The George Washington University grew out of President George Washington’s desire to establish a national institution of higher learning. Washington believed the nation’s capital was the logical site for such an institution. He left a bequest toward that objective.

Founded by an Act of Congress

Washington died before his vision was carried out. The Rev. Luther Rice and three friends took up the effort; President James Monroe and 32 members of the U.S. Congress also became involved. On Feb. 9, 1821, Monroe signed the Act of Congress that created the Columbian College in the District of Columbia, a private, nonsectarian institution.

GW opened its doors in 1821 with three faculty members, one tutor and 30 students in a single building. At that time, Columbian College was located between 14th and 15th Streets, about a 30-minute walk from the Capitol. Its curriculum included English, Latin and Greek, as well as mathematics, chemistry, astronomy, reading, writing, navigation and political law. The first graduates received degrees in December 1824. Shortly after, Columbian College added a medical school and a law school.

A Great University in a Great City

The Civil War transformed Washington, D.C., into a growing urban center. During war, most students left to join the Confederacy, and the college’s buildings were used as a hospital and barracks. Walt Whitman was among the war volunteers on the campus.

In 1873, Columbian College changed its name to Columbian University and moved to a location at 15th and L Streets. It began offering doctoral degrees and admitted its first women. Columbian University became The George Washington University in 1904 under an agreement with the George Washington Memorial Association. In 1912, the university began the move to its present location in Foggy Bottom.

A Tradition of Innovation

The university was a center for theoretical physics in the 1930s. Renowned cosmologist George Gamow produced critical work on the Big Bang Theory at GW. And one of the most important moments in the 20th century was revealed at a conference on the GW campus: On Jan. 26, 1939, Niels Bohr announced that Otto Hahn had successfully split the atom.

The university underwent a building boom in 1930s through the 1960s, adding Lisner Auditorium on 21st Street, a hospital near Washington Circle and numerous other structures. During this period, GW initiated a program of annual alumni gifts, creating an important source of revenue that continues to this day.

In 1991, GW opened the Virginia Science and Technology Campus, in Ashburn, devoted to graduate study and cutting-edge research. Five years later, the University purchased the Mount Vernon College for Women in the city’s Foxhall neighborhood. The coeducational Mount Vernon Campus is fully integrated into the GW community and complements the Foggy Bottom Campus.

GW Spirit Program Tryouts

Are you interested in becoming a member of the GW Cheer Team, Dance Team or Mascot Squad? Learn about tryouts.

GW Club Sports

Sport Clubs provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff who desire a more in-depth sports experience than is provided in intramural sports or informal recreation.

Strategic Plan for Department of Athletics and Recreation

GW released a five-year strategic plan for the Department of Athletics and Recreation to strengthen and expand commitment to the university’s athletics, health and wellness initiatives.

Green Living

“Green living” brings the vital issue of sustainability into students’ daily lives. At GW, we take seriously our commitment to the ecosystem and to our community. The university’s day-to-day operations not only reflect that commitment, but they also offer leadership by example. We embrace “green” building standards, energy efficiency, recycling and sustainable transportation.

GW student organizations and administrative departments have collaborated in developing and implementing environmentally oriented initiatives in the residence halls. These initiatives include:

The Eco-Challenge

This friendly competition among residence halls challenges students to see which hall can conserve the most water and electricity, as measured by gallons per person and kilowatt hours. The challenge runs for a full academic year and relies on students making behavioral changes to become more green in their daily lives.

For more information, visit the Eco-Challenge website.

Campus Recycling

GW recycles many items on campus, including bottles and cans, mixed paper, electronics, and batteries.

To learn more about recycling at GW, students should visit the Campus Recycling website, and faculty and staff should visit the Facilities Services website.

Green Roof Initiative

The building at 1957/1959 E St., NW, has been retrofitted with a “green roof” that carries many eco-friendly benefits. When growth medium and succulent plants like sedum are installed on traditional roofs, they transform them into green environments. On this GW roof, the sedum absorbs rainwater – preventing the water from going directly into storm sewers – and acts as an insulator for both temperature and sound. That reduces the energy needed for heating and cooling the building. The green roof also provides a welcoming habitat for insects and butterflies. And, finally, like all plants, the sedum on the green roof converts carbon dioxide into oxygen.

