When Jesuit settlers came from England to establish the Province of Maryland in 1634, they established an institution for Christian education. However, after the English Civil War, Catholic educational opportunities were restricted and had to be practiced in secret. Following the American Revolution, these bans were lifted, and the oldest Roman Catholic university in the country, Georgetown, was formally founded in 1789 as a Jesuit institution. The school’s early days were marked by financial uncertainty because it relied on limited private funds and profits from Jesuit-owned lands. During the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln paid a visit to Georgetown because 1,400 troops were stationed in temporary quarters on campus. Following the Civil War, enrollment declined because of the significant loss of life incurred during the conflict. By the end of the nineteenth century, the school had expanded its educational focus and began to add a number of departments, including nursing, business, and diplomacy, to give the school a more professional bent. By 1968, this once all-male school had become a co-educational institution.
Today, Georgetown is widely known as one of the preferred academic destinations for young politicos, whether or not they are Catholic. However, the school’s Jesuit traditions have been a source of controversy at times. Before 1996, crucifixes were hung only as historic works of art, but between 1996 and 1999 they were hung in many classrooms, a controversy which drew attention nationwide. Furthermore, university-owned buildings do not provide birth control products. The Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Services prohibit abortions from being performed in the Georgetown University Medical Center.
Georgetown has three campuses in Washington, DC, the main one of which is situated above the Potomac River overlooking northern Virginia. With over 100 acres and 58 buildings, the school is built mostly in the collegiate Gothic and Georgian brick styles.
Although Georgetown has a small campus — the walk from one end to another takes no more than 10 minutes — there are a number of appealing places where one can spend time. Popular indoor locations include the student center, library, and Alumni Lounge, while the Healy Lawn and Dahlgren Chapel area provide beautiful outdoor settings.
The student center, while by no means "the center" of student life, houses a lounge area with large windows looking out on the site of what will soon be the new business school building. Cushy couches and armchairs provide a great space for studying — and when that gets old, students can always take a quick nap. There is a student-run coffee shop and convenience store, as well as some fast food kiosks (Taco Bell, Subway, etc.) and a Starbucks. The library is also quite popular, especially the second floor, where there is another student-run coffee shop (Midnight Mug). This is the social floor, where undergrads head to work on group projects or to escape the confines of their cubicles for coffee and a chat with some friends. Though it is often overlooked, Alumni Lounge is another great place to hang out. The lounge area has numerous large televisions, pool tables, and other games. It is often used for group viewings of political events or for informal speakers.
Outdoor hangouts include the main lawn around the Healy Circle and Dahlgren Chapel, just behind Healy. In the fall and spring, students lie out on the green and tan, play Frisbee, or study. Dahlgren Chapel has a beautiful fountain and brick patio. This scenic backdrop provides a comfortable and intimate outdoor location for a bench-chat or read.
Because Georgetown is situated between a commercial neighborhood and a residential neighborhood, there are a number of coffee shops and restaurants nearby, with many more options available in the greater DC area.
Georgetown University is located in Georgetown, a ritzy area of DC chalk-full of clothing chains (from H&M to Sachs 5th Avenue), restaurants, and bars. Adjacent to Georgetown’s campus to the north and west are residential neighborhoods — the houses are well kept, with decorations updated to match the season. Although Georgetown has no Metro stop (it is said that the neighborhood declined the city's offer because of concerns that the "riffraff" would use public transportation to access the area), there are two within a ten-minute walk from campus. The French Embassy is a five-minute walk from Georgetown's hospital entrance. The area is highly trafficked by automobiles and has little open space, although the Potomac River and Roosevelt Island offer beautiful jogging locations. While Georgetown has a variety of shops and restaurants, it is fairly small and can be quite expensive. However, there are a variety of popular coffee shops where students go to meet friends, chat, read, and study. Of course the most ubiquitous café is Starbucks, with three locations in the immediate area. Another very popular place to study is Saxbys. The benefits of this shop are the free wireless internet access and numerous tables, though it can be difficult to find a spot to sit. Dean & DeLuca also has an outdoor seating area that is covered in the winter. A less well-known shop called Baked & Wired is a few blocks east on M Street and offers a wide variety of homemade goodies to keep blood sugar high.
