Campus Visit Notes: Villanova University


College: Villanova University

Location: Villanova, PA (about 15 minutes from Philadelphia)

Type of Institution: Private Catholic research university

Size: 6,500 undergraduates; over 10,000 including graduate programs

Admissions Advice: Villanova has become incredibly popular and competitive in recent years. I was shocked to learn that the average admitted student GPA is now a 3.7+ unweighted, and average test scores are around 1400 SAT / 32 ACT. Wow! It is even more competitive for prospective business & direct entry nursing majors. Additionally, while Villanova does award merit scholarships up to $15,000 per year, these awards are mostly based on scores and GPA and the cut-offs are incredibly high.

Most popular majors: Business, nursing, communications, engineering

Words to describe students I met: spirited, outgoing, jocks/athletic, active in community service, preppy

Unique academic aspects: Villanova’s undergraduate business program was recently named the #1 program in the country, a fact that the university administration and student guides were not shy about during the presentation and tour. The campus was filled with signs and posters about this distinction, and you could really feel the pride the school has for this particular area of study. Internships and Co-ops are popular, and, unlike at many universities, students who participate are still able to graduate in four years. I was impressed to learn about the networking and recruiting events for students looking for full-time employment as well.

Unique social/cultural aspects: This medium-sized university holds the largest student-run Special Olympics event in the world each fall. Becoming a member of the Villanova Special Olympics committee is a competitive process and a big deal, as they are charged with organizing the event which brings thousands of athletes, coaches, volunteers, and media outlets to the campus. It is also very popular for students to participate in community service trips over breaks, often with small groups of fellow students. Villanova is tied in closely with Habitat for Humanity in particular, and sends dozens of students on programs throughout the United States each year.  

Colleges that seem similar: Boston College, Notre Dame University, Cornell University, Lehigh University, Marquette University

Concerns about this college: I was a bit concerned about the way some of the students I interacted with spoke about women and issues of diversity on the campus. My guide even remarked that women attend Villanova to get their “Mrs.” degree while our group stood under the Corr Hall arch. Perhaps I am just particularly sensitive to this coming from super liberal Seattle, or perhaps it was just the particular students I spoke to during my tour, but I left the tour wondering if some young women would feel out-of-place here.

Additionally, Villanova isn’t able to meet a student’s full financial need, or at least not yet. This university may not be the best match for students with significant financial need, as the school only meets an average of 80% of a family’s financial need through loans, grants, and scholarships.

Overall impressions:  I enjoyed my visit to Villanova and see how it could be a great match for the right kind of student. The university was incredibly proud of their 2016 NCAA DI Men’s basketball victory; I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many signs and posters displaying school spirit and pride on any college campus. They are also on a remarkable rise in the rankings and in popularity, even outside of the east coast. Villanova is a particularly great match for students interested in direct entry nursing programs, business, and engineering, students interested in a “work hard, play hard” social life, and those seeking a more conservative political culture and campus dialogue.


College Acceptances: Class of 2017

I’m excited to share the final admission and scholarship results for this year’s group of 23 seniors! In total, my students received over $4.6 million dollars in scholarship funding. In red are the colleges where at least one student will be matriculating in the fall.

