First Impressions: Widener University (PA)
Given that home is close to the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border, I make it a point to visit schools in the Philadelphia area as much as possible. This year was my first visit to Widener University, located only 20 minutes from Philadelphia’s Center City. I attended a Summer Preview to gather First Impressions and assembled photos to make a Pinterest page.
With around 3,000 undergraduates, Widener University is an attractive alternative to the larger schools in or around Philadelphia for pursuing many pre-professional degrees in Business, Education, Engineering (most recently Robotics), Hospitality and the health professions (especially Nursing, Occupational Therapy and Physical Therapy). While Widener University is a small school, it also offers several accelerated programs towards advanced degrees, including a law degree.
Widener is a very good school for a ‘B’ or better student who has the ambition to pursue one of these degrees, but wants a more personalized education than they might receive as schools such as Drexel, Temple or West Chester. The university also offers generous scholarships for excellent students, all the way up to full tuition. Like Drexel, Temple and Saint Joseph’s, Widener offers cooperative education. Widener students to build an equally impressive resume–and often pay less.
Widener University has a well maintained campus, easily accessible to Interstate 95 to Wilmington or Philadelphia. It tries to bond the community by requiring resident students to live on campus for their first three years and offers suite-style residence halls and apartments to accommodate everyone who ask for housing. But the campus does not have easy direct train service into the two larger cities The school provides shuttles to nearby Media to help students get to the train or to shop in a more suburban community. But really helps to have access to a car.
While the university provides its own social opportunities for on-campus entertainment as well as civic engagement, the neighborhood surrounding the campus is in a serious state of decay. The university has tried to help improve conditions in the City of Chester in several ways, including the construction of new student apartments mixed with retail and a hotel in the downtown.
Widener is one of the older schools in the Philadelphia area. Founded in 1821 as a private school of boys, it later became the Pennsylvania Military Academy. During the middle 1970’s, it was the training camp site for the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles. Some of the freshmen residence halls were converted from military barracks, a stark contrast from even the older halls that you might see at Temple or West Chester, among other colleges.
For students who might want to live and work in the Philadelphia area, or even the Baltimore/Washington Corridor, Widener is an attractive option for those who would prefer to go to a smaller school.
Report Card-Widener University
- 4-Year/6-Year Graduation Rates: C/C
- Freshman Retention: B
- Costs: B+
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B
- Comforts: B
- Connections: A (Philadelphia area, Pennsylvania, Baltimore-Washington Corridor)/C (elsewhere)
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