Concerns about George Washington University

I was planning on going to Emory but after not receiving any financial or merit aid from them I had to give up that dream, unfortunately. I got the Presidential scholarship from George Washington University making it much more affordable since I will have to pay for it myself and plan on pursuing med school or MPH. However, there are a few things holding me back from committing to GW. I have heard some rumors that the faculty is not very willing or open to work with students or help them outside of class. Additionally, I have heard very poor things about the mental health services on campus and the food insecurity that a lot of students face there. And lastly, I have heard that the culture there is quite negative and there is a lack of community. I know different people will have very different experiences with schools but they are really stressing me out quite frankly. If GW students, alumni, or anyone who has personal knowledge about the school could address some of these concerns that would be greatly appreciated!

I’ll give you my experience and the experience of my friend who’s a sophomore right now at GW.

GW was my dream school for a really long time but it lost that spot after I did some digging on it. Before the whole coronavirus drama, they were in a really bad spot in terms of their administration and student wants/needs. The faculty currently have a petition going for the president to resign, as he’s promised to make major budget cuts to humanities and undergraduate programs. They do suffer from food insecurity more than other colleges. Since they don’t have a dining hall on their Foggy Bottom campus, students get allocated dining dollars to use at restaurants in the area. So basically, if you run out or are eating somewhere that doesn’t take them, you have to pay with your own money. Also the way they handled coronavirus was awful in my opinion. They had a form you could fill out to stay in emergency housing and anyone who chose “internship or employment” would get automatically denied. Those are the main reasons I’m not going.

My friend who goes there warned me about a lack of school spirit. Since sports isn’t really GW’s thing, they don’t have a lot to rally around. She personally has dealt with food insecurity, but says the school is trying to fix that. She likes it, and doesn’t regret going. She did warn me that if you’re looking for a typical college experience it’s probably not for you (which is something I’m interested in).

Ultimately, its your choice, but those are just my two cents.

People I know at GW love it. You have to love DC though- it is not the typical college experience but it’s more grown up in some ways.

I’m very interested in what people have to say about this! Also does anyone know anything about disability services at GW? I’m looking to transfer for the fall and the disability services at my current uni are terrible

I’m currently a freshman at GW and your concerns are definitely valid, and I had similar concerns when I was making my decision to go to GW. From my own experience the faculty are open and extremely willing to go the extra mile to help students. I am a Political Science major but that being said, my friend who is in the Milken Public School of Health says that the faculty are amazing and willing to help too! Regarding the dining plan, there is food insecurity, but I never ran out of money since I was able to budget. Most students are able to budget btw. There is even a student-run pantry to help curb food insecurity on campus, but I never had to use that. You start out with 20 dollars a day but by the end of my last semester, I could spend 30 dollars a day. I didn’t skip meals but I just budgeted well, which is a good skill to have anyways.
When I was looking at GW, I also heard it was competitive and there wasn’t much of a community. There is a competitive atmosphere at GW, but a lot of my friends who go to other colleges across the country also have said their campuses have a competitive atmosphere. I think that while we don’t have as much school spirit as other schools, I have found a really amazing community at GW just by joining organizations. I disagree that there is a lack of community at GW. Sure, it won’t be like other schools but that is what I like about GW is it is not like other schools, but it still has a sense of community. Regarding the mental health services, I’m not going to comment on that just because I don’t know much about it. GW has some problems and drawbacks, but every school is going to have negatives. What I can say from my experience is that I’ve had a really amazing experience at GW so far. There are so many opportunities at your disposal and the people that I’ve met are some of my closest friends. With the coronavirus situation, the administration hasn’t been perfect with their response, but unlike a lot of schools in the nation, they’re refunding us for housing and are storing our stuff over the summer for free. While their response wasn’t perfect, I think it was way better than a lot of other schools responses. Sorry if that was really broad but if you have any more questions I’d be happy to answer them for you!

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@Maltesefalcon19 That is very helpful, thank you!! And I am sure you’re right, every school has its drawbacks but it sounds like GW has a lot to offer as well. I really appreciate your thorough response.

@sophieee123 Yeah, no problem. If you have any other questions let me know!

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Hi, GW junior and admissions tour guide here! I was in the same boat as you - loved Emory but didn’t get enough money and chose GW and your concerns are valid for sure. I’m an international affairs major and have taken classes in a ton of departments since the major is really interdisciplinary, and I have hardly ever had a problem with professors not helping me. All of my professors have been reachable, hold office hours, and some are even willing to go the extra mile of offering their phone numbers so students can reach them any time - this is especially true to part-time professors I’ve had who aren’t on campus that much because they work at USAID, for the government, the Census Bureau, etc. Right now my professors have been extra available and willing to hop on zoom with me. I really don’t think GW’s professor-student accessibility is any worse than any other school. Even though we have about 10,000 undergrads, after freshman year most of your classes are about 30 students or less.

On mental health, I haven’t had any personal experience, but I’m not going to lie to you, I haven’t heard great things. It sounds like it really depends who you are able to talk to - some people have good experiences and some people don’t. There’s a huge push on campus for improvements here, so it’s a really important issue that is not going ignored. Food insecurity is a concern because DC is so expensive. We don’t have a traditional dining plan and for some people its hard to make it work. Me personally, I love the way our dining works because I can shop at grocery stores and meal prep in my room’s kitchen, which gives me more control over what I eat. I’ve always had enough money to get me through the end of the semester, and if you don’t use up all your money it rolls over between semesters and years. But, for bigger guys, athletes, or people who don’t really take the time to budget, it can be tough. This is also a massive sore spot with students and every year we keep fighting for better plans. In sum, you have to be mindful of what you’re spending, but it is definitely possible to be just fine.

In terms of culture, I do sometimes find that I wish there was more of a collective school spirit. But to me, the reason we don’t have that is something that is valuable to me. Because GW is right in the middle of DC, students often seem more like little adults than college students. What I mean by that is that students are constantly off campus, working, interning, or exploring rather than doing things on campus. While we have competitive academics, people are way more competitive about where they’ve interned, and that in turn has made the culture of the school very much a place where you have to fight for what you want, but you can pretty much get anything you’re looking for - there are so many resources and opportunities open to us. I’ve always been independently driven, so for me I fit with this culture, but not everyone does. What I’ve found is that people find their school spirit in their student orgs. More GW students than not will tell you that they’ve found their “family” in their student orgs or greek life, and that’s where people feel really passionate about GW’s culture. Again, its something that you have to create for yourself, but everything you need to find a place at the school is there.

Sorry for the long answer, but please let me know if I can help with any more questions you have!

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Whoever told you that professors aren’t willing to help out students is wrong. I’ve had multiple instances where professors have been willing to go above and beyond to support me. I remember one example in particular - I missed a lecture due to illness, and my professor was willing to give me a condensed version of the lecture one-on-one over lunch at Subway.

Alum and recent grad student here. @Maltesefalcon19 and @abbygwu have both provided excellent info, and I’m sure I’ll echo plenty of it since it was my experience, as well.

First off, there’s no doubt that GW is a great school. The important thing, however, is finding out if it’s the right school for you. Anyone looking for the “typical college experience” will be missing out, so that’s one of the top things to consider. I had to laugh when I read what Abby said:

That’s hilarious, but also very descriptive of what’s going on. Instead of 18yr olds that want to leave home to go party, make friends, and hopefully earn a degree, GW is full of ones that set-off to achieve great things and are trying to “grow-up” faster than others.

As far as the faculty rumors you’ve heard, I’d say that they’re mostly false. In all my experience with professors I’ve never had issues of them being unreachable or unwilling to sit down during office hours to discuss things. I wouldn’t let anything you’ve heard in that regard dissuade you.

Mental health… I honestly can’t say. Too much has changed in that regard since I’ve left (as far as adding services) for me to have anything pertinent to say. Instead I’ll defer to current students like Abby.

And food, one of the top concerns that pops-up on here… well, it’s a challenge. While food on campus isn’t as simple as going to the cafeteria three times a day and just eating whatever you want, you’re forced to be more responsible and “find” your food on or around campus and make sure it fits within your $20/day allotment as a freshman. Is there a lack of affordable food? Absolutely not. If there was, you’d either have students that are starving or those that consistently go over budget every semester. While some students go over, the great majority are able to eat within their budget. It’s all about you exploring your options the first few weeks on campus to see what you like, how much it costs, and how to save money. Something as simple as having cereal for breakfast in your dorm will save you a lot of money in the end.

Around 39% of students at GWU are labeled as “food insecure”. So yes, you do have a significant portion of students that are starving.
https://www.gwhatchet.com/2018/12/03/nearly-40-percent-of-students-face-food-insecurity-report/

As for going over budget and finding affordable food:

https://www.gwhatchet.com/2019/02/19/officials-increase-dining-dollars-for-third-consecutive-year/

Just to chime in here, I read the same Hatchet articles when I was a prospective student. However, that being said as a person that actually goes to GW, while food insecurity is still a problem, we have a student-run pantry to prevent students from starving. Overall, students budget well and don’t run out of money. Does GW have a long ways to go to address the food insecurity issue on campus? Absolutely, but that being said I wouldn’t say students are starving. As @NHuffer said, the majority of students are able stay within their budget, and as a current student, I can vouch for that.

Reread the article you linked to and read how they define “food insecurity:”

While part of the definition includes skipping meals, it certainly doesn’t mean that all 39% have skipped meals. Instead, it’s nearly certain that most of that 39% falls into the first part of the definition where they merely “worry” about running out of food. Well, when someone if faced with actually budgeting their money and figuring out how to live off it they will run into hiccups where they might overspend from time to time until they learn how to effectively eat on the $20/day. I’ve learned this at my time at GW as well as all other current and past students.

Has GW ever addressed why they don’t have a traditional dining hall? We visited and it is one of my dd’s favorite schools but I am not thrilled with the eating plan. I feel like there is a lot to juggle and worry about in college…not having enough $$ left to eat shouldn’t be one of them.

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@frostymom GW closed their dining hall in spring 2016 after switching to an “open” dining plan. This was after multiple complaints about the quality as well as cost of maintaining it on campus. It does look like students want it back though: https://www.gwhatchet.com/2020/03/02/officials-to-present-suggestions-for-dining-improvements-this-spring/

for us it has not been an issue. Almost all housing for Sophomores and up have full kitchens. My D loved to shop at safeway or whole foods. There are also food courts in two of the dorms with plenty of choices, and a Panera. On the Vern campus there is a regular dining place. We budgeted real well, and this was one of the reasons why my D chose GW. My other child had a school with a traditional dining hall and got sick of it after a month.

D with International Affairs major and is on her way to finishing year 1. D doesn’t stop talking about how great the professors are and how accessible they have been. Mind you this is all over zoom so perhaps experience will be better/worse once things are back to normal?

The actual source material (which the hatchet conveniently leaves out) also says University of California students are 42% insecure. https://hope4college.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/09/Wisconsin-HOPE-Lab-Still-Hungry-and-Homeless.pdf
In other words, per the study, food insecurity is not limited to a single school.

I could not agree more with you-- “finding food” should not be a concern for students, and the 39% food insecurity statistic is something of which GW should be ashamed, given the costs to enroll here.

GW recently announced that they will be opening a traditional dining hall in the Fall of 2022 when they re-open Thurston Hall.

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