Harvey Mudd College Middlebury College Tulane University
Gonzaga University McGill University (Canada) Colorado State University
Willamette University Lehigh University Macalester College
Occidental College Worcester Polytechnic Institute Butler University
University of Washington Muhlenberg College Kent State University
University of British Columbia (Canada) Eugene Lang – The New School Beloit College
Quest University (Canada) Fashion Institute of Technology College of Wooster
University of Puget Sound Stevens Institute of Technology Trinity University (Texas)
Reed College Syracuse University Coe College
Whitworth University Penn State – Erie campus University of Cincinnati
Washington State University Boston University Purdue University Polytechnic
Arizona State Trinity College Westminster College
Western Washington Parsons – The New School St Olaf College
Alaska Southeast Drexel University Savannah College of Art & Design
Linfield College Fordham University University of Denver
Oregon State Hobart & William Smith Michigan State University
Santa Clara University George Washington University Univ Wisconsin – Madison
College of Idaho Queen’s University (Canada) Miami University (OH)
Loyola Marymount Misericordia University Indiana University
University of Redlands Lafayette College Clemson University
Lewis and Clark College Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute Marquette University
University of San Francisco Rochester Institute of Technology CU Boulder
Seattle University University of Rochester Regis University
Chapman University Goucher College Carroll College
San Diego State University Montana State University
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo Boise State University
University of San Diego
University of Oregon
UC Santa Barbara
Pitzer College
Whitman College
Seattle Pacific University
UC Santa Cruz
University of Portland
Sierra Nevada College
Pacific Lutheran University
Univ. of Arizona

Very proud of their hard work over the past year… now on to the class of 2018!

Campus Visit Notes: Seattle Pacific University

SPUCollege:  Seattle Pacific University

Location: Seattle, WA

Type of Institution: Private Christian university

Size: 3,200 undergraduates (+ 900 graduate students)

Admissions Advice: SPU is all about relationships. It is a small and supportive community, so the admissions office likes to get to know applicants before they even apply. The average admitted student has a A/B average in high school classes and 1130 on the SAT. They are also generous with merit scholarships for a high percentage of admitted students, often in the $15,000+ per year range. Awards are based primarily on scores and GPA.

Most popular majors: Business administration, psychology, nursing, communication, political science

Words to describe students I met: Friendly, conservative, welcoming, West Coasters (70%+ from WA & CA), religious

Unique academic aspects:  As a Christian university, SPU has a number of majors and minors related to religion, theology, and counseling. For example, the Reconciliation Studies major is a great match for students hoping to work for non-profit organizations, ministries, churches, or as social workers. Additionally, they offer a Global Development Studies major for students interested in working as missionaries, aid workers, or for non-governmental organizations both here and abroad.

SPU has also grown its Engineering and Computer Science programs in recent years because, well, Seattle is a good place to be for jobs in those fields. Students in these programs must complete an internship to graduate.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Dorm life is a big part of the student experience at SPU. My tour guide raved about all of the social activities and traditions that take place in the dorms, and how common it is for students to make lifelong friends in those first few weeks of freshman year. Each dorm has Resident Assistants, Student Ministry Coordinators (per floor), and an elected hall council charged with promoting community, planning events, and otherwise helping students to connect to one another.  As a result, my guide and other students I’ve met commented that SPU students don’t often get off campus to take advantage of the social and cultural experiences in Seattle. For some students, the tight-knit on-campus community is a plus, while for others it may be a negative.

Colleges that seem similar: Azusa Pacific University, Whitworth University, Warner Pacific University, Calvin College

Concerns about this college:  As with any religiously-affiliated college, the experience isn’t for everyone. SPU is on the more liberal end of the Christian university spectrum, and they do not require students to profess their faith to gain admission to the college. They also do not require chapel attendance. However, students are required to take three fairly intense classes on Christianity, and more than 75% of their fellow students are part of the Christian faith. As a result, SPU is a best match for students who are Christian or those who are very open to exploring faith and spirituality during their college years.

Overall impressions: SPU is a great option for students seeking a religious education in the heart of a large, progressive city. The school is small and administrators are very supportive of their students, from the admission process until graduation. I’ve been continually impressed with SPU’s support of transfer students who often face many more barriers as they continue their higher education.

Campus Visit Notes: Lafayette College

College: Lafayette College

Location: Easton, PA

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts

Size: 2,500 students

Admissions Advice: Lafayette is growing and expanding beyond its traditional reach in the upper-middle class communities on the east coast. They are seeking to diversify the college in terms of geography and ethnicity, and have many great programs aimed at attracting these students. Like most colleges, it is becoming increasingly competitive each year. Currently, the acceptance rate is around 28% and the average admitted student has a 3.5+ unweighted GPA.

