Washington and Lee is a highly selective institution with an undergraduate acceptance rate that has averaged less than 20 percent over the past five years, providing the university with the opportunity to build an entering class each year that is composed of students who bring not only exceptional academic credentials but also those personal qualities that result in an engaged community with shared values.
The mean scores on standardized tests for the most recently enrolled class were SAT Critical Reading 695; SAT Math 698; SAT Writing 691; and ACT Composite 32. Noted for its national and international diversity, the undergraduate student body is evenly divided between men and women. Recent undergraduate students are from 48 states and the District of Columbia and more than 35 countries around the world. About 13 percent of undergraduates come from Virginia, with large numbers of students also from Maryland, Texas, Georgia, New York, Pennsylvania and California. Approximately 12 percent are from racial and ethnic minority groups, and 11 percent are from families eligible for Pell Grant support. The undergraduate program has had an exceptional 97 percent first-year retention rate in the past two years. The most recent six-year graduation rate was approximately 91 percent and has averaged above 90 percent during the past five years.
The strategic plan, adopted in 2007, placed special emphasis on diversifying the university's pool of applicants - particularly geographically, racially and socio-economically - with the goal of attracting qualified students who will bring the personal, ethical and intellectual characteristics that have always characterized the student body. As a consequence, the largest goal in the recently completed capital campaign was endowment for financial aid. That goal received a major boost in 2007 through a $100 million gift that established the Johnson Program in Leadership and Integrity. The largest portion of the endowment created by those funds is a scholarship program that provides full scholarships to approximately 10 percent of each entering class. Primarily through the Johnson Program's presence, undergraduate admissions have doubled from 3,000 applicants to 6,000. The Johnson Scholarship, combined with the university's partnership with QuestBridge, a national organization that connects high-achieving, low-income students to colleges, has begun to have a discernible impact on W&L's efforts to diversify its student body, and this remains an aim of the university.
Even as the university has held its tuition increases to historic lows in recent years (1.8 percent for 2015-16), the financial aid budget has increased dramatically over the last decade. The most recent initiative, the W&L Promise, was introduced in 2013 and guarantees free tuition to any student whose family income is under $75,000, while often providing loan-free assistance to cover room, board and other educational expenses to those students, based on demonstrated need.
Admission to the School of Law remains competitive at the same time that law schools nationally have seen significant decreases in the number of applicants. For the Class of 2018, the law school received almost 1,900 applications and enrolled 119 students with a median LSAT of 160. Entering students came from 27 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and six foreign countries, with 18 percent self-identifying as members of a racial or ethnic minority.