Widener University (Take 2)
Widener University (visited 2/25/19)
(Click HERE to see notes and pictures from my previous visit on 11/20/15)
What makes students a good fit for Widener?
- “We’re told by co-op employers that our students have grit and no sense of entitlement. There’s a drive that pushes them.”
- “Kids come in with so much on their plate – but they keep going. They’re all passionate about something. They’re resourceful and innovative. They want to try new things and to connect.”
- “We’re a smallish campus and a family style environment. People aren’t anonymous. You know the groundskeeper, the president, the person serving you in the dining hall, the student next to you in class.”
- “We’re plugged in here. We’ll do wellness checks.”
“Student success is at the core of everything we do,” said an admissions rep. This ranges from a 3-year residency requirement (“data points say that students are more successful if they live on campus”) to experiential education “which is harder to find than you think!” Some students have never engaged in diverse environments, dealt with communities struggling with hunger insecurity, etc. They work with students to appreciate civic engagement for what it is and deal with it as career preparation. Students deal with privilege and power on a variety of levels.
Widener uses their location to their advantage; some people worry about safety in that area, but “No one talks about all the rich things that happen in terms of service. All major cities have stuff. If you go to a rural campus, there are rural issues. If you go to an urban campus, there are urban issues. We talk to kids about being savvy about where you are. Because of all the lights, it’s like Yankee Stadium in the middle of a game. There are more than 100 cameras. There are tons of ways to keep campus safe.”
Widener students are 20% more likely to participate in research, internships, and high impact practices through Civic Engagement, hands-on education, Co-ops, and more. In the Philly region, Drexel and Widener are co-op powerhouses with two significant differences:
- Widener is on traditional semesters (Drexel is trimesters) with 3 co-ops (Sophomore fall, Junior spring, and the summer before senior year; the 2nd and 3rd can be combined).
- Business (including Business Analytics and International Business), Engineering (including Robotics and Biomedical), Comp Sci, and Tourism and Hospitality Management complete 3 co-ops and still graduate in 4-years. Students take classes in the summer before sophomore and junior years.
Although I had visited Widener several years earlier, I was glad to revisit and see many of the departments I hadn’t before; they did an amazing job getting us the academic facilities and talking to professors who were passionate and clearly care about the students. I can see why students do so well here! A professor told us that “one of our competitors on the accreditation team said, ‘We say we care; you guys really care’.”
“This is the place where you have dinner at the President’s House. You get that up close and personal. More than 1000 students have dinner there every year: she invites sports teams, Bonner’s Program, etc. The dogs come out and the pool is open.”
We asked the students on the panel, “Why should we send students here? What’s appealing?”
- “During a revisitation day, two science professors sought me out. I’m 1 of 7 biochem”
- “It’s the only school in the area that goes to the European Simulation. It’s one of the most life changing things I’ve done.”
- “Family and Growth. I’ve seen myself grow compared to my friends at other colleges. You can create your own legacy and leave your mark.”
- “I run track and miss random classes for meets, but it’s easy to work with professors to make sure I keep up.”
- “They’ll work with you to match you with internships because professors have connections. They have no problem helping out and linking students with their contacts.”
- “I came for the accelerated PT program. I’ll starts grad classes in senior year to shave off a year of my graduate studies, but I keep my scholarship as a senior.”
With 3,000 full-time undergrads and 3,000 graduate students, Widener provides what many larger schools offer while giving students a smaller college feel and personal attention with an average of 25 students per class. “It’s a blessing and a curse because we’re put in with larger institutions, so we get hit with rankings.”
Student panelists said that their favorite classes were:
- Genetics: “my research prof teaches it. She’s helped with med school, MCATs, shaping me as a person. This taught me resilience.”
- “I don’t have a specific favorite, but I’ve taken 4 classes with one professor. He embodies the involvement faculty have =. He checks in with how I’m doing. He knows I ski.”
- Constitutional Law: “The Prof engages without PowerPoints for 3 hours. I’m learning the same things as Villanova Law students.”
- “I had one professor in fall of freshman year who helped me find my internship. We got close because I was always missing his class for meets so I was working a lot with him.”
- Business Law: “I want to go into that. I took it with a professor who’s a lawyer. I learned things I could apply in the field.”
- Environmental Engineering: “I had the professor for 3 classes and did research with her.”
The largest major is nursing: about 200 of the incoming 750-800 freshmen declare that major. Overall, they have strong Health programs (especially PT) and are starting OTD and PA programs. They accepted 16 into next year’s PT accelerated 3+3 cohort: to be offered a spot, students need 570 math SAT (1200 composite) or 24 math ACT (24 composite). If they don’t meet that but are admissible to Widener, they’re offered a 4+3. PT students work in a pro-bono clinic and complete in-patient, out-patient, and 1 choice internship; some do sports, pediatrics, even abroad (currently in Belize or Italy; Costa Rica and China are potential future possibilities).
All majors can study abroad: “going abroad should not delay your education.” Students can also study away in the US. “There’s a diversity of options without even leaving the North America: HBCUs, sea grants, French-speaking in Quebec, Spanish speaking in PR.” Widener owns property in Costa Rica, often used for short-term abroad programs, research projects, etc.
Over 90% of students live on campus in a variety of options including gender-neutral. Housing is guaranteed all 4 years and required for 3 unless they live with family within 25 miles. All students can have cars; permits are $230/year. There are 2 nearby train stations (Chester and Swarthmore) and buses to get around town.
NCAA athletes (23 DIII teams) make up 25-30% of the freshman class. “Academics and graduating are the most important. That being said, we hate losing more than we love winning.” Just over half of the athletes made the honor roll, and athletes are the highest retaining cohort.
Widener has been named among the top 150 most affordable colleges (out of 1700 researched by LendEDU) for freshmen with financial need. The “Average Joe” gets about $26,000 in merit aid.