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 incredibly 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 robust 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: Scripps College

College: Scripps College

Location: Claremont, California

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college for women

Size: ~950 students total; 7,000+ including neighboring colleges in the Claremont consortium

Admissions Advice: As the Claremont Colleges become more popular, so does Scripps. The majority of successful applicants are at the top of their high school class and have strong test scores as well. (Scripps is one of a handful of women’s colleges that still require SAT or ACT). Because the entering class is very small, each application is read very carefully and holistically. Scripps is also one of the rare colleges that both meets 100% of a family’s financial need and awards some merit scholarships as well, even for students without financial need.

Most popular majors: Media studies, international relations, psychology, biology, English, studio art

Words to describe students I met: Independent, strong-willed, artistic, liberal, open-minded

Unique academic aspects: Scripps prides itself on its interdisciplinary core curriculum, a 3-semester series of classes that each woman must take to continue her education at the college. The focus of these classes center around “communities”, examining past and present problems with a variety of lenses. The Claremont Consortium is another unique aspect of academic life at Scripps. Students have the opportunity to seamlessly register for classes at any of the other nearby colleges and are even able to choose an off-campus major as well.

Unique social/cultural aspects: The social life at Scripps is fairly diverse, and isn’t necessarily in line with the “traditional” college experience. For example, while there are parties (occasionally hosted by Scripps), the majority of students will venture to the other Claremont Colleges for their party fix. Though many Scrippsies participate in DIII athletics on the Claremont-Mudd-Scripps teams, there isn’t a ton of school spirit surrounding sports teams.

Instead, Scripps students can be found attending ballroom dance shows, a cappella performances, gallery nights, and open mics. The Motley Coffeehouse regularly hosts student speakers and performers and provides a creative outlet for Scripps women. The coffeehouse is run by students, and there’s even an opportunity for talented bakers and chefs to sell their pastries at the shop. I spent many nights studying, learning, and listening at this coffeehouse during my college years at neighboring Claremont McKenna. Scrippsies can also be found soaking up the sun at the pool year-round, or hanging out with suitemates in the beautiful dorms.

Colleges that seem similar:  Wellesley College, Mt. Holyoke College, Bryn Mawr College, Smith College

Concerns about this college: As the college becomes more competitive, I’ve found it difficult to figure out what Scripps is looking for in applicants each year. The college is trying to become more ethnically, socio-economically, and geographically diverse, which is great. However, as a result, it is very difficult for even the strongest students to gauge whether they will be admitted in a given year. Though the admission rate is currently hovering around 25%, significantly higher than the other neighboring Claremont Colleges, it is still very tough to be admitted. For this reason, Scripps is a “reach” school for anyone in my opinion.

Overall impressions:  The Spanish and Mediterranean architecture, the intimate study spaces, the rose garden, and the shimmering blue pool put this campus on the top of my list of most beautiful campuses in America. I thoroughly enjoyed the many classes I took at Scripps during my time at Claremont McKenna, and really felt a strong sense of community and collaboration. I would highly recommend this college to students looking for the best of both worlds: a small and supportive community of young women, but surrounded by the resources and opportunities of a medium-sized, co-ed university.


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.


Campus Visit Notes: Muhlenberg College

College: Muhlenberg College

Location: Allentown, PA

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts

Size: 2,200

Admissions Advice:  Muhlenberg values demonstrated interest in the review process, so students should really try to build a relationship with their admission representative over time. Campus visits, interviews, and interactions during high school visits are just some of the ways of helping them get to know you and your interest in the college. Though the college is test-optional, they do want to see scores for students seeking merit scholarships. And finally, this is more of a regional college, so students from farther away (West Coast) may have a slight advantage in the process as they seek to diversify the freshman class.

Most popular majors: Business, Biology (pre-med, pre-health tracks), Theater, Dance, Psychology

Words to describe students I met: Articulate, well-rounded, friendly, artistic, grounded

Unique academic aspects: Muhlenberg is one of the unique liberal arts colleges which also has a pre-professional focus and culture. Business is a popular major, and lots of students come here to prepare for graduate programs in the health sciences, so it doesn’t feel quite as removed from the job market compared to other liberal arts colleges. It is common for students to seek out internships as early as freshman year, and the career services center is very strong.

Also, for such a small college, Muhlenberg really takes Theater seriously. They have 7-9 productions a year, with those offered in the summer done by professional actors in collaboration with students. There are also 12 black box productions and generally 15-20 one-act or shorter theater productions a year. They offer several majors within Theater, including stage management, directing, and technical theater. The facilities I saw were pretty awesome, and the Theater student I met (double majoring in English) choose Muhlenberg over other more well-known programs because of the tight-knit and supportive community. Scholarships are available and an audition, interview and/or portfolio are recommended for the best consideration.

Unique social/cultural aspects: As mentioned above, there is an interesting mix of theater and fine arts culture and support on campus,  as well as strong programs in business and pre-med. I was also surprised to learn that there are 4 fraternities and 4 sororities at Muhlenberg, and about 20% of the total student body participates.

