Campus Visit Notes: University of the Pacific

 

College: University of the Pacific

Location: Stockton, CA

Type of Institution: Private university

Size: 3,600 undergraduates

Admissions Advice: University of the Pacific uses a holistic admission process. They will recalculate GPAs to a weighted GPA (great news for my Washington state HS students) and will look at a range of other factors in the review process as well. Admission can vary by major, and many of the accelerated programs are incredibly competitive, such as Dental and Pharmacy.

Most popular majors: music, engineering, business, accelerated health professions (Dental, Pharmacy)

Words to describe students I met: diverse, social, goal-oriented, engaged, friendly

Unique academic aspects:  I was blown away by one of UoP’s newest majors, MediaX. This major is a great match for students interested in “the future of storytelling”, blending coursework in gaming and animation, writing, performance, technology, engineering, business, and more. The program aims to help students create content for multiple platforms and is doing a lot of cool stuff with virtual reality. I particularly loved seeing their motion capture equipment in action in their black box theater.

This university also has several smaller academic communities for highly motivated students, including: accelerated tracks into their own Dental and Pharmacy professional programs, a Legal Scholars program (with accelerated law school option), Humanities Scholars, and finally the Powell Scholars. This last program provides a big time merit scholarship of 40K+ per year for all four years and is given to the very top applicants to the university. I met a few Powell Scholars during my visit and was impressed with their backgrounds but also the ways in which they are engaging more deeply with their fellow scholars, faculty, and other UoP resources.

Unique social/cultural aspects: University of the Pacific is one of the smallest colleges to field Division I sports teams. Though they don’t have football, many other teams are well-supported and the campus was full of students in their Pacific gear. I also cannot believe how many major and pre-professional tracks this small university is able to support. Because of these factors as well as the active Greek system, you’d never guess UoP was under 4,000 undergraduates in total.

Colleges that seem similar: Honestly, UoP is a pretty unique place! But a few that have some social and academic similarities include: University of San Francisco, Gonzaga University, University of Portland, Chapman University.

Concerns about this college: My biggest concern continues to be the fact that over 80% of students attending UoP are native Californians, so it isn’t particularly geographically diverse (though it has incredible ethnic diversity). Though many students are coming from southern California, there is still a fairly large percentage from northern California meaning students do go home on the weekends. Greek life and a robust dorm system provide social opportunities on the weekends, but not as much as at a larger university or a college where a high percentage of students are coming from other states.

Overall impressions: I had the amazing opportunity to experience UoP for two full days by participating in a special event for counselors, so I leave the campus with a much more comprehensive set of impressions compared to my normal visits. This place really felt like a family and I know that students would have amazing support from faculty, staff, administration, and even their fellow students. It is also a beautiful campus, full of a brick buildings, a lovely chapel, and even a few palm trees. This university is a gem, particularly for students who are able to participate in their accelerated programs or special merit scholarship programs.

Campus Visit Notes: University of Vermont

 

College: University of Vermont

Location: Burlington, VT

Type of Institution: Public research university

Size: ~10,000 undergraduates

Admissions Advice: UVM, like many public universities, admits students into a specific college when they apply. It is one of the most friendly public universities when it comes to out-of-state admission and scholarships. That said, it is also one of the most expensive public universities in the country (more on that below). Students can get a fairly accurate sense of what they might qualify for using the Net Price Calculator.

Most popular majors: Business, Biology, Environmental Science, Psychology

Words to describe students I met: accepting, laid-back, hipster, liberal, outdoorsy, white (it is Vermont, after all)

Unique academic aspects: Not surprisingly, students at UVM are passionate about the environment. In fact, UVM offers 22 (!) environmental science related majors in some very niche fields such as food systems and plant biology. There are also some interesting minors available including geospatial technologies and wildlife and fisheries biology. I was really impressed with the Aiken Center on campus which houses some of these majors.

Additionally, this university is committed to experiential learning in the outdoors and in the Burlington community, and they also regularly connect students to alumni and employers in larger East Coast cities like Boston & New York City through networking nights and internships.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Though UVM is a state university, it is definitely not a commuter campus. Vermont requires entering freshman to live on campus for the first two years, and allows and encourages students to stay for junior and senior year as well. While UVM does have a Greek system, it only includes about 900 students total, so it isn’t a major factor in the social vibe of the university.

Even though the university is located in northern Vermont, the college social life isn’t limited to the confines of the campus. Burlington is an amazing college town with a great mix of restaurants, shopping, and outdoor recreation opportunities in the mountains and on the lake. And for students 21+ (and visiting parents), Burlington has a pretty serious craft brewery scene, reminding me a lot of other college towns, such as Fort Collins.

Colleges that seem similar:  University of Colorado – Boulder, Ithaca College, University of Massachusetts – Amherst

Concerns about this college: My biggest concern with UVM is the fact that they are an incredibly expensive option for non-residents at $55,000+ per year. Yes, they are generous with merit scholarships for top students ($18,000+ per year), but that still puts the cost significantly higher than a student’s home state university system, and potentially still more expensive than many smaller private colleges out there. For non-resident families requiring a lot of need-based financial aid, or families hoping to keep annual college costs under $30,000, UVM likely won’t be the best match.

Overall impressions: University of Vermont is a really great option for students looking for a medium-sized public university in a fun and manageable small city. Yes, the winters are cold, but there is still so much to do in the Burlington area and on campus. The student body is friendly and laid-back, and an the community includes an interesting mix of jocks, hippies, snowboarder bros, preppy students, and everything in between.

Campus Visit Notes: Villanova University

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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.