Explore Campus and Community

Whether you will be coming from a city nearby or from a country thousands of miles away, one thing is certain: your undergraduate college experience will be full of challenges. While you are getting your bearings, we will provide information and experiences that will make your transition to college easier.

The Explore Campus and Community Program takes place from August 17 – 22, 2018. Students should plan to arrive on August 16.


This program is for new students entering in the fall semester. First-year international students coming to WashU from a high school outside the U.S. are required to participate in the Explore Program. Explore is recommended for first-year international students coming from a high school within the U.S. and for exchange students.

The enrollment form must be submitted by June 1. Sign up early before your preferred Pre-Orientation program fills up.


You MUST inform the Office for International Students and Scholars of your arrival information using our online arrival form.

Plan to arrive in St. Louis on August 16, 2018. This will give you enough time to settle into housing, do shopping and banking, and prepare for the start of the program.

Program Details

June 1 Enrollment form due
August 16 Students arrive
August 17 Explore program begins
August 19 Pre-Orientation programs begin
August 23 Bear Beginnings Orientation starts
August 27 Classes begin


Students enrolled in the Explore program will move into campus housing upon arrival, August 16. If you arrive before August 16, you will need to make your own arrangements for accommodations. Campus housing for Explore students will not be available until August 16, 2018.


Once the program begins, most meals will be provided. Participants should have funds to cover one meal off campus each day during the program. These meals will cost no more than $20 and will usually be less than that amount. Meal cards are activated on August 23, 2018.


$500 (nonrefundable). This includes activities, admission fees, transportation and Pre-Orientation fees, as well as some meals. Note: An additional fee will be charged for students enrolled in some Pre-Orientation programs. A complete list of Pre-Orientation choices and fees is available below. There will be a late fee of $50 for students who enroll after the deadline.

For information about financial assistance for this program, please contact the director of the OISS, Kathy Steiner-Lang, Assistant Vice Chancellor.


The nonrefundable program fee will be charged to your WashU student account. This means the program fee will be added to your WashU bill, along with tuition and other fees. The WashU student account does not require set-up. Every WashU student has the account created upon admission.

Program Schedule

The Explore program schedule will be available soon. Please check back at a later date.

Pre-Orientation Descriptions

All Explore students will participate in a “Pre-O” as part of the Explore Program. This part of the program is designed to give you a chance to meet other new students who share common interests. You will interact with like-minded people in small groups as you explore one of the following topics. Read the detailed descriptions of the Pre-O programs available through the Explore program and decide which three interest you the most.

You’ll select your top three Pre-O choices during the Explore enrollment process. The OISS will make every effort to place you in your top choice, however, this is not always possible. You will be informed of your placement once finalized.

DO NOT sign up directly with Pre-Orientation Programs.

The Burning Kumquat: St. Louis Urban Farms by Bike  [FULL – NO LONGER AVAILABLE] 

Okay, we don’t grow kumquats. Or burn them. But we are Burning Kumquat, a student-run urban garden on Washington University’s campus. We want to share with you the joy of learning about and living with the land at WashU and around St. Louis. You’ll work hard, get your hands dirty, and enjoy the food we grow. Traveling by bicycle, we tour several St. Louis urban farms, and learn about different forms of sustainable agriculture and socially responsible food practices. Finally, you will find a home in our campus garden, and sprout new friendships that will never stop growing. Peas and love!

Find out more about the Burning Kumquat and what we’ve been growing on our website, and visit us on Facebook at The Burning Kumquat.


An additional fee of $60 will be applied to your student account after placement in this Pre-O is confirmed.
Transfer and Exchange Students: This Pre-O is geared more specifically to incoming first-year students.

Leaving home for college is a challenging experience. How will you will fit in, have fun, and make the transition to a new community? Hit the ground running with a few days of making friends while relaxing and having fun before the rush of fall semester!

Come join the Campus Y for LAUNCH – Learning And Understanding New Challenging Horizons – at YMCA Camp Lakewood in the Ozarks. You will meet over 150 of your fellow first-year students in a program led by 25+ enthusiastic upperclassmen role models. LAUNCH is the oldest and largest pre-orientation program at Washington University. First-year participants consistently report that LAUNCH was a great opportunity to make friends, and a key part in their success during the crucial first semester at college.

Learning, Experiencing, Having Fun

There is always something to do at LAUNCH. You will participate in group activities, interactive workshops, team building activities, and a community service project. There is a lot of time for fun and conversation with your peers, and lots of opportunities to learn the ropes at Washington University from our upperclassman leaders. The interactive workshops deal with many issues that you will encounter at college. Topics include maintaining a healthy self, learning about the St. Louis community, information about campus resources, leadership development, extra-curricular opportunities, and team building. We will also have a talent show for you to showcase your special talents!

