campus encounters

"Get the first-hand scoop about colleges and universities"

University of San Francisco


USF stepsUSF 1This is a physically impressive campus (and academically impressive, too). We got dropped off at the base of the “infamous steps” and trekked up them (not nearly as bad as I had feared!). There were spectacular views of the city which they consider to be part of their classroom. One admissions rep described it as “423 smaller classrooms in 1 giant one.” The admissions video doesn’t show a single classroom; everything shows students in the city. First year students get this “city as classroom” feel starting right away in their First Year Seminars with classes such as San Francisco Urbanism, Telling San Francisco’s Stories, and Writing in the Gold Gate Park. They bring the city to the classroom and vice versa.

USF courtyard

Part of the campus with the city in the background.

USF windowThe university began in 1855 to educate the children of the gold rush. There were originally two separate colleges for males and females. The nuns got the huge building at the top of the hill which was rare since those Jesuits “like their views” as the tour guide said. Although there’s still “upper” and “lower” campuses separated by a residential block, it’s very easy to get around, and there’s still some campus feel to it. Students can get from one end to the other in 10-15 minutes. It’s also located between the two safest police districts in SF and the students said they felt really safe walking around, even in the residential area dividing the campus. The university is mission driven: education plus service/social justice. As an illustration of the university living their social justice mission, in 1950, their football team (they compete at a DI level, by the way,) had a 9-0 record and were invited to Orange Bowl – but only if they left their black players at home. The team (not the school) declined the invitation to play.

Library reading room

Library reading room

USF chapelThey believe in integrated hands-on research and are nationally ranked for this. USF has strong sciences and a new science building. Nursing is particularly strong. 96% of the nursing students pass the NCLEX on their first try; 98% are employed. Entrance into the nursing program is highly competitive: fewer than 60% are accepted as freshman. The program has high-tech simulation rooms, and clinicals start the sophomore year. Nursing students, since they can’t do a traditional study abroad, can do two international immersions: one in a hospital in Vietnam and the other assisting midwives in Guatemala at a clinic. Management/business is also strong with 7 majors; Entrepreneurship ranks 12th in the country. USF also has a 3+2 engineering program with USC; students spend 3 years in USF’s physics department and then transfer to USC to finish up the BS in engineering.

USF libraryThe Director of Admissions was “our kind of people” as one of the college counselors at my lunch table said: friendly, spoke with ease, was dressed in business casual, and relaxed but not unprofessional. He had the kind of demeanor that put people at ease quickly. He told us that USF just admitted their largest freshman class with 1265 students. Their student population is about 5300 – the “Big end of small or the small end of medium, whichever floats your boat.” No ethnic or racial group makes up more than 36% of the student population. They don’t look at writing on the SAT. Students should apply by the Early Action deadline of 11/15 to be considered for merit aid which is not available for international students, although they don’t have to take the TOEFL if they graduated from an English speaking school.

(c) 2012

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