Washington University in St. Louis Guide

The Ivy Scholars guide to Washington University in St. Louis‘s culture, admissions, and other essential information for prospective students and their families.


St. Louis, Missouri


Private Research Institution


The Bear


15,000 (7,600 undergrads)

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Dates + Deadlines


Schools +Colleges
Core Requirements
Special Programs

Student Life

Campus + Area
Student Orgs + Athletics


Financial Aid

About Washington University in St. Louis

Located in the greater St. Louis area, only parts of Washington University in St. Louis are actually located in St. Louis proper, with much of its main campus outside the city’s borders. With a strong academic program, and an impressive athletics program to complement it, WashU, or WUSTL, is one of the country’s top colleges, and frequently tops lists of the best housing and prettiest campuses in the country. 

WashU Statistics

Year Founded


4 Year Graduation Rate:


Gender Distribution

53% female, 47% male

Acceptance Rate:


Location Type:


Schedule System:


Student / Faculty Ratio:


Average Class Size:



Need assistance with the college admissions process?

National Rankings

US News Rankings:

  • #19 National Universities
  • #20 Best Value Schools
  • #39 Best Undergraduate Engineering Programs
  • #61 Best Undergraduate Teaching

Independent Rankings:

  • #1 Best College Dorms per The Princeton Review
  • #7 Best Financial Aid per The Princeton Review
  • #11 Best Quality of Life per The Princeton Review
  • #19 National Universities per The Times of Higher Education
  • #31 Top Colleges per Forbes
  • #48 Best Value Colleges per The Princeton Review
  • #52 World Universities per The Times of Higher Education


Application Deadlines:
Notifcation Dates:
Early Decision:

November 1st

Early Decision:

December 15th

Early Decision II:

January 2nd

Early Decision II:

February 14th

Regular Decision:

January 2nd

Regular Decision:

March 20th


March 1st


May 1st

Acceptance Rates:

  • Early Decision: 33%
  • Early Decision II: 30%
  • Regular Decision: 10%
  • Transfer: 20%

Average Applicant Pool: 25,400

Average Number of Applicants Accepted: 3,600

Average Number Enrolled: 1,700

Application Systems: Common App, Coalition App

Average GPA (weighted):

4.15 weighted

SAT Scores: 25th% – 1480, 75th% – 1550

ACT Scores : 25th% – 33, 75th% – 35

*Test mandatory. Writing sections optional.

Demonstrated Interest:

WashU does consider demonstrated interest. 

Recommendation Letter Policies:

One letter from a counselor and one letter from a teacher are all that is required. 

Essay Prompts:

  • Common App Personal Statement (650 words)
  • In about 250 words, tell us about something that really sparks your intellectual interest and curiosity, and compels you to explore more in the program/area of study that you indicated. It could be an idea, book, project, cultural activity, work of art, start-up, music, movie, research, innovation, question, or other pursuit.
  • Students wishing to apply to the Beyond Boundaries program must answer a different prompt:
    • Many of our students broadly explore the connections across WashU’s five undergraduate divisions and three graduate schools and engage with the community before declaring a major. The Beyond Boundaries Program equips students with a set of tools to critically understand and make a difference in a complicated world where challenges do not come pre-packaged as territory of a single discipline. In about 250 words, tell us what great challenge you might want to understand and tackle leveraging two or more of WashU’s schools and how you would pursue an interdisciplinary path of study that explores that challenge or an aspect of that challenge in a unique and innovative way.
  • WashU Essay Writing Tips

Special Notes:

  • Portfolios are required for students applying to study art, and strongly recommended for students applying to study architecture.
  • Interviews are optional but recommended. Interviews with both the admissions department and alumni are available, students shouldn’t schedule more than one interview.


