What is it Like to Attend Washington University in St. Louis?

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Andrew is a senior at Washington University in St. Louis majoring in Environmental Biology and minoring in Writing. He specializes in many subjects including Biology tutoring, ACT prep tutoring, and Essay Writing/Editing tutoring. See what he had to say about his school:


VT: How easy or difficult is it to get around on your campus? Is it hilly, do lots of people bike, are there buses, etc.

Andrew: It is very easy to move around campus. Our campus is somewhat spread out, so at times there will be a longer walk. Because of this, each class gives a ten-minute grace period before starting the lecture (moving between opposite ends of the campus is often a full ten minute walk). The pathways are very bike friendly; we recently put in extra wide walkways around campus with a bike side and a walking side. There is also a free campus circulator that comes in handy for trips between the dorms and main campus.

VT: How helpful are the academic advisors?

Andrew: WashU prides itself on our academic advising. When you first get to school, you get a four year advisor, often a teacher or dean. I had a great experience with my four-year advisor. He was a great resource for schedule guidance and general questions, though I have heard that sometimes teachers can get quite busy, especially when teaching a big class. If your four-year advisor is unavailable, there is no shortage of help. As a pre-med, I had four advisors: a four-year advisor, a major advisor, a minor advisor, and a pre-med advisor. Each one helped in his or her own way and other staff in their offices was more than happy to help if my specific advisor was unavailable.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life? 

Andrew: The dorms are arguably the best part of WashU. Every freshman and most sophomores live on the south side of campus called the “South Forty.” Most of the dorms have been built within the past 5-7 years and some even come with Tempurpedic mattresses. It is not uncommon to think you are somewhere in Disney World or on a set of Harry Potter when in the South Forty. Dorm life is truly easy living, with up to date rooms, washers and driers, a fairly new cardio center, and a huge dining center.

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

Andrew: WashU has five different schools: Arts and Sciences, Engineering, Art, Architecture, and Business. The largest school is Arts and Sciences, with an enormous amount of students starting out on the pre-med track (less than half stay on this track by their senior year). A great part of WashU is the ability to double major or minor in different schools or transfer between schools.  For example, you could be an Arts and Sciences English major, have a second major in accounting in the business school, and minor in environmental engineering.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman?

Andrew: Making friends freshman year was super easy. When you arrive, very few people know each other. The first group you interact with is your freshman floor. This group of about 30 students will be your first group of friends and some will remain your good friends throughout college. WashU facilitates this by having activities and other events. Usually after a semester or so, students will begin to join Greek life or other clubs and meet even more people. The student body at WashU is overwhelmingly friendly, and everyone is always looking to meet new people, so don’t be shy! 

VT: How helpful is the Career Center?

Andrew: The Career Center is extremely helpful and extremely underutilized. They have plenty of services including resume building, cover letter writing, job searches, bringing recruiters to campus, and more. For me, I used the career center for mock interviews and received a stipend from them for unpaid summer work that I was doing. 

VT: How are the various study areas? Libraries? The Student Union? Dorm lounges? 

Andrew: Most kids on campus study in the main library on campus: Olin Library.  Because of this, it can get very crowded at times, especially during midterms and finals.  There are also libraries in the different schools and buildings. By the time you are a senior, you will find yourself studying in various classrooms, libraries, and dorms. In regard to the library resources and student union, WashU again supports its students as fully as possible. There are over 200 student groups and the library can get you access to virtually any paper or book that you may need.

VT: What is the surrounding town like? What are the best local attractions that make it unique? 

Andrew: WashU is located in a really active, young part of St. Louis. Immediately north of campus is the Delmar Loop. The Loop has unique stores and clothing shops, local and chain restaurants, as well as a few local bars that some of the upperclassmen go to. There are also concerts at the Pageant, which is a really small venue so you can get a close seat to the performers. WashU is also close to Clayton, which is a nicer area with some great restaurants. 

VT: How big or small is the student body and how does that affect your experience?

Andrew: The undergraduate student body is about 6000 students and I find this to be a perfect size. The main benefit is class size. Since most classes are 12-35 people, you get personalized attention from the professor and have a more intimate learning setting. The medium size of our school makes sure that no student gets “lost in the crowd.” We all play a significant role in the WashU community. Faces can get similar and at times it feels like you may always be with the same group of people, but even in my 4th year, I still am meeting new friends.

VT: Describe one memorable experience with a professor and/or class. Perhaps one you loved the most or one you dreaded the most.

Andrew: General chemistry is the most popular class at WashU because it is a pre-requisite for almost any other science class. It also has a reputation for being a “weed-out” class for pre-med students. On the first day of class, which was also my first class at WashU, the teacher handed us paper and told us we were having a pop quiz: draw a carbon atom. We all did our best, though that wasn’t very good. He collected them and chose at random drawings to project on the board for the class to laugh at. Though it was the most terrifying day of my life, we all felt comforted that every student was close to the same level of knowledge as we were (which was nothing), not to mention that our teacher had a sense of humor. The most amazing part is that although this teacher goes through almost 350 students a year, and I never spoke in his class, he still recognizes and says hello to me. That is the true epitome of the impact each student has at WashU.


Check out Andrew’s tutoring profile.

The views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Varsity Tutors.