SANTA CLARA UNIVERSITY, Santa Clara, CA (visited on 7/20/12)
I was hugely impressed with SCU (which, incidentally, used to be the University of Santa Clara, but since they were getting confused with the University of Southern California – same initials AND same colors! – they switched around their name to SCU). This is a beautiful campus located about 45 minutes from San Francisco and Oakland. It’s very close to both San Jose State and Stanford, giving this southern tip of the San Francisco Bay area a real college-town feel, although being in the Bay area, you’re never far from a college. The Santa Clara Mission is still on campus, and the entire place has a very Southern California feel – stucco, red tiled roofs, etc. We got a great view from the 3rd floor balcony of the Union where we had breakfast with the admissions staff.
One of the coolest things about the college is the chance to take a class called SLURP: Sustainable Living Undergraduate Research Project. The campus has a bit of a “crunchy” feel; one of the admissions reps said that SCU is “more of a longboard campus than a biking campus like Davis is” – and it’s true. We saw lots of people riding around. One of the most interesting, and certainly the most unique, activities offered on campus is the chance to participate in the Solar Decathlon Project in which teams of students design sustainable eco-friendly housing. SC was the smallest campus participating in this national competition and the only one west of the Rockies. They took 3rd in the competition in DC, beating out Ivies and those schools with grad students working on the project; SC only had underclassmen working on the house, which is now displayed right on campus (those winning 1st, 2nd, and 3rd get to keep their houses as part of their bragging rights).
SC has slightly over 5,200 undergrads, and 3,000 grad students but none of them are TAs who teach classes. Most work with professors doing research (although some will grade). This campus is highly focused on undergraduates, keeping true to its Jesuit roots in which education is highly esteemed. Their dedication to students shows in their 94% freshman to sophomore retention and 85% 4-year graduation rate. Just over half of the undergrads are from California. It’s very much a residential campus. They guarantee housing for freshman and 95% live on campus. About 75% of sophomores stay on campus, and many students take advantage of the Residential Learning Communities.
60% of students are in the liberal arts division, 25% in business, and 15% in engineering. They have several particularly strong departments, including communications (including a mass media focus), psychology (including graduate work), pre-health, engineering (incluidng biological engineering), theater/dance/art (and do not require auditions except for scholarships), and business. As an illustration of the strength of the program and the school, last year, 194 of the 197 graduates from the business program had a job at the time of graduation. Students who think they want to be in the Business or Egineering programs should apply directly to those programs. It’s easier to switch out than get in once starting at SC since they have to spend a year in the program to which they were accepted before they’re able to switch to a different one. However, there are 3 interdisciplinary minors in the business school that students don’t need to be in the Business program to take: Retail, Entrepreneurship, and International Business. Our tour guide was in the Retail program and loved that she got a taste of a lot of different subjects in business.
SC offers acceptance under both the ED and EA programs (both with 11/1 deadlines) and RD (1/7). They accept about 50% of applicants with an average of 3.65 GPA, 28 ACT, 1280 SAT (they don’t look at the writing). There is no separate app for scholarships, but they do require both the FAFSA and CSS. There is limited merit aid for international students.
There are 19 D1 sports, and they were up-front about the fact that if a student hasn’t been recruited by the beginning of senior year, they probably aren’t going to play for SC. Just under 1/5 of the students participate in Greek Life, but they’re “off campus Greek.” They are not allowed to advertise, put tables out, etc. The tour guide said that people will wear t-shirts that say “Ask me about ___” to get the word out about events or rushing. Study abroad is popular amongst the students, and the school even has a study-abroad program in Cuba.
Students seemed very happy on campus, and raved about their professors, the classes, and the overall atmosphere. The problems that the students mentioned were that there wasn’t AC in the Western dorms, students were not very politically active, and that there wasn’t any discount on public transportation. Even though CalTrain and busses run right past campus and it’s really easy to get to wherever they want, there is no agreement with the public transportation systems like there are at other colleges.