Most popular majors: Engineering, Psychology, Biology, Economics, Visual & Performing Arts

Words to describe students I met: well-rounded, social, researchers, active, hard-working, friendly

Unique academic aspects:  Lafayette is truly a unique college. It is one of only a few small liberal arts colleges in the nation to offer a range of Engineering majors, including chemical, electrical and computer, civil, mechanical, and a more general engineering studies degree. They also have a computer science program. Research opportunities for students in STEM fields are much easier to come by than at larger universities, and I was thoroughly impressed with the facilities and professor access my guides talked about during the tour.

On the seemingly opposite end of the spectrum, Lafayette also excels in the social sciences and sends a huge number of students to study abroad programs each year. They offer interim programs in both January and May, giving students the chance to do shorter study abroad programs as well as the more traditional full semester programs. Recent interim offerings include the study of healthcare in Cuba, geology in Iceland, and evolution in the Galapagos Islands, among other courses of study.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Lafayette College is one of the smallest schools with full-fledged men’s and women’s Division I athletics programs. Soccer and lacrosse have been particularly strong in recent years. The football rivalry with nearby Lehigh University is one of the most intense rivalries in the nation. This college strikes a good balance between academics and athletics, and gives students the chance to root on DI teams where they are likely to know at least 1-2 members of each team.

Lafayette also has a vibrant Greek life on campus, with approximately 30% of students participating in fraternity or sorority life. Again, this is more typical of a larger university, but is available and quite popular on this small campus. My tour guide wasn’t a member of Greek life and didn’t feel pressured into it in order to have a social life; however, it can be a big part of a student’s college experience if he/she desires it.

Colleges that seem similar:  Davidson College, Bucknell University, Lehigh University, Union College, Colgate University

Concerns about this college: I spoke to several students during my tour who noted the lack of ethnic diversity was a concern about the campus. However, as I mentioned above, this is something the college is actively working on as they expand their recruitment and seek to grow in the coming years. Additionally, Lafayette has a strong reputation for Engineering and Economics programs in particular, but is less-known for other majors in the social sciences, arts, and humanities. One student I spoke with (majoring in Government and Law) was concerned about her job prospects as compared to her peers majoring in the more popular fields of study, noting that there haven’t been as many internships and recruiting events for students majoring in more traditional liberal arts realms. I’d say this isn’t unique to Lafayette, but is something for students to take into consideration.

Overall impressions:  My experience at Lafayette really surprised me. I expected the college to be much more focused on engineering and computer science, and much less social. However, the students I met were all interested in a range of different academic majors and were engaged in clubs I wouldn’t have expected to exist on this campus (feminist club, LGBTQ club, social justice groups, etc.). The social life includes so many elements of a larger university experience for students seeking DI athletics and Greek life, but within a small, supportive, and highly collaborative liberal arts setting. This is a college that has flown under the radar, but, because of its truly unique blend of opportunities, I can see it becoming a much more popular choice (and one I would highly recommend) for students in the coming years.


Best Apps to Use on Your College Tours

All too often, families leave a college tour no more informed than before their visit. Below are a few suggestions for smartphone apps that will help you dive deeper than the typical campus tour and get the most out of your college visits.

1) Use AirBnB for your lodging to experience where real students live and play off-campus.

If you are hoping to attend a larger university in an urban area, you likely will not live in on-campus housing for your entire four-year experience. In some cases, you may not even be required to live in dorms during your freshman year. If this is the case for the colleges you are considering, why not experience the college town or city like a college student? Tour guides will showcase a dorm (or two), but rarely if ever will they show you off-campus housing.

Some of the benefits of trying AirBnB:

  • You’ll save money. AirBnB has a variety of choices to fit your budget and, chances are, the majority of these options in the young and hip part of town will be cheaper than the 3-star hotel in the middle of the tourist zone.
  • You’ll have more opportunities to meet students and hear unfiltered opinions of the campus and area.
  • You’ll get to experience the restaurants and nightlife that real students experience at that college.

2) Use Yik Yak to find out what students are talking about on that campus.

This social media app shows anonymous postings from people within a ten mile radius only. It is primarily used by college students to gripe about professors, talk about the previous night’s festivities, or poke fun at a common occurrence on that campus. Often the feed reads like a comedy show full of one-liners. Occasionally students will comment on the culture and social scene of the school. However, people tend to post either really funny or really negative experiences or comments, so take everything you read with a grain of salt. I certainly wouldn’t add or eliminate a college from your list based on what students are saying on Yik Yak, but it can provide some interesting insights into life on that campus while you are there.

Some perspectives you might glean from checking out Yik Yak during your visit:

  • How dominant is Greek life for the school’s social culture?
  • Are students stressed out about certain majors or classes?
  • Is the campus cliquey or do students interact across their majors, racial identities, or socioeconomic backgrounds?
  • What is the dynamic between the student body and the administration?
  • What is happening on campus tonight (or this weekend)? This will likely yield very different results from a college website which lists school-sanctioned events only.

3) Download the college’s visit app (if they have one).

More and more colleges are entering the application age and are developing their own campus tour apps for Android and iOS. Some apps are fairly simple and include maps and directions for prospective students, while others include a consolidated list of special events and presentations open to the public. Other apps are intended more for students and parents who are unable to visit the campus and feature self-guided tours including interactive photos and videos.

A few of the benefits of utilizing a college’s visit app:

  • You won’t get lost (as easily) and you won’t have to try to zoom in on one tiny building on an impossibly small campus map on your phone.
  • It can demonstrate how tech-savvy (or not) a college is. At many schools, students and faculty were involved with the app’s development.

If you’re not quite ready to embrace these apps during your next college tour, try to at least supplement your visit with researching that school on social media and through student review sites like Unigo, College Confidential or Niche. The standard campus tour is still essential part of the college research process, but it can be even more effective if combined with the use of social media and apps.

Campus Visit Notes: Reed College

College:  Reed College

Location: Portland, OR

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts

Size: 1,400 students

Admissions Advice: Reed College is all about fit. Most applicants have top scores and GPAs, so readers look beyond that and focus on elements like intellectual curiosity, interest in interdisciplinary learning, and communication and debate skills. They place a high value on letters of recommendation (again, ideally with a focus on fit) and the supplemental essay.

Most popular majors: Biology, Psychology, English, Math, Physics, Social Sciences

Words to describe students I met: intellectual, quirky, scholars, independent, inquisitive, liberal

Unique academic aspects:  For a school with such an “alternative” reputation, Reed College actually has quite a strict set of core requirements. For example, every freshman will take the Humanities 110 seminar which includes interdisciplinary courses based on Greek, Roman, and Mediterranean literature. Additionally, there are a range of core requirements across arts/humanities, social sciences and natural sciences, among other areas. Reed wants to make sure students come out of the experience knowing how to think critically about a range of interconnected topics and ideas.

Reed is also a science powerhouse. Students majoring in the sciences get their own lab space and funding for materials (if needed) as they complete their senior thesis projects. They have strong connections with other universities, such as 3 + 2 engineering programs with CalTech, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and Columbia University, and a computer science degree partnership with University of Washington.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Renn Fayre (aka “Renaissance Fair”) is kind of a big deal at Reed College. This multi-day celebration is thrown by the junior class and takes place after seniors turn in their thesis projects. It features a parade, parties, crafting, fireworks, and many other activities.

I was also impressed to learn about the fine and performing arts facilities at Reed, and just how common it is for students to take classes in these areas. The campus has two theaters, a new performing arts center, tons of instrument practice rooms, and dance studios for use by classes, student groups, and even the community in general.