For more information, read about the Green Roof Initiative on GW Today.


This friendly competition among U.S. colleges and universities unfolds over a 10-week period. Schools compete to see which collects the most recyclables per capita, which reclaims the largest amount of total recyclables and which generates the least amount of trash per capita or has the highest recycling rate. Participating schools are required to report results on a weekly basis. The goal of RecycleMania is to raise student awareness of campus recycling and slash waste generation by reducing, reusing and recycling.

For more information, visit the RecycleMania website.

Green Move-In

Information campaigns help educate students about GW’s commitment to sustainability. One campaign encourages “green” behavior even before students begin classes. Green Move-In suggests eco-actions students can take as they arrive on campus. They include:

    Packing in reusable containers
    Buying “green” when purchasing items for your room
    Minimizing paper handouts and printouts of move-related information
    Recycling shipping boxes or retaining them for reuse
    Taking part in GW’s robust recycling program
    Learning the water and power conservation tips aimed at GW residents

For more information, visit the Green Move-In website.

Green Move-Out

Involvement with GW’s commitment to sustainability doesn’t have to end when classes do. Students can continue embracing “green” actions even as they depart campus. Those move-out actions include:

    A massive effort to gather donations of usable clothing and household items that otherwise would have been discarded
    An initiative to assemble donations – for community redistribution – of departing students’ non-perishable food items
    A two-campus “e-cycling” drive to collect old batteries, ink cartridges, cell phones and computer monitors and parts so they can be disposed of in an environmentally responsible way

For more information, visit the Green Move-Out website.

Student Self Check-In/Check-Out

GW Housing and the Residential Life Service Cluster support and encourage a virtually paperless process for checking-in and checking-out of residence hall rooms.

At the beginning of the fall and spring terms, students are encouraged to log into the GW Housing student Web portal to complete electronic self check-in and provide up-to-date emergency contact information. At the conclusion of each term, students are encouraged to revisit the portal to complete self-checkout.

For more information, visit the Student Self Check-In website.

Self Guided Green Tour of South Hall

Learn more about GW's first LEED residence hall by taking this self-guided tour. You'll learn about the building's energy efficiency, water conservation, the green materials used during construction, and more! 

Fans & Supporters

GW #RaiseHigh


Students can attend all GW Athletics events for free by showing a valid GWorld Card.  Space is limited and available on a first-come, first-serve basis, so make sure to arrive early!  If you want to take your fan-status up a notch, join the Colonial Army – GW's most devoted (and loudest) fan group.  Colonial Army members enjoy benefits such as lower-level, court side seating, an official season t-shirt, pre-game tailgates and the chance to participate in game day promotions. 

Season and individual tickets are available for Men's and Women's Basketball, Volleyball, Gymnastics and Baseball for all Colonial fans.  Season tickets can be purchased by calling the Smith Center box office at 202-994-7325.  All other sporting events, including fall and spring sports played at the Mount Vernon Athletics Fields are free and open to all Colonial fans.

View a full list of sports schedules at GWSports.com.

The Buff & Blue Fund

The Buff & Blue Fund strives to support 450 student-athletes and advance the intercollegiate athletics program at the George Washington University by providing student-athletes the opportunity to achieve academic, personal and athletic excellence through its fundraising efforts. Your philanthropic support will help to educate tomorrow's leaders through the combination of academic rigor, demands of elite training and competition, and committed service to our local, national and global communities. You will be a proud supporter of our GW student-athletes - active stewards, responsible citizens and active contributors to the larger good of the community. When you support the Buff & Blue Fund, you ensure the ongoing success and continued tradition of excellence for GW Athletics. Your support is crucial in offering a world class academic and athletic environment for our student-athletes.

Stay Connected

Have all of the latest and greatest news about GW Athletics and Recreation emailed to you weekly by signing up for our newsletter.

Fans can also watch live events, highlights and video features on GW All-Access.

