How to Get Into WashU: Admission Requirements + How to Apply

Everything you need to know about Washington University
Updated:
April 2, 2024
9 min read
Contents

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Former Admissions Committee Member, Columbia University

Reviewed: 4/2/24

Wondering how to get into WashU? Read on to learn more about Washington University, the application requirements, dates, and even a step-by-step guide on how to get into WashU! 

Washington University in St. Louis is a private research university founded in 1853. With 3,645 instructional faculty and over 300 academic programs, Washington University provides a fulfilling learning environment with abundant growing opportunities. 

The university’s mission is “to act in service of truth through the formation of leaders, the discovery of knowledge, and the treatment of patients for the betterment of our region, our nation, and our world..”

The Washington University campus prides itself on its strong sense of community, encouragement of leadership and collaboration, inclusivity and diversity, and supportive university staff. Washington University has a 7:1 student-to-faculty ratio.

If these seem appealing and you’re interested in applying to Washington University, let’s go through the entire application process step by step!

Washington University Acceptance Rate: 12%

The application round for the class of 2027 saw an acceptance rate of 12%, making Washington University quite a selective school.

Keep in mind that this doesn’t mean applying early will necessarily make it easier to get admitted, as the review process is identical for all application rounds.

Here is a table demonstrating WashU’s acceptance rate trends for the last 3 years: 

Class of: Acceptance rate
2026 11%
2025 13%
2024 16%

Washington University Early Decision Acceptance Rate

The acceptance rate for all early applicants was 26%, while the acceptance rate for all regular applicants was 9%. That means applying early gives you a better chance of getting into Washington University.

How Hard Is It to Get Into Washington University?

With an average acceptance rate of 13% for the past four years, it is not easy to get into WashU. But it’s not impossible if your application is strong. 

Due to the competitiveness of this school, you need a lot of time and effort to create a solid application profile. Make sure you start early and use your time wisely. Furthermore, try to seek all the help you can get and establish connections, especially with your counselors and teachers.

Washington University Admissions Statistics

To be considered a competitive applicant, you must meet the average admission scores. Doing exceptionally well on standardized tests could be your golden ticket in the door.

Washington University Average GPA: 4.0

The average GPA of admitted students at Washington University is 4.0. Students who meet the average GPA will stand out in their application.

Washington University Average SAT Score: 1527

The average SAT score for students admitted to Washington University is 1527. Scoring within this range or higher will make you a competitive applicant. Washington University superscores the SAT, meaning they consider your highest section scores across all test dates.

Washington University Average ACT Score: 34

At Washington University, the average ACT score of admitted students is 34. Aiming for an ACT composite score at or above 34 will make you a strong applicant. Washington University superscores the ACT, considering your highest individual section scores across all dates.

What is Washington University Looking for in Applicants?

Washington University evaluates applications holistically, considering factors such as academic performance, extracurricular involvement, personal qualities, and fit for the university. The admissions committee looks for students who have challenged themselves academically, demonstrated leadership and engagement outside the classroom, and shown strong character and personal growth.

When evaluating applications, Washington University considers the following key factors:

  • Academic achievement: Strong grades in rigorous courses, especially in core subjects
  • Standardized test scores: Competitive SAT or ACT scores (optional)
  • Extracurricular activities: Depth of involvement and leadership in activities outside of academics
  • Essays: Compelling and well-written essays that showcase personality, values, and goals
  • Recommendations: Strong endorsements from teachers, counselors, or mentors
  • Character and personal qualities: Integrity, motivation, resilience, and intellectual curiosity

Washington University seeks students who will contribute positively to the campus community and align with the university's values of academic excellence, diversity and inclusion, and commitment to making a positive impact in the world. Demonstrating these qualities through your application materials is key to being a competitive applicant at Washington University.

Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Rigor of secondary school record X
Class rank X
Academic GPA X
Standardized test scores X
Application essay X
Recommendation(s) X

Non-Academic Very Important Important Considered Not Considered
Interview X
Extracurricular activities X
Talent/ability X
Character/personal qualities X
First generation X
Alumni/ae relation X
Geographical residence X
State residency X
Religious affiliation/commitment X
Racial/ethnic status X
Volunteer work X
Work experience X
Level of applicant’s interest X

Washington University Admissions Requirements

To apply to Washington University, you will need to submit the following:

  • Common Application or Coalition Application
  • A 200-word response to the supplemental essay question, “Please tell us what you are interested in studying at college and why.”
  • High school transcript including:some text
    • 4 years of English
    • 4 years of mathematics (architecture, business, and engineering strongly recommend calculus)
    • 3-4 years of laboratory science (engineering recommends chemistry and physics)
    • 3-4 years of history or social science
    • At least 2 years of the same foreign language since the ninth grade
    • The College of Arts & Sciences recommends both chemistry and physics for students who plan to do coursework in pre-medicine or the natural sciences.
  • Extracurricular and community activities
  • Letter of recommendation from a teacher or counselor
  • SAT or ACT scores (optional)
  • Application fee or fee waiver

In addition to these general requirements, some programs at Washington University have additional application components:

  • Portfolio for applicants to the College of Art in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts
  • Prescreening recordings for applicants to the Department of Music in Arts & Sciences
  • Interview for applicants to the Beyond Boundaries Program

First-Year Applicants

This is for students who either are about to finish secondary education or already have and intend to begin their college education in the next fall term. 

