University of Washington

The University of Washington in Seattle, Washington is a public research university. It was founded in 1861 and is one of the oldest institutes of higher education on the West Coast. Washington has three campuses, with the main and largest campus located in the University District in Seattle. As a whole, the University of Washington occupies over 500 buildings. It is considered “Public Ivy”, and is also a member of the American Association of Universities.



In the mid to late 19th century, the city of Seattle and several other settlements were vying for primacy in the Washington territory which had just recently been created. Governor Isaac Stevens recommended in 1854 that a university should be established in Washington, and many prominent Seattle residents believed that the addition of a university to their city could help increase prestige. Initially, two universities were chartered: one in Lewis County and the other in Seattle. The decision was changed to just a single university in Lewis County, but there was no site for which the school could be built on. Thus, the university was relocated to Seattle. The university officially opened on November 4th, 1861, and was called the Territorial University of Washington. It struggled to remain open during its early years, closing three times due to a lack of students and shortage of funds. Both post-war periods were times of dramatic growth for the school, as it saw significant campus expansion and the construction of a medical school, which is highly ranked today. The 1960s and 1970s have been called the “golden age” of the university because of tremendous growth in the operating budget, number of students and facilities, and overall prestige.

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The University of Washington has an excellent School of Medicine, which is ranked by U.S. News as 12th best in research and 2nd best in primary care. U.S. News ranks the family medicine and rural medicine programs as the best in the United States. The mission of the School of Medicine is to improve the health of the public through the advancement of medical knowledge, and provide outstanding care to the people of the region. The School of Medicine has many departments, including Biochemistry, Family Medicine, Global Health, and Immunology. Perhaps the most distinguishing feature of the UW medical school is interdisciplinary collaboration; educators, scientists, and clinicians all help each other reach common goals. Washington also has a terrific engineering program. The College of Engineering is ranked by U.S. News as the 25th best engineering school in the United States, and the biomedical engineering program is ranked 6th. The 33 different laboratories and research centers provide a range of research opportunities, ranging from earthquakes to data mining. There are 10 different departments, including Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, and Mechanical Engineering. The College also offers part-time master’s programs in many fields including construction engineering, aerospace engineering, and sustainable transportation.

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Pros & Cons

The University of Washington is considered “Public Ivy”, meaning it has a similar education to an Ivy League School but is public. It has been ranked in the top 20 worldwide since 2003, and came in at 16th last year according to the Academic Ranking of World Universities. It is located just north of downtown Seattle, which has many entertainment and nightlife options. It also has over 500 student organizations, including 27 fraternities and 16 sororities. Housing is not guaranteed for any student, however, and many freshmen live off campus. This can limit student interaction, especially for out-of-state students who may not know anyone initially. While only 34.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students, the freshman retention rate at 93% is excellent. The in-state tuition costs $10 000, while out-of-state tuition comes in at $28 000. While this is still expensive, it is lower than other universities with a similar ranking, and only 35% of students require financial aid.