Total Undergraduate Enrollment: 7,751
Institutional Type: Private
Curricular Flexibility: Somewhat Flexible
Academic Rating: 4.5
Psychology and Brain Sciences
1. Guggenheim Investments
3. Cushman & Wakefield
4. Abercrombie & Fitch
5. Chicago Trading Company
1. St. Louis Post-Dispatch
1. St. Louis
2. New York City
4. San Francisco
5. Washington, DC
College Scorecard (Early Career): $70,100
EOP (Early Career): $67,500
PayScale (Mid-Career): $114,900
Despite receiving consistently high rankings, Washington University in St. Louis is, perhaps, the finest institution that is not a household name. Yet, this Midwestern research and pre-professional powerhouse is one of the most respected institutions in the eyes of Fortune 500 employers and elite graduate schools alike. Catering to just over 7,700 undergraduates, WashU admits students into five schools: Arts & Sciences, the Olin School of Business, the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, and the Art of Architecture programs housed within the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts. Arts & Sciences, which claims more than half the student body, offers more than eighty majors, and all are guided by the IQ Curriculum, the school’s signature liberal arts course of study. As part of the IQ Curriculum, students must take courses in applied numeracy, social contrasts, writing, and an additional course that is classified as “writing-intensive.” WashU students also must complete coursework in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences/math, and foreign language along with three “integrations” that can be completed via multi-semester, cross-disciplinary coursework. Engineering students are not beholden to all of those curricular mandates. Special programs include the University Scholars Program in Medicine that allows students to apply for admission to both an undergraduate degree program and medical school before entering college as well as the Beyond Boundaries Program that allows students to implement a cross-disciplinary approach with the aim of solving major global and societal problems.
The university has an 8:1 student-faculty ratio, and 77 percent of classes have fewer than twenty-four students; close to one-quarter have single-digit enrollments. WUSTL students are known for being more collaborative than competitive and extremely hard working as evidenced by the fact that 75 percent double major or pursue multiple degrees. The Office of Undergraduate Research helps students land opportunities to research alongside faculty, primarily in the summers. A solid 59 percent of undergraduates report participating in a research endeavor. A relatively modest one-third of students study abroad. Nationally recognized programs are numerous: the Olin Business School, the School of Engineering & Applied Sciences, and the College of Architecture are well-respected by employers. The Biology Department prepares many successful med school candidates, including for the university’s own ultra-elite medical school. The most commonly conferred degrees are in business (15 percent), engineering (15 percent), social sciences (13 percent), biology (11 percent), and psychology (7 percent).
It sounds trite, but by almost any metric one must conclude that Washington University students seem happy. Dorms, recreational facilities, and campus food are routinely rated well. The WashU atmosphere is known for being more laid-back and friendly than that at many of its elite peers. Seventy-four percent of the student body and 100 percent of freshmen reside on campus. WashU’s ten fraternities and eight sororities draw roughly one-third of the student body into Greek participation. The Bears compete in NCCA Division II, fielding nine men’s teams and ten women’s squads. The athletically-inclined student body also has forty-one club teams, and a simply insane threequarters of undergraduates participate in intramural sports. In excess of 380 student-run organizations are active at WUSTL, all under the purview of the Washington University Student Union, one of the most well-funded college student governments. Each semester it funds a concert known as WILD (for Walk In Lay Down) that features a bigtime musical act. Well-attended speaker events are also organized on a regular basis, and recent attendees include Mitt Romney, John Paul Stevens, and Ta-Nehisi Coates. The Campus YMCA connects over 800 students each year with twenty-eight service opportunities in the local community. Student media is popular, and Student Life, the school’s independent newspaper, has won national awards on several occasions. In addition, the school’s radio station, KWUR, is immensely popular, and not just on campus but across the St. Louis area. For those inclined to explore off off-campus , the university is located within a few miles of the St. Louis Zoo, multiple art museums, a host of great eateries, and the gorgeous Missouri Botanical Garden.
The Washington University in St. Louis Career Center is staffed by twenty-one full-time professional employees who specialize in employer relations, career counseling, event planning, and pre-graduate school advising. With a studentto-advisor ratio of 367:1, WUSTL compares favorably to the other institutions included in this guide. Having conducted 5,803 one-on-one advising sessions last year, the center staff does a superb job of engaging their undergraduate student population.