  • Students must have completed at least one semester of undergraduate study before applying as a transfer. The school recommends a GPA of at least 3.5 in college coursework.
  • Transferring between divisions is not guaranteed, so students should apply to the division they want to major in.
  • Transfer students to the Olin Business School must have completed Calculus I and II at the college level.
  • Every applicant to McKelvey School of Engineering must have completed an English composition course, two semesters of calculus-based physics, and sufficient calculus to be prepared to take differential equations.
  • Applicants to the Colleges of Art or Architecture must portfolios alongside their application. 
  • SAT or ACT test scores are required if the student took them during high school.

Admissions Strategy

Admissions Criteria:

The most important aspects of an application are: class rank, essay, recommendations, academic record, GPA, test scores, talent, volunteering, character, and extracurricular participation.

Aspects of an application which are considered are: legacy status, first generation status, race/ethnicity, interview, and demonstrated interest.

While WashU does consider whether or not an athlete has been recruited, they do not offer any leeway on academics to recruited athletes.

The school is need aware. There is a limited amount of need-based financial aid available, and they will only admit a number of students needing financial aid that they will be able to reward it to. There is additional merit aid available, but that is administered separately.

What is WashU Looking For?

While the admissions process is the same for all admitted students, choice of division does affect admissions chances. Admissions officers want to see a high school background which matches a student’s proposed field of study. Thus engineering students should have a solid math and science background, while students interested in Arts & Sciences should be more well-rounded academically. Students interested in business should have a solid grounding in math.

The school began a new BS in environmental engineering, and will be looking for students interested in the program. This also fits in with one of their strategic, campus-wide goals, to focus more on sustainability and related research.

Their other strategic priorities are to increase diversity on campus, to engage more in public health, and to increase their entrepreneurship focus. Students with a focus in these areas will fit better with the school’s vision of itself, and receive more consideration.

The school’s holistic admissions process looks for three things: academic preparation, fit for the school’s community, and what you will contribute to campus. Fit for community is demonstrated through extracurriculars and essays in particular, while what you will bring to campus is especially concerned with a student’s extracurricular activities and academics.

WashU Strategy:

The best way to increase your chances of admission is to apply Early Decision. More than half of students are admitted in the two ED rounds, from a much smaller pool of candidates. While the same academic requirements exist in the ED rounds, the school offers a much higher proportion of qualified candidates admission in these rounds. ED II offers less of a benefit than ED I, and you should use it if you aren’t ready to submit in the first round, or if your first choice school rejects you ED I and WashU is your second choice.

Course rigor is determined based on high school offerings, WashU wants to see that you have taken the most rigorous classes available to you. A high GPA in unchallenging classes will not be very beneficial.

WashU will place a large number of students on the waitlist, but does not admit many off of it in most years. If you are placed on the waitlist, don’t count on being admitted, and seek a place at another school.

The school does consider demonstrated interest, and while the best way to do this is applying ED, you can use this guide to learn additional steps you can take to demonstrate interest in a school.

As WashU allows for students to take a second major from another division without transferring divisions (with advisor permission), students should always apply for the division they are best positioned for, and then take a second major in another division if that is what they decide they want to focus their studies on.

Because the school is need aware, if you will require financial aid to attend, consider making another school your first choice. Many schools which are in the same academic tier as WashU are need blind, and commit to meeting all demonstrated need.



Core Requirements:

  • Basic Requirements (3 Writing courses, 1 3-unit course in numerical applications, 1 course in moral reasoning, 1 3-unit course in cultural diversity)
  • Distribution Requirements (36 units; 9 Humanities, 9 Social Sciences, 9 Natural Sciences and Mathematics, 9 Languages and the Arts) 
  • Classes in your major may count towards basic or distribution requirements.
  • Comprehensive Core Requirement Information

Courses of Study:

AP Credit Policies:

Special Programs

Honors Programs:

Research Availability:

Study Abroad: 

Business Options: 

    • The Olin Business School offers a BS in Business Administration, they also offer a joint BS-MA 3-2 program, which combines undergrad with an MBA.
    • Students enrolled in other schools at WashU can still take second majors or minors in the business school.
    • Joint Degree in business and computer science.

