campus encounters

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Georgetown University

Georgetown University (visited 1/4/17)


The Front Lawn

In case you were wondering, Hoyas aren’t real things. When the university started, Georgetown students were required to study both Latin and Greek. At that point, the students were known as “Stonewalls” (because they would sit on the stone walls to watch matches on what is now the quad by the main gates) and they would chant “Hoya Saxa!” or “What rocks!” They’ve taken on the bulldog as their mascot, and a real dog, Jack, lives on campus. Students can sign up to walk and help train him.


The clock tower which gets the hands stolen in an annual tradition.

As the oldest Catholic and Jesuit university in the country, Georgetown was also the first to welcome students of all religious faiths. Bishop John Carroll founded the school (in what was then Georgetown, MD) because all the other existing institutions had been Protestant-based. Much of the campus is comprised of historical buildings. 14 US Presidents (ranging from Washington to Obama) have spoken from the steps of the original building; while most steps have been replaced, the top step has not because of the historical significance. There’s also a tradition surrounding the clock tower on another of the old buildings: somehow, a person or people scale the building, steal the clock tower hands, and send them to someone they’d like to speak on campus. They were sent to Bill Clinton who came and the Pope who blessed them and sent them back with his apologies for not being able to make it.


georgetown-chapel-and-benchesThe Jesuit experience on campus is what you make it. The tour guide said, “It’s like a radio dial: turn it up; turn it off. Whatever.” The admissions rep said, “We ask that you just be respectful of the role religion may play in the lives of your peers.” Their the first Jesuit school to employ full-time clergy of other faiths including a Rabbi and Imam. Students must take 2 theology/ philosophy classes including “The Problem of God,” a course taught by 30 different professors. Another popular class is “Philosophy of Dogs”: “I don’t know what they study, but it sounds cool,” said the tour guide.

georgetown-statueGeorgetown is classified as a medium-sized research institution with 6400 undergrads. However, only 1% of classes have more than 100 students, and 99% are taught by faculty. Our tour guide’s smallest classes have had 12 students (she had 3 this size); the largest was her Principles of Macroeconomics class with 300. She was surprised at how much talking was expected in class. “I just didn’t expect that at a school this size.”

georgetown-1Applicants must apply to one of 4 schools: Georgetown College, Nursing and Health Studies, Foreign Service, Business. There is no advantage to applying to one over the other; all the admissions officers read applications. The rep giving the presentation recommended that students “think about what’s most in line with your interests and apply to that school. There are no walls within these schools, and 10% of students will internally transfer once here. People share dorms, classes, and core classes. You’ll have access to everything regardless of your college.” The 4 colleges are:

  • georgetown-original-bldg

    The original building; the top step of these stairs is of historical significance; 14 presidents have spoken from there.

    Georgetown College: this enrolls about 50% of the undergraduates.

    • Half of those students major in Humanities and Social Sciences. Unusual majors include: Medieval Studies, Political Economy, and American Musical Culture.
      • Law School Early Assurance: Students apply in the junior year for acceptance without the LSAT. There are no specific pre-requisites because there’s no pre-law program. They look to see that students are doing well and challenging themselves.
    • Sciences, offering majors like Biology of Global Health, Biological Physics, and Neurobiology.
      • The Early Assurance Program allows students at the end of sophomore year to apply to the Med School without taking MCAT. They must have completed Organic Chem and at least 1 more pre-med class.
    • Languages and Linguistics, including majors in Comparative Lit and Linguistics as well as in 10 languages. Instruction is available in many additional languages.
  • Nursing and Health Studies: Nursing uses the med center right behind the main campus.
  • Foreign Service: They have famous and distinguished faculty, including Madeline Albright: “Her class is no walk in the park, but the students love it!” Many of the majors “look like double majors – that’s on purpose,” said the rep. All students in this school must take language classes and 4 semesters of econ, micro and macro. A couple majors of note are Regional and Comparative Studies, Science Technology & International Affairs, and International Political Economy.
  • Business: many students will double major or minor.

georgetown-6Despite having to apply to a particular college, students can’t declare a major until the end of sophomore year “with the exception of hard sciences and pre-med,” said the tour guide. She said that a lot of people do generally know what they want to do, but there are always people who change their minds, and she feels that most people take classes with a bit more of an open mind knowing that they haven’t declared yet.

georgetown-archesIncoming freshmen can apply to participate in a variety of special seminars and scholars programs including the Freshman Ignatius Seminar offered during the first semester. There are about a dozen choices, one of which is taught by the college President (a PhD in Philosophy): Contributing to (In)Justice. This was the tour guide’s favorite class.