Colleges that seem similar:  Franklin and Marshall College, Trinity University, Ithaca College, Skidmore College, Rhodes College

Concerns about this college: I didn’t get much time to explore the surrounding area of Allentown, but it did not strike me as the most exciting place to go to college. There is a district with restaurants, art galleries, theaters, etc. within a mile walk of campus, and there are plenty of the college student basics within a short drive. It is also about an hour outside of Philadelphia and 1.5 hours from New York City, which students take advantage of from time to time.

Overall impressions: After hearing about the college in a presentation last year, I was intrigued and excited to learn more. This campus visit did not disappoint. It really feels like a family, and the students I met were bubbling over with enthusiasm for their college. Muhlenberg is a great place for students with an interest and appreciation for the arts, interfaith dialogue, career preparation, and a well-rounded college experience.

Campus Visit Notes: University of Portland

College: University of Portland

Location: Portland, Oregon

Type of Institution: Private Catholic university

Size: 3,600 undergraduate students

Admissions Advice:  University of Portland is big on demonstrated interest in the application process, meaning it is beneficial for students to tour the campus, interact with admission counselors, and submit their applications early for best consideration. Though the university is not considered highly selective (~60% admission rate), the average GPA of admitted students is fairly high at 3.63 and they also pay close attention to rigor and test scores.

Most popular majors: Business, Nursing, Engineering, Elementary Education, Communication

Words to describe students I met: Friendly, career-oriented, religious or interested in religion/faith, diligent, interested in helping others

Unique academic aspects:  University of Portland students are very hard-working and focused, with a good percentage majoring in areas with a clear path to employment upon graduating (Nursing, Business, Engineering). The Nursing program in particular is very popular and has great ties to Portland’s many major hospitals and clinics. My guide couldn’t stop gushing about her experience in the program and the varied clinical rotations she’s been able to do so far. Business majors are required to do an internship to graduate, with many taking advantage of local companies such as Nike, Columbia, Adidas, Intel, and others.

Unique social/cultural aspects: For a small school, University of Portland takes athletics pretty seriously and there is a ton of school spirit. The university doesn’t have a football team, so soccer and basketball in particular rule this campus. Intramurals and weekend outdoor trips are also huge here, so it is a great fit for the active student who wants top-notch athletics facilities but at a smaller university.

The campus is located just a few miles north of Portland, so moving off campus in junior or senior year is very common. That’s probably also a product of the strict rules in the dorms. Priests or professors live in many of the dorms, as well as graduate students and other adult figures. My guide spent a lot of time reviewing all of the rules and regulations about quiet hours, opposite gender student visitors, etc. so it makes sense that students are interested in moving off-campus for their upperclassmen years.

Colleges that seem similar: Gonzaga University, Villanova University, Marquette University, Seattle University, Santa Clara University

Concerns about this college: University of Portland is not afraid of its Catholic roots, and this can be felt very clearly throughout campus, from required courses to fairly strict rules in the dorms. Though only 50% of students identify as Catholic, and only a percentage of those students actually actively practice their religion, the university still takes this mission very seriously. Because students have to take several Catholicism and religion classes to graduate, I would hesitate to recommend UP to students who do not have a strong interest in exploring faith and religion.

Additionally, I hesitate to recommend UP to students who require a significant amount of need-based financial aid. The university is not able to meet full need for any student; however, they do give very generous merit scholarships. This makes the university an excellent option for families who are too wealthy to qualify for aid.

Overall impressions: University of Portland is a college that has been coming up on my students’ lists more and more over the the last year, particularly after positive campus visit experiences. I had a great visit as well, and especially loved seeing many campus improvements such as the amazing athletics facilities and student center (Pilot House). The university’s more balanced/neutral political vibe contrasts with the extremely left-leaning city of Portland, making it an interesting place for students to experience a bit of everything. It is a great option for students who want a beautiful traditional campus with fairly easy access to a major city, students who are already focused on careers such as Nursing or Business, and students who want a close-knit and very supportive community.

Campus Visit Notes: Pacific Lutheran University

College: Pacific Lutheran University –

Location: Tacoma, WA

Type of Institution: Private university (some Master’s programs)

Size: 3,300 students, with about ~300 in graduate programs

Admissions Advice:  Pacific Lutheran is a moderately selective university, typically hovering around a 75% admission rate. The school’s average GPA for enrolled students is high (3.66), but they do take into account the weighted GPA and course rigor. Students attending high schools in the 253 area code have the amazing opportunity to attend tuition-free if they meet the scholarship guidelines listed here.

Most popular majors: Nursing, Business, Biology, Psychology

Words to describe students I met: Friendly, down-to-earth, practical, open-minded

Unique academic aspects: Pacific Lutheran offers a January term (J-term), essentially a mini-semester where students can take one to two classes in depth for a short period of time. This is a good opportunity to dive more into a research topic or interest area, though many students also use this as a time to get some general education requirements out of the way. Students can also go abroad for their J-terms, something especially appealing to Nursing and other science majors. My guide commented on how refreshing this time can be as it allows students to learn in a more hands-on way and over a shorter period of time. Students then come back to the second semester ready to tackle their more traditional work loads.

