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Old 06-12-2007, 12:13 PM
 
63 posts, read 430,481 times
Reputation: 30

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I wanted to ask people here about George Mason University. I might consider going there for graduate school, for a Master's degree.

I've read some miscellaneous things around the internet and found a lot of mixed reviews in regard to its social life, and its academics.

I want to ask these questions for whoever knows about the school/area and is willing to help me your feedback:

-what kind of place is George Mason University for students, and what are the people like?

-what kind of area is Fairfax? is it convenient or inconvenient for someone looking for housing there in order to study at GMU?

-is its proximity to Washington D.C. a convenience, or a burden?



Anything else that anyone has to share about the school is much appreciated. I haven't been there before and I don't really have an opportunity to visit before going there.

Thanks for your time everyone.
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Old 06-12-2007, 01:22 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA
261 posts, read 1,667,583 times
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I attended GMU for one year back in 1989-1990, I'm sure the school has changed considerably since then so feel free to ignore my ramblings.

What I liked about GMU: decent campus, great selection of classes (both by schedule and topic), friendly for NoVA.

What I didn't like about GMU: parking (availibility), commuting (took me 20-30 mins to get there from 6 miles away), no sense of community.

As you can gather from my pros/cons, I didn't live on campus. If I had, I probably would have had a better community experience. It is mostly a commuter school though. With parking, it sometimes took me 20 or more mins to find a spot, so between the commute and parking, I would have to leave my house at least an hour before class started to be there on time. I'm sure things have gotten better over the years, especially since they've widened some of the roads nearby.

Fairfax City itself is an old-town-ish, semi-urban area with some historic buildings, but Fairfax County is a county of suburban sprawl. GMU sits just outside of FFX City in the County so the campus is pretty much surrounded by sprawl. You should find plenty of housing options but NoVA is expensive in general.

Proximity to DC can be both good and bad. Good in the sense you have nightlife options, pro sports, political activity, etc, depending on your tastes. Bad because of the congestion, sprawl, out of control housing costs, etc.

There is a bus system that will take you grom GMU to a Metro station (I think) and around various landmarks in FFX county, by way of the Fairfax Connector.

All in all, I would go to grad school at GMU if I were going back to school (I am considering it) but I would recommend against being a traditional undergrad unless you lived on campus.
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Old 06-12-2007, 01:48 PM
 
2,462 posts, read 8,925,976 times
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Although the university is building more on-campus housing, GMU is still primarily a commuter school, especially for grad students. It's right in the middle of suburbia and not part of a traditional college town. If that's what you're looking for, you'll be very disappointed.
However, if you're looking at grad school, you've already done the college thing. Writing as the wife of an academic who has supervised countless dissertations over the last 20 years, I would suggest that your primary focus be the quality of the department in which you will be studying rather than the feel of the campus or the convenience of the housing. If GMU has the best program for the money into which you can be accepted, then go for it, particularly if you expect to be working in the DC area after graduation.
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Old 06-12-2007, 01:55 PM
 
Location: Richmond, VA
1,799 posts, read 6,319,692 times
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Your assessment JB isn't too far off.

Which master's program are you thinking of?

GMU is growing very fast... currently it has around 30,000 students, about 5,000 of which live on campus. They are adding 2,000 more beds on campus as part of the Northeast Sector expansion which should be complete by 2008.

As an alumni, here's my take. GMU was fun, but Fairfax wasn't. The traffic was always terrible near campus, the cost of living was way too high, and though I never had to endure it, I did hear how dreadful commuting to campus was.

GMU is a very diverse school (2nd most in the country I believe). Way more interaction with people from the Middle East, Latin America, and Asia than I had ever experienced, but that's not to say it was a bad thing.... just much different.

There are two ways to get to DC from campus without driving. First, take the Fairfax City CUE Bus. Second, take the Mason to Metro shuttle which travels directly to and from the Vienna/Fairfax/GMU metro stop. The nice thing is that if you are a Mason student, both options are free.

Student life could use some improvements. A real football team would be nice. I'm sure you know our basketball team can go on good runs. Overall though, I think student life suffers due to Mason being a relatively young school, so it lacks the traditions and institutions that a UVA or JMU would offer.

If you're into a decent nightlife, Fairfax/Fairfax City don't offer much. I'd recommend heading into DC to places like Adams Morgan, though it can be a hassle depending on when the metro stops for the night.