The majority of students complete 2-3 internships, both over the summer and during the year. More than half the students will study abroad through direct matriculation (enrolling at the other institution) or at the Georgetown Villa in Florence (complete with private chef): 30 students go with faculty and are taught in English.

Georgetown makes a big deal about the 3 communities to which students belong:

  • This is a compact, urban campus but with a traditional feel. Students can walk across it in 10 minutes.
    • georgetown-apts-and-river

      Balconies of the Village Apartments overlooking the Potomac River

      Students must live on campus for 3 years: 1st and 2nd years and then either 3rd or 4th with 87% living on campus at any given time. Those who life off-campus live right in the Georgetown area.

      • There are several brightly colored townhouses right outside the main gates; many of these are Living-Learning Communities.
      • There are lots of options on campus, including 4-9 person apartments that had been housing for Jesuits until a new residence was recently built.
      • Village A is an apartment complex overlooking the Potomac and Kennedy Center.
    • georgetown-townhouses

      Townhouses across from the main gate where students can live

      The residential campus builds close-knit relationships and active, varied clubs including GUAC: the Georgetown University Avocado Club

    • People do embrace the “men and women for others” motto of the Jesuits. Not only do they do a lot of service on and around campus, but graduates join the Peace Corps and Teach for American in record numbers.
  • Georgetown Community: This is about 12 square blocks with M and Wisconsin at the center. There’s a lot to do within walking distance of campus.
  • Freshmen orientation takes students on a scavenger hunt around the city, and classes often utilize resources such as museums, federal agencies, and more. There is no metro stop on campus; the Rosslyn stop is ¾ of a mile across the river, and the Foggy Bottom Stop (at GW) is about 1.5 miles – both walkable, but shuttles will take students there and other places in the area.

Building on these communities works: retention from first to second years is at 97%, and 93% of students graduate within 4 years.


Dorms with some athletic fields beyond them.

In terms of admissions, Georgetown doesn’t take the Common App. There’s a main app and a supplement; submitting the main part will also activate an alumni interview info (no interviews are done on campus). The transcript is the most important piece. They do strongly recommend that applicants send in 3 SAT Subject Tests, but understand that this may be a financial hardship. They are not a score-choice school; the entire testing history is required.


If students apply Early Action, they may not apply Early Decision elsewhere. EA applicants are either admitted or deferred, and the admission rate under EA (13%) is similar to RD (16%). Georgetown is need-blind and will meet 100% of demonstrated need with a $6000 cap on self-help aid (loans and work-study).

Students are happy with the facilities and activities on campus;

  • georgetown-dance-studio

    One of several dance studios available for classes, clubs, and general use

    Sports, of course, are a big deal. Everything is on campus except for basketball; those games are at Verizon Center downtown to provide enough space. Students pay $125 per season for basketball tickets.

  • There are a variety of dance teams, and Georgetown hosts the largest student dance performance in the world with 500 people participating.
  • The Outdoor pre-orientation program is popular, as is the Outdoor club which gets kids out of the city for activities.
  • There’s a farmer’s market on good-weather Wednesdays with lots of ethnic food offered
  • georgetown-intl-center

    The InterCultural Center; the farmer’s market is held out front

    The Corp (Students of Georgetown, Inc) is the largest student-run group of business in the country: they run 3 cafes, Hilltop, and more. This gives students experience with all aspects of business and customer service.

  • There are plenty of food options typical to a university of this size. The tour guide told us that there’s never much of a wait for food. “Chicken Tender Thursday is super poplar. People without a meal plan try to get others to swipe them in!”

© 2017

Howard University

Howard University (visited 9/13/16)

howard-long-walkHoward is set apart from other HBCUs because of its reputation; it’s not regional like many others. This is a diverse campus, geographically, socio-economically, religiously, etc. “One of the best quotes I’ve heard about Howard is, ‘You can find everything in the black world and its opposite here’,” said the admissions rep. This is a highly tolerant and accepting campus. There are lots of Muslims, lots of non-religious students, etc. LGBTQ students are comfortable here; they’re out and accepted. “People get called out on things if they’re being derogatory or exclusive. People will say, “You may get away with that at home, but it’s not going to fly here.”

howard-6“People are pushed to be better. There’s nothing you can’t do here,” said the admissions rep, also an alum. “Come here if you want to maximize your potential. Students are serious about fun AND serious about work.” She said that if students are not academically prepared or can’t handle the social scene, they won’t make it.

Founded on March 2,1867 to ensure that black students could come to the nation’s Capitol to get an education, Howard now has a long list of distinguished alumni including Thurgood Marshall, Toni Morrison, Zora Neale Hurston, politicians, actors, and plenty more. Today, the 7,000 undergrads come from 44 states/territories and 23 countries; the biggest feeder country is Nepal!


