Wisconsin Madison vs George Washington for IR

I’m a high school senior looking to apply for an IR major + possibly language/area study double major/minor. My goal is too work in dc or abroad in international relations (I know that’s quite broad but I’m open to a lot of things).

My main question is which school will be better career and education wise (mainly career). I understand that these schools do have very different vibes but that’s not really my consideration at the moment. I know being in dc year round obviously has its benefits but beyond that is uw Madison going to give me a disadvantage for summer and post grad internships?

Also depending on which rankings I’ve looked at gw is higher and in some uw Madison is higher. Is uw Madison a respected IR undergrad school?, obviously gw is known for IR. uw Madison also has many more language and area study options which I do like.

Basically I know it’s an advantage to be in dc year round, but how much of one? Will going to uw Madison harm my career prospects as IR is a very competitive field.

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Are you from Wisconsin? Is that why you chose it? You did not give stats - but assuming it’s a financial advantage, that’s why you’d go.

Forget rankings - madison a small city with a campus. GW is beyond very urban - doesn’t even have dining halls. Where do you want to be? Which environment.

In theory, GW will be better - but you’re also in DC and everyone wants to do what you want.

My daughter is you - we just went through this. She applied to 21 schools - and is going to #16 ranking wise of 17 she got into. So let me give you some initial thoughts:

  1. Find out the size and environment you want. If you are in Wisconsin, go check out UW, a mid size school and a small school - like Beloit or Lawrence Do you want urban (like GW - maybe go see Marquette Or UW MIlwaukee if one is or suburban.

My daughter hated GW and Gtown had no merit aid. So it was out - because I wasn’t paying $80K for her to go to school. What re your finances? What can you afford or most importantly what are your parents willing to afford? Have them run the NPC.

So both these schools will be solid - and one can’t say up front one will produce more jobs than the other. It will be up to you.

But great schools for language and International Relations. My daughter loved American but they didn’t love her with enough aid and frankly, she’d have been one of many there.

I think IR wise the best public she got into was UGA. They are very strong. She also got into Hamilton Lugar at Indiana - also a great school for your desires. They have one of the language flagships too.

The Language Flagships: Indiana University Bloomington

Maryland is a right outside of DC choice.

You will find great schools in Boston, Florida (Florida State is strong - and cheap and if you have a 31 ACT, even cheaper). Arizona. Elon. You can be successful anywhere.

For my daughter it came down to do - U of South Carolina Honors and College of Charleston. She chose Charleston. But she will be a Fellow and International Scholar - so while it’s 16 of 17, she’s not just a student - but she will have a corporate or diplomatic mentor and access to other opportunities reserved for a few. So at American she might have been one of a million but hopefully at Charleston her relationship will be special - and yes, they place people with the state department, etc.

One other thought - we toured Washington & Lee (small rural) and I have no fact to back it up - but we met with the Politics Professor - great guy -and he said per capita, the top two colleges feeding government are Sewanee and Washington & Lee - so there you go.

Lots to think about but first thing’s first.

  1. What type of environment do you want?

  2. What can you afford (run a net price calc or have your parents do so) at an Ivy and GW.

  3. What does your family want to afford - which is most important.

Don’t worry about comparing two random and different schools for cost. You need to build a list that will work for you over four years, not for US News so they can publish a magazine.


I really appreciate how thought out was this reply was! I should have clarified that I am an out of state student for Wisconsin. So they will be a more similar cost but in the end gw would still be pricier.

I’m so glad you brought up that a lot of people will be wanting similar things to me/have similar interests as that’s definitely something I’ve considered and do not love about gw. Even though uw-Madison does have 30k undergrads there are other factors that will make it easier for me to stand out there.

In the end if I honestly had to pick I’d do UW Madison I’m just mainly worried that not being in dc year round will hurt me. I really do love that city but I think at gw I would have a worse ‘college’ experience ex: gw administration, social atmosphere, academically. But I also want to be in dc so? I really appreciate the time you took to right this and will take it all under consideration!

Here’s the thing about IR & polisci: the way you get entry level jobs (generally poorly paid) is internships (un- or terribly paid). To get to the ‘good’ jobs you will almost certainly need a Masters- which are expensive. So, even more than most students the prospective IR person needs to factor in $$.

GWU is the single best school in the US for polisci/IR internships: if you hustle you can have meaningful internships year round. It is also expensive.

UWi-M is a perfectly good choice- in principle. But, for you as OOS, is it the best use of $$?

For IR, a genuinely fluent 2nd language is important- and you can get that with study abroad from almost any college. You can get internships in DC every summer- but none of them will pay you enough to afford to live there, so you will have to have some $$ saved going into the internship (or have a free place to live).

I love that @tsbna44 shares the story of her/his daughter’s journey, b/c it makes the point so clearly: follow the money and go where you will be a star.

tl;dr- unless you have the money to graduate debt-free from either, I vote neither.

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Again. What is your home school ? Why is it it out ? Btw so many schools have DC semesters. Big publics like UGA and SC. And LACs like Hamilton.

Define what you want in a college. You need to be there day after day for four years. You can find governmental or no. Profit internships in most large cities, especially capitals.

As both I and @collegemom3717 point out, money matters. If you provide your stats and addirdability, especially desired, we can perhaps give you more avenues to look at.

I have no doubt that DC schools get more quantity than others. That’s just #s. They have the largest classes.

I went to Syracuse for journalism. They produce lots of journalists. The other 90% are like me….failed…finding success in other places. But the group that produced 10% gives a huge appearance. There are broadcasters from Ball State to Central Michigan to Wesleyan.

Find your right fit …comfort and affordability…especially in a major that itself does not equate to a career. Btw many IR/IS programs…like American and Charleston as an Intl Scholar require a second major. That’s because these are not job ready educations.


