Washington University in St. Louis
BackgroundInterview Date:Summer 2018
Sexual Orientation: Heterosexual
Graduation Year: 2020
High School Experience: I went to a private Catholic high school in Southern California with a graduating class of about 470 students. It was a college prep school, so we had 99%-100% college placement every year.
First Generation College Student: No
Majors: Computer Science and Economics and Strategy
Extracurricular Activities: I’m part of a volunteer club called Moneythink, where we visit impoverished communities in the St. Louis area and teach them how to apply for college loans, how to start bank account and credit card accounts, and stuff like that. I’m also in a sorority.
Can you describe the weekly coursework for your majors?
For Computer Science, we normally have a lab due every two weeks per class. Then for business classes it’s just problem sets. Sometimes they’re optional, and then your entire grade is based on exams, so it’s a lot of studying.
Is there anything you feel either of your majors’ departments do especially well or poorly?
I was originally only in the business school and I wasn’t studying computer science, so right now I’m more familiar with the business school. They have a fund for lower-income students that I had access to. This was really great because for some of the introductory business classes you take, you do case competitions which requires wearing a full suit which I wouldn’t necessarily be able to afford. They email you at the beginning of the semester if you are eligible for it, so you don’t have to worry about trying to apply. I’m transferring into the engineering school, which I think is more diverse, putting gender aside.
How was the process of transferring schools?
For me, it was easy because I had fulfilled the vast majority of the Computer Science degree requirements, but normally it would be harder because you would have to finish a lot of Math courses, but I had taken those courses because I am a Math minor.
Can you describe the learning environment? Do you think it’s particularly competitive or collaborative?
The business school has been called “collaboratively competitive,” which I think is true. Something that I think is a big disadvantage for students is there are three different business fraternities, and you have to be either a Business or Economics student to get into them, and it’s particularly competitive. People in those fraternities have more access to class files because of teachers who release their past exams and answers. Not all teachers do, so students in that fraternity have extra help that someone wouldn’t necessarily have access to.
How accessible have your professors been?
All my business professors have been pretty accessible. They’re always lenient with changing due dates on a case by case basis. I got mono one semester, and that was really hard, but I had to stick it out.
Favorite class in the Economics and Strategy major?
My favorite class has been Game Theory. It was a pretty cool class. The professor was super cool, and she was really passionate about what she was teaching and really accessible through office hours as well.
What made you choose the combination of majors that you’re in, and are you happy with your choice?
I chose Economics and Strategy when I was in high school, and I don’t know if I would go back and choose that to begin with. I found Computer Science later, and I’m really glad I switched into the engineering school in general. For me, it’s about getting a job. Maybe it would be fun to study history, but I don’t think that would make me easily employable. I like Computer Science because I should be able to get a job easily.
Why would you maybe have not chosen Economics and Strategy if you were to do it again?
I like the major itself, but because it’s in the business school it has degree requirements that I don’t like, such as accounting. I probably would have just had it as a minor instead of a second major.
What kind of nightlife do you like to participate in?
I do like going out a lot. Some of my friends go out to clubs and stuff, which I can’t really afford, but I go out to the frats once or twice a week. If there’s a mixer with my sorority, I’ll usually go to that and then maybe a frat party. They’re pretty accessible so I can walk there and back from my dorm, and I usually have a group of friends to go with.
What nights of the week do you regularly go out?
Usually just Fridays and Saturdays. Sometimes I’ll do Thursday and Saturday if I want to study on Friday, or if there’s a mixer. Mixers are a common thing for Thursdays.
What have been some of your favorite times at Wash U?
Freshman year a lot of people have a tradition of coming back from parties and going to the main dining hall to get junk food.
What is the impact of Greek life on nightlife?
If you’re not in Greek life and you’re a guy, there’s a huge impact. One of my closer friends that is a girl isn’t in Greek life, but she’ll get into parties because her close friends are. If you are in Greek life, you’re more likely to have other friends in Greek life, so it becomes kind of an exclusive community. For girls, you have a higher chance of getting into a sorority if you rush your freshman year.
How happy are you with the nightlife at Wash U? Is there anything you would change if you could?
I wish there were more things besides frat parties, and I wish sororities had their own houses. Sometimes I don’t feel super safe going to an off-campus party unless I have a few friends I know will for sure go with me, and leave with me. So, sometimes it’s hard to figure that out.
On and Around Campus
Where have you lived on campus?
Freshman: South 40, which is where all freshmen and the majority of sophomores live. I lived in Hurd, which is one of the older buildings but it’s one of the few suite-style buildings freshmen can live in. I lived in a traditional double, and we had six people total in our suite.
