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George Washington University

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What should every freshman at your school know before they start?

If I could talk to myself as a senior, I would say to embrace change and accept that it is, and forever shall be, an essential part of the maturing process. Prepare yourself to open up to people with different cultural backgrounds and open your mind to opinions which may initially seem unfamiliar. Sometimes it feels as if you are going to buckle under the pressure of not knowing what your future will look like. Be prepared for this and learn how to cope one day at a time. Embrace your love of learning and you will realize that any challenge that comes your way is worth passionately fighting for. There will never be a time in your life where learning is more fun, more rewarding, and your brain is wired to make the most change in the world. Take off at a sprinting pace and take advantage of sunny days, quirky classes, out of class guest speakers, uncomfortable social situations, problems that you see a solution for, and friends who open their hearts and minds. Respect yourself, your values, and you are bound to succeed. Wake up each day with a smile and see life as an adventure!

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For so many people, college is simply fulfiling an expectation. And even more nowadays further education is needed to get the top tier positions. College is a time for personal discovery. While most of this growth happens in the social realm, I feel that college should be a way to explore your interests instead of fulfilling a predetermined path post-graduation. After all, at it's root that is how it functions: the majority of graduates do not end up employed within the field they studied at university. I would say to myself, "Take any class you have interest in, not what you're obligated to take." One may never know what a single class or lecture could ignite in the mind or in the belly. Young people in college are still so young and malleable. It is overwhelming to first pick a college that "defines you" and then choose your course of study for the rest of your life. Unreasonable expectations. And on top of that, the price! Dios mio! I would implore myself, "Go to an affordable school! One that brings you zero debt! Try an array of classes! You'll be much happier then!"

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For many students, the first life changing decision one has to make is which university he or she wishes to attend. An important consideration is the location of where they want to wake up at 7:30 am to go to Professor Chin?s 8:00 am calculus class. Students may look at who teaches calculus or what Professor Chin teaches and forgets that there are many other professors and majors. However, they only experience one location, which is unique to the university they attend. Some students look for a school that is fast pace and located in the city, like NYU; a school that has walls and a college town, like UVA; or something in between that is located on the outside of a city, like Northwestern University. Ultimately, they are the one who wakes up in the same place every morning for that 8:00 am class that eventually ends. Therefore, regardless of the prestige of the school, the awards, or the ranking it holds, the most important aspect of their college experience is whether they wake up in content or not and the basis of that is the experience they gain in the location they study.

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I would suggest for Students to aim for a college that will be a true learning experience in every way by picking a great location to study. I moved from a small town in a rural area to the center of Washington, D.C. It was a great move for me because not only was I granted access to some of the best teachers in the nation, but I was also in a very influencial environment, politically, culturally, and historically. This provides for some of the best resources for learning both in and outside your university. As a music minor, I was able to use the resources provided by Washington to see some of the best musicians of the day. I have been able to attend seminars with some of the most famous speakers in the International Affairs field (which is my main focus) because Washington attracts so many big names, especially those involved in world changing decisions. I would highly suggest concidering the area that you're college is located when making a serious decision about college. It can truly make or break your year. Thank you for your time and good luck with the competition!

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I am actually a transfer student to my current, private university. So, I understand how hard it is to make the right decision about college. I had attended a lot of college programs in my high school years, and so I had a vague understanding of what I was looking for the first time around. However, when I got to my first day of orientation, I came to find that the university I thought I was attending, was not an accurate understanding of student life, etc. Thus, while everyone will tell you to just keep your basic needs (majors, learning environments, finances, etc.) in mind, it is important to do more than just tour the campus. Take the opportunities that the universities offer to sit in on classes, talk to a wide variety of REAL students on campus, eat the food. And, while transferring is always a feasible option, it may hurt you in the end. So, make sure the university has options to help you cope with possible desires to leave: like, study abroad options, student organizations both on and OFF campus, and a large variety of classes to experiment with majors. Best of luck!

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Advice I would give to any student or parent searching for the "perfect" school is to look at all possible options. As a student who applied Early Decision, I had no options other than my number 1 school. Choosing one school restricts your options; options like: financial aid, location, and academic majors. Many people choose their schools based on the amount of financial assistance they receive. When you choose one school you are obligated to take what they give you. The best thing to do is to look at all financial plans and choose one with your parents. The school you choose should also be a fit for your lifestyle. If you like fast paced environments, an urban campus would be great for you. If you like the typical college campus feel, a more rural college is probably the best fit for you. Lastly, the amount of academic programs a school offers should be very important when shopping for a school. Try not to attend a university that is very specialized, you never know what the future may hold and changing your major is a very common thing during the first few years of school.

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Parents: let the students do the work. It's fine to get involved in the college search, but by the time your child is searching for colleges, he or she should be prepared to do the research alone. Give friendly advice, but do not force your child to go to the college where you had, "the most amazing experience of your life," because that experience will be different for everyone. And therein lies the beauty of college: everyone is unique, and everyone has the ability to make the most or least of their college experience. With that said, students: there is no perfect college for you. Find a campus environment you feel comfortable in, and meet as many people as possible before latching onto your best friends. College is what you make of it, so study hard but don't forget to socialize too. Get involved as much as possible: you'll meet more friends and maybe even form a new study group. And if you're shy because you haven't tried something before, now's your chance! Try everything that interests you; it may just be the last time in your life you'll have so many opportunities.

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I believe the experience of college is about finding one's true self. I would tell students not to be afraid of trying new things. For example, if you are from a small-town, maybe a college in the city or a metro-area would be excellent for you to explore a different environment. Becoming entrenched within a different type of society may really appeal to you. It is also not necessary to know what you want to major in the day you start your classes. Explore your options! It will change you for the better and will give you a perspective that was probably not available in high school. I would tell parents to not be afraid of letting go. Although it may seem difficult, this is the time where your child will learn independence, as well as transform into an adult. Allow him/her to pursue their passions, as it is necessary in shaping who they will become. I found my passion through my courses and discussing different career opportunities with my professors. Students who become engaged with both social and academic aspects of college tend to have the most satisfying experience.

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Take standardized tests multiple times so you can actually get into the college of your choice. Visit as many colleges as you can, even if you have no interest in some. The more you see, the more informed you are when you look at the schools you're actually interested in. Don't make money an issue - there are way too many scholarships and grants out there - if you want that college - you can afford it. Once you're there, dive in. Find something worth doing - worth it to you. That might be student government - but it might be making new friends and partaking in illegal substances. You get to make mistakes in college - but the wisdom and social skills you pick up doing so far outweigh the costs. Go to the gym, but after the first two weeks when everyone else has already quit. Run outside during those two weeks. Don't worry about your GPA. No one cares after your first job. That being said - get an internship. Take a class in something just because it interests you. Steve Jobs took calligraphy - look what happened. Go to professors' office hours for any reason. Trust me.

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If I could go back in time and talk to myself as a high school senior, I would tell myself that where I do to college isn't as important as what I do there. When I initially started to apply for college, I was convinced that if I didn't get into my top choice school, college wasn't going to be worth it. As a result, I wasn't particularly excited when I realized that my best option after admission decisions came out was George Washington University. It wasn't my first choice; it wasn't even my second choice. However, within my first couple of weeks at GW, I realized it was the perfect place for me. Although the students here are perhaps not as academically focused as at some other schools, there are endless educational opportunities outside of the classroom, and I've found myself more intellectually challanged than I expected. More than that, though, the students here love it. There is the perfect balance of school and extracurricular activities, and the campus is a real community. I would like to tell myself senior year to get read to be pleasantly surprised.

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