Campus Visit Notes: University of San Francisco

College:  University of San Francisco

Location: San Francisco, CA

Type of Institution: Private Jesuit university

Size: 6,700 undergraduates, just over 10,000 including graduate programs

Admissions Advice: USF has a fairly holistic application review process and looks at everything from GPA/test scores to letters of recommendation to a supplemental essay. They are looking for students who will fit in with the social justice mission and will be engaged members of the campus and greater San Francisco communities. I was pleased to learn that the college has greatly expanded its scholarship awards, ranging from $5,000 – $22,000 per year for all four years. Awards are based primarily on GPA, test scores and class rank.

Most popular majors: Nursing, business, kinesiology, communications, psychology

Words to describe students I met: Diverse, social, engaged, hip, alternative, cultured

Unique academic aspects: USF is adapting to the booming tech economy of San Francisco and the Silicon Valley. They recently added a Data Science major, essentially a computer science and math major that prepares students for careers in manipulating and interpreting big data. The college has historically been known mostly for its nursing and business programs, so it’s great to see the addition of this interdisciplinary major.

Business students also have the opportunity to take classes at the downtown campus in the financial center of San Francisco. Typically these are upper-level courses that allow greater access to business, tech and finance leaders working in the downtown area. USF is huge on connecting students to service opportunities and internships throughout the San Francisco area.

Unique social/cultural aspects: The mix of students on campus is truly interesting. You see people of all ethnic backgrounds, styles of dress, and personalities wandering around and hanging out with each other on campus. No single ethnic group makes up more than 30% of the student population, reflecting the diversity of this city. On the socioeconomic spectrum, USF enrolls 30% Pell-eligible students and 20% international students, so there is a huge range of socioeconomic backgrounds as well.

Colleges that seem similar: Loyola Marymount University, University of San Diego, Fordham University, Santa Clara University, St. Mary’s College of California

Concerns about this college: USF only guarantees on-campus housing for one year. After that, students are left to find their own options in the heart of the most expensive city on the west coast (and it may even be more expensive than NYC due to the tech boom). Students who want to live within a mile of campus will be paying a lot and will definitely need to get creative with finding affordable housing. Students on more of a budget may need to go as far as the Sunset district, a solid 20-30 minutes away. The college offers financial aid for housing at around $13,000/year, an amount which may not completely cover a student’s off-campus housing and dining in this city. On the flipside, students will be pushed into the realities of the world earlier than at highly residential colleges in the middle of nowhere.

Overall impressions:  This was my second visit to the USF campus. The first visit was years ago when I attended a health careers and graduate school fair and presented to several of the pre-professional student groups around campus. I enjoyed the opportunity to learn more about student life, housing, and the non-academic aspects of attending this college. The admissions staff is extremely friendly and professional, and they really do want every visitor to have a great experience. I loved the views from the hilltop area and watching students enjoy the sunny 70 degree February day on the main campus. And if you have a chance to visit, be sure to walk into the gorgeous St. Ignatius church.



Campus Visit Notes: Gonzaga University

College:  Gonzaga University –

Location: Spokane, Washington

Type of Institution: Private Jesuit

Size: 5,500 undergraduates (8,000 with graduate students)

 Admissions Advice:  Admission to Gonzaga is fairly selective, with high averages across GPA, SAT and ACT scores (3.7, 1200, and 27, respectively). Because the college recruits heavily in Seattle, admission representatives are very familiar with Seattle-area high schools and will incorporate course rigor into the holistic review process. The college is also fairly generous with merit scholarships, making it a good option for students who may not qualify for need-based financial aid.

Most popular majors: Business, Psychology, Nursing, Biology

Words to describe students I met: Enthusiastic, full of school spirit, athletic/fit, friendly, outdoorsy, jocks

Unique academic aspects: Gonzaga has a very strong alumni network which yields lots of career opportunities for current Bulldogs. They have a vibrant mentoring program available to students starting freshman year. During my visit, I noticed that the campus was covered in posters for job fairs, resume writing workshops, and even week-long networking trips to Silicon Valley, Seattle and New York City, among other off-site locations. All majors are required to offer internships through their program (including the humanities), either on-campus or in conjunction with local or Seattle businesses.

The college is particularly proud of its popular Business program, and the Accounting major ranks #14 in the country. Gonzaga also offers a range of engineering majors. Students have a senior project requirement where groups of 4-5 students will work together on an issue brought to them by actual businesses, such as Boeing, Microsoft, or smaller Spokane-area companies. This is a great introduction to the team-oriented nature of engineering careers (and can also help students build up their resumes).

Unique social/cultural aspects: I’d always assumed Gonzaga was a larger university based on the men’s basketball program. The Bulldogs consistently make it far in the NCAA tournament, including a run to the Elite Eight this past year. School spirit is huge on campus and really makes it feel like a college with 15,000+ students. However, the school maintains a smaller university feel in the classroom, with small, discussion-based classes as the norm in many majors. In fact, the largest classroom space on campus only holds 49 students!

Colleges that seem similar: Santa Clara University, University of San Diego, Loyola Marymount University, Boston College

Concerns about this college: Tour guides and other students commented that the university still feels like high school in many ways, particularly for students from Jesuit and Catholic high schools in Seattle (O’Dea, Eastside Catholic, Bishop Blanchet, Holy Names, Seattle Prep, etc.). Additionally, there didn’t seem to be as many options and opportunities in the arts for students interested in dance, drama, fine arts, and music. There are minors available in some areas and extracurricular opportunities, but it is definitely more limited than at a liberal arts college or larger university.

Overall impressions: I enjoyed my visit to Gonzaga and was really impressed with the friendliness of students and admissions staff. Though it is a Jesuit university, I wouldn’t hesitate to suggest Gonzaga to non-religious students. There isn’t a church or service requirement, but there are many student-led initiatives that are popular. Students struck me as open-minded and social justice-oriented, but also practical and pragmatic. And the location in the middle of Spokane, a smaller city that serves as a hub of economic activity for the region, means lots of opportunities for students. The area will be further transformed with the addition of Washington State University’s new medical school and that will continue to grow the already strong healthcare industry in the area.