The University of Washington is not your average state school.
Yes, the student body is a colossal organism and the institution may function like a factory, but the academic rigor and highly competitive research opportunities distinguish UW from many other public universities. Positioned in one of the most eco-friendly cities in the country, UW boasts of its efforts to be “green,” and students often find themselves in, on, or using recycled materials.
Typical students are liberal, earthy and accepting of the many races, religions and sexual orientations peppered throughout the student population. Political protests and rallies for any cause you can imagine regularly spice up the quad. At a school this gargantuan, students get involved in student government, the lively Greek community or other groups to avoid being lost in the crowd. Seattle offers all the entertainment a waterlogged socialite could desire. Students especially flock to “The Ave” for pubbing and grubbing despite the hobos and reports of shady mishaps, and weekends take outdoor-types to nearby retreats for hiking, skiing, boating and other adventures.
The University of Washington has a huge population and, as a result, the University
District is almost a city unto itself. “Between staff, faculty, undergraduates, and graduates there are 60,000 of us. We have our own police department, hospital, zip code and it's a mile walk across campus,” writes a
senior. Students note that it is easy to feel like a number here and it’s important to
find a niche or sub-community to be a part of so as to avoid getting lost in the crowd. Despite the
daunting aspects, a school of this size has a lot to offer in the way of
opportunities for eager students. A senior economics major says, “It gives me the opportunity to meet a wide variety of people and try new activities, while also allowing me to find like-minded people who share my interests.”
The mammoth student body translates to large class sizes,
especially during the first few quarters. Students say intro classes can
have up to 700 students, but UW tries to implement a personal atmosphere by
coupling big lectures with small, discussion-based sections. “Most lecture classes come with small quiz sections where you take your quizzes and get extra help led by TAs,” writes a freshman. “These classes consist of about 25 students in each class. So it's not too bad, I promise you!”
The classes get smaller and more interactive with time, and some students
note that they’ve had classes with as few as three people. Seasoned UW students
recommend selecting a major or minor in one of the smaller departments for more
intimate classes and a personal approach.
Despite the large class sizes, students note that professors
are relatively accessible. A senior political science major comments,
“Professors can seem intimidating when at the lectern, but once you meet them in their office hours, they are generally affable and approachable. Downright friendly, sometimes.”
Students usually have more one-on-ones with teaching assistants rather than
professors and warn against blowing off TAs, since they’re often the ones
doling out grades. Academically, UW students are very competitive since many
classes are graded on a curve, and majors have selective application processes.
Students say the student body is fairly diverse and
accepting of all ethnicities, orientations, and beliefs. Many students are from
the state of Washington, but there is a healthy dose of out-of-staters and
international students, too. A senior English major writes, “UW is pretty diverse, although there really are few black or Hispanic students. The biggest international student minority groups are Asian (Korean and Japanese for the most part), but they tend to keep to themselves.”
Socioeconomically, students are from all over the spectrum. Like its host city, Seattle,
UW is very liberal and students say many are politically active or at least
politically aware, and activists are not an uncommon species on campus. A
sophomore student notes, “There are often protests on campus, mostly artistic ones (ex. flags in the lawn), as opposed to mobs.”
The college provides many recycling and composting opportunities and, by and large, the students
are very environmentally friendly. A freshman involved in Young Democrats
assures this doesn’t mean the campus is crawling with flower children: “While it is true that the university and its students tend to be very environmentally conscious, I wouldn't say that UW is teaming with be-dreaded, hemp-wearing hippies.”
With a student community this large, the University of Washington
is overflowing with extracurricular offerings. Students say there are clubs
for every interest, belief and nationality, and being involved in one of these
groups helps the university feel smaller. The Greek community is a popular way
for students to find their niche, though students say going Greek isn’t the only way. “The Greek community is pretty prominent on campus, but if you weren't part of it and didn't know anything about it, you wouldn't notice it too much,” writes a
senior in a sorority. School pride unifies the school, especially during football and basketball
seasons. A student double majoring in architecture and construction management
says, “UW has a ton of school pride and that is one of the things I love most about football season and basketball season. No matter how terrible our team may be playing, the stands are packed and the crowd loud and rowdy!"
The University District and Seattle have a plethora of
entertainment outlets, so students are guaranteed an exciting social life. Students
report that parties can be found on and off campus any night of the week, and
there are countless ways to have fun in the city without drinking, as well. “There's a lot of stuff to do on campus, whether it's just hanging out in someone's room, bowling at the HUB, or shopping or eating on the Ave,” writes a freshman
English major. Many students also take advantage of the surrounding area: “There is much to do outside the city, including hiking, camping, skiing, kayaking and boating, as well as plenty of high-end shopping, restaurants, clubs, bars, theater, music (Seattle has one of the top Jazz scenes in the world) and organizations within the city,” says an engineering senior. With the smorgasbord of academic and social options the school provides, UW
will easily keep go-getter students busy for all four (or five) years.