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Why choose GW? Five high school seniors share their stories

Updated: May 30, 2014 at 12:09 p.m.

GW accepted more than 8,000 applicants to the Class of 2018, and expects about 2,350 of those students to enroll. Here are five high school seniors who place the University at the top of their lists of potential schools.

Photo courtesy of Brenna Calhoun

Name: Brenna Calhoun
Hometown: Deltona, Fla.
Intended major: Biomedical engineering

When Brenna Calhoun learned that she would have to apply for Stafford and PLUS loans to pay for GW, she wondered if she should have settled for a Florida state school instead.

But Calhoun said she decided that Florida never would have been able to give her enough money to convince her to stay in-state, especially as funds for its Bright Futures scholarship program have declined in recent years.

Calhoun said only two Florida state schools offer her intended major, biomedical engineering, and she was sold on GW after she heard about the upcoming Science and Engineering Hall, which is slated to open during the second semester of her freshman year.

“Biomedical engineering is something I wasn’t flexible on when I was searching for places,” said Calhoun. She was also drawn to the University’s five-year master’s program, which she said would save her money in the long-term.

Calhoun said she struggled to identify with the students at Florida schools. She joined several Facebook groups for accepted students, and she said few seemed to share her interests. She also liked GW’s smaller class size compared to the University of Florida, which has more than double the number of freshmen.

“It just seemed like an overwhelming amount of people,” she said.

Photo courtesy of Rachel Dennen

Name: Rachel Dennen
Hometown: Grand Rapids, Mich.
Intended major: Biological anthropology and Spanish

Rachel Dennen had dreamed of cheering for the football team at Wake Forest University. But after GW accepted her, she tried to picture what her college experience would look like without it.

Dennen, who plays tennis and often attended games for her high school’s sports teams, had searched for a college with a strong athletics program that would unite the student body.

When she received an email from GW about the basketball team’s recent successes, she said she realized the University had more school spirit than she had originally thought. She was even more impressed when she found out GW would compete in the NCAA tournament.

GW’s biological anthropology major also attracted her. Before she looked into the University, Dennen said she had never heard of the major, though she was interested in both biology and anthropology. She was enticed by the opportunity to work with the Smithsonian Institution.

Dennen, who has studied Spanish since she was four years old and plans to double-major in the language program, said she also hopes to study abroad in Spain.

Photo courtesy of Connor Varley

Name: Connor Varley
Hometown: Wall, N.J.
Intended major: Mechanical engineering

Though Connor Varley was more impressed by the facilities at the University of Maryland, he said he may still decide to take a chance on GW’s rapidly growing engineering program.

Living and studying in the heart of D.C. is a big draw, but he said it doesn’t compare to the labs at UMD, like the neutral buoyancy facility that simulates weightlessness.

While UMD is the only university in the country that would offer Varley the opportunity to work with that technology, he is keeping an open mind about GW, especially after receiving a $30,000 scholarship.

“It’s a plus because it brings down that big price tag,” he said.

He said he has also made connections with faculty at GW. Varley recently attended an accepted students dinner in Philadelphia, where a professor who he had met during a visit to the University recognized and greeted him.

“That kind of interest was important,” Varley said.

Photo courtesy of Teddy Clamp

Name: Teddy Clamp
Hometown: Redding, England.
Intended major: International affairs

With a father who worked at the World Bank and grandparents who were translators for the Central Intelligence Agency, Teddy Clamp said his childhood was marked by many heated political debates.

That helped Clamp realize early on that he wanted to study international politics in college. While he considered the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University, he chose GW after spending 12 days touring embassies and discussing foreign and national policy with professors during a pre-college program last summer.

“They were prepared to talk to their students because they knew they were clever and engaged, and that really impressed me,” Clamp said.

Clamp said he wished he had applied early decision, knowing that as soon as he heard back, he would want to accept GW’s offer.

Photo courtesy of Brendan Brown

Name: Brendan Brown
Hometown: Naperville, Ill.
Intended major: History and physics

Brendan Brown said the University’s politically active student body appealed to him. At the same time, he was interested in physics and worried GW’s science courses were not as strong as its humanities programs.

But he said GW’s physics department surprised him, offering him the chance to do research with the Smithsonian. The University also offered him a $48,000 scholarship.

Brown had to choose between GW and the University of Oregon, and he said he felt more at home in GW’s academic environment. He also preferred D.C.’s faster-paced vibe to Oregon’s more laid-back feel.

“GW has that community where we are all highly motivated,” he said.

He said he liked the University’s campus, with its mix of historical and modern influences.

“GW has been around for 200 years and it knows its roots, but it also knows how to look forward,” he said.

This post was updated to reflect the following correction:
The Hatchet incorrectly reported that Teddy Clamp was accepted to the University of Pennsylvania and Duke University. While Clamp applied to both schools, he was not accepted to them. We regret this error.

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