First-year applicants are required to have a high school diploma or the equivalent, such as home school programs and certain college preparation programs. Your transcript must include your grades for all courses you’ve taken. If your school ranks students, it’s also best to include your rankings.

You also need one recommendation letter from the counselor and one teacher evaluation. Specific instructions about these documents can be found during the application process.

Additionally, you need to write a 200-word essay that responds to the question: “What are you interested in studying at WashU and why?” 

To write a strong essay, explain your reasons for applying. What about Washington University appeals to you? How will studying at Wash help you achieve your goals?  A tricky part is that you must be concise; pick out the parts that you believe are the most significant.

You also need to describe your extracurricular and community activities: what you’ve done, how the activities impacted you, and how you impacted communities. It’s best if you can list some awards, achievements, or noteworthy experiences here. Similar to the 200-word essay, only pick out the most noteworthy and significant activities. 

Because the application must be completed through either the Common or Coalition Application, you must also complete either the common application essay or the coalition application essay. 

Washington University Application Deadlines

Washington University has an Early Decision option and a Regular Decision option. 

Early Decision allows you to receive your admission and financial aid decisions earlier than regular decision candidates. However, it comes with a binding commitment that you will attend Washington University if you get the offer. Early applicants, their counselors, and a parent or guardian must sign the Early Decision commitment statement during the application process.

If you apply for Early Decision, you can still apply to other schools. However, if you get accepted to Washington University, you will be required to withdraw and forfeit all your other applications. Washington University strongly recommends applying early if this school is among your first choices.

The regular decision, as the name suggests, is for applicants who wish to apply during the regular admission period. There is no commitment needed for this option, so Washington University recommends applying for the regular decision option if this school is not one of your first choices.

Here is a table of the important dates and deadlines for all application options for the most recent admission cycle. Dates for the next admission cycle may vary slightly.

Important Dates and Deadlines Early Application I Early Application II Regular Application
Application Open Date August 1st August 1st August 1st
Financial Aid Application Open Date December 31 December 31 December 31
Application Submission Deadline November 1st January 3rd January 3rd
Deadline for Receiving Official Materials November 8th January 10th January 10th
Scholarship Application Deadline January 3rd January 3rd January 3rd
Financial Aid Application Deadline November 15th January 12th February 1st
Admission and Financial Aid Decision Release Date December 15th February 16th April 1st
Deadline for Applicant’s Reply January 3rd March 4th May 1st

As you can see, the Early Decision option has two deadlines: one for Early Decision I, and another for Early Decision II. Remember to take note of each college application timeline to make sure you don’t miss any deadlines.

Washington University Regular Decision Deadline

The deadline to submit your application via regular decision is January 3. Since the early decision has a higher acceptance rate, consider applying earlier if you’re sure that you want Washinton University to be your school.

Washington University Early Decision Deadline

At Washington University, you have two chances to apply for an early decision. The first round of early decision ends on November 1 and the second ends on January 3.

You may notice that the deadlines for Early Application II and Regular Application are similar, if not on the same date. But Early Application II still gives your decision much earlier than the regular application does. So do keep in mind the difference despite the proximity of the deadlines. 

International Applicants 

For international applicants, the requirements are the same for the most part. You must complete a minimum of 12 years of primary and secondary studies for application to any WashU program. You must also obtain a secondary school diploma or equivalent as of the completion of your studies. 

For required documents, in addition to your transcripts, school report, and recommendation letters, you also need scores of certified examinations, proof of English proficiency, proof of valid Visa, and certified English translations of all documents not in English. Specific requirements can be found during the application.

How to Improve Your Chances of Getting Into Washington University

With an acceptance rate of 12%, getting into Washington University is difficult. Thankfully, there are tips you can follow that will bolster your application and help you get into your dream school.

1. Demonstrate Intellectual Curiosity

Washington University seeks students who have challenged themselves academically and shown a love for learning. Pursue advanced coursework, conduct independent research, or participate in academic competitions to show your intellectual curiosity.

2. Highlight Leadership and Engagement

Admissions officers at WashU want to see evidence of leadership and involvement outside the classroom. Highlight your leadership roles, volunteer work, or extracurricular pursuits that demonstrate your ability to make a meaningful impact.

3. Craft Compelling Essays

The supplemental essays are your opportunity to show WashU why you are a great fit for their community. Use the essays to authentically convey your voice, share meaningful experiences, and explain how WashU aligns with your academic and personal aspirations.

4. Connect with WashU

Engaging with WashU can help demonstrate your interest and fit for the university. Attend an information session, interview with an alumni representative, or email your regional admissions counselor to learn more and express your passion for WashU.