Sophomore: I lived with two friends in a suite. I had a single bedroom.
Junior: I’m living in the Greenway Apartments, they’re one of the few townhouse options.
How was transitioning from Southern California to St. Louis?
It was hard because of the weather. At home, there are no bugs, but there are bugs here all of a sudden. I also had to go and get winter clothes because I didn’t own any. There are a lot of people here from California, so we kind of figured it out and bonded with each other. My suitemates from colder climates helped me adapt.
Pros and cons of being located in St. Louis?
1) People come from all over, so there are a lot of people that stay here more often for different breaks, and you bond more over being away from home.
2) St. Louis is an actual city. There is stuff to do downtown.
1) I wasn’t used to being in a city, so that was something to get used to.
2) Being in the Midwest is very different than being on the West coast. It’s not somewhere where I want to get a job when I get older, so it’s a little harder with networking.
How did you meet your closest friends?
I did a pre-orientation program and met some pretty close friends of mine, then two of my other close friends I met through my sorority.
How would you describe the social scene at Wash U?
It’s a little more laid back because a lot of Wash U students put academics as their first priority. People will [usually] go out like two times a week. It’s also more chill because if you don’t want to party no one’s going to judge you, and if you want to go out every once in a while, no one’s going to judge you.
To what extent do you feel people of different races and sexual orientations mix socially?
I think in Greek life it is less ethnically diverse. There are historically Black fraternities and sororities, and those are very separate. They don’t mix with any of the traditional sororities and fraternities. I do know some people feel that they have a lesser chance of getting into a sorority or fraternity because of their race, but then I also know that there are sororities actively trying to become more diverse, so I think it’s a case by case basis. [The undergraduate population of 7,715 is 8% Hispanic, 30% Black or African American, and 51% White].
Do people seem happy with Wash U by the time they graduate?
I think so. Even people who change their whole mind about their major and career path like Wash U. Sometimes people think we go to the University of Washington, which is a good school but not as good academically as Wash U. I think most people do love it and would do it over again if they had to. The people are pretty great in general, and we form close bonds.
Has the alumni network helped you find internships or jobs?
Not really. This summer I took classes, and last summer I was an intern at the career center, but I wasn’t actively looking for an internship or a job. I do think they will help in the future because I’ve interacted with them before, and have friends who’ve graduated.
What have you used the career office for? How helpful have they been?
Pretty helpful. They were helpful with my transition into the engineering school. I used to want to do consulting, but am now preparing for software engineering roles. They helped me with technical interviews, and have helped me redo my resume various times for things I wanted to pursue.
Have you used financial aid? If so, accommodating was the office to your needs?
I got pretty lucky and am on a full ride at Wash U. They cover all of the tuition, housing, and food, but my family has to pay for health insurance. It’s super accommodating.
Advice for Prospective Freshmen
Something you wish you knew about Wash U before entering as a freshman?
I wish I knew that I didn’t have to start taking [specific] pre-requisite classes, but I could’ve started to feel out courses with mutual requirements. I also wish I knew how hard it was. Freshman year I didn’t do too well academically because I basically did as much as I did in high school. I didn’t realize how important GPA was.
Something a prospective student may miss on a visit that’s worth checking out?
The gym is pretty cool and was just renovated last year. There is a cool café which most tours don’t visit. It’s across from the building where the tours start, and its super pretty. I eat lunch there when I can.
What is something a woman may want to know about being in the typically male-dominated courses that you take?
Even though the engineering school is predominantly male, it has a higher average of women than other universities. The professors may be more receptive because they don’t have many in their classes. A lot of employers will have events for women in STEM, and there are lots of women career clubs. It’s a great community. [30% of undergraduate students in the McKelvey School of Engineering are women.]
Reasons to attend Wash U:
1) People come from all over the country. You’ll probably meet people from all of the states. [Students at Wash U come from more than 100 countries and all 50 states.]
2) Whatever you major in you’ll take classes outside of your major, so the opportunity you have to open your views is huge. You can learn things from classes you never thought you’d be taking.
3) You can be whoever you want to be here. You can join as many clubs as you want, or join no clubs. It’s very relaxed.
4) If you’re not White, there are so many student and professional groups for all ethnic groups.
Reasons to not attend Wash U:
1) It’s one of those few schools that does grade deflation, so it’s pretty hard.
2) If you’re trying to go to graduate school, it might be a little harder. Then again, there are plenty of students who go to really great graduate schools who realize we have grade deflation. They can see our average GPA.
3) There are a few random programs that are probably not that great, compared to the engineering or pre-med programs.