Washington University in St. Louis has about 6,500 undergraduate students, 5,500 graduate students, and 1,400 part-time students. It has a top-flight medical school, and as such has a lot of pre-med and medical students, but like most major universities, there are a huge variety of "academic possibilities." Under the umbrella of "Washington University" there are seven schools: the College of Arts and Sciences, the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the Olin School of Business, the School of Medicine, the School of Law, the Sam Fox School of Design and Visual Arts, and the George Warren School of Social Work. The College of Arts and Sciences is the largest.
Somewhere along the line, Wash U got a huge chunk of endowment, and they use a large portion of it to send out bushels of
propaganda mail to students who score highly on the PSAT and SAT. I got my very first piece of college mail from Washington, and promptly tossed it because I had no idea what to do with college stuff. Fortunately, the campaign had only begun, and I've been inundated with brochures, pamphlets, and booklets since. That put Washington on the map, and then, to my shame, the U.S. News and World Report issue on college rankings made it seem more desirable.
Washington is currently ranked #11 in the nation, based on the U.S. News rankings. The rankings are based on such diverse elements as selectivity, graduation rate, financial aid, alumni contributions, the Alignment of the Stars....At any rate, I must admit that the rankings solidified Washington as a school to which I might apply. Another thing that helped was the unabashed declaration by Washington that they are in the practice of giving out large chunks of merit-based financial aid (this was a welcome surprise after the Ivy League lectures about merit-blind finances).
The campus is gorgeous, with a mix of modern and classical (or gothic or something--you know, old) architecture, and landscaping that even I noticed. Virtually all of the students and faculty I met there were friendly and enthusiastic, and the food was good, too. There are a fair few research opportunities for undergrads and grad students alike, and the professors seem very willing to work with students. I suppose I should throw in a disclaimer here: I'm going to Washington University in St. Louis next year, so my view is completely biased, but hey--this isn't Wikipedia. There are several negative aspects to Washington: there is little interest in athletics among the general student body, although there are several excellent teams (this one doesn't bother me too much); the name recognition isn't quite up to Ivy League level yet; there aren't any oceans nearby; the weather is a tad unpredictable.
All in all, it's an excellent university. It's in a nice area, about a thirty minute walk from the free zoo, and with free transportation in the near future. Assuming I'm still assimilated in Everything, I'll update when I actually go there and take classes.