Club & Intramural Sports

Staff Softball

Many GW students want to stay active while in college, but without the commitment to participation in a varsity sport. Club and intramural sports enable students to reap the health and wellness benefits of athletic competition (not to mention the fun), while remaining focused on academics and other aspects of life at GW.

Club Sports

Clubs Sports provide opportunities for students, faculty and staff who desire a more in-depth sports experience than is provided in intramural sports or informal recreation. The more intense focus of the club sports program blends the benefits of learning new skills, practicing regularly with club members and competing against other clubs. A number of GW’s club teams compete regionally and nationally. Club sports teams include:

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Cricket
  • Cycling
  • Equestrian
  • Fencing
  • Field Hockey
  • Ice Hockey
  • JKA Karate
  • Kendo
  • Lacrosse
  • Racquetball
  • Cross Country
  • Rugby
  • Shotokan Karate of America
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • Swimming
  • Taekwondo
  • Tennis
  • Triathlon
  • Ultimate Frisbee
  • Volleyball
  • Waterpolo
  • Weightlifting

Intramural Sports

Intramurals at GW range from a wide array of team sports (including basketball, floor hockey, football, kickball, soccer, volleyball) to individual sports (including racquetball, table tennis, Turkey Trot 5K, Battle Boat Passage Race).

GWorld Card

GWorld Card

You can eat, socialize, spend and study with the convenient GWorld Card.

The GWorld Card, Colonial Cash and our Dining Program give students broad choices in their purchases and great flexibility in meeting lifestyle needs.

The GWorld Card is the official identification card of The George Washington University. It provides access to campus buildings and facilities, among them residence halls, academic buildings, libraries and The Lerner Health and Wellness Center. They also offer access to campus events. Students are expected to carry their GWorld Cards with them at all times.

Your GWorld Card also accesses your Colonial Cash account.

Colonial Cash

Colonial Cash is a flexible and individualized declining-balance spending program. It can be used toward dining and retail options, both on campus and in the neighborhood.

Colonial Cash purchasing power can be applied to a number of university services: the GW Bookstore, campus laundry facilities, vending machines, parking services, Student Health Service and photocopy and mail services. It is accepted at a host of neighborhood eateries, dry cleaners, pharmacies, convenience stores and other retail locations.

The GWorld Card is not only convenient but it provides an exemption from Washington, D.C.’s 10 percent sales tax when used at J Street Cafe, Simply To Go and West Hall dining options.

Colonial Cash is accessible only through your GWorld Card. You can use the GWorld Card Office or GWorld Online Card Office at any time to make quick and convenient deposits directly to your Colonial Cash account. Or you can visit any of the nine self-service Value Transfer Stations (VTS) around campus.

Debit Dollars

Debit Dollars is a useful, pre-paid declining balance privilege associated with the GWorld Card. Debit Dollars allow GW faculty, staff and employees to make cashless purchases at dining and retail locations on and off campus. Debit Dollars can be used at participating GWorld Card Partners, including all on-campus food venues, the GW Bookstore, dry cleaners, a host of neighborhood eateries, cafes and restaurants and other retail locations.

Why use Debit Dollars? Debit Dollar transactions are faster, safer and more convenient than purchases made by cash, check or credit card. As an extra benefit, Debit Dollars are good for a 10 percent discount on all food purchased from J Street Cafe, Simply To Go and West Hall dining options.



GW students will find a wide variety of interesting dining options on campus and within the city. The Colonial Cash Dining Program and the GWorld Card combine to deliver an exceptional college dining experience by offering students freedom of choice to make the dining and retail purchases that best suit their individual lifestyles.

Flexible spending with the GWorld Card allows students to maximize the value of their dining plans. 

GW’s dining plans eliminate concern about “paying for missed meals” as we’ve eliminated set meal periods so that students can eat when and where they like!

Students living in campus housing are required to participate in the dining plan established specifically for their class standing.

Students manage their dining expenses, as well as other personal expenses, through the Colonial Cash plan. Colonial Cash is a flexible, declining-balance spending program that can be used at more than 90 dining and retail establishments on campus and conveniently located within the surrounding city neighborhoods.

Additional information about GW’s Dining Plans is available at: www.living.gwu.edu