Why is WashU such a secret?

Why is WashU such a secret? Granted we are on the east coast but it just seems that WashU doesn’t get the name recognition it deserves. Is it athletics? Location? My D and I went to visit the campus and my oh my, what a beautiful campus! The faculty and staff were amazing and treated us like they really wanted us as a family to come to the school.

When we’ve called to speak to financial aid and admissions, the wait was very minimal and they were extremely detailed in their assistance. In contrast, some of the other tier one schools have been very general and quick to refer you to a website, I understand this is an extremely busy time but the personal touch and detail can go far with parents and students that may be on the fence.

My D is struggling with a decision between USC and WashU, both offer merit scholarships and are great schools but she seems to be stuck on the name recognition of USC. I’m hoping after this visit, she will recognize the importance of personal touch and how “fit” is just as important.

Everything that I’ve seen and heard from folks that actually know about WashU has been extremely positive.


I graduated from HS in the Northeast in the mid 1970’s and the top students in my area were applying to and attending Wash U back then… so I cannot fathom what "secret’ you are talking about. I know adults who are graduates of top med schools, law schools, successful in a variety of fields, who went to Wash U (and we’re talking 1980- now) so if WashU is a secret, it’s the worst kept secret in the country!!!

In my town, USC is nicknamed “University of Spoiled Children”, likely an unfair tag, but predicated on the “connected but not academic” types who have gone there from our area. Kids with money going to get their ticket punched and enjoy gorgeous weather and beaches, not kids with serious academic interests.

Where does USC on the East coast have a better reputation???


Wash U is not a secret.

I think, for whatever reason, people have a magical idea of California being some kind of paradise. They are stuck on a false image of palm trees and beaches. They don’t think of the smog, endless traffic jams, hideous strip malls and beige developments, and mile after endless mile of suburbia, as far as the eye can see. (I’m allowed to say this as a native CA girl whose parents attended SC and who lived 30 minutes away from it.) How can St Louis compete? :stuck_out_tongue:

Wash U is ranked 16 and USC is 24. Maybe your daughter will be swayed by that.


We live in Virginia and I am primarily talking about name recognition. A little research of the University will show that their reputation and academic prowess is top notch and rivals the Ivy league institutions. Problem is, you have to know to look for it! Honestly, I had never heard of WashU before my daughter started applying.

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Ha! Yeah as 17 and 18 year olds, they may be thinking about more than academics for the next four years.

As another lifelong Californian, I can mention the ridiculously overpriced real estate - both rentals and sales. Not sure if USC offers on-campus housing all four years but if not please look into the cost to live off-campus. Many people are shocked when they send their kids to school in LA, Santa Barbara, Berkeley or San Diego and then see awful apartments for several thousand dollars a month! Even San Luis Obispo has gone up. A friend’s son is renting an average house at Cal Poly SLO with roommates for $10,000 a month!

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We live in DC and are visiting Wash U tomorrow as we sort out our decisions. He did not get into USC. Good luck! I am hoping my son picks Wash U.


We were very impressed with the campus. Although they wouldn’t allow us in the residential colleges, they did a good job of showing a mock dorm room in the South 40. Everyone was extremely pleasant! The weather was amazing, hoping it holds up for you. Because we had never visited STL before, we stayed downtown, which was only a 10 minute drive. Good luck and safe travels.

I think being in Missouri is an issue for some people. As the mother of a daughter it would be a hard pause for me.


Flyover state and lack of athletics. Not on the radar of most east coast students.


My thoughts as well.

It has the 2nd highest income per pupil (median is $272k) of all college. It’s not a secret to those with resources who may be boxed out of ivys.


And a few years ago it had the lowest percentage of Pell eligible students among its peers.

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This is not an issue for me, but my son’s grandmother is uncomfortable with him attending a school in a state that elected Josh Hawley


The thing I would consider is not reputation (both are fine in that regard), but how vastly different the student experience will be between the schools. Wash U has 14k students split about equally between undergrad and graduate students. USC…47k, similar split. One is not better per se than the other. It really depends on what’s important to the student. Big time sports, with a stellar alumni association, but with very large classes versus small classes and no big time sports. Winter vs. no winter. Astronomical cost of living vs mid-west cost of living. Liberal enclave in a VERY red state vs liberal school in a liberal state. It’s all a matter of what resonates.


I’m not overly moved by how the citizens vote. But moreso how and if the campus allows their students to have a voice, whether it be right or left.

Ironically enough, the campus has hosted several debates, including several Presidential.

Growing up in the Bay Area, I learned about WashU my senior year of high school (2009), but it was already well known among local college counselors and I met plenty of Californians when I enrolled! I think the national name recognition has really skyrocketed compared to 15-20 years ago, because WashU made a huge, sustained push to attract students from affluent suburbs of every major metro area (think Bethesda, Evanston, Westchester, Palo Alto, etc), and then sent tons of alumni back to those areas and to all the top grad programs. If you ask around, you might be surprised to find many friends and colleagues have heard of it!

Of course, it really depends what field your daughter wants to work in – for entertainment, media, sports, or real estate USC might make more sense, but for business, law, medicine, science, gov’t, nonprofit, WashU is just as well known and respected.

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I understand what you mean. We live in the upper midwest and when my daughter applied really very few people around us understood what school it was. They thought it was a school in Washington State.


Exact reaction we would get!

It’s too bad, but it did impact my daughter’s thoughts about the school just a little. Then again she ended up at Rice, which has even less name recognition here!