Washington, DC has a number of different neighborhoods, each with its own funky character. Two student favorites are Dupont Circle and Adams Morgan. Dupont is only a 20-minute walk from Georgetown and contains numerous shops, including Kramer Books, an eclectic and extensive independent bookstore with a friendly and knowledgeable staff and fabulous café that’s open 24 hours a day; some fairly high-end used clothing stores; and hookah lounges. Adams Morgan is known for its restaurants and bars, but also has some fun shopping venues. Further afield is the Washington Mall, the large grassy lawn in front of the reflecting pool and Washington Monument. During the spring and summer this is a great place to go with friends for a picnic, outdoor study session, or impromptu Frisbee game. Another draw is the city’s Smithsonian museums, which often host special exhibits. Since they're free, you don't have to feel guilty about ducking in and out.
The stair scene from The Exorcist, set on a dark, narrow staircase on which a priest rids himself of the devil, was filmed on campus. Every Halloween, the film is screened on campus. Georgetown athletes test their physical strength by running up and down these stairs.
If the men’s basketball team is out of town and undergrads want to root for the Hoyas, they often meet at a restaurant called the Tombs. Open since 1962, the Tombs is packed with Hoyas memorabilia from years gone by and is a popular spot on game day.
Abdullah II bin al-Hussein (1987) is the king of Jordan and reportedly a direct descendant of the prophet Muhammad.
William Jefferson Clinton (1968) served as the 42nd president of the United States.
Mitchell Hurwitz (1985) is a television writer and creator of the Fox comedy Arrested Development.
Allen Iverson (attended) is a nine-time NBA All-Star.
Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (1968) is the president of the Philippines.
The Georgetown Hoyas compete in the NCAA Division I Big East Conference in 26 sports and in the Division I-AA Patriot League for football. Most of the university’s sports fanatics root for the men’s basketball team, and home games are so popular that undergrads can’t expect that tickets will be available at the last minute. In the 1980s and early 1990s, coach John Thompson put together a dynasty that produced future NBA stars including Allen Iverson, Patrick Ewing, Alonzo Mourning, and Dikembe Mutombo. The Hoyas are often recognized as the first “mid-majors” to consistently compete with NCAA powerhouses, and have been to the Final Four five times, most recently in 2007 under coach John Thompson III.
With 13% of males and 9% of females participating in varsity sports, men’s hoops isn’t the only game in town. The Hoyas are also competitive in rowing, women’s lacrosse, sailing, and soccer. There are also a number of club and intramural offerings, ranging from traditional sports like golf to more esoteric options such as arm wrestling or Aussie rules football.
Among American universities with less than 15,000 undergraduates, Georgetown produces the most Peace Corps volunteers.
More than 1,000 Georgetown alumni and students served in the Civil War. The school’s colors, blue and grey, signify peaceful unity among students following the war, with blue representing Union uniforms and grey representing the Confederates.
Most Georgetown undergrads seem to be moderately satisfied with their housing options. Dorm rooms vary significantly in size and in the amenities they offer. The dorms are relatively clean and pest-free, and all offer natural light and elevator access. Most dorm rooms are doubles, although after freshman year, with a good housing number, it is possible to end up in a single.
There are four main freshman dorms at Georgetown (Village C, Darnall Hall, Harbin Hall, and New South). Freshmen who apply for special living locations (such as a "living well" floor) can also be housed in Copley or LXR. Freshman dorms are almost exclusively doubles, consisting of two beds (usually bunkable if the residents so choose), two vanities, two sets of drawers, two closets, two desks, bookshelves, and two chairs. Each floor contains a common room with a basic kitchen and television. At the beginning of each year, students living on campus pay "floor funds" (a fee of $25), which is used for floor expenses and often directed toward a DVD player or other common appliances (a toaster, microwave, etc). Rebecca Tapscott ’08 reports that “although there is a kitchen available, I found that the messiness of a communal kitchen was a strong deterrent from doing my own cooking.”
Lastly, students who receive a top pick in the housing lottery can choose from one of the numerous townhouses that Georgetown owns. Just a block or two away from campus, these houses hold up to 8 students and provide a bit of distance between students and university supervision. Though they are technically on campus, people living in townhouses can come and go as they please, have guests over without having to sign them in, and can stay over breaks without having to clear out for the holidays, which is sometimes mandated in the dorms depending on the break. Townhouses also come with full backyards that are very popular in the warmer months.