A Visit to George Mason University

Nestled in suburban Fairfax, VA, not far from the heart of DC, George Mason has much to offer a variety of students in the crowded Virginia & DC college and university market. The largest public research university in the state of Virginia, students at GMU take full advantage of its location which affords countless educational, professional and social opportunities.

Internships in the nation’s capital are only 20-30 minutes away by metro which means that 85% of students gain crucial experience and begin building their professional networks before they graduate. Given its Tier 1 research institute status, the National Institute for Health is one of the many prestigious employers who recruit heavily on campus.

GMU has a nationally-recognized engineering program, including the only cybersecurity engineering program in the country. The Nguyen Engineering Building leases office space to many large corporations, offering additional internship opportunities right on campus.

Other notable disciplines include a 5th year accelerated accounting program, an accredited forensic science program, a competitive dance major (only 20 students accepted each year) and a nursing program, which will be housed in the brand-new Health and Human Services building.

An Honors College is available to top students allowing them access to Robinson Faculty (distinguished professors in the liberal arts and sciences) and a Living Learning Community. LLCs, as they are known at GMU, are collaborative partnerships between departments, faculty, housing and residence staff. Students participating in an LLC take one or more classes together and live on campus as a group, in a common dorm. In addition, groups of students in LLCs engage with peers, faculty and staff coordinators through numerous extracurricular projects and activities. The University Scholars Award, George Mason’s largest merit scholarship, covers full tuition and is offered to 10 in-state and 10 out-of-state students.

While it’s only been 40 years since GMU formally separated from the University of Virginia, it is now the second largest residential campus in Virginia. Historically a commuter school (74% live off campus), that status seems to be evolving with options available to those who want the on-campus experience. In addition to Living Learning Communities, GMU offers 350 student clubs, 22 NCAA D1 teams and Greek life, although only a small percentage of men and women go Greek. While campus might not be a hub of activity on the weekends, students are able to take advantage of the benefits of living in the greater DC area.

George Mason should not be overlooked for its growing athletic tradition either. They field more than 20 Division I teams, made up of 458 student athletes. The Patriots made national headlines during the 2005-2006 NCAA tournament when the men’s basketball team shocked the sports world by making it to the Final Four. During their run, George Mason found itself a significant underdog in each game before upsetting Michigan State (who had made the previous year’s Final Four), North Carolina (the defending National Champions) and UConn (the tournament’s #1 seed). The Patriots eventually lost in the National Semi-Final game to the University of Florida, which went on to win the tournament. The season was historic by any measure and is widely considered the best tournament run by a “mid-major” conference team in NCAA history. George Mason, which entered the season predicted to finish 6th in the small Colonial Athletic Association, finished the year as the 8th ranked team in the country.

Melissa Bevacqua, Director of Undergraduate Admissions, described GMU as “authentically diverse”. While 80% of the 36,000 students hail from the state of Virginia, GMU students come from 137 countries and almost all 50 states. The admissions office is focused on growing its international and out-of-state student population. As a result, the school is score optional for out-of-state non-engineering students with a GPA of 3.3 or higher. In addition, the university is proud of its mission of access, reporting that half of the current students started their college career at a two-year institution before transferring and that underrepresented students perform just as well there and after graduation.

All of these characteristics come together to create a unique learning environment and opportunity for the right student. George Mason seems to embrace its underdog status in the crowded landscape of Virginia colleges and universities. And rightly so. Whether you are a student looking to transfer from a two-year institution, or a more traditional applicant who is looking to gain real work experience and benefit from the proximity to DC, George Mason University is a great option. And one that will not be overlooked much longer.