You and your friends will be able to take advantage of the myriad activities offered at our beautiful outdoor location at Camp Lakewood. Activities include canoeing, paddle-boats, swimming, basketball, volleyball, hiking, miniature golf, and much, much more! We will spend 3 days and 2 nights at this beautiful location. Join us for this fun-filled jump start to the next 4 years of your life!

The Details

Within 24 hours of registering, the Campus Y will email a welcome to you, with the first set of resources and instructions. You will receive complete details on arrival times, directions, what to bring, and how to prepare. Our program begins with your arrival on campus, dinner with your leaders that night, and your very first night in your own dorm room. In the morning, we travel by charter bus to Camp Lakewood for the next two nights, where you will stay in air-conditioned cabins. We arrive back on campus the evening of the third day in plenty of time for you to be ready for orientation to begin the next day.

If you have questions about the program, please call the Washington University Campus Y at 31.935.5010 or email washuniv@ymcastlouis.org. See you in August!


An additional fee of $75 will be applied to your student account after placement in this Pre-O is confirmed.

What do past participants have to say about Connect 4?

  • “I can’t say enough about how great my experience was. I learned more about myself in four days than I did in four years of high school. I also learned a lot about my peers, my university, and even common parts of the human experience all because of the willingness to be vulnerable of the participants and leaders, which I still can scarcely believe.”
  • “It was an eye-opening experience for me that really challenged me to take a look at who I was, who I am, and who I want to become.
  • “This program really helped me learn how to get to know a person and build friendships in college.
  • “It focused on so many important things that are avoided in discussion within our culture.”
  • “I love our Connect 4 Pre-O. It is my most treasured memory. The time I spent in August was one of my happiest memories.”
  • “This retreat was so amazing that I wish it could have gone on for longer.”

What’s all the enthusiasm about???

Connect 4 is a program where students explore together their own values and discover how to better live those out on a daily basis in college and beyond, finding the tools and the courage to take off the masks, get past the small talk, let go of fear, and give fullest expression to who and what they most deeply want to be about. Connect 4 helps students to build deep connections that will last the next four years of college and beyond and to discover how to find those meaningful relationships more often in everyday life outside of the Pre-O as well.

What will we do?

Connect 4 provides a great mix of personal talks from leaders, small group conversations, individual reflection, group activities, games, and time in nature at the gorgeous campground. We’ll explore topics such as love, vulnerability, suffering, personality types, busyness, solitude, religion, and self-compassion. With a little swimming, ropes course, climbing wall, bonfire, and other fun and games too! In a retreat-like setting, it’s in the beautiful confines of Camp Wyman that you’ll lay the foundation for the rest of your time in college, discovering a great safe space with 30 other new friends to explore what holds us back from forging those meaningful connections more often in our daily lives and being our best and most authentic selves.

Brought to you by the Catholic Student Union student group, Connect 4 is an interfaith program organized by, open to, and absolutely loved by both religious and non-religious students alike! You definitely don’t have to be of the Catholic faith to enjoy this opportunity, discover so much about yourself, and find deep and meaningful connections with great new friends!

If you’re ready for honest conversation about the real stuff of life that we all deal with and if you’re ready to be challenged and inspired by your peers to be your very best these next four years and beyond, sign up for Connect 4.

Check out more at: tinyurl.com/WUconnect4

Connections in Research and Health  [FULL – NO LONGER AVAILABLE] 

An additional fee of $30 will be applied to your student account after placement in this Pre-O is confirmed.

Connections in Research and Health is a unique program offered by Cornerstone: The Center for Advanced Learning. It introduces incoming new students to cutting-edge medical practice and research conducted at Washington University and in the greater St. Louis area. Students meet and hear from physicians, scientists and faculty members. Connections provides an opportunity to meet and talk with patients and faculty, and to tour research facilities and participate in fun team-building exercises. In the program students will learn about the latest in medical research and practice-from high tech surgical techniques to cochlear implants. They may also learn how physicians work up patients and review actual Emergency Medicine cases. Students may tour the medical school, the Center for Advanced Medicine, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Surgical Vivarium and Genome Sequence Center.


Have you ever wanted to design and build your own engineering project? If so, here’s your chance! In EnDesign, you will receive a project proposal and work with a team of students and counselors to design, build, and test your ideas. Have you always wanted to work with power tools?