Colleges that seem similar:  Brown University, Oberlin College, Lewis & Clark College, Grinnell College, Pitzer College

Concerns about this college:  Reed often doesn’t receive serious consideration from my students because the college doesn’t have any sports teams. Sure, there are a range of PE classes and club teams students can join, but there aren’t opportunities to support your team and show your school spirit in a more formal, traditional way. Additionally, much like neighboring Lewis & Clark College, the campus political vibe is extremely left-leaning. While vibrant discussion and debate are common on campus, students likely won’t get much exposure to conservative viewpoints here.

Overall impressions: Reed lived up to its quirky and intellectual reputation. I thoroughly enjoyed learning more about the amazing academic culture on campus and opportunities through programs like “Paideia” and the the celebration surrounding the completion of senior thesis projects. The campus was quiet, calm, and beautiful – a perfect setting for deep reflection and focus – while the exciting city of Portland isn’t too far away. My visit confirmed that Reed isn’t a school for everyone, but for the right student, it is an amazing place to grow intellectually.

Campus Visit Notes: Haverford College


College: Haverford College

Location: Haverford, PA (about 12 miles from Philadelphia)

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts

Size: 1,300

Admissions Advice: Haverford is a very selective liberal arts college, admitting approximately 20% of applicants in recent years. They place a high value of intellectual curiosity, motivation, and love to see applicants take the initiative on admissions interviews. They also fill a fairly large portion of their entering class through Early Decision, so this is a great option for the student who knows Haverford is the right college for her/him.

Most popular majors: Political Science, English, Biology, Economics, Psychology

Words to describe students I met: driven, collaborative, humble, research-oriented, involved, community-builders

Unique academic aspects: More than half of Haverford professors actually live on campus! This, coupled with very small classes and lots of seminars, ensures that students are really engaged with faculty. Because there are no graduate students around, faculty rely on undergraduates to assist in their research, and it isn’t uncommon for students to get published before graduating. Additionally, all students are required to complete a senior thesis project.

Despite being a small college, Haverford has a great reputation in the science community. The National Science Foundation ranks Haverford highly for sending high percentages of students on to engineering and science PhD programs, and students regularly receive prestigious fellowships and research funding in these fields.

Unique social/cultural aspects:  Haverford, like neighboring Bryn Mawr College, is proud of its Honor Code. Students are charged with self-governing and regulating across both social and academic realms. For example, take-home tests are the standard, and student juries often oversee disciplinary action for their fellow students.

Additionally, Haverford is a “wet” campus, meaning that alcohol is allowed on the campus. Many other liberal arts colleges follow this model (including my alma mater, Claremont McKenna). This policy ensures that students who do plan to take part in the party scene are doing so on campus and in a safe environment, instead of driving off campus. That said, Haverford doesn’t have Greek life and isn’t a huge party school by any means. However, there are often joint social events with Bryn Mawr just a mile away.

Colleges that seem similar: Carleton College, Pomona College, Swarthmore College, Claremont McKenna

Concerns about this college: Haverford definitely feels like a bit of a suburban ‘bubble’ just a short distance away from one of the largest cities in America. Though the student body is actually quite diverse for a liberal arts college, it definitely does not reflect the diversity of the Philadelphia area. Partnerships with programs like QuestBridge are helping to bridge that gap, however.

Overall impressions: I thoroughly enjoyed my extended visit to Haverford. I got to hear from an admissions representative and learned just how seriously they take their holistic review. I also heard about research and academic life from a very impressive panel of current students and faculty, and I enjoyed strolling the beautiful campus with our tour guide. Haverford seems like the perfect place for the hard-working student who thrives with collaborative work, and loves being motivated and inspired by his peers. Though it is a small campus community and feels a bit like a little family, Philadelphia is just 20 minutes away, and the consortium with Bryn Mawr, Swarthmore, and University of Pennsylvania ensures that students have lots of academic and social options.