A Student Perspective 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. David earned both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Washington University in St. Louis. He currently tutors in Austin, Texas, specializing in GRE tutoring and Latin tutoring, among other subjects. Read on for his review of Washington University in St. Louis:

Describe the campus setting and transportation options.

David: Campus is situated in unincorporated St. Louis County and Clayton, Missouri, a St. Louis suburb about fifteen minutes from Downtown. Just north of the main campus is “The Loop,” a section of Delmar Boulevard replete with shops and restaurants (including the famed Blueberry Hill, where the one and only Chuck Berry performed every month until very recently). Campus is small enough that everyone living on campus, and even those living just off campus, can walk to classes. Campus is well-lit at night and very secure. There are buses on campus, and several nearby Metro stops (which can take you throughout the city). Freshmen are not allowed to own vehicles on campus, and most upperclassmen are fine doing without. WashU also has a fleet of Priuses available to borrow.

How available are the professors, academic advisers, and teaching assistants at Washington University in St. Louis?

David: Most of my classes were small (I usually only had one lecture per semester), so most of my professors and TAs knew me personally. They also had ample office hours and were available by appointment as well.

I had several advisors: one for my entire time as an undergrad, one for my major, one for grad school, and one for my concentration therein. All of them helped me organize my schedule in such a way that I was able to obtain my degrees ahead of schedule, and have kept in touch since I’ve graduated.

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

David: Freshman floors become very close-knit, and it is not uncommon to build life-long friendships with roommates and suitemates. I ended up living in the fraternity house (which was actually nicer than most dorms on campus) for three years, and still talk daily to some of my brothers.

Greek Life is a big and important part of campus social life. There are also many academic, social, athletic and other special interest groups, as well as events geared specifically toward socializing with other students.

WashU’s food has been rated very highly. I recall having — and I’m not making this up — NY Strip and Lobster in November of my freshman year. There are multiple places to eat on campus, so you’re never far from your next meal, ranging from the very healthy, to the gourmet, to the guilt-inflicting but devilishly delicious fried chicken and waffles.

Which majors/programs are best represented and supported?

David: Because of some inspiring teachers I had in high school and my life-long love affair with languages, I set foot on campus with an the idea of continuing my study of Latin. It is for this reason that I majored in Classics, which had a small yet strong department. I and familiar faces had classes with a few professors, and we all became rather close. Making good contacts in this field has kept me gainfully employed during my undergrad years, during my gap semester, during grad school, and continuously since two days before I even received my Master’s Degree.

Many of the school’s programs have been ranked very highly, with the Law and MBA programs ranking in the Top 20 nationwide; Medicine, Architecture, EMBA, and BSBA in the Top 10; and Social Work, number one.

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?

David: From freshman year, you are constantly surrounded by other underclassmen, classmates, and other special interest groups. Greek Life is a big and important part of campus social life. There are also many academic, social, athletic, and other special interest groups, as well as events geared specifically toward socializing with other students.

How helpful is the Career Center and other student support services at Washington University in St. Louis?

David: Plenty of career fairs and recruitment events take place on campus. The Career Center helped me compile and update my resume with each passing year, and I’m certain it’s largely due to them (in addition to the contacts I made in my program) that I got into the workforce as soon as I did. 

How are the various study areas such as libraries, the student union, and dorm lounges?

David: Plenty of open space all over campus. The spacious library is connected to a cafe on the ground floor, which can be noisy, but good for study groups; many secluded rooms which can also be used for study groups or private work; and in its five floors (two underground), one can find areas of absolutely silence for hours. The lower basement is also a veritable treasure trove for anyone interested in the Classics. Each dorm also has several libraries, work spaces, and designated quiet hours.

Describe the surrounding town.

David: St. Louis is just great. It’s got a lot of history, and many well-known landmarks (don’t pass on the Gateway Arch!). Like any other decently-sized city, it’s home to museums and zoos, and a great night-life too, with big music venues, theaters, and the like. St. Louis also has several professional sports teams, so you can catch a Cardinals game at Busch stadium, or see the Blues play at Scottrade Center.

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

David: WashU admits about 1500 students in each freshman class. Class size does vary; due to my major, most of my classes were quite small (with as few as four students in one of my Hebrew classes). Lecture halls can seat over a hundred students, so popular, intro, and less-esoteric classes tend to be a bit larger. Some of the bigger classes do have discussion sessions, though, so the class is broken down into more digestible chunks. I certainly enjoyed the smaller classes more, personally, but with an engaging professor, even in a large class, you can make connections with a little effort, which can definitely come in handy when it comes time to get letters of recommendation.

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

David: I had a very eccentric Introduction to Linguistics teacher my sophomore year who introduced me to some well-need humility. Let it be known that in addition to my native English, I’ve studied Spanish, Japanese, Latin, Hebrew, and Greek — and I know snippets of other languages, too. This professor, however, was a true polyglot, well into the double-digits. Answering a question he posed in class (about why we consider it improper to split infinitives in English), I began, “In most languages —”

“Stop! How many languages do you speak?”

“Let’s say five.”

“How many languages are there?”

“At least 6,000. Okay, in the languages I’ve studied . . .”

But with engaging instruction and some fun projects, I rate it among my favorite classes of all-time.


Check out David's tutoring profile.

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