In the middle of Washington, D.C., just four blocks from the White House, is The George Washington University; its Foggy Bottom campus barely defined, as university buildings blend in with other buildings in the city.
We got off the Metro at the Foggy Bottom stop at 23rd and I Streets and made our way through busy intersections to the Admissions Welcome Center, a few blocks away. At the appointed time, we joined a few hundred other high schoolers and their parents for an information session and a tour.
The George Washington University is one of the bigger schools we’ve visited, with 25,000 students at three campuses (Foggy Bottom and Mount Vernon in Washington and the GW Virginia Science and Technology Campus in Ashburn, VA). Of those 25,000, however, only 10,464 are undergraduate students, 55 percent of them female. The average class size is 28, and the student-faculty ratio is 13:1.
We learned that the university’s motto is knowledge in action: through service, internships, and research. We learned that there are over six academic schools and 70 majors. Fifty-five percent of the students study abroad and 92 percent intern. The freshmen have a required day of service, and students all over campus logged in over 250,000 hours of service in 2012.
GW ranked number 40 in 2012 in a list of the most expensive schools (its tuition and fees in 2013-2014 are $47,343 and that’s not including room and board). It also must rank one of the highest for dining. There is only one dining common at George Washington, and most students don’t eat there. At least that’s what our tour guide said. Instead, students eat with the public at the several restaurants and take-out places interspersed among the university buildings on J Street or wherever their GWorld card is accepted. When we asked for a recommendation for lunch, typical of where the students eat, our tour guide recommended Tonic, a restaurant where a cheeseburger costs $12 and macaroni and cheese is $13.
Whatever the cost, there is an energy at George Washington that we haven’t encountered at other universities; a vitality and excitement among the students who talk about their experiences: running to climb a tree after the inauguration, interning on Capitol Hill, and attending one of the 150 guest speeches at the Eliot School of International Affairs.