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California Lutheran University

CALIFORNIA LUTHERAN UNIVERSITY (visited 1/17/14)

Cal Lutheran 3Cal Lutheran’s spacious campus is home to just under 3000 undergraduates in Thousand Oaks. They are affiliated with the ELCA Lutheran Church: in terms of spectrum of churches, they’re very open in all that that suggests. They attract students of many faiths including a lot of Jewish students, and there’s a Rabbinical student who leads Shabbat services. There are no required chapel services or religion classes (at least in the theological sense). People in the area know that CLU is open to various people whether it be religiously, politically, or anything else (for example, there are lots of openly gay folks, even in the ministry).

Cal Lutheran 4

The cafe

“We tend to attract nice kids,” said an admissions reps. Students who have good organic intellectual curiosity will thrive here because of the 1-on-1 relationships and the opportunities they get bombarded with. Most students complete two internships during their time here. For the kids who want to dig in and experience things, it’s great, but they don’t have to be the smartest kid in the class to thrive. “This is not going to be a giant school experience; it won’t be a conservative religious experience. It’s a dry campus, so for kids who aren’t interested in the uber-party scene, this will work. But it is a very big social atmosphere; students are gregarious and open.”

Cal Lutheran Management bldg

Management Building

Admitted students average a 3.7 GPA and 25 ACT or 1150 SAT (CR&M). Students applying to CLU tend to overlap with UCLA (CLU lost the most kids to them last year), LMU, and UCSB. CLU will superscore both exams, and students can appeal for a higher scholarship with higher test scores after admittance. Students must apply Early Action to compete for the Presidential Scholarship. Students must be invited to come to campus to compete for this scholarship: decisions are based on an interview, a written response to a lecture, and more. Another great scholarship opportunity is the CLU Match Guarantee. If an applicant has also gotten accepted to UCLA, UCSB, UCB, UCSD, or UCD, they will match the in-state price (even if they’re out of state!!).

Cal Lutheran quadLearning here is experience-based, and students are guaranteed to graduate in four years if they meet the program guidelines (including meeting regularly with their advisor, declare a major on time, etc). Classes average around 20 students, and professors are interested in providing more than just theory and book learning. The university attracts professors who want to teach and who tend to stay for a long time. Core Classes include: literature, art (1 lecture-based, 1 participatory), philosophy/religion (historically, not theologically based), science, foreign language (students can test out but rarely do; a 4 or 5 on an AP would satisfy this requirement), and 2 social sciences. The writing requirement is often fulfilled during the senior capstone.

Cal Lutheran Acad bldg 2Business, education (Deaf and HH credentials are also offered), exercise science, and psych are some of the most popular majors. The Exercise Science major gets high accolades; most of those students continue on to PT graduate programs, but they can also be a coach or trainer without grad school. Game Design is gaining traction. They offer a TV/Film Production minor, and students get fabulous internships, especially in Burbank. There are specific pre-med, pre-vet, and pre-dental advising programs; the advisor, a chem professor, came from Berkeley. Under this program, the students get the right prep without the super competitive culture that they may find in other schools, and they’re still successful in getting into medical/vet schools (3 years ago they had a 100% acceptance rate).

Cal Lutheran food truck

One of the campus food trucks

CLU is a big fish in a small DIII pond. Football and volleyball teams have both won national championships, and in the fall, football can dominate the weekends. Kids get the best of both worlds: learning in smaller classes without sacrificing the “big-sports college experience.” Some students say that CLU is more homogenous than they’d like, but this is changing rapidly. Currently, approximately 25% students are from out-of-state, and they’re attracting international students as well. Students aren’t always thrilled with the feeling of “suburbia” around campus, but they’re certainly not cut off from things to do off immediately campus or from downtown LA.

Cal Luthern 1

One of the upperclassmen housing areas

underclassman dorms

underclassman dorms

Students rave about the dorms, most of which have been built in the last 10-15 years. Housing is guaranteed all four years if students want it, but only freshmen are required to live on campus (waived if they live at home within 30 miles). About 2/3 of sophomores stay on campus; after that, it drops a little more, but not significantly. Juniors and seniors are housed in apartments with pools, a bbq area, and volleyball court. CLU is committed to making on-campus housing affordable and attractive, mostly because off-campus housing is pricey, and they want to continue building community. Because more students are living on campus, they need a bigger central space for students. A new dining commons is being built and will open in the summer of 2014. Until now, there hasn’t been a great central meeting spot for students that’s the center for social activities, studying, and eating. The new building will have rooftop seating and dining. They deliberately made the decision not to bring in outside venders (except Starbucks!).

© 2014

Pacific Lutheran University

Pacific Lutheran University (visited 6/19/17)

PLU 3“PLU makes you figure out who you are,” said one of the tour guides. Students and professors alike tend to be inquisitive and engage in critical thinking. “People learn quickly that their personal view isn’t the only one or even the right one. It doesn’t mean you have to change your ideas or that you’re wrong, but we acknowledge that our own experience is limited. We listen and engage with each other,” said another tour guide.

PLU chapel

The chapel

PLU is 1 of 2 ELCA schools on the west coast (the other is Cal Lutheran). “There are several flavors of Lutheran. This is the most liberal branch.” They espouse the Lutheran philosophy of higher education as well as freedom of thought and expression. There’s no statement of faith required by staff or students, but there are 2 class requirements, 1 Christian-based and one global. “You can get very theological or not,” said a student, referring to the choices for these classes ranging from the Hebrew Bible to environmental ethics to Native American Religions. There are even travel classes such as Ancient Religion in Greece or Asian Religions.