The view of the Capitol from campus

Students have formed state clubs and will often host students visiting from that area. “They’ll reach out to prospective and new students to help make the transition easier.” For example, the university does not run shuttles to the airport, but current students will make sure that new students know how to use the Metro or MARC systems to get to and from campus.



One of the Greek Trees

Campus/extra-curricular life is busy. There are 19 DI sports; this is the only HBCU with Women’s Lacrosse (Hampton has Men’s). Debate is strong with an annual competition against Hampton, their big rival. They try to have it on the same weekend as the football game. The “Greek Letter Organizations” include honors and major-based (journalism, business, etc) groups as well as social. The Devine 9 were created in response to mainstream white Greek life. Five of those were created on Howard’s campus; members from all over come to campus to “see the birthplace” and visit their chapter’s “tree.” Each organization is assigned a tree that they have painted. Students can Pledge starting in sophomore year.



One of the campus fountains

The biggest campus event is Homecoming in October drawing huge crowds of alumni and friends. Georgia Ave is blocked off for concerts and other fun. First Fridays are also hugely popular. Students looking to get off campus have no shortage of options: the Howard Theater and 930 Club host all sorts of concerts all year, and are within a 10 minute walk. Further afield are all the options available in DC, accessible via the metro stop only a couple blocks from campus.



Lower Quad

There are 11 res halls; students are separated by gender for the first year (women by the Valley/lower quad, men by the football stadium) and then mixed. Freshmen are required to live on campus (with some concessions/ exceptions). Upperclassmen can usually live on campus if they want to, but they have the option to move off.


Academically, there is a lot to brag about ranging from their amazing Fine Arts programs to the sciences (and they start kids early! The Middle School for Math and Science – or (MC)2 – is right on campus). Howard is ranked #1 for graduating black students who go on to med school and PhDs in STEM fields. This is the only HBCU named as a Tier 1 research institution.


The Business building

There are 70 undergrad majors in 6 schools. The top 5 majors are bio, psych, PoliSci, Media/Journalism/Film, and Chem. Among other notable programs are:


  • A 5-year BArch program allowing students to sit for their exam right after graduation.
  • Direct-Entry Nursing
  • A 6-year fast-track BS/MD Only 12-15 students get admitted every year and must have passed high-level math and sciences in high school. They complete the Bachelors in 2 years (including summers). Students must be accepted to the university first, then apply to the program by 3/1.
  • Several BFA programs in Interior Design, Fashion Design, Electronic Studio, Painting, Photography, Sculpture, Theater Tech, Musical Theater, Dance, Theater Administration, and Acting.
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Administration of Justice (combining Sociology, Anthropology, and Criminal Justice)
  • Several Engineering options (Chemical, Mechanical, Civil, Electrical, and Computer)
  • Physician Assistant
  • Radiation Therapy
  • Business students start right away; they have to wear business attire 2 days a week.

The biology department with greenhouses on the roof

Students in the Arts & Sciences, Business, and Communications schools can be invited into the Honors program in those areas. Applicants will be considered and invited as long as they declare a major coming in. If they aren’t invited upon entry, students can be invited to start as a sophomore. “The criteria is vague kind of on purpose because each year will be different,” said the rep. These programs open up honors classes and the opportunity for a faculty advisor for a thesis presented at symposiums at the end of the year.



The campus chapel for students wanting to take advantage of its offerings

“The intellectual life here extends outside of the classroom.” For example:

  • The Freshman Class always reads a common text. Last year, it was Citizen by Claudia Rankin. She came and spent the day with the freshman.
  • All freshmen take a Freshman Seminar; they come together once a week for a lecture then once more for smaller section. During these times, they talk about the Common Text, adjusting to campus, and more.
  • The Freshman Leadership Academy focuses on Asian languages (particularly Mandarin). They meet as a cohort for the year and go abroad for 4-8 weeks during the summer after freshman year. After that, they serve as mentors to the new groups coming in.
  • Internships: most students do at least 1, but it’s rare to meet a student who hasn’t had one each year starting sophomore year. “It’s a very professional environment. They’ll go to class in suits because they have to leave for an internship right afterwards.” Students get great internships over the summers at places like Johnson & Johnson, Chase Bank headquarters, etc.
  • 12 schools in and around DC have articulation agreements for students looking to expand their academic options.
  • “Our kids are politically inclined. It’s part of the reason they want to come to DC. They’re always protesting something.”
  • To participate in Study Abroad, students must have sophomore or junior standing, 1 year of residency at Howard, and have at least a 3.0 GPA.
  • Student-led Alternative Spring Break is popular: Students have gone to Flint, Memphis, New Orleans, and other places to work on Anti-gun violence, Water stuff in Flint, tutoring, and housing. Some went to Haiti and Costa Rica (Engineers w/o borders).
  • Air Force ROTC is housed on Howard’s campus. Students wanting Army ROTC can do so at American University.