Also, it may be irrelevant to you, but as far as grocery shopping goes, you'll be close to a Wegman's which is a great grocery store. I was sooooo glad it opened so I didn't have to endure the crap stores nearby anymore. I'm used to Ukrop's in the Richmond area, and Wegman's suffices much better than Giant.
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Old 06-12-2007, 02:15 PM
 
Location: In exile, plotting my coup
2,408 posts, read 14,398,723 times
Reputation: 1869
Good posts by others here. I'll add my two cents.

I didn't go there, but my brother did for 2.5 years before transferring to James Madison. Also, probably 1/4 of my high school graduating class (and in turn, a good deal of my friends) went there. Personally, I have heard overwhelmingly negative reviews of the school. Most of the complaints however relate to the environment of the school in terms of it's lack of cohesiveness, no sense of community, and minimal social life. These are largely the byproducts of it being a new-ish school, largely a commuter school, and one situated smack dab in the middle of sprawly suburbia, without the traditional college town vibe to it. Many people I know who went to school there say that it felt more like an extension of high school than anything else. They met relatively few new people, hung out with their high school friends, went out to the same places off-campus for socializing as they had before college since they didn't find many activities on campus, and a lot of them were just disappointed by the fact that it didn't "feel" like what they felt a college should feel like.

With that said, academically, I've heard few complaints. The school is a good school and is only improving. Plus, as was mentioned earlier, if going for grad school, you've probably been there and done that with the college thing so the campus' life may not be of the utmost importance to you.
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Old 06-12-2007, 02:31 PM
 
Location: Arlington, VA
261 posts, read 1,667,583 times
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dullnboring View Post
Many people I know who went to school there say that it felt more like an extension of high school than anything else. They met relatively few new people, hung out with their high school friends, went out to the same places off-campus for socializing as they had before college since they didn't find many activities on campus, and a lot of them were just disappointed by the fact that it didn't "feel" like what they felt a college should feel like.
That's exactly why I left after the first year, great summary.
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Old 06-12-2007, 09:38 PM
 
19,198 posts, read 31,489,966 times
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On the plus side, the GMU campus, once you get to it, is very nice. Almost 700 acres with lots of hills, woods, trails, and so forth. Academically, some of the departments are quite strong (multiple Nobel Prize winners are on the faculty), but parking there is diffcult at best. It's almost worthwhile to park somewhere else and take a bus in. It is still significantly a commuter school, but if you count both on-campus and near-campus residents, it's maybe a 50-50 thing these days. 100% is around 30,000 students, about a third of which is one minority or another. Still, considering it didn't even exist until 1972 and now it has a budget of about $650 million per year, it's come a long way and will go further still. They have some very significant endowments and are quite serious about becoming a major league university. For entertainment, Fairfax City isn't a real hot spot, but the Ballston Corridor is about 45 minutes away all told, and downtown DC is about an hour. The Metro runs until 3:00 am (as measured at Metro Center) on Friday and Saturday (midnight otherwise), so you can close down the bars and still get home alright. Those last trains out can be pretty entertaining, considering that everyone on them is drunk. Kids these days!
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Old 06-16-2007, 08:06 PM
 
Location: Chantilly, VA
18 posts, read 77,312 times
Reputation: 10
I got my Masters at GMU, and my husband is in the PhD program there. In my field (geography), most students worked full-time and took evening classes (which is why most classes were offered 4:30-7:10 or 7:10 - 10PM). I was one of those students. My husband is studying economics and most people in his program were full-time students (he was part-time). This makes a huge difference in my book. I wasn't too impressed with the geography department (graduated in 2004), but the econ department seemed very good (Nobel prize winner). So if you're looking for a social life, I think that the department you are in can make a big difference.
The commute itself can be bad, it all depends on where you live. Finding parking can be a pain, but I didn't find it to be that big a deal. You quickly learn the right time to show up on campus to miss the worst of the traffic.
DC nearby can really be a plus. If you like to go out, there's plenty of hot spots, both in VA and DC proper. From a professional standpoint, I think it's excellent as you can probably get internships/jobs locally. There's a lot to offer.
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Old 06-19-2007, 09:42 PM
 
Location: Richmond
1,489 posts, read 8,800,718 times
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I hate to say it but the students at GMU tend to be highly conventional . Most of them are commuters. Its a commuter school. My sister went there in the 90s and hated it.

Fairfax is a rather dull area. Old town Fairfax is not ugly, though. There are some nice restaurants and its easy to get to from campus.

If you're into the arts, yer out of luck. It is a fine school for business majors, though.
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Old 06-20-2007, 08:33 AM
 
414 posts, read 2,281,841 times
Reputation: 148
GMU is an excellent school to consider! And becuase it's a public school the cost of tuition is substantially cheaper than the private schools.
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