Now you can!
The excitement and fun of designing and implementing an engineering project await you! Other things to look forward to includes visiting a local engineering company and hearing from professional engineers and WashU professors about the engineering industry and its opportunities. Come experience real engineering!

First-Year Leadership Experience (FLEX)  

An additional fee of $40 will be applied to your student account after placement in this Pre-O is confirmed.

The First-Year Leadership Experience Pre-Orientation Program (FLEX) is committed to providing first-year students the opportunity to develop close personal relationship with their peers, learn about campus resources and opportunities for involvement, and prepare new students to take on WashU by storm! The experience will be taking place off campus at Lake Williamson Center over three days. This intimate setting will allow students valuable time to reflect on what they hope to gain as leaders joining the WashU community.

FLEX is led by passionate professional and student staff, providing students’ access to a variety of experienced leaders on campus. In addition, the experience is meant to cultivate a student culture of authentic leadership practice, helping students align their personal values and strengths with avenues for engagement at Washington University.

FLEX is also a lot of FUN! During the program, students will partake in meaningful dialogue about issues affecting student leaders, developing a sense of belonging through community building exercises, and engage in indoor as well as outdoor activities including: high ropes courses, rock-climbing walls, lakeside water activities, and more!

Freshman Press 

This Pre-O requires strong English language skills. A special selection process will determine if interested students will be placed in this Pre-O.

Whether you love to write, edit, take pictures, draw cartoons or work with multimedia and video, Freshmen Press is the program that allows you to explore the multifaceted and rapidly evolving world of college journalism. It doesn’t matter if you were the editor-in-chief of your high school paper or if you have never lifted up a copy of the New York Times, this is your opportunity to learn what it’s like to be part of the media.

Freshman Press is an opportunity for new first-year students to become a part of the niche student journalist community, bond with other incoming classmates, and explore both the campus and the larger St. Louis area before the influx of students and programming at fall orientation. Student Life is one of the oldest college newspapers in the country and has been named one of the nation’s top student papers by the Associated Collegiate Press, in addition to being the recipient of numerous Pacemakers and Missouri College Media Awards (MCMAs). First-year students will interact with students who currently write for the paper, as well as alumni who work as professional journalists.

Activities in the past have included a tour of Busch Stadium, a trip to the St. Louis City Museum, scavenger hunts downtown, competitions against other programs and jaunts to the Delmar Loop for dinner.

Student Life is the primary source undergraduates seek out to discover everything happening at Wash. U. It is printed every Monday and Thursday, with special issues for convocation, commencement, Valentine’s Day and April Fools’ Day.

Check out Student Life’s website to see what the organization’s about at www.studlife.com!


Gateway to Global Citizenship [FULL – NO LONGER AVAILABLE]  

Welcome to St. Louis, your new home for the next four years! Break the “WashU Bubble” before your first year even begins with the Gateway to Global Citizenship program. St. Louis and its neighborhoods boast a rich history of welcoming, diverse people and cultures, which allows us to explore the world in our own backyard. Together we will munch on tapas and dim sum, investigate how media portrays culture, and delve into the ways culture influences communities and individuals to help form identity. Through engaging discussion, guest speakers, volunteering, workshops, and excursions to local cultural centers, this four-day experience is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to get to know yourself, your peers, the WashU community, and this city. Join us to become a part of your first of many St. Louis families, made up of peers, professors, and upperclass students who will help you find your place in your new home.

Highlights Include:

  • Exploring St. Louis neighborhoods with Professor LinLing Gao-Miles
  • Volunteering at Crisis Aid International
  • Visiting the St. Louis Art Museum with a guided tour
  • Cooking demos, dance workshops, movie screenings, and more!

Habitat for Humanity   [FULL – NO LONGER AVAILABLE] 

Wash U’s campus chapter of Habitat for Humanity offers an opportunity for students interested in learning more about housing insecurity in St. Louis to meet a small but passionate groups of students and to get hands-on volunteering experience! Students will spend four days exploring campus and St. Louis City while learning about community, homelessness, affordable housing, and poverty. From learning about the daily life and struggles of the homeless in St. Louis to building homes with the St. Louis affiliate of Habitat for Humanity in North city, we cannot wait to develop and expand our passion to reach out and be a part of the St. Louis community.

No matter how experienced or inexperienced you are with Habitat, this pre-orientation program is a perfect opportunity to learn about construction and home-building. If you have any interest in the issues that we will be learning about, we encourage you to attend our program! We will be volunteering with many Habitat programs, working on a build site (must be able to work outdoors for an extended period of time). In addition to our learning experiences with social and economic issues, students will also get a chance to spend time on and around campus, learning about what college life is like for students at Wash U. This program gives students interested in service work and Habitat for Humanity a great opportunity to get involved on campus and in the community even before you have your first class as a student at Wash U!

