First Impressions: Sacred Heart University (CT)
I visited Sacred Heart University (CT) over a two-day open house. This is one of the fastest growing schools in the country. Right now it’s the second largest Catholic college in New England. Founded in 1963 with fewer than 200 non-resident students, Sacred Heart now has more than 6,000 undergrads and nearly 3,000 graduate students. About half of the undergrads live on campus, while others live nearby in Bridgeport, Fairfield or Trumbull. I have been to only one other school that has grown as fast as Sacred Heart: Quinnipiac University, which is also in Connecticut. It was no surprise to learn that Sacred Heart and Quinnipiac are cross-shopped against each other. I gathered a few photos of Sacred Heart on Pinterest for you. There’s a lot to unpack about this school, so please read on!
Sacred Heart University has grown by fulfilling demands in a large target market.
Sacred Heart draws most of its students from the Boston and New York metro areas. It attracts new students not only by having an attractive campus setting, but also by offering as many programs as large state schools. For example, there are 10 programs in the health professions, eight of which are accelerated pathways to advanced degrees as well as two paths to a Bachelors in Nursing. There are also 17 programs in business and technology under a single school as well as a five-year path to a Master of Arts in Teaching.
During my two-day visit I attended presentations for programs in business, computer science and engineering and health professions. Sacred Heart has some of the newest equipment and facilities to support those programs, especially in the health professions. It acquired the former General Electric corporate headquarters and converted it to become the Jack Welch College of Business and Technology. One interesting aspect of business education at Sacred Heart: you can get golf lessons for free and play in a foursome in business school golf tournament when you’re ready. Your foursome will include a faculty member, employer and an alumnus. There are over 34,000 Sacred Heart alumni registered in LinkedIn.com based around New York City. That’s a huge community to tap for advice and connections.
Sacred Heart University is a Catholic college. But it welcomes students from all faiths.
The university also offers spiritual counseling from an imam and a rabbi. However, the Core Curriculum is much like other Catholic colleges that I have visited. Prefer not to take required courses in Catholic Tradition, Great Books, philosophy or religion? Then consider another school.
Sacred Heart is classified as a National Research University in US News rankings.
I’m not sure if that hurts or helps this school. But it might be the right academic neighborhood for Sacred Heart. Among the top ten Regional Universities-North only The College of New Jersey had more students, but very few in graduate programs. A ranking among research universities might help from the image standpoint, especially if the school wants its academics (especially in the health professions) to be taken seriously. But at the same time, the ranking of National Research Universities favors schools with larger or higher-profile graduate programs. That’s why Sacred Heart may have a lower ranking than it probably should.
Seton Hall University and Quinnipiac University have academic overlap with Sacred Heart.
But both schools rank higher as National Research Universities Seton Hall ranks 127th and Quinnipiac ranks 148th while Sacred Heart ranks. 202nd. The major academic difference: Seton Hall and Quinnipiac have a law school as well as a medical school. All three schools attract a 3.4+ student (3.7+ for the health fields) with a 1200+ SAT/25+ ACT. But Sacred Heart is the most selective. Sixty-six percent of the students who applied to Sacred Heart during the 2020 cycle were accepted. That’s compared to 78 percent for Seton Hall and 82 percent for Quinnipiac.
As a result of the academics and the campus life, Sacred Heart retains around 85 percent of a freshman class and graduates two-thirds of the class on time. Those are about the same numbers as Seton Hall, though Quinnipiac does better at retaining and graduating a class.
Sacred Heart University has interesting admissions practices for Early Decision.
While Sacred Heart is not ultra-selective for most academic programs, those who are interested in applying Early Decision are required to interview. The university offers incentives for applicants who choose this route. In addition, I have never seen this language under Early Decision on the Web site of any other school that I have visited:
While Early Decision is a binding contract that commits students to enroll upon admission, SHU will not hold you to the contract if you and your family determine that enrollment is not financially feasible.
Sacred Heart does not provide information about the percentage of applicants who applied Early Decision and were accepted. Nor does the university disclose the percentage of the class that was filled through Early Decision.
Sacred Heart University considers Demonstrated Interest to be Very Important.
If you have any inkling of interest in Sacred Heart, attend an Open House, talk with your local admissions representative and sign up for an accepted students event. The university awards merit-based scholarships that range between $8,500 and $17,500/year as well as awards for participating in extracurricular programs. Sacred Heart’s direct charges are just over $62,000 for the current academic year. The more generous awards might make Sacred Heart more affordable than Neighboring State U for the students in the top quarter of a freshman class.The awards are especially helpful for those who intend to pursue an accelerated program towards an advanced degree. The savings earned for the undergraduate education could be applied towards the graduate school charges.
Sacred Heart University takes the non-academic experiences quite seriously, too.
I have been to three schools that have opened “New Jersey diners” on campus. Two are in New Jersey, the third is Sacred Heart University. The diner, JP’s, is not the only eatery outside of a dining hall on campus. I had lunch at Thea’s Abbey , a very nice dining space with Hogwarts style decor and a dinner at Linda’s, named for Linda McMahon, former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration and Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc. Linda’s has great pizza and several big screen TVs to watch football on NFL Sunday. The university also makes it easy to get into New York City for those who want to intern during the school year, or find more entertainment off campus.
Sacred Heart school competes in 32 NCAA D-1 varsity scholarship sports–20 for women–plus competitive cheerleading. Within New England, only Dartmouth and Harvard compete in more D-1 sports–and they don’t award scholarships. To lend perspective, Seton Hall is D-1 in the Big East and plays only 14 sports, The recreation center, which is quite impressive, was named for former Mets and Red Sox manager, Bobby Valentine, who briefly served as the school’s athletic director. A new hockey arena is under construction. Greek social life is relatively important at Sacred Heart, unusual for a Catholic college. It attracts just over a fifth of the men and more than 40 percent of the women. However, Connecticut law prohibits social fraternities and sororities from having their own houses near campus.
Sacred Heart University has one of the nicest college campuses that I have ever visited. It was easy to imagine that students could feel safe, educated and happy at this school and that the faculty and staff would not give up on them. The selection of academic programs is quite impressive. Career development services are quite extensive.
But I had to wonder what this school’s next steps would be. Would Sacred Heart move into the Big East or the Patriot League for sports? Or would it try to open a law school or medical school? Maybe do both? It would not surprise me if Sacred Heart became the largest Catholic college in the Northeast within the next two decades. It has plenty of room to grow in a market that will always have prospective students.
Report Card: Sacred Heart University
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: B+/B+
- Freshman Retention: B
- Costs: B
- Curriculum: A
- Comforts: A
- Community: A
- Connections: A (New York City)/C (elsewhere)
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