A quick review of the offerings for this coming January shows a huge variety of opportunities. More local options include a Makah Culture class on the Olympic Peninsula or interning with a Tacoma-area non-profit, while more adventurous options include a religion course in Greece or studying baby penguins en route to Antarctica (sign me up!)

Unique social/cultural aspects: The university has Lutheran roots and does require students to take one Christianity-based religion class, plus one world religion class to graduate. PLU has one of the best overviews of their religion requirements and why a foundation in religious studies is crucial to navigating the conflicts in our world today. Check it out!

Colleges that seem similar:  University of Puget Sound, Seattle University, University of Portland, California Lutheran University, Willamette University

Concerns about this college: The Parkland neighborhood of Tacoma is, well, not the nicest place I’ve been. There is a large military base located very close to campus, so the businesses in the area cater to both military families and college students. There are some cheap restaurants, laundromats, coffee shops, and other basics,  but generally the area is run-down. Students who want to explore the outdoors or even Tacoma proper will likely need a car to get around.

Overall impressions: I really enjoyed my visit to PLU and was pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the campus, particularly the music and arts facilities. My tour guide was super friendly and enthusiastic about the school, as were the handful of other students I met who were on-campus doing summer research. The admissions office is also very welcoming and the university does an amazing job awarding merit scholarships to a large percentage of admitted students. These scholarships, coupled with a lower overall cost of attendance, makes PLU an excellent option, particularly for middle class and wealthier families who may not qualify for lots of financial aid elsewhere.

Campus Visit Notes: Quest University

College:  Quest University –

Location: Squamish, British Columbia (Canada)

Type of Institution: Private liberal arts college

Size: 700 students, undergraduate only

Admissions Advice: Quest University is all about fit. While they are seeking students who can handle a rigorous curriculum and have excelled in the classroom, they are also focusing on more inherent qualities and characteristics such as intellectual curiosity, motivation, and creativity. Quest requires an original piece of work in addition to a more traditional application. Students can submit artwork, films, science projects, written work, or even videos of themselves participating in favorite hobby.

Most popular majors: Well, there is only one! Every student graduates with a Bachelor of Arts and Sciences degree (BA&Sc).

Words to describe students I met: international, outdoorsy, hippie, cultured, alternative, intelligent, genuinely curious about the world, unique, self-motivated

Unique academic aspects: Quest University uses a Block Plan where students take one class at a time for a fairly intense 3.5 weeks total. There are 8 blocks per academic year and once one block is completed, students get a five-day weekend to explore the natural beauty of the Squamish area. I happened to visit during a block break and many students were off-campus skiing at Whistler or were enjoying city life in Vancouver, a short 45-minute drive from Quest.

The first two years of the curriculum focus on Foundation courses across a wide range of disciplines, while the second two years are self-designed around a student’s “Question”. With the support of a faculty member, students design their last two years of study to explore a topic of interest in great detail and complete a culminating project, thesis, research paper or other keystone piece in an attempt to answer that question. Some example topics include:

  • “How do we push our limits?” – An exploration of psychology and exercise physiology. Student is studying hormone levels in athletes during exercise. She is also simultaneously preparing for a physical therapy graduate program in the U.S.
  • “What is the best way to educate a child?” – A student dives into educational psychology and teaching methods. Part of this project involved working in four different types of classroom settings: Montessori, public school, Waldorf and private school.
  • “What is the role of empathy in medicine?” Student designed a survey and interviewed community members and healthcare leaders, coming up with a profile healthcare in her community.

Unique social/cultural aspects: Quest students are very unique and diverse, making this tiny college seem much larger and actually very reflective of the global community. About 50% of students are from Canada, 35% from the United States, and 15% from other countries throughout the world. Students are driven and many services and resources on campus are student-run, such as the communal garden and apiary.

Colleges that seem similar: There aren’t many quite like Quest! Colorado College uses the Block Plan and has some cultural overlap, while Evergreen State College and Western Washington’s Fairhaven College have some similarities to Quest as well.

Concerns about this college: Obviously with a college so small and so unique, students need to be sure before they enroll that this is a good academic and social fit for them. Quest tries to ensure fit by interviewing all potential students for admission, but there still are students who transfer out seeking a more traditional university experience.

Overall impressions:  This is probably one of the coolest colleges I have ever visited (and I’m currently at over 130 college campus visits). Though I picked an absolutely horrible rainy winter day for my visit, I still thoroughly enjoyed the beauty of the Squamish area and the charming little campus. The admissions staff and tour guides are beyond welcoming, and I am confident entering students would benefit from this support throughout their four years.

*Note: Thanks to Brad @ Quest for providing me with the sunny day photo above!