Road Trip: "Aha!" Moments at Georgetown University

Georgetown University is an oasis smack in the middle of Washington DC, allowing you to go to the city whenever you want. The Mall with monuments and the Smithsonian is about a half mile away and Georgetown itself has its own personality—Saxby’s is a popular coffee spot two blocks from the main gate. Then, Aha!…there is hiking just a 1.1 mile walk over Key Bridge on Theodore Roosevelt Island. That’s not to mention the Shenandoah’s Old Rag and White Oaks Canyon…just two hours away by car, and well worth the trip.

I found students at Georgetown to be both highly engaged and highly diverse. “Only” 12% of the student body is international students, but… Aha! a third of entering students claim fluency in more than one language and about a third have lived abroad prior to coming to Georgetown. Though a Jesuit University, Georgetown welcomes religions diversity as well with a Catholic and Protestant Chaplains, Directors of both Jewish and Muslim life, multiple other religions’ places of worship on campus, and a layperson university president. Georgetown’s diverse students run a number of organizations including an ambulance service (Germs) and the largest student-run corporation in the US. “The Corp” is popular and tremendously difficult to get a job at, second only to Jack Crew—the students responsible for walking Georgetown’s mascot, Jack the bulldog. A capella is big on campus hosting competitions and traveling to others. Speakers on campus the week prior to my visit included Former President Bill Clinton, Former Secretary of State, Madeline Albright and Former Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel. And, finally, the Hoyas are nationally recognized in D1 men’s and women’s basketball and LAX, crew, and are currently national sailing champions. To say that students are engaged and active at Georgetown University is putting it mildly.

Georgetown’s application process has some particularities.  Applicants are encouraged to submit the initial part of the school’s discrete application ASAP in order to set up the applicant’s file. The supplement portion can follow by Early Action or Regular Decision due dates (there is no significant advantage to acceptance for early submissions).  Georgetown is one of the few schools that do not follow score choice, requiring that test scores for all sittings of the ACT, SAT and SAT II be submitted.  They also “highly recommend” three SAT II’s (all Walsh School of Foreign Service students have taken three).  The biggest feeder states to Georgetown are New Jersey and California.

Once accepted, our tour guide highly recommends going to professors’ office hours.  Academics at Georgetown are housed in four schools with Georgetown College representing about half of the students and the Walsh School of Foreign Services, which predates the US Government’s Foreign Service, having the reputation as the most prestigious (though the data no longer supports this). Nearly sixty percent of Georgetown students study abroad, primarily in the local language.  The core curriculum at Georgetown is one of the most extensive that I have seen and definitely worth looking at when choosing Georgetown. Ninety percent of students do internships—political internships, which can be incredible, or at the Kennedy Center and Fortune 500 companies. A significant effort is made to provide support for first generation college students resulting in a 97% graduation rate, far exceeding the national average.

A little bit about Walsh School of Foreign Services (SFS): The school has a 40-course degree and a substantial core curriculum beyond the university’s core. Most students take five courses per semester, similar to engineering school workloads at other universities.  SFS requires demonstrated proficiency in a foreign language. The school is reviewing its curriculum for its centennial in 2019.  One thing is for sure; a science class will be added to the SFS core curriculum negating the long-standing joke that “SFS” actually stands for “Safe From Science.” It is difficult for SFS students to double major but they can minor inside or outside of the school and certificates, similar to minors but a bit more interdisciplinary, are plentiful.  In addition to the SFS program, the College offers a Government minor; Student most interested in domestic politics may prefer the College vs. SFS in order to get actively engaged more quickly, and matriculation from both schools seems comparable for with slightly more going into consulting than government.

Interesting tidbits: 1) Georgetown University historically owned slaves, whose descendants today are awarded legacy status. 2) Georgetown’s student body dropped from 313 to 17 between 1859 and 1861 with 1,141 students and alumni serving on both sides of the Civil War. To celebrate its end, students selected the colors blue (Union) and gray (Confederate) as the school’s official colors in 1876.

Consider Georgetown University if you are looking to be highly engaged outside the classroom—an extra + if interested in the Foreign Service, politics, and/or diverse cultures and languages.