Three large career fairs drew a collective audience of almost 2,000 individuals and 300 employers. The center also hosted over 280 low-key employer information sessions and a number of SLAMs, miniature career fairs for a particular industry where, in a bit of a role-reversal, employers pitch their companies to students. An almost hard-to-fathom 475 employers recruit on campus each year, and close to 1,114 on-campus interviews were conducted last year. Thanks to the strong employer connections forged by career services staff, WashU students have no trouble landing internships at major companies like CBS News, Pfizer, and AT&T, and stipends are available through the university to help offset living expenses. All told, approximately 75 percent of students report completing at least one internship. With ample staffing, superior outreach, and positive student outcomes, WashU’s Career Center could not be doing a better job.
Last year's class sent 74 percent of its exiting members into the workforce and 23 percent into graduate and professional schools. The thirty companies employing the highest number of WashU grads feature many of the most sought-after employers in the world including Amazon, Bain, Boeing, Deloitte, Google, IBM, Goldman Sachs, and Microsoft. Of the employed members of the Class who reported their starting salaries, 70 percent were making over $50,000 and 18 percent were making more than $80k. By age thirty-four, alumni earn the highest median income of any undergraduate degree-granting institution in the state. Geographically, remaining in Missouri was the favored choice among fresh alums, but a fair number also resettled in New York and California.
The universities welcoming the largest number of Bears included the prestigious institutions of Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Duke, Harvard, Penn, Princeton, and Stanford. Others were pursuing graduate degrees at non-elite schools including Case Western, Rutgers, Colorado State, and St. Louis University. Of 1,587 graduates, ninety were accepted into med school, including at WashU’s own top-ranked medical school. Baylor College of Medicine attracted a large number of future physicians; students also enjoyed acceptances into Harvard Medical School, NYU School of Medicine, and the Icahn School of Medicine at Mt. Sinai.
• “Easy access to a lot of restaurants, shops, and other nearby businesses.”
• “Public transportation. I really appreciate that Wash U gives us a pass for free and you can go downtown whenever you want by taking one train.”
• “There is also a lot of hometown pride. Since Wash U is one of the best schools in the Midwest, it is really easy to get a job there.”
• “It’s not all the way downtown, but it’s not in the middle of nowhere. If you go 10 minutes east you’re downtown and if you go 10 minutes west you’re in a pretty spread out suburban area.”
• “The public transportation system is not really that robust. You need a vehicle to get around pretty easily. The metro system can get you downtown pretty easily, but that’s the only place you can really get to.”
• “When you leave campus, it’s not very nice and parts of it can be unsafe.”
• “I’m a really big hiker and backpacker, and there’s not much to do outdoors around St. Louis.”
• “The first two months and last month of the school year the humidity is crazy in Missouri.”
• “St. Louis isn’t really a walking city so you have to Uber or use a car share in order to get to most places.” Students' Voice: Reasons to attend and not to attend
• “It’s an academically rigorous environment but at the same time everyone is friendly and welcoming.”
• “If you want a collaborative yet elite academic environment.”
• “If you want a really beautiful campus with a lot of resources to help students.”
• “It’s an all around great school. A common thing is that people go in wanting to be pre-med and then they realize they don’t want to continue with that. It’s really easy for individuals to stop being a pre-med student and switch to any major. It’s nice they can fall back on something.”
• “I think the people here are pretty great. I think the atmosphere is pretty nice in the fact that it’s not very competitive. The most competitive majors are within the business school, but every other school has been very collaborative and nice.”
• “If you need class requirements to guide you. We have some requirements, you don’t have to take certain classes, you just have to take classes in a certain field. I like that there’s some structure but there are not classes you have to take, but I know some people needed that structure so the open curriculum wasn’t for them.”
• “If you’re really opposed to Greek life. I never thought I’d join a sorority and was kind of opposed to Greek life before Wash U, but then I got over it. If you’re really opposed to Greek life then this is not the place. It’s a lot bigger than they advertise.”
• “If you’re a big sports fan, we have no school spirit in terms of athletics.”
• “If you’re looking to go to college in a big city, it’s not that type of school because St. Louis is small.”
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