Howard only accepts the Common Application for admission. Accepted students generally have around a 3.5 unweighted GPA and 1150 SAT 1150 or 25 ACT (which tends to be higher than the national average for African-American students).

© 2016

Catholic University of America

The Catholic University of America (visited 9/13/16)

cua-5“I assumed it was going to be really, really Catholic here, but after I enrolled I learned that it’s as Catholic as you want it to be. I was committed to another school before I came here, but it’s really friendly. It’s why I came,” said one of the students I spoke with. Religion is there if you want it. Attendance is never required at any of the daily masses, but students do have to take 3-4 theology classes.


The Basilica

CUA is the only Papal Charter school in the US. The National Basilica borders campus (and although it gets used quite a bit by students and the university, it is not university-owned or on university property). A vast majority (80% or more) of students are Catholic. The student population is 65% white and 55% female. They have a fairly sizable Hispanic population. Other forms of diversity were harder to figure out. I couldn’t get statistics on socio-economic diversity, and when I asked about groups for LGBTQ students, I was told, “there are some unrecognized (unofficial) groups. We’re accepting but we stick close to the message and mission of the church,” the rep told me.

CUA sits in Brookland which is DC’s “Little Rome.” The neighborhood has gone through quite a bit of change in the last several years, with more stores, apartments, etc going up. The Red Line Brookland stop gives students easy access to anything in DC and beyond; they’re only 3 stops to Union Station (Amtrak).


The student center

Freshmen are all assigned to Learning Communities for their First Year Experience; they take 2 classes each semester as a cohort in order to build camaraderie. Generally they take English and Philosophy (classical) in the first semester, then another philosophy (more contemporary) and theology in the second semester. “The theology class is more like a well-rounded view, teaching what different groups believe. It’s really cool and different from the Catholic school taught us,” said one student who was had gone to Catholic schools her whole life.

Things that surprised the students I spoke to were:

  • Every night, there’s something to do. There are so many events. Trips are offered every Saturday: this weekend we went to Annapolis. There’s ice skating, Nats games, $5 Broadway plays, pumpkin patches, they’ll rent out a movie theater so we saw Mockingjay for $5, Six Flags. Even on weekdays, they’re always catering events, clubs will run things, whatever. You can’t get bored here.
  • Campus is big enough to meet new people but I’ll still always see people I know. People are always talking to each other; it’s impossible to keep to yourself here.

cua-2The classes they’ve liked the best are:

  • Media and Rhetoric: The prof met with me on a Sunday after Odyssey day (admitted student day). Once I was here, he was always checking in on how I was transitioning, etc. It was nice that someone was looking out for me. I’m now minoring in Political Rhetoric: when and how we say things, not just what we say. He’s the connection to my internship doing digital marketing strategizing.
  • Intro to Am. Government: My prof used examples from DC and we’d go to monuments or historical places to connect what we were learning. It helped put all the pieces together.

Part of the Architecture studios; all students get their own work space

Politics is the largest major with a lot of sub-categories under that (including Political Rhetoric). They also have other amazing, unusual programs including:


The Law School Lawn

There’s plenty to do on campus, including 21 DIII sports. Football, basketball, women’s lax, and FH pull in the most fans. The Law School Lawn is a popular spot for concerts, other activities, and informal gatherings. There’s a parking lot under the lawn, “another way we go green and make the most of space,” said the tour guide. Juniors and Seniors can bring cars, but it’s almost prohibitively expensive to park. Between that and the metro stop on the edge of campus, there’s not really any reason to have a car. It’s easy to get off campus when they want to branch out: “There are SO many opportunities in DC!” said all the students I spoke to. Students like both the academic and social opportunities ranging from internships to free museums to concerts at Verizon Center (and plenty other places!).


One of the dorm quads

Freshmen and sophomores must live on campus unless they live at home within 25 miles. After that, they can stay but housing is not guaranteed. In addition to traditional RAs, all dorms have a Resident Minister, a position held by a student to facilitate spiritual and religious activities. One of the students would like the university to spend money on Upperclassman housing/apartments. There are currently 2 suite-style dorms for upperclassmen but there should be more. However, they did just put in a new 504-bed res hall on the north side of campus. There’s also a new student center and new student lounge.


