Expectations versus reality: from admissions tours to the first month of school

| Contributing Writer

First-year students cram into a booth at Bears Den, the dining hall closet to underclassmen dorms. Some freshmen say that BD has the least-appealing food out of all the dining options. (Alan Zhou/Student Life)

It has been over a month since the week of hectic red move-in carts, kaleidoscopic residential college shirts, and proud convocation chants for the Class of 2026. In the past weeks, the freshmen have kept their plates full with infinite pages of homework readings and rounds of club tryouts. 

For most freshmen, the two main selling points they heard about WashU before stepping on campus were the renowned academic rigor and the top-rated food and dorms. Courtney Davis, a freshmen in the McKelvey School of Engineering, described her expectations of the school: 

“I heard about [how WashU is] academically rigorous but it’s not competitive between students,” she said. 

After a month on campus, Davis found that the programs here lived up to her hopes. She found the Peer-Led Team Learning program and The Writing Center’s resources to be “pleasantly surprising,” and the support she felt from her peers was unlike her high school back in Newport Beach, California. Davis said that indifference of the coastal city contrasts the midwest hospitality of St. Louis she has experienced here. 

Davis especially loves her machine shop practicum. 

“I got really nervous for the machine shop because I never had access to machines they had there [back] in high school,” she said. “It was intimidating but my TAs were so supportive. Now it’s my new favorite class.”

Katie Zhu, a freshman in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts, felt similarly regarding the art programs available here. The long studio hours and insightful critiques are as expected, and Zhu appreciated the many visiting artists’ lectures Sam Fox provided. Zhu thinks of her first month as a “crazy wild rollercoaster.

Others found the programs here to be unexpected in a different way. Conor Daly, a first-year from the College of Arts & Sciences, chose a different range of classes for his first semester, ranging from Intro to Mechanical Engineering and Mechanical Design to American Politics. He loved the flexibility and versatility of the courses here, but he was surprised to find that teaching assistants lead the subsections of lecture classes. 

Daly encountered one TA that was unprepared for his American Politics subsection; they once ended class 20 minutes early because they ran out of content to discuss and teach. “[Admissions] didn’t express involvement of TAs [teaching classes]. I wish that wasn’t the case,” Daly said. 

Overall, Daly described his first month living in college as “crazy, adventurous, and different.” He is satisfied with his modern double in Lien that features full-length mirrors and a spotless bathroom — a brag-worthy topic with his friends back at home. 

Freshman Adrian Chiu resides in Umrath, a modern dorm on the South 40, and he offered a different perspective. “I know we are the number one [rated] dorms and it’s supposed to be super nice, but people on my floor are not close because there are like 100 people [in our dorm] which kind of sucks,” he said.

The complaints of those in modern housing are minuscule compared to the residents of traditional dorms, who had much more to say about their quality of life. Freshman Olivia Benitez lives in Myers and she loves the tight connections she has made amongst her suitemates. However, she complained about the occasional “funky smell” and “unclean walls,” even noting how she saw a cockroach running around her room late at night. “Not only that, if I want to get food from BD, which is the worst but most convenient choice here, I have to walk all the way to Zetcher and get it,” she added. 

These interviewed first-years reached a consensus that Bears Den [BD] earned the award for least appealing food, and many noted enjoying the Delicioso station at the Danforth University Center [DUC]. Zhu thought that maybe reviews were too harsh. 

 “I hear a lot of people complain about the food,but if you think about other friends’ dining options at other colleges, it’s a lot worse,” she said. 


Sign up for the email edition

Stay up to date with everything happening at Washington University and beyond.