College Road Trip: Georgetown, UVA, Wake Forest, and Notre Dame

Like many of you, our family recently visited four schools in four different states, and brought back a great deal of information. Here are some highlights:

Students gather in the quad at Georgetown’s beautiful campus.

Georgetown University – Most applicants know that Georgetown abuts a bustling residential neighborhood of shops and restaurants, but our expectation of a very urban feel changed as we approached campus from the Potomac River side and saw that it is perched atop a hill overlooking the water and beautiful parks. The students are very diverse, with 10% from other countries and 30% having lived abroad. Georgetown is a Catholic Jesuit university, but its diversity is also illustrated in the presence of chaplains from many different religions. The undergraduate schools include Georgetown College (the largest and home of liberal arts), nursing and health studies (the smallest), the school of foreign service, and the school of business where one can elect a liberal arts double major. Applicants must choose one of these schools when applying, and about 10% eventually transfer internally. Students considering Georgetown should be prepared to share all scores received on either the SAT or ACT, present three SAT Subject Test scores, and should know that Georgetown has its own application rather than using the Common or Coalition Applications.

Fourth year student leaders at UVA are honored to live in original rooms on the Lawn, despite having to walk to bathrooms that are located behind each building.

University of Virginia – Bias alert – UVA is my alma mater. The sun came out and it was 75 degrees, showcasing Thomas Jefferson’s original “academical village” in its finest light, as students played Frisbee on the historic Lawn. A lot has changed since Mr. Jefferson’s time and UVA now has 16,000 undergraduate students, with 10,000 in the College of Arts and Sciences, where double majors are common. High school students apply directly to the College, or to the smaller engineering, nursing, or architecture schools. Second year UVA students can apply to spend their final two years in the top-ranked McIntire School of Commerce, the Curry School of Education, or the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy. Two thirds of students hail from Virginia, so don’t be fooled by the 30% quoted acceptance rate – competition for out-of-state admission is notoriously tough. UVA values applicants who are in the top ten percent of their graduating class, who have earned mostly A’s, and who have taken the most difficult courses offered at their high school. Students generally move off grounds their third or fourth year, and enjoy all that Charlottesville has to offer.

Wake Forest – Applicants who seek a more personal atmosphere may prefer Wake’s smaller (4,800) student body and smaller class sizes (90% have fewer than 30 students) with lots of professor interaction. These relationships lead to research opportunities (60% participate, with funding available for 100%), and strong academic and career advising programs. The campus features beautifully maintained and uniform architecture, as Wake relocated to its current location in 1956. Buses run every 15 minutes into downtown Winston, where the new biomedical sciences and engineering facilities are located. A strong sense of community is fostered by students living on campus for at least three years, where 80% participate in some form of athletics and activities include a dance marathon, volunteer opportunities with Campus Kitchen which donates surplus food, and fun games organized by the librarians during exam periods. Wake is test optional, and accepts the Common, Coalition, and Wake Forest Applications– but regardless of the format, all applicants answer a series of unique questions intended to make the process personal and draw out their distinctive qualities. One example: “Give us your top ten list.” Wake strongly encourages face-to-face interviews with their admissions officers, and makes them available either in person or online.

The famous “touchdown Jesus” on the library at Notre Dame.

University of Notre Dame – Another Catholic university, Notre Dame feels much more religious than Georgetown does, with popular Sunday night masses held in each dorm, and a replica of the famous grotto at Lourdes. It attracts relatively traditional students, who enjoy the dorm-based social life, football games, and its incredibly strong sense of community. Applicants are evaluated based on rigor and grades, with strong emphasis on well-rounded preparation and leadership. All first year students enter the “college of the first year of studies program,” where they take math, science, English, religion, and philosophy. Each has a first-year advisor and a peer advisor who is an older student committed to providing moral support. At the end of their first year, students decide which college to enter: arts and letters, or the colleges of science, engineering, business, or architecture. Students don’t need to apply to enter any of these schools except the Mendoza College of Business, which has become so popular that students now need to indicate their intention to study business on their initial Notre Dame application. Applicants may be pre-approved for Mendoza when admitted, or they may be be admitted to Notre Dame but not pre-approved for Mendoza. These students then need to internally apply for transfer at the end of their first year. Freshmen are randomly assigned to dorms and often remain in them for four years, providing a home base for intramurals, social events, and lifelong friendships.

All these schools offer strong academics and community, but each has a distinct personality and provides very different student experiences, which were best understood by visiting and seeing for ourselves. Your consultant can help you plan visits that will help you get a true read of the academic, social, and cultural aspects of your target schools.

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