Wish I Had Known This When I First Came to GW

Read what advice members of the Class of 2023 offered for incoming GW students.

GW Today asked some members of the Class of 2023 to look back on their time at the George Washington University and think about what they wished they had known early in their matriculation. Below are their thoughts and some advice to those new to GW—both undergrad and grad students (their words were edited for clarity):


Rachel Anstatt

Rachel Anstatt, M.A., Graduate School of  Education and Human Development

Take advantage of living in the city. I don’t think I took as much advantage of it as I could have during my two-year program, but I really wish that I did.


Four GW graduates at Commencement on the National Mall

Gaspard Cuveiler,  B.A., Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Take advantage of opportunities, there are a lot of clubs, a lot of internship opportunities. Get on top of that early and figure out what’s available. I didn’t figure out what was available specifically at the School of Business career center until junior year. If I had started earlier, it would have been a huge help. It’s possible that you are not going to graduate with the major you came in with. I came in pre-med and left with a degree in economics. So, be open minded and try new classes and new majors. The way you think your life is going to go in your first year is not necessarily how it ends senior year.


White male with a mustache and goatee hiking in the hills

Will Allen-DuPraw, M.A., Corcoran School of the Arts and Design

I absolutely loved video classes with Steve Elfers—he’s an incredible professor who adjusted the curriculum as much as he could to the fact that we had a higher level of video experience, on average, compared to previous cohorts.

I also wish that I had known how separate being a graduate student can feel. I loved my grad experience—this program was 100 percent the right thing for me to do! But grad school, with basically everyone in my program living off campus, was a much more independent experience than my undergraduate years. There was a very close community in my program, but beyond that the ties to campus fell away quickly.


Gabe Grauvogel

Gabriel Grauvogel, B.S., Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Get involved in things that interest you as early as possible. A lot of my success in undergrad can be traced back to one chain of emails where I asked professors about their research and how to get involved. The relationships and connections you will form from reaching out to get involved in things you think might interest you is how you will learn your most valuable skills. These strong relationships with the faculty and your peers will also be some of the most meaningful.


Tien Huynh

Tien Huynh, B.S., Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Being in such a vibrant community like GW and in the heart of the U.S. capital presents many opportunities and countless options to choose from. Don’t be afraid to take chances and experience as many fields, hobbies and activities as possible. If you find an organization, course or program that intrigues you, sign up for it. Try it out! Before you know it, you could end up loving it and pursuing it for the rest of your life.


Anne Laurie Joseph

Anne Laurie Joseph, B.A. Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

There are a lot of things I wish I had known before I came to GW, mostly things I guess you learn along the way. But I wish I had known how diverse the culture is here, not just at GW but in D.C. as a whole. If I had known how arts-oriented the city is, I would have been more driven to take advantage of some opportunities earlier on. You can walk into a random restaurant and find a jazz club. Someone like me who’s into this kind of stuff doesn’t have to go to New York. I don’t love New York—I plan to stay in Washington. When I first came to GW, I was a political science major. My shift to majoring in English and music had a lot to do with not just the arts at GW but also the professors in the arts. They introduced me to how I could balance an interest in social justice and policy with work in the arts.


Julia Kerrigan

Julia Kerrigan, B.A., Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

My advice is to apply for every job/grant/award/scholarship that piques your interest. I applied for a lot of things during my time at GW—and received a lot of rejection emails. But I barely remember those in comparison to the cool opportunities I had because I took a chance on an application.


Ian Lam

Ian Lam, J.D., GW Law

You can do things to set yourself apart, but it’s important to do things that really give back to the community because that helps you in finding your purpose along the way. I think a lot of students come in not really knowing exactly what they want to do, but that kind of hands-on learning is a great way to figure it out and help you grow along the way.


Alex Ostrander

Alex Ostrander, M.A., Graduate School of Education and Human Development

My biggest advice is to take care of yourself and find your own self-confidence and self-care. Going into college, many of us care so much about each grade and how our new peers and friends will think about us. This is a new experience! You have the choice to pursue the activities, clubs and classes that you want to pursue, and if you don’t like it, you can change and that is OK. We may think that we have to follow a path, and we’re nervous that someone may make fun of us, but remember your choices are what dictates how your college experience will go. Mistakes will happen, fights may happen, and it is OK to be yourself. Practice self-care, invest in your mental health, leave if you don’t feel comfortable. But also try new things and practice saying no to things you do not want to do. Don’t be afraid to grow.


Zhangzhu Wan

Zhangzhu Wan, B.A. Columbian College of Arts and Sciences

Take advantage of the wonderful professors’ office hours and go talk to them. Talk to them about your questions in class, a topic related to the class or your passion for the field. Don’t be intimidated. I got the most out of my GW experiences by going to office hours for professors in my major. They will forever be my mentors.


Nick Whims with a pride flag in the background

Nick Whims, B.P.S., College of Professional Studies

I was a transfer student, attending GW full-time for a total of five semesters including one summer session. I would encourage new students to explore the opportunities on campus. There are so many student activities and organizations, and new students should definitely take advantage of those. I would also encourage students to connect with their program directors and advisers. Get to know them and let them get to know you. You’re not working against your faculty and advisers—they’re invested in your success. Don’t be afraid of talking to your teachers! This fall, I plan to be working on an M.S. in business analytics at the GW School of Business. I’m interested in entrepreneurship, and I’m a bit of a nerd—I like Dungeons and Dragons, and I’d like to start a group if there isn’t one already. It’s a good way to get to know people. (Photo by Melanie Kozak)