5. Apply Early Decision

If WashU is your top choice, consider applying through the binding Early Decision plan. Early Decision applicants tend to have slightly higher acceptance rates than Regular Decision applicants.

By demonstrating your intellectual curiosity, leadership potential, and fit for the WashU community, you can improve your chances of admission to this highly selective university. Remember, every part of your application matters in painting a full picture of who you are and what you will bring to the WashU campus.

Washington University Essay Prompts

When applying to the University of Washington as a freshman, you will need to respond to two writing prompts: a longer essay and a short response. These writing sections help the admissions committee get to know you beyond your grades and test scores.

Essay Prompt (Required)

Tell a story from your life, describing an experience that either demonstrates your character or helped to shape it. (650 words max)

Tip: Select a single, impactful experience and use descriptive language to engage the reader. Demonstrate how this experience reflects or has shaped your character. Often, the most compelling essays read like personal narratives.

Short Response (Required)

Our families and communities often define us and our individual worlds. Community might refer to your cultural group, extended family, religious group, neighborhood or school, sports team or club, co-workers, etc. Describe the world you come from and how you, as a product of it, might add to the diversity of the UW. (300 words max)

Tip: The UW values a student body with diverse perspectives and experiences. Consider what makes your background distinctive and how your experiences have molded you. Reflect on how you could add to the diversity of the UW campus through your individual perspective.

Additional Information (Optional)

This section is optional, but you may use it to share any additional information that is particularly important to you, such as:

  • Personal challenges you have faced in your educational journey
  • Limitations on your activities due to work or family responsibilities
  • Unusual constraints or opportunities specific to your school experience

Tip: If you have faced obstacles or circumstances that have affected your education, this is your chance to provide context. Be direct and honest in your explanation.

A few tips for the UW writing section:

  1. Write your responses in a separate document, then paste them into the application. This will make sure you don't lose any formatting like italics or double-spacing, which won't impact the evaluation.
  2. Put forth your best effort on every part of the writing section. While the essay is typically more refined, don't overlook the importance of the short response.
  3. Carefully review your work for any errors in grammar, spelling, or clarity. Write with purpose and care, not like you're sending a casual text.

The UW writing section is an opportunity to let your personality, experiences, and writing skills shine through. Approach each prompt with authenticity and thoughtfulness to help the admissions team understand who you are beyond your application.

Washington University Interview

Washington University offers two optional video opportunities for high school seniors to share more about themselves during the application process:

  1. Virtual Interview: WashU provides informal interviews either with current students through the Admissions Office (available starting the spring before senior year) or with alumni volunteers through the Alumni and Parents Admission Program (offered to applicants beginning in the fall). These 15-20 minute one-on-one conversations allow you to discuss your interests and experiences while learning more about WashU. Due to limited availability, not all students will be able to interview, but this will not negatively impact your admissions chances.
  2. 90-Second Video: All applicants have the option to upload a short, informal video introducing themselves to the Admissions Office. This is a chance to creatively showcase a hobby, share something you've learned about yourself, discuss why you want to attend WashU, or anything else you'd like them to know about you. The video doesn't need to be professionally produced - feel free to film a quick clip on your phone.

International students interested in submitting an interview to WashU can do so through InitialView or Vericant.

Remember, both the interview and video are completely optional. They simply provide additional avenues to express your personality and help the Admissions Office get to know you better. If you choose to participate, be authentic and have fun with the process!

FAQ

Those are all the steps and requirements for applying to Washington University. But if you still have questions, perhaps you can find your answers here!

1. If I Apply Early, Will I Be Deferred to the Regular Decision Application?

Regardless of which Early Decision option you applied to, if you get deferred, you will drop straight into the pool of regular applicants, where you will be compared against them.

However, you also have a chance of being denied admission without getting a second chance at all, so take note of that. 

3. Is a 3.5 GPA Enough to Get Into WashU?

Looking at how selective Washington University is, a 3.5 unweighted GPA is decent but still risky. It’s best to push yourself more and reach a 4.0 GPA

4. What is Washington University’s Ranking?

According to US News and World Report, Washington University in St. Louis ranks 24th in best national universities, tied with Carnegie Mellon, Emory University, and the University of Virginia.

5. What Does the University of Washington Specialize In? 

The most popular majors at WashU include: 

  • Computer Science
  • Experimental Psychology
  • Finance
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Biology/Biological Sciences

6. Is Demonstrated Interest a Factor Monitored by Washington University?

Washington University recently announced that they will no longer consider demonstrated interest as a factor in their admissions decisions starting with the Fall 2022 application cycle. WashU aims to "create and implement a truly equitable admissions process and support our goal to build a community of talented and diverse young people."

Final Thoughts

Washington University in St. Louis is certainly an excellent place to get your postsecondary education. Even though the application process seems complicated and lengthy, you have plenty of assistance to help you along the way, provided by both the school faculty and your own counselors. 

The instructions are clear, and you usually always have somewhere to go once you need help. And yes, this school is competitive, but just as they always say: it’s definitely going to be worth it in the end. Best wishes for your preparation and applications!

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