PLU statueLike the Jesuits, they tend to be highly inclusive; graciousness and hospitality are also hallmarks. People of most – and no – faith feel comfortable here. Last year’s commencement speaker was Muslim, the immediate past president was Episcopalian, and the current president “is no flavor.” Care is intentional here which is not seen in many mission statements. Teachers have 2 jobs: teach and be a mentor. “Students know that we have their backs.” They’re clearly doing something right with an 83% graduation rate within 4 years which is nearly double the national average.

PLU bell towerLocated in a residential Parkland, PLU is 15 minutes away from downtown Tacoma by bus and 45 minutes from Seattle on a good day. “On a bad day, we don’t talk about it.” There are a few blocks of restaurants, cafes, and stores right off campus with apartments over them, many of which are rented by upperclassmen. Students can use their dining dollars at 208 Garfield and a pizza place; there’s also sushi, Vietnamese, Starbucks, and more within walking distance either on that stretch or on Route 1, the main drag through town. There are plenty of outdoor activities available in the area (and this is the closest university of Mount Rainier).

PLU pondOne student said, “We’re stereotypical Pacific Northwest: pretty liberal and accepting.” This was mirrored by one of the admissions reps: “As with most of the region, we’re left of center.” There are people on all parts of the political spectrum, and they engage in dialogue. This is a safe space to have the discussions, and students will listen to each other.

PLU dorm

One of the dorms

There’s a 2-year residency requirement but housing is guaranteed all 4 years and about half of the students stay all 4 years. On-campus students have higher overall GPAs and higher graduation rates. All but 1 of the residence halls have linked learning components. Old Main is the only all female dorm with an empowerment hall. There are 3 non-gender/coed wings that students can apply for. The Lavender Wing is for LGBTQ students and allies. There’s First-Gen floor (43% of the students are First-Gen) and another for students of color (more than 25% self-identify). There’s an active Diversity Committee and an annual POC retreat.

PLU glass artFood gets high ratings from the students. The dining hall employs an executive chef who plans menus. “It gets creative. We get things like Taiwanese beef stew, Pacific Islander meals, schnitzel and brats, Norwegian, Korean short ribs. One of the favorite traditions is State Olympics: each group brought a “State Game”

PLU 2Although there are only about 2,700 undergrads (70% of whom come from within 100 miles of the school), PLU is considered a comprehensive Liberal Arts school because of the professional schools (business, education and Kinesiology, Nursing). “There’s a healthy tension between the Liberal Arts and Professional Programs here. Part of the mission is Vocational Discernment. It’s very real world here!” said one of the Deans. Some of their stronger or more unusual majors include:

  • PLU scandinavian cultural cntr

    Scandinavian Cultural Center

    Norwegian: The King of Norway has been to campus twice, once as a commencement speaker. The Queen has received an honorary doctorate.

  • Geosciences
  • Holocaust & Genocide Studies within the History department
  • Dual Engineering-degree. Students need a 3.3 GPA for guaranteed admission. Of the 40ish students who express interest every year, 25-30 end up completing the 3+2.
  • PLU theater

    One of the theaters: they offer a BFA and a BA in acting/directing as well as technical theater

    They offer a broad Business Admin degree with concentrations in the other areas (accounting, finance, marketing). They don’t offer a specific International Business program because all of their programs have an international focus. Students interested in a Fast-track MBA program for the MBA can start pre-reqs as an undergrad and then complete the MBA in 1 more year.

  • Education: Only elementary is offered at the undergrad level. Those interested in secondary education can major in area they want to teach and then do the fast-track 1-year masters. The program boasts a 100% placement rate.
  • Kinesiology offers 2 options:
    • The BS offers a pre-PT or an exercise science track.
    • The BA is more for Phys Ed teachers.
  • PLU 10Direct Admission to the Nursing program (#1 in the state): separate app by 1/15. Want to see advanced math and science and write a specific essay about why they want to be a nurse. 40 spots in fall and in spring. Better to do Calc than Stats in HS. They have 1 year of pre-reqs and 3 years of clinicals. They call it “conditional admission” – they’re in the program as long as they pass their pre-reqs with a 3.3 GPA. Last year they had a 100% pass rate with a longer-term average of 94% passing on the first attempt.
  • Students in Interdisciplinary Programs (Global, Scandinavian Area, Environmental, Chinese, and Women’s/Gender Studies) have to double major.

PLU quadThe biggest class students will ever see is 40, but classes average under 15. Even the largest lecture halls don’t have more than 80 or 90 seats, and these are used for visiting speakers. “Missing class isn’t really an option.” Some of the students’ favorite classes included:

  • Astronomy: “it changed my understanding of the world and how it worked. It really challenged me. I was taking a religion class at the same time, and I was able to question a lot and make connections.”
  • Sociology of the Body: “I walked out of the class with more questions than answers. It think that’s the sign of a good class.”

PLU 8All students complete some sort of capstone which could include an internship or research among other options. The results of the capstone have to be presented to several professors at the end. Research can be “as far as Africa and close as Rainier.” Facilities on campus are also amazing: graduate students from UW come here to use facilities to analyze atoms/molecules.

PLU international dorm

Sign in the lounge of the international dorm

This is the first American university to offer Study Away programs on all 7 continents at the same time. About half of the students participate in at least one program; about half of those are during J-Term. Only 4 programs are domestic.

Applications are free on Common App. A “3.3-ish GPA will start qualifying students for merit aid,” said one of the reps. There are 5 full-tuition scholarships which are competitive. They offer Fine Arts Scholarships (requiring an audition) ranging from 1,000-10,000 for music, theater, dance, art, and speech & debate.

© 2017

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