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Based on your interests in IR and languages, these schools split in these sites:

Note that, for either of these interests, you will see lots of suggested colleges that reside outside of D.C.

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My home system is SUNY, and University of Buffalo is my safety. But from what I know none of the SUNY’s are particularly strong IR schools, the best would be Bing but I really don’t like it so.

My stats are 3.5ish overall gpa, averaged between meh freshman and sophomore years and a pretty good junior year. I have a good balance of advanced and college level but nothing insane. I’ve also dual enrolled and got A’s but not ones that really help/count as credits, I simply wanted to take the courses. I got a 33 ACT (that could theoretically become a 35 if I retook), I have a few academic awards as well as some nice ecs, although nothing too exciting. I go to a t15 private school + some other bonuses for my app that I don’t really want to share for anonymity reasons. Lastly finances are not an issue but I don’t want to waste money for no reason (if it’s not better that UB I’m not spending that money).

I really appreciate the feedback!!

also i love Syracuse as well! And their journalism school is very good so that’s cool you went there.

Thanks for your reply! I do know that grad school is something I’m pretty much going to have to do, as well as something that personally I’ll be going into debt for. That’s something I have accepted but I do hope will be manageable due to lack of undergrad debt. Although if I get into the peace core, which is something I’ve always been interested in there are multiple grad schools I could attend for free (notre dame etc), so part of me is also hoping that will all work out.

Although I am appropriately worried about affording the ‘paying my dues internship’ period of working in IR, I am first more afraid of simply not being able to get a worthwhile internship that will help me in the future. As it is a very competitive and over saturated field.

OK - note my Syracuse story was to show that everyone (a bit of an exaggeration) at GW, American and Georgetown wants to work in government but most will end up in companies, managing restaurants, investment advisors, etc. Sure, more of them will land jobs that kids from other schools because they have more kids on this track.

In the end, it’s your initiative that will matter. Kids from schools all over, known and all know, find success. Not only is there international government but local, agencies, etc. At Buffalo, you can probably find international experience with Canada.

To me, I’m going to save money - in this type degree. You have great SUNYs - Bingh, Stony Brook if you want to be closer to NYC, Albany (the capital) and others.

Additionally, if you look at schools that are “beneath” you, you will find monetary opportunities.

So let’s look at the two you pulled and not sure why you chose UWM - but you cannot assume you will get in there. Your GPA is a bit iffy for them although your ACT will help. Not sure what kind of rigor you have. I would add Indiana to your list - if you want a Big 10 school, it’s a safety for you although maybe not a scholarship and depending on the language you want to study, it will be better. It has an entire school for you - Hamilton Lugar.

GW - is a reach for you. You have to demonstrate interest too - so get on their email list, sit it on a session.

Are you sure your parents want to spend the $$? You say money is not an issue - but you are not them - and this is a liberal arts degree that does not lead to a profession.

Given your GPA/ACT, here are some other solid schools you may look at besides IU - Pitt (likely), Florida State (reach), Miami Ohio (safety).

If you’d like smaller/LACs, look at Dickinson (target), Gettysburg (Target), Skidmore (slight reach) and St. Lawrence (target). Elon might be of interest to you.

A school like Delaware will give you money I believe.

Take a look at CUNY too - as you’d be in NYC (think the UN) so Stony Brook might be good or even Hofstra. U of Denver is a possibility for you and has a wonderful IR program.

Finally, I say College of Charleston could be a good one - lots of opportunities if you seek them. I imagine the same could be said anywhere.

Wisconsin is not high ranked in IR so I’m not sure how you pulled it in - but that;s ok - it’s a great school but I’m not sure you’ll get in.

Good luck.

It’s not a worthwhile internship- it is multiple internships, building one on another. The value of the first internship is that it helps you get the second, and so on.

The Coverdell Fellowship program is great- just be aware that it is an application, not a given (people do get rejected), and that the amount covered varies by partner school

I’m not sure why you have limited yourself to UWi & GW- esp as you haven’t got acceptances to either! If you want more suggestions of good options, what is your no-debt budget?

I see that Indiana University has an acceptance rate of 78%, however it looks like the admission standards for direct admit to Hamilton Lugar are higher than for the rest of the university. I can’t find any info on what the Hamilton Lugar direct admit acceptance rate. It would be great to be able to find it. Their website FAQs state that their average GPA is 3.96 (is it weighted or unweighted)?

I am a UW grad who lives in DC.

You are not going to go wrong with either school. The question is more, do you want to live in DC or in Madison.

Madison is the quintessential college town, with bigtime college sports and school spirit. As an IR major and out of state, you will be able to make the campus feel smaller through your major and classes. Keep in mind, a lot of those 30,000 students are Engineering or Ag - you pretty much won’t see them after your dorm in Freshman year.

Being at GWU in DC and having job/internship opportunities right there is also unique. It is a highly urban schools, located in the same neighborhood as the IMF, World Bank and State Department.

So to me, it is really about setting. I love DC but I wouldn’t trade my undergrad experience in Madison for anything.

Well the 3.96 is median. So half had less. Has to be weighted. Act 28 so half over and half under.

Also you have 20 apps on Common App. Or you can do IU only app. So it’s worth applying. If you don’t get in direct then so be it. You are not the OP so I don’t know your stats. But for IR and Intl Studies IU would be great.

Can you afford the almost $80,000 a year in costs to attend GWU each year? That is what it costs.

I’m not sure why Wisconsin as an OOS student is your other top choice…and I do love Madison and the school. But this just doesn’t make sense to me as a choice for you.

What is your annual family budget for college?

Ok, thank you.