Nestled in Fairfax County in Northern Virginia, George Mason University got its start in 1957 as a satellite campus for the University of Virginia. But in short order, the school established itself as a unique college with its own personality and goals and, by 1972, had become a standalone university. Since then, GMU has grown to become the largest private research university in the state, with over 37,000 students.
GMU strives to train each of these students to become engaged citizens and thoughtful scholars prepared to act on their learning. It’s all part of living up to the school’s motto, “freedom and learning.”
The university strives to make top-rated university education accessible to as many Virginians as possible. To that end, they embark on innovative programs, including the recent ADVANCE program, which partners with Northern Virginia Community College to provide a seamless transition to the four-year university.
With an endowment of over $154 million, GWU stands well-equipped to reach and educate a wide variety of learners, no matter their goals or circumstances.
Because GMU is a public university committed to offering quality education to Virginians and qualified out-of-state students, it has a relatively high acceptance rate. 87% of those who apply to receive an offer of admission, with a 92% early admission rate.
Again, that is a high rate, especially if one is looking only at Ivy League acceptance rates, which tend to only accept 5-10% of applicants. But one should not equate exclusivity with quality. Not only are most Ivy League schools highly elite private schools, which have no mandate to accept a high rate of students, but they benefit from the reputation that exclusivity provides.
Furthermore, GMU uses its larger student body to its advantage, building connections to experts in a variety of fields with its alumni and professional networks. GMU accepts as many qualified students as they can get and uses those numbers to build an educated and well-rounded population.
Requirements & Admission Tips
Although GMU has a high acceptance rate, they don’t accept just anybody. The school does have reasonably high standards that students must meet before they’re given an offer of admission.
Mason requires freshmen applicants to provide their high school GPA and strongly suggests that they also provide standardized scores, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Specific majors have additional requirements, such as a portfolio or performance video, and non-native English speakers must pass a language proficiency test.
On average, GMU students have a 3.65 GPA in high school, SAT scores between 1100 and 1320, and ACT scores between 24 and 30 points. However, students who do not have those grades should not be discouraged. Because Mason uses a holistic evaluation process, numbers are not the be-all, end-all to the administration. Letters of recommendation, a personal statement, and evidence of community service can prove that you’re the type of student they want on their campus, even more so than overall grades.
Those who plan to apply to GMU should take advantage of their admission counselors and campus visits to get a feeling for what the school values. Using that information, applicants can craft their materials to accentuate those elements, giving themselves the best opportunity to be admitted.
Given its high admission rate and mission of creating an educated populace, it’s no surprise that Mason boasts an impressive group of alumni.
Some of Mason’s more famous students include Better Call Saul star Rhea Seehorn, CSI’s Archie Kao, and CNN anchor Hala Gorani. A number of professional athletes once played for the GMU Patriots, such as MLB catcher Chris Widger, Stockton Kings guard Lamar Butler, and bodybuilder Shahriar Kamali.
Those hoping to go into public service will find plenty of role models among GMU grads. Former director of Homeland Security Ken Cuccinelli studied at Mason, as did former U.S. Treasurer Anna Escobedo Cabal, and General Services Administrator Denise Turner Roth.
In addition to these famous names, several influential writers and thinkers came from GMU. Innovative engineer Anousheh Ansari and best-selling economist Tyler Cowen got their start at Mason, as did novelists Richard Bausch and Mark Winegardner.
Without question, this is a striking list of luminaries. But for every one of these famous names, there are hundreds of intelligent and active students who attended Mason. Every single day, GMU students are making the world a better place.
An accomplished group of alumni can only come from a faculty devoted to their research and teaching. Over the years, students have learned from Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Martin Sherwin and Nobel Laureate James Buchanan. Even today, the school continues this proud tradition of enlisting only the best educators.
Professor Louise Shelley is the Hirst Endowed Chair at GMU’s Schar School of Policy and International Affairs. Princeton University Press published her latest book Dark Commerce: How a New Illicit Economy Is Threatening Our Future in 2018, continuing Dr. Shelley’s leadership in the field.
Mason’s Performing Arts Department features Tony-nominated dancer and choreographer Christopher d’Amboise. In addition to serving as a principal dancer in the New York City Ballet and Artistic Director for the Pennsylvania Ballet, d’Amboise has worked on productions worldwide, including High Society and William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Similar Schools & Ranking
Mason is just one of the private research universities available to students in Virginia. U.S. News & World Report ranks GMU fourth in the state, just below the University of Virginia, William and Mary, and Virginia Tech. On a national level, Mason comes in at #65 in U.S. News’s lists of Top Public Schools and #35 in Most Innovative Schools.
Niche.com gives GMU an overall B+ grade, with high marks for its commitment to diversity and the value of education it offers. The site also puts the school among the top 50 American colleges for public health and American colleges for information technology. Washington Monthly ranks Mason #61 in national universities, giving it high marks for social mobility and service to the community.
These accolades put GMU above most other schools in the state. Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond tends to have the most similarity to Mason, with its similar overall rankings and its 87% acceptance rate. However, GMU takes the edge, as it charges just over $13,000/year for in-state students, instead of VCU’s $14,700/year in-state.
Although GMU’s $13,000/year in-state tuition is lower than most comparable schools, students will still be paying quite a bit to go to college. That’s especially true for out-of-state students, who will pay over $36,000/year.
Fortunately, students will find plenty of scholarship opportunities at Mason. Every freshman who applies by the early action deadline (usually November 1st) will be automatically considered for merit-based scholarships. The school also offers the special #YouAreWelcomeHere scholarship for first-year undergraduate international students.
Scholarships from the Mason Foundation, funded by donations from university friends and alumni, can be awarded to students in a variety of fields. Such awards include the Alice L. Watts Memorial Scholarship for majors in the College of Visual Performing Arts and the Anne K. Altman and Xavier W. Alire Scholarship for those in the School of Business.
Athletic awards include the Mr. and Mrs. James J. Larranaga, Jr. and Mr. and Mrs. Jon T. Larranaga Scholarship for men’s basketball players and the Aimee Willard Endowment for girls’ softball.
These are just a few of the funding opportunities extended to students, once again proving that GMU strives to educate every qualified applicant.
Is George Mason University Right For You?
From the beginning, George Mason University has been committed to providing the best possible education to as many students as possible. So if you’re asking if GMU is right for you, the answer is, “probably!” Not only does the school offer an impressive slate of faculty and resources, but it also has the funding and support you’ll need to be successful.
The real answer to the question comes down to what you want as a student and in your future career. Mason puts its priorities on public education and community engagement and thus has excellent resources in the fields of public health, technology, and economics. If you endeavor to work in those areas, then GMU will give you all the training and connections you’ll need.
Mason also excels in social mobility, which means that it will not be exclusive or elite. But if you want to participate in a diverse student body and enjoy interactions with a wide range of learners, then GMU is certainly the school for you.
Simply put, with its mission of creating life-long learners and an educated populace, George Mason University has something to offer every student.