Innovation Nation: Social Impact through Design  [FULL – NO LONGER AVAILABLE]

Are you an entrepreneur, programmer, writer, artist, or none of the above? Good, because it doesn’t matter!

Innovation Nation: Social Impact through Design is a human-centered design (HCD) based pre-orientation program that provides the opportunity for participants from all disciplines to engage with the St. Louis community and make a difference through creative thinking. No design experience necessary! Teams will be mentored by a student leader who has experience with the HCD process through their involvement with the WashU chapter of Design for America. Some of our studio’s past projects include an art journal to spread creativity amongst older adults, a website to crowdsource summer storage space for students, and a safety-wristband for pedestrians.

Research, reframe, ideate, prototype, and test. Your team will collaborate to work through these aspects of the HCD process with a partner from the St. Louis community to come up with your own innovative solution! Not to mention you’ll also get to meet students from a variety of clubs, chat with professionals in range of fields, and eat food from some of St. Louis’ best restaurants! Oh, and you’ll get to hang out at the City Garden. It’s going to be a rad three days.

By the end of Innovation Nation, you’ll have a better understanding of what it means to be a WashU student and a St. Louis citizen, how to work creatively and compassionately in the community, and how to utilize your own skills in collaboration with those of your peers.

Be part of this community of interdisciplinary problem solvers! Make a positive social impact (and a fantastic group of friends) before you even start classes!

For more information about Design for America check out our website: http://designforamerica.wustl.edu/

KWUR: Adventures in Radioland [FULL – NO LONGER AVAILABLE] 

KWUR 90.3 FM is the University’s entirely student-run, freeform, non-commercial radio station. This program will immerse you in the alternative St. Louis and campus music communities, as well as the KWUR community. You will receive all the necessary training to be eligible for your own radio show in the fall semester; you will not need to go through the normal semester-long training process. Over the course of the program you will be exposed to staples of the St. Louis music scene including a show at a local venue, a tour of the KDHX St. Louis community radio station, and record shopping at Vintage Vinyl. This program provides a great introduction to the St. Louis and WashU communities through the lens of music and a valuable jumping-off point if you wish to pursue college radio.

Check out our website at: www.kwur.com

Leadership Through Service

What is Leadership Through Service? When we asked past LTS participants how they would describe the program to you, here’s a sampling of what they had to say:

  • “An incredible and life-changing experience that everyone with the opportunity should take advantage of.”
  • “A fun-filled way to get involved at WU early and see the city in a new light.”
  • “I met some incredible people and had amazing experiences. I don’t think that my first few weeks at WU would have been the same if I hadn’t done LTS.”
  • “I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
  • “The most magical enriching experience of my life. Who would ever choose another pre-o?”

What does it mean to be Washington University in St. Louis? LTS offers a rare opportunity to explore and engage with the St. Louis community while acclimating to college life.

LTS includes daily community service projects, St. Louis excursions, fascinating speakers and discussions, and amazing memories. The schedule is jam-packed and at the end of the day you will feel accomplished, inspired, and eager for another day of powerful conversations and memorable experiences. Ninety new students join a student staff of sophomores and juniors who loved LTS so much they decided to come back and pave the way for the next generation of participants. The counselors are eager to support your transition to WashU with a perfect combination of eye-opening experiences and pure fun!

By the end of LTS, you’ll have seen the “real” St. Louis, broadened and deepened your understanding of pressing social issues, built a network of like-minded friends, and gained a solid connection to the Gephardt Institute for Civic and Community Engagement and opportunities for continued involvement throughout the year.

If you choose to join us for the LTS adventure, plan to bring grubby clothes because you might be doing gardening, painting, or other community service projects that require you to get your hands dirty! Also, be sure to sign up for your U-Pass, as we’ll be traveling via MetroLink on the last day of the program!

Be sure to visit the Leadership Through Service website to view the tentative schedule, photos, and thoughts on LTS from past participants.

Join the fun as the city becomes your classroom!



Think you have what it takes to be the next Zuckerberg? Are you the type of person who is always finding creative and innovative solutions to solve problems? Lots of Washington University students have great ideas but never get to work on them because they lack the time and resources it takes to commit to working on an innovative concept or entrepreneurial endeavor. Startup (W)U will give you the opportunity to work with an interdisciplinary team to accomplish your goals. Whether you are interested in art, business, humanities, engineering, or the sciences, you’ll explore questions like:

I have this great idea, now what?

