As more high school students and parents tour campus donning “I’m experiencing GW today” stickers, they may be faced with the eventual decision of whether or not to hit the accept button on their admissions offer to GW. But the GW experience will not be a good fit for every single student the University accepts.
Last month, the second round of early decision applicants received their admissions decisions, and students who went regular decision will find out next month. Up until May 1, prospective undergraduate students will be weighing whether GW is the right choice for them. Although the University’s advertising material may be attractive, it distracts from GW’s drawbacks. Tour guides and admissions officers will not tell prospective students all the factors they should be considering in their decision, but – since GW isn’t for everyone – applicants need to consider all of the pros and cons as they decide whether to spend their next four years at GW.
Perhaps what’s most noticeable for students who tour is that GW is an urban and open campus, which can also mean that GW can be an isolating place if you’re not a self-starter. The University doesn’t have as many safety nets as other schools do – there aren’t attentive academic advisors who guide you through course selection all four years or close-knit residential communities. This puts the onus on students to stay on top of their academics from the very first time they make their class schedule. And without any formal dining hall, students must be ready to budget, cook for themselves with the new meal plan and not spend all of their money before the semester ends. These characteristics require students to grow up and become independent faster than they would at many other colleges, which some prospective students may not be ready for right out of high school.
With students’ high levels of independence comes a competitive and often stressful environment. It can be intimidating to come into a class and see classmates dressed in business casual, still wearing their lanyard badges from Capitol Hill and discussing their packed resumes. This environment can sometimes get to the point of being unhealthy, but the sense of competition on campus pushes many students to do better and accomplish more. Many will thrive and want to be a part of this environment, while some won’t partake in this culture at all. But at times, this pressure can be detrimental for students who already have a tendency to compare themselves to others. Some may unfortunately end up leaving GW because of it, though our retention rate is still on par with our peer schools at around 90 percent.
Aside from the competitive nature on campus, an unspoken truth at GW is that a large portion of the student body is wealthy. As a university with a tuition of almost $70,000 next academic year, students who are attracted to GW can often afford to be here. About 14 percent of the student body is included in the top 1 percent of family income. This becomes apparent when students, who are fortunate enough to depend on their family, can almost thoughtlessly spend their money on brunches, designer clothing and weekend getaways. For students who aren’t well-off or who are dependent on financial aid, it can be an adjustment to see students bundled up in Canada Goose jackets. Although not everyone at GW is financially the same, seeing so much wealth can make any student feel self-conscious about their finances.
While the University attracts the well-to-do, most students are looking for employment opportunities, regardless of financial background. GW advertises that there are plenty of internship opportunities within walking distance of our campus. While it is true that there is no shortage of opportunities to intern, these positions will not be handed to you. In 2016, about two-thirds of undergraduate students had an internship. But just because your resume has GW on it, doesn’t mean you will get an internship. It takes hard work, connections and some good luck to land these opportunities.
Aside from plentiful internship opportunities, GW offers students other perks. However, what the University coins as #OnlyatGW isn’t the reality. While there are courses and events that take students to the Smithsonian museums, the National Zoo or the Supreme Court, those experiences aren’t unique to GW – They are unique to D.C. Other schools, like Georgetown and American universities, offer similar opportunities. Don’t let the proximity of the National Mall be the only factor in your decision to attend GW. While the University promotes these attractive benefits, the truth is that these advantages are similar to other colleges in the area too.
Although the national monuments covers GW’s promotional materials, that’s not all we are. While the Foggy Bottom Campus is urban and integrated within the heart of D.C., about 25 percent of freshmen are assigned to the more traditional Mount Vernon Campus. Because the Vern is separate from the main campus, there’s a disconnect that many “Vernie” students feel, especially because they travel to and from their classes via the Mount Vernon Express shuttle. However, students, especially those adjusting to city life, often appreciate the quieter campus which offers more affordable housing and dining options.
No university can be a perfect fit for each student. There are plenty of potential upsides and downsides with each facet of student life, and how someone experiences GW will depend on the person. Prospective students should be well-informed before deciding on coming here and should take into account both the negative and positive factors. But for students who decide to come to GW, keep in mind that the experience is ultimately what you make of it.
The editorial board is composed of Hatchet staff members and operates separately from the newsroom. This week’s piece was written by opinions editor Irene Ly and contributing opinions editor Renee Pineda, based on discussions with managing director Melissa Holzberg, managing editor Tyler Loveless, sports editor Matt Cullen, copy editor Melissa Schapiro and design editor Zach Slotkin.