Pre-Med Options:

Pre-Law Options:

Computer Science Options:

Additional Specialty Programs: 

Programs for High Schoolers:

  • Summer Programs are offered to students in all grades of high school, and offer opportunities to learn, conduct research, and experience life on a college campus guided by current students, graduate students, and faculty.
  • Pre-College Programs offer talented high school students from around the country a chance to learn and conduct research at WashU.

Student Life

Motto:  Strength through truth

Mission and Values:

    • Mission: Washington University in St. Louis’ mission is to discover and disseminate knowledge, and protect the freedom of inquiry through research, teaching and learning. Washington University creates an environment to encourage and support an ethos of wide-ranging exploration. Washington University’s faculty and staff strive to enhance the lives and livelihoods of students, the people of the greater St. Louis community, the country and the world.
    • Additional Information
    • Student Testimonials (Niche, Unigo, Grad Reports)

WashU Housing System:

Freshmen and Sophomores live in an area of campus referred to as the “South 40” as it comprises 40 acres and is on the South end of campus. These are a traditional co-ed, residential housing system, remarkable for their high number of amenities. Wsh U is consistently ranked as one of the top schools for on-campus housing. Upperclassmen can live in “The Village” located on the North end of campus, or in several apartment buildings owned by the university. Some students live in Greek houses as well. 

Additional Information

Housing Statistics:


of freshmen live on campus.


of undergrads live on campus overall.

Campus & Surrounding Area:  


  • The university offers a U-Pass, which allows students to ride St. Louis public transit for free. They also offer a free shuttle, which goes around campus and into the broader neighborhood.
  • Parking Information


  • WILDWalk in, lay down; a biannual music festival hosted by the university. 
  • Thurtene CarnivalThe largest and oldest student-run carnival in the nation, featuring booths made from scratch by participating organizations.
  • VertigoA dance party put on by the engineering school students, featuring a light-up dance floor.
  • DUC N’ DonutsThe first Friday of every month, students gather from 9-11 in the Danforth University Center to hear about upcoming events and enjoy free donuts.


Greek Life: 

  • 35% of students are involved in Greek life, including, social, service, and academic organizations.

Student-Run Organizations


  • There are frat or apartment parties most weekends. 
  • There are bars all over St. Louis, catering to all tastes, many near campus. There are further attractions to see around the city. 
  • There are numerous festivals and special events, put on by the university community or in St. Louis at large.


Yearly Cost of Attendance:

  • Total: $74,788
  • Tuition: $56,300
  • Fees: $586
  • Room & Board: $17,402

Financial Aid:

Students are required to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before any aid decisions are made. The deadline for this to be completed depends on the application track students are pursuing. Students are awarded need-based aid based on their parents income level, with gifts paying for some or all of tuition costs. 

Additional Financial Aid & Student Loan Information


WashU offers many merit based scholarships through their Signature Scholars Program. These awards are distributed regardless of need, and comprise full or half scholarships. Further scholarship opportunities are available, offered through academic division or other university programs. The school also accepts outside scholarship funds. 

Fun Facts

  • Olin library is the largest library in the state of Missouri. 
  • The university was founded without the backing of a wealthy patron, religious organization, or government. 
  • The experiments proving light is a particle occurred on campus in 1922, by then professor Arthur Compton. 
  • Presidential debates have been held on their campus more than any others, occurring in 1992, 2000, 2004, and 2016. It also hosted the Vice-Presidential debate in 2008. 
  • The Kemper Art Museum is the oldest art museum West of the Mississippi river. 
  • Students avoid stepping on the university’s seal in Brookings Hall, as superstition says this will prevent you from graduating. 
  • Notable alumni include actor Harold Ramis and Charlse Nagel, founder of the US Chamber of Commerce. Poet Tenessee Williams attended, but dropped out in protest after losing a poetry competition. 

Our experts make Houston students into Ivy League applicants.

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