What does it mean to be an entrepreneur?

How can innovative thinking change the world?

Once you arrive, everyone is welcome to pitch their idea. After a blind vote, teams will form around the top ideas. Then you and your teammates experience a learning-by-doing environment by taking that idea from concept to prototype. A rapid progression will take place through modules including ideation, team formation, and real-world market validation. After three and a half days of collaboration, prototyping, and market testing, the program will culminate with team presentations in front of local entrepreneurial leaders with the opportunity for constructive feedback. The goal is to build enough momentum and pride of ownership to sustain the idea well past the end of the program.

Aside from creating a potentially viable business, participating in Startup (W)U will enable you to

  • Gain a better understanding of the blueprint of starting a company and become more confident in your abilities as innovators and entrepreneurs.
  • Learn the value of interdisciplinary collaboration through serendipitous collisions. We welcome students from all disciplines. As you formulate teams and collaborate throughout the program you will form connections and find value in each other’s thinking.
  • Feel comfortable sharing ideas with others and giving/getting feedback. Additionally, you will discover how to use that feedback in designing and refining your ideas.
  • Discover the importance of networking and building relationships through visits to local entrepreneurship and innovation hubs and interactions with local alumni and community leaders.
  • Take advantage of the numerous resources available through the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Innovation & Entrepreneurship, as well as within the St. Louis entrepreneurial community.

Students from all Schools and Colleges (Arts & Sciences, Business, Engineering & Applied Science, Design and Visual Arts) are encouraged to apply.Join us as we seek to unite students across all disciplines and discover just how much a group of passionate people can accomplish in a few short days.

Don’t just take our word for it! Here is what some past participants had to say:

“It was a life changing experience. I want to pursue my idea and take advantage of all the center has to offer.”

“It completely exceeded my expectations.”

“This was an amazing experience. I learned so much and would absolutely recommend this program to others!”

Be sure to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

To learn more about our programs and mission visit the Skandalaris Center website.

Student Union: Lead WashU  [FULL – NO LONGER AVAILABLE]   

Transfer and Exchange Students: This Pre-O is geared more specifically to incoming first-year students.

Student Union: LEAD WashU
stands for Leadership, Experience, Adventure, and Discovery, and is Washington University’s undergraduate student government’s pre-orientation program. Alongside current Student Union (SU) leaders, you will have the opportunity to hone your leadership skills and learn about different ways to become a leader both on campus and within the St. Louis community.

This isn’t your typical leadership training. Our program is a full immersion experience into WashU’s community. Throughout the program, you’ll get to explore our campus and the city of St. Louis. We emphasize the importance of familiarizing ourselves with and supporting the St. Louis community through incorporating our own community service trip and tour of the city. We also get off campus for fun activities such as visiting City Museum and eating dinner at top-rated St. Louis restaurants.

Getting involved in this program will give you an excellent head start into getting involved on campus. In addition to getting a firsthand look at Student Union, you’ll meet and connect with peers, student leaders, and administrators involved in SU’s 350+ student organizations in a fun and extremely energetic atmosphere. Your counselors will help you navigate the inner workings of SU’s structure and share insights on how we advocate, allocates, and program for students.

We encourage all students partaking in LEAD WashU to get involved on campus whether in SU or any of SU’s 350+ other student groups. Previous participants of Student Union: LEAD WashU have been elected to Freshman Class Council, Treasury, Senate, Constitutional Council, Social Programming Board, and have gone on to serve as Student Union President. All in all, this program will give you a great understanding of your potential leadership roles at WashU and in the St. Louis community. To learn more about Student Union and this program, please visit our website or reach out to programming@su.wustl.edu!

World of Politics 

This Pre-O requires strong English language skills. A special selection process will determine if interested students will be placed in this Pre-O.

General election junkies and national level novices alike should find more than enough to enjoy in this year’s World of Politics program. Between touring the site of WashU’s very own presidential debate, participating in an immersive multi-day simulation of a presidential campaign, and learning countless opportunities to get involved on campus (and all before your classmates even set foot on campus) – any budding politico can have a blast.

World of Politics is offered through a joint partnership between the Washington University Political Review, WashU’s premier political magazine (which regularly publishes articles by first-year students, by the way!), and the Washington University International Relations Council, home to WashU’s nationally-recognized Model United Nations team (which also regularly provides opportunities for first-year students to travel!). Our groups are all about conversation and dialogue and more than anything World of Politics is meant to open it.

Contact Information

For additional information about the Explore Program, please contact Jeanne Pizarro at jpizarro@wustl.edu. Please include the word “Explore” in the subject line.