First Impressions: University of Pittsburgh (PA)
I spent a week in the Pittsburgh area to catch up with a friend as well as visit four schools. The University of Pittsburgh (aka “Pitt”) was the first. I spread my visit to Pitt over two and a half days, taking separate visits to learn more about the business school as well as the engineering school. I have already written about my tour of the Swanson School of Engineering in a prior post. As usual I have written First Impressions of Pitt and collected many pictures to make a Pinterest page. My First Impressions are longer than usual. There was more to write about Pitt than most other universities I have visited.
The University of Pittsburgh is one of the oldest universities in the US, founded in 1787 as the Pittsburgh Academy. It was associated with the University of Pennsylvania at that time. Pitt was a private university that later became state-related. While state government does not subsidize the in-state charges assessed on its students, the university still charges rates that are respectively below those of private universities. However, the university’s in-state charges are the highest in the country.
Pitt’s undergraduate student body, just under 18,000, is of similar size to Boston University as well as the University of Southern California. The University of Pittsburgh also has less than half the number of undergraduates as Penn State and over 10,000 fewer than Temple. In addition to being considered vs. Penn State and Temple, Pitt is regularly shopped against smaller and larger city-based schools such as the University of Pennsylvania, Boston University, NYU and Northeastern. It is also considered vs. Big Ten schools other than Penn State.
The University of Pittsburgh has many strengths, even beyond academics. The campus is one of the more attractive city settings you will fill, the city ripe with opportunities for students to find internships, co-ops (engineering) as well as part-time and full-time entry-level jobs. The Pitt campus is located in the heart of the Pittsburgh’s cultural district, adjacent to Carnegie Mellon University and within a ten-minute walk from Schenley Park, one of the finest examples of an urban park in the world. Pittsburgh more closely resembles cities such as San Francisco or Seattle than Boston, New York or Philadelphia. The university encourages undergraduates to use the city, arranging discounts at the Carnegie Museum and the Carnegie Music Hall, both in the heart of campus, as well as for Penguins and Pirates games. Students may use the city bus system as well as the incline cars from the downtown up Mount Washington for no charge just by showing their student ID.
With respect to academics, Pitt is one of America’s leading research universities, especially in the health sciences, health professions and medicine. It takes liberal arts more seriously than other large universities. Philosophy as well as Philosophy of Science count among Pitt’s signature academic programs; courses in one of these two subjects are required for a Bachelor’s degree. The very best undergraduate students may earn a Bachelor of Philosophy degree in their major, taking on the requirements for Honors plus a Bachelor’s thesis that must be defended as if it were for a Masters degree.
The Dietrich School of Arts and Sciences, with over 10,000 undergraduates, has almost five times the undergraduate enrollment of Pitt’s excellent business school and nearly four times the enrollment of the Swanson School of Engineering. The University of Pittsburgh also has some of the more comprehensive offerings one would find in the allied health professions as well as information systems. Pitt also does an excellent job at helping students to go abroad as well as in supporting team-based consulting projects in business and engineering. The university is one of the more supportive when it comes to helping students in these programs to find internships.
There is much to like about Pitt as you will see when you read my First Impressions. But there are downsides besides the high in-state tuition and fees. While out-of-state charges are fairly reasonable, Pitt is not one of the more generous schools when it comes to meeting financial need or providing merit-based aid. The university also has an unattractive residence complex, Litchfield Towers, that houses almost a third of the freshman class. The unattractiveness of this complex, which also provides many ground-level student services, was glaring enough to devote space in my writing.
Downsides aside, a very bright student who has their sights set on an exceptionally selective city-based research university such as NYU, Penn or USC will not be disappointed in Pitt, as long as the finances and the housing (choose a learning community) work in their favor.
Report Card: University of Pittsburgh
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: C resident/B non-resident
- Community: A
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A
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