Villanova University (visited 7/21/16)
“We tend to attract students who are bright, bright-eyed, and not too cool for the room. They wear their school gear. They’re spiritual.” Clearly Villanova is doing something right: They boast an amazing 96% retention rate (freshman to sophomore years), 88% 4-year and 90% 5-year graduation rate, and a 97% placement rate 6 months after graduation!
Villanova makes 5 promises to its students:
- Academic Excellence: clearly the university has earned lots of high rankings including Phi Beta Kappa and Center for Excellence for Nursing.
- Personal Attention: the average class has 22 students with several capped at 15.
- Strong Community: They’re highly inclusive, a hallmark of the Augustinian tradition. That’s a big deal here.
- Service to others: Our tour guide was surprised at how service-minded students here are. People flock to service trips, etc.
- Foundation for Lifelong Success: The 118,000 alums “metaphorically hold the door open for current students.”
Villanova is named for Thomas of Villanova, the “Father of those who didn’t have.” This is an Augustinian Catholic institution and houses one of the largest Augustinian Monasteries (70 monks live there, 15 of whom are active on campus). St. Augustine became a bishop under one condition: he wanted to continue living and learning in a community of his friends.
Masses are held three times each Sunday in the gorgeous on-campus chapel, but masses are not required, and Campus Ministry will take students to other places of worship as asked. Students aren’t even asked to self-report religion until their exit interviews. Students are required to take 2 theology classes, 1 of which is general history.
Sports are clearly a huge deal here, especially basketball, but they attract strong athletes across the board. They’ve had a student or alum in every Olympics since 1948. Students get free basketball tickets on a lottery system, and the more games they attend, the higher their lottery number becomes. However, they really are student-athletes, and all teams have at least a 3.0 GPA. Our tour guide is a dancer, and she performs for the opening and closing ceremonies of the Special Olympics held on campus, the largest student-run event of its kind.
In addition to sports (both participating and watching), there are plenty of other things to do. “Cornhole is big here,” said the tour guide. “I’m not sure what that’s about!” A couple favorite traditions include Hoopmania before Basketball games, and on Fridays, people pass out lollipops at the end of classes. 20-30% of student join Greek life with Rush delayed until 2nd semester. All 3 ROTC branches are offered here, but Navy is the biggest. They produce the 2nd highest number of flag officers after the Naval Academy. For students wanting to go off campus, it’s easy to navigate through the city. Two trains run through campus, and students can be in downtown Philly in 20 minutes. They can also get to the airport easily.
Housing is guaranteed for 3 years, and they triple up a lot of freshmen. They don’t currently guarantee housing for all 4 years. However, this might change with the Lancaster Avenue Project, opening in fall of 2019: The large parking lot across the street from the university is being transformed into a Performing Arts Center (the new President had been the Head of the Theater Department and a new Res Hall with 1200 beds. This will bring the total number of students on campus to 85%. They have a new parking lot already going up to replace the parking spots they’re losing.
An admissions rep said, “We want to reward hard work, not just potential.” Test scores aren’t the end-all. “Community is a verb here. We look at what people do in their free time and are productively using their time.” For the first time this year, they’ll be denying people in the Early round. “It’s the moral and ethical thing to do.” About 9% first-gen and 13% Pell-eligible enrolled in last year’s first year class.
The university offers majors in 4 undergraduate divisions:
- Nursing: (last year, they got 1,046 applications for 90 spots)
- Engineering: (last year, they got 2549 applications for 270 spots)
- They only offer 5 undergraduate majors, but they get more specialized at the graduate level. Qualified students can do a 4+1 bachelor’s/master’s program.
- They offer a couple interesting minors including entrepreneurship and biomed.
- The department is ranked nationally in the top 15. Students take 1 semester of multi-disciplinary work, then declare their track during 2nd They do a lot of flipped classes: they’ll watch lectures for homework and then do projects in class.
- They run engineering-specific trips to places like Madagascar and Cambodia.
- Business: (last year, they got 4697 applications for 405 spots. “It’s hard to come in through the back door. It’s highly selective,” said the rep)
- In addition to the fairly typical majors found in most business schools, they offer 3 “co-majors” in Real Estate, International Business, or Business Analytics
- Liberal Arts and Sciences: (last year, they got 8065 applications for 325 spots in Science and 580 in LA)
- Students can create an Independently Designed Major if one of the others doesn’t appeal to them
Fun fact: The sister of the Liberty Bell is on campus.