Washington University in St. Louis: Washington University welcomes largest, most diverse class in its history

Washington University in St. Louis is welcoming the Class of 2025, its biggest and most diverse yet. This week, 1,994 first-year students from 49 states and 20 countries will move onto the South 40. Among them: 17% are Pell Grant-eligible, 12% are the first in their families to attend college, 5% are international and 49% identify as students of color.

Another vital statistic: Nearly 100% are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 as required by university policy. That means first-year students once again may have roommates and safely participate in Bear Beginnings: Fall Welcome and First 40 activities like Convocation and Symphony on the South 40.

“We are so excited to bring back that sense of community that was so hard to achieve during the pandemic,” said Kawanna Leggett, associate vice chancellor of student affairs. “We’ll continue to work closely with our partners at Habif Health and Wellness and the School of Medicine to make sure our students stay safe, but right now, our campus is in a good place with vaccine compliance. With continued masking and other safety measures, I’m hopeful that our students will have a great fall.”

Like all members of the university community, students must mask in indoor facilities such as classrooms, labs and libraries, though they need not mask in their living accommodations. University housing is at 85% capacity, with rooms reserved for isolation and quarantine housing.

Students also may eat in the Bear’s Den and other eateries, but are asked to maintain a safe distance from other diners. Grab-and-go meals will remain available.

Bear Beginnings: Fall Welcome also is back with new, outdoor events that showcase St. Louis and campus. Highlights include campus tours, shuttles to Forest Park attractions and bus excursions to Cherokee Street, Soulard and other St. Louis neighborhoods led by guides from the Missouri History Museum. Katharine Pei, director of the First Year Center, said Bear Beginnings will be, for many students, their first time on campus.

“Campus tours have never been part of Bear Beginnings, but remember, while some students were able to participate in WashU Walk-Through and other Undergraduate Admissions programs, other families were unable to travel to campus and explore St. Louis,” Pei said. “We are ‘in St. Louis, for St. Louis,’ so it’s important that we introduce our students to this community while also making sure they can find the DUC.”

Students also will meet with their advisers and deans and participate in traditions new (a tailgate party and men’s soccer game at Francis Olympic Field) and old (Convocation, now a student-only event in Brookings Quadrangle).

First-year students are not the only ones eager to get to know each other and the surrounding community. Denied a traditional orientation, more than half of the Class of 2024 registered for Sophomore Welcome, two days of events including a class dinner and a trip to the Delmar Loop. Sophomore-specific programming will continue through the fall with career education workshops, social events and service opportunities — experiences that will be available to all future sophomore classes.

“We know from the academic literature and our own research that second-year students can benefit from more academic peer mentors, seminars and career and major exploration,” Pei said. “Sophomores also told us they want more social events and opportunities to explore St. Louis. That’s especially true this year because they missed so much because of COVID.”

Senior Emily Gerber, a member of the First Year Center executive board, helped plan Bear Beginnings and Sophomore Welcome. She is encouraging new students to knock on that new floormate’s door, join that club, check out that neighborhood.

“I can still remember feeling nervous about finding friends and settling into this new city,” Gerber said. “Those feelings may be even stronger for these students who may be out of practice making friends and being in social situations. My advice: Go for it. You’ll be surprised how quickly this place will feel like home.”