The Music School

Other expansions on campus include changes in the undergrad divisions. Theology, business, and social work had been departments but are now schools in their own rights. The school also has recently received a $27M donation to name the business school and got a grant from NASA “somewhere north of $15M” to do research.

CUA only takes the Common Application. Big cross-over schools tend to be Loyola, St. Joe’s, American, GW, College Park, Scranton, and UDel, Admissions is Test-optional but they will take them if submitted. They un-weight GPAs to a strict 4.0, and will also rank the class strength at their own high school; that gets factored into admission and scholarships. In addition to normal sorts of academic scholarships, there are special ones for Catholic and Legacy students.

© 2016

Trinity Washington University

Trinity Washington University (visited 9/13/16)


The interior of the main building.

Students who thrive here are those who want an education in an urban environment, a women’s-college educational environment, and who are more concerned with individual competitiveness than competing against others. “Lots of our students have overcome academic or other difficulties. We empower women to find their voices and intellectual lens.”

Some students may be initially reluctant about a woman’s college, but “we’re not about excluding or taking anything away. Instead, we want to support them,” said the Director of Admissions. There were certainly guys around campus, and with the university’s location directly in between Catholic University of America and Howard University (each less than a mile away), there’s no shortage of other college students around.


The main, original building housing offices, classrooms, and more. One of the main statues “looks on.”

The Undergraduate School of Liberal Arts and Sciences is still single-gender. Men are accepted to the university’s graduate programs (Education, Professional Studies, and Business).


The Chapel

This is a Catholic institution, but nothing is required (but there’s a beautiful chapel on campus for those who are interested). “We’re committed to the whole person here.” This is very much a regional institution right now (90% of their students come from DC and the MD/VA counties immediately surrounding it), although they’re reaching further afield as time goes on. They do have students on campus from CA, VA, NC, and other states. “It’s part of our mission to serve from local neighborhoods, to look out for our own.” They work very hard to provide access to education to students who might not otherwise feel that they do have access to higher education.


The new Science Academic building

Brookline, a Red line metro stop, is a 10-15-minute walk from campus. Shuttles run back and forth every 20 minutes, “but it’s an easy walk, and lots of people do that.” Parking costs $45 per semester, but few people drive despite this being very much a commuter campus. Their residence halls hold about 250 students, and they first fit in students who come from a distance. Generally only freshmen and sophomores live in campus housing. They take security very seriously; people have to show ID upon entering buildings around campus.

twu-gardenDespite very few students living on campus, there are plenty of extra-curriculars available. They offer sever DIII sports with soccer being the most competitive. “Lots of kids play it in high school.” Everyone can play. There are currently about 50 clubs, all student-run. There are no active sororities; students who are interested may connect with groups at Howard or American.

Their sciences (including health sciences) are strong, and they now have a brand new building with labs, simulation labs for nursing, and more. They offer many typical undergraduate degrees. A few notable exceptions are:

  • Occupational Therapy Assistant: This is a 2-year AA degree. Students in the School of Professional Studies who complete this can transition right into a Bachelor’s in psychology, health science, or human relations. This allows them to work in the field as an OT assistant, get experience, earn some money, and continue their education if they choose to do so. They do not offer an OT Bachelor’s, but they do offer a Master’s in this field.
  • Human Relations: this combines psych and sociology.
  • Forensic Science: housed in the College of Arts and Science, this combines biology, chemistry, and criminal justice.
  • Business Management with specializations in Human Resource Management or Hospitality Management

Tuition is charged by the credit ($700 each), even for students registered as full-time. The university awards a leadership scholarship up to $10,000 which would cover about half of full-time tuition for the year. Applications are done online and are free. They’re also test-optional. They admit 2 cohorts: spring and fall with fall seeing the largest influx of new students.

© 2016


American University

American University, Washington DC (visited 1/24/12)

American provides an attractive, fairly self-contained campus with architecture that seems purposefully designed to mimic the feel of DC. Located in the Northwestern quadrant of the city, it is easily accessible by metro and bus lines. Even visiting after dark, the place was alive with students walking all over. The campus was well-lit and seemed very safe. The campus is walkable with dorms located towards the sides of campus and several grassy areas in the middle. The surrounding area is well-suited for college students with all sorts of stores, banks, and other services in walking distance. City bus stops and stops on the metro red-line are also in easy walking distance to campus. As expected for such a prominent university in the nation’s capital, they are highly regarded for their Foreign Policy, International Relations, Political Science, and other sorts of majors. My tour guide was an alum who said she happened to luck into American, and couldn’t be happier with the education she got; she took advantage of internships, study abroad opportunities, and had double-majored in history and International Relations.

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