Despite its sticker price (about $61,000 per year for tuition alone), Washington and Lee vows to meet 100% of the demonstrated financial need for everyone via grants and employment. This helps enable two-thirds of undergraduates to graduate without debt.

One of the oldest colleges in the U.S., Washington and Lee is named after George Washington, who endowed the struggling school with a $20,000 gift in 1796, and Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who served as the university's president after the Civil War.

Given Lee's history, the school has faced controversy in the past decade over a perceived lack of sensitivity regarding racial issues, including after a 2020 faculty vote in which 80% supported changing the university's name. The university president has previously apologized for the school's past ownership of slaves and removed Confederate flags from a campus chapel named after Lee. (About 74% of students are white; only about 4% are Black.)

When it comes to the workload, students can expect a lot of one-on-one time with professors; the student-faculty ratio is 8:1. W&L has a 92% graduation rate, and students typically do well in the working world, bringing in median earnings of just over $84,000 during their early careers. Popular majors include economics, business administration and political science.

One of the social highlights of each year is the annual Fancy Dress gala, a themed black-tie event that dates back more than a century. Past themes include "Party on the Moon," "Moulin Rouge," and "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory."