A Student Review of Washington University in St. Louis

The tutors behind Varsity Tutors are not just here to teach – they’re sharing their college experiences as well. Mimi is a Chicago tutor specializing in various foreign languages tutoring, Algebra tutoring, Writing tutoring, and more. She graduated from Washington University in St. Louis in 2009 with a Bachelor’s degree in French and Economics. Check out her review of her school: 

VT: Describe the campus setting and transportation options. How urban or safe is the campus? Are there buses or do you need a car/bike?

Mimi: Wash U is set in a somewhat urban-suburban setting. The main campus straddles Clayton, which is a fairly tony, first-ring suburb of St. Louis, and the city of St. Louis itself. The campus is very safe, partly because there are relentless police patrols at night. Students have a pass for the public transportation system, which includes buses and the light rail, which go where you would generally need/want to go.

VT: How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants?

Mimi: Responses to emails come frighteningly quickly and there are advisers galore. You are assigned a faculty advisor who stays with you throughout your time at school and I found it invaluable to discuss my academic goals, questions, and uncertainties with someone who knows me well. The professors are there to teach and interact with students. I took a seminar with the head of a major research institute who lamented the size of the class (there were 12 of us), which he felt prevented him from being as interactive as he would have wanted.

VT: How would you describe the dorm life – rooms, dining options, location, socialization opportunities with other students?

Mimi: Students tend to be very involved on campus and with their residential communities, which are a hub of social activity. There's generally an inverse relationship between the size of your room and the level of sociability of a dorm, and students who choose cozier accommodations tend to have more opportunities to interact with dorm- and floor-mates. That said, I recently heard that the undergraduate dorms now have TempurPedic mattresses, which boggles my mind.

I met many of my college friends in my first two years of undergrad, but obviously, many friendships develop at all different times. People at Wash U are very easy to get along with, and to this day, I've never found it difficult to spark up a good conversation with a Wash U alum. 

VT: Which majors/programs are best represented and supported? What did you study and why? Did the university do a good job supporting your particular area of study?

Mimi: Many incoming students have an eye on the sciences. However, there are plentiful opportunities to do research and independent study at the undergraduate level in almost any field. I majored in French and Economics, and my academic advisor helped me through the process of obtaining a two-year funded research fellowship from a national foundation. I also worked as a translator and research assistant for one of the literature professors. Students in the sciences who are interested in research often work as research assistants and lab techs in one of the many Wash U-affiliated labs. Wash U is a powerhouse research institution, and students generally take advantage of the opportunities.

VT: How easy or difficult was it for you to meet people and make friends as a freshman? Does Greek life play a significant role in the campus social life?

Mimi: It was very easy to meet people as a freshman, especially since everyone in college is looking to expand their circle. Rush takes place at the beginning of second semester, and a noticeable minority of students take part in Greek life. However, membership in a fraternity or sorority is not at all essential or even that important in finding friends. It's simply another way to be involved and to meet people you may not otherwise meet through your residential community, clubs, or classes.

VT: How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services? Do many reputable companies recruit on campus?

Mimi: The Career Center was wonderful. I was matched with a career counselor and he was the one who took all of my subsequent Career Center appointments. We workshopped my résumé, discussed my goals, and talked about recruiting strategies.  

Many blue chip companies recruit on campus, and the student body is a healthy mix of the romantic and the careerist, which helps put students in roles that are good learning opportunities for internships and after graduation.

VT: How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges? Are they over-crowded, easily available, spacious?

Mimi: I've never had a problem securing a study area. Go for it!

VT: Describe the surrounding town. What kinds of outside establishments/things to do are there that make it fun, boring, or somewhere in between? To what extent do students go to the downtown area of the city versus staying near campus?

Mimi: St. Louis is small enough to not be overwhelming but large enough to have places to go to. The Delmar Loop is right off campus and is an easy afternoon/night of eating, walking, shopping, and live music. One great thing about St. Louis is the fact that all the museums in Forest Park (all dating from the 1904 World's Fair) are free. The park itself is great, too, of course. Across Forest Park is the Central West End, where more adventurous undergrads and grad students tend to spend time. Alternatively, you can gather up a good group of people in your dorm and stay up until all hours entertaining each other.

VT: How big or small is the student body? Were you generally pleased or displeased with the typical class sizes?

Mimi: I have no complaints. The school has a mid-sized student body and most of my classes were small. The smallest class I took had four people in it and it was one of the best of my life. 

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

Mimi: First, the regret: I took Statistics with a brilliant professor who seemed to be an expert in all things software-related, but the class was too basic for any of us to have been able to fully learn from even a fraction of the knowledge he had. I just regret not having taken a more advanced class with him.

The absolute best: There are two. I took an Economics Systems course that opened up my worldview, made me hone my critical thinking skills, and think on my feet – thanks to the Socratic method – and made experimental design thrilling (how would you measure corruption by proxy?). Then, there was the four-person Women's Literature class in which everyone bonded, we explored all sorts of texts, and I refined my sense of critical theory. 

Check out Mimi’s tutoring profile.

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