” she said, referring to this year’s Colonials Weekend headliner.
Georgetown freshman Brian Williamson said he’s heard students make similar remarks about GW standing in Georgetown’s shadow.
“I’ve heard a lot of ‘GW is the place where people go when they don’t get into Georgetown,'” he said. But he said he has friends at GW who are “really smart.”
Is Georgetown really better?
Last month, The U.S. News and World Report’s 2006 “America’s Best Colleges” rankings pegged Georgetown at number 23 and GW at 53 – tied with Worcester Polytechnic Institute.
Still, between 2001 and 2004, 48 Georgetown students applied to transfer to GW. The University admitted 16 of them and all but three of those enrolled.
Phyllis Kerr, the college/career coordinator at Watkins Mill High School in nearby Gaithersburg, Md., said she does not see much of a difference academically between the two schools.
“They’re quite similar. Both are extremely challenging – a good challenge in a positive way,” she said.
Kerr said there are different reasons she would steer a student toward one school rather than the other. For instance, a student with a “strong spiritual base” would be a better fit at Georgetown, a Jesuit school, while a student interested in a good engineering program or an accelerated medical program would be better off at GW, she said.
“I wouldn’t say that GW is just a fall-out school,” she said. “Often times it’s just a different student.”
While there are some who say that Georgetown enjoys better national name recognition and a superior reputation, Kerr chalks that up mostly to athletics.
“I think that a lot of the recognition that has come to Georgetown has come through the athletic recognition,” she said.
Not all Georgetown rejects who go to GW wish they had gone to Georgetown.
Tyler Hudson, a junior at GW who was waitlisted at Georgetown out of high school, said he is happy with the choice he made.
“I really disagree with the idea that Georgetown is the sole receptacle of up-and-coming political talent,” he said.
Among D.C. students, everyone knows the difference between G-Town and G-Dub. But, not everyone is as G-savvy.
While many GW students have had that hometown family friend ask, “How’s Georgetown?” there has been some larger-scale confusion.
In 2002, former Vice President Al Gore thanked “Georgetown” after GW hosted his speech at Ross Hall.
In June 2004, The Associated Press erroneously reported that newly appointed Iraqi President Ghazi al-Yawar had graduated from GW with a master’s degree in civil engineering.
After GW could not find any record that al-Yawar had attended the University, The AP issued a correction saying that the Iraqi official had in fact studied at Georgetown University.
The confusion didn’t end there – Georgetown found no record of his attendance either. The matter was finally resolved when GW media relations found that al-Yawar had taken civil engineering classes at GW in the 1980’s, but did not earn a degree.
From Colonials to Hoyas
In the few weeks Kerrisk and Sanderson have been at Georgetown, they both said they have noticed some differences between the two schools.
“Everyone seems to be a lot more friendly (at Georgetown),” Kerrisk said. “It isn’t because people at GW aren’t friendly, but the campus at Georgetown is much smaller.”
Sanderson said he is enjoying the dining halls he was looking forward to and has felt at home on campus so far.
“Georgetown is really welcoming,” he said. “From what I’ve experienced so far, it’s really an eclectic blend of students.”
Although Kerrisk is now a Hoya, she still has fond feelings for her original alma mater.
“I still love GW,” she said.
-Caitlin Carroll contributed to this report.