College Road Trip to Washington, D.C.: George Washington University

During the second semester of her sophomore year, Nia Lartey split her days between the George Washington University campus and CNN’s Washington bureau, interning at the program then called “State of the Union with Jake Tapper.”

“One morning I’m in class, the next I’m at CNN watching the entire Iowa Caucus debacle,” says Lartey, a senior now from Philadelphia who is majoring in political communication and minoring in journalism and mass communication.

For the roughly 12,000 undergrads at GW, hands-on learning opportunities like these abound. The majority of GW’s classes and residence halls are located in the city’s Foggy Bottom neighborhood, within a mile of the White House, State Department and the National Mall. A metro stop on campus makes the rest of the nation’s capital easily accessible, too.

About 70% of students complete one to three internships by the time they graduate.

Given the urban five-by-six square block campus setting, “you’re walking through the city streets with professionals walking beside you,” says Karen Mani, a recent computer science grad from Staten Island, New York. Mani now works as a business tech analyst at Deloitte after virtually interning at the company during the pandemic.

[READ: How to Choose Between Urban, Suburban and Rural Colleges.]

GW’s other Mount Vernon campus, affectionately known as “the Vern,” is home to about a third of first-year students and offers a more traditional campus feel. There, students find their fix of brick buildings and green spaces where they can chat, study or lounge in a hammock available from the Eckles Library second-floor porch.

in easy reach. Foggy Bottom and the Vern are a 15-minute ride from each other on the school’s buses, which run every five minutes when classes are in session and feature Wi-Fi, charging outlets and views of the Potomac River.

GW’s seven undergraduate schools offer more than 75 majors. About half of students are part of the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences; other schools include the Elliott School of International Affairs, the School of Media & Public Affairs and the Milken Institute School of Public Health.

[READ: Pros, Cons of Applying to College as an Undecided Major.]

Asher Price, a recent graduate from Houston, came to GW wanting to major in political science, but after taking a public health class his first year opted to join the Milken School as a nutrition science major. “It literally took one piece of paper to fill out to transfer,” he says. “The fluidity with academics and what you want to study here is great.”

GW emphasizes a balance of theory and real-world preparation, which is evident in everything from its faculty to its open dining plan. “You get to work with really cool professors who have worked in the field,” Mani says.

A former Secret Service agent taught her Psychology of Crime and Violence class. One of Lartey’s professors was a former president of the White House Correspondents’ Association, and a former senior economist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture worked with Price on his nutrition science capstone.

As for the dining plan, undergrads receive a lump sum of “GWorld funds” per semester to spend at any of more than 100 restaurant and grocery partners, including one traditional all-you-can-eat dining hall at the Vern — students recommend the Sunday brunch — and a wide range of retailers from Whole Foods to a Foggy Bottom farmers market.

[Read What to Know About the Cost of Paying for Meals in College.]

With a student-faculty ratio of 13:1 and an average class size of 29, students can expect individual attention from professors, especially if they make the effort to go to office hours. “Even when you have a larger class of maybe 100 people, the professor actually does get to know you,” Price notes. “They’ll call on the students by name.”

Students hail from all 50 states, D.C., and about 130 countries; international students make up over 10% of the population. And with more than 450 student organizations, 20 NCAA sports teams and an active Greek Life — which about a third of students join — “there’s a place for everybody,” Lartey says.

Although GW doesn’t “have the big football team,” Price says, sports-oriented Colonials wholeheartedly cheer on their D1 athletes and their mascot — a George Washington-costumed character — while wearing their blue and buff, the colors he wore into battle.

The university was founded by an act of Congress about 200 years ago to abide by George Washington’s will, and D.C. and politics remain at the heart of the student experience. Every four years the school hosts a black-tie inaugural ball. College Democrats and College Republicans are two of the largest student organizations, sharing office space in the Marvin Center and hosting pundits and politicians from across the spectrum.

Students log many thousands of hours of community service every year. And GW is the only university whose commencement takes place on the National Mall. Students cross their tassels under the shadow of the Washington monument.

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This story is excerpted from the U.S. News “Best Colleges 2022” guidebook, which features in-depth articles, rankings and data.

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