A Virtual Look at Montclair State University
Montclair State University is one of ten participants in the recently announced New Jersey Scholars Corps. While I have not reviewed the school here before, I have visited many times before I became an independent admissions advisor. I never got to visit any colleges when I was in high school, unless I competed in a speech tournament on their campus. One of the schools that I got to visit twice was Montclair State. The second time that I visited campus, our high school team won their tournament. So I have a happy memory of the school. I also did business with this school for several years, though some new buildings have come up since I was last on campus.
New Jersey has very good public colleges in addition to Rutgers. The College of New Jersey graduates three-quarters of a freshman class on time, something Rutgers main campus has probably never done. Three other Scholars Corps colleges: Ramapo, Stockton and Rowan, schools also graduate over half of their freshmen on time. Montclair State is getting close, reporting a four-year grad rate of 47 percent for the students who arrived in 2013.
In 1982, the year that I graduated from Rutgers, Montclair State had 7,700 full-time undergraduates. By 1988, the year that I earned my first master’s degree, the number dropped to 6,500. It was more of a commuter school. In 1987, over two-thirds of the undergrads, full-time and part-time came from driving distance of campus. Today, Montclair State has over 15,000 full-time undergrads. Thirty percent of them live on campus, including half of the freshmen.
This school has become more residential, and there’s some very nice housing, but it helps to have a car. Montclair State is not a spirit and sports school as Rutgers can be during winning football or basketball seasons. But its campus is host to the Yogi Berra Museum, a baseball shrine. Montclair State’s campus is built up on a hill, with parking at the lower levels. The campus has nice buildings, some with a California Spanish-style motif, but the parking gives it a commuter vibe. I heard complaints on student-produced YouTubes about parking and hill climbs from the lots with the wind smack in your face. I get it. New Jersey kids want cars as soon as they get their license, and want to take the car to college.
Starting fall semester 2015 Montclair State became the first New Jersey public college to go test optional. That turned out to be a wise decision. Thirty-seven percent of the students who were admitted in 2015 decided to come. That’s an excellent yield rate for a public college of any size. The year before the university made the decision to go test optional, Montclair State retained 81 percent of the freshmen class. The average GPA of these freshmen was a 3.2. Among the students who entered the following year under test optional admissions, 83 percent returned. Their average high school GPA was a 3.24. The average GPA is slightly better now; it was a 3.26 for the class that arrived in 2018.
So Montclair State attracted better students by going test optional, or the university did more to encourage better students to apply. What are some other things that help this school stand out?
- The Presidential Scholars program helps to make a fairly large school feel smaller, and offers a scholarship at $5,000/year.
- Admissions to the Honors Program are quite achievable for a student who might otherwise go to Rutgers-New Brunswick. The Honors Program can also make a fairly large school feel smaller.
- There is an impressive selection of academic programs within the nine undergraduate colleges. Montclair State has standout offerings in Business, Communications, Exercise Science and Nursing, among others
- Students have a choice of internships or co-ops, depending on the major.
- The campus is served by two train stations as well as buses to New York City.
- There’s a really cool diner on campus that’s part of the meal plan.
- This school has nearly 73,000 alumni in and around New York City registered in LinkedIn.com.
- It is a five-star school for being LGBTQA+ friendly on the Campus Pride Index.
It’s relatively easy to transfer to Montclair State. A 2.75 GPA will be enough to get in, even as a second semester freshman. There’s no need to send test scores, but in some cases you will need to send high school grades. Montclair State currently loses about 20 percent of a freshman class and is located by the line between two counties that have well over 1 million residents. Montclair State might be the school that is best positioned to take advantage of the New Jersey Scholars Corps. It needs the students, has a good selection of academic programs and the right location to make the transfer experience work out well.
No state can ever have enough good public colleges and universities. New Jersey is fortunate to have some that have become quite serious about student success. No college is perfect, including Montclair State. But accessible public colleges like this one can become winners for freshmen and transfer students in this new reality called COVID-19.
New Jersey and Southeastern Pennsylvania residents, need help in making a list of the best fit schools for this new reality? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.
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