Getting To Know: Villanova University (PA)-Again
Every time I had visited Villanova University before September 14th of this year, it was a cold or rainy day. I have been to Villanova for counselors events, college fairs and a women’s basketball game (Rutgers won!). But I felt that I should take a new visit on a nice day. I also scrounged for new pictures for my Villanova Pinterest page.
Villanova’s campus is really nice, very well maintained. There’s architecture that will make you think of Ivies, Ivy-likes and Notre Dame. I dropped three more photos below. The first one faces Lancaster Avenue, the main road to campus, and shows the senior year student housing. Villanova guarantees three years of housing, though most can get a fourth.
Villanova has approximately 7,000 undergrads.
That’s at a mid-point between Wake Forest (5,500) and Boston College (9,500) also considered by prospective students. . It’s also about the same number you will find at The College of New Jersey, a fine public college in my home state as well as the College of William & Mary. Prospective Villanovans also look at Georgetown and Notre Dame as well as Big East rival Providence.
Villanova is a National University in US News.
When I first became a college admissions advisor Villanova was considered to be a Regional University, because it granted mainly undergraduate and masters degrees as well as the law degree. Villanova used to be ranked first under Regional Universities-North in the US News college guides. Now, Big East rival Providence College (RI) and Jesuit school Fairfield University often occupy that lofty perch.
Today, Villanova ranks 51st among National Universities, behind Notre Dame (18), Georgetown (22), Wake Forest (29) and Boston College (36), but also tied with Purdue and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Villanova also ranks ahead of Rutgers-New Brunswick (55) and Penn State-University Park (77). However, these rankings do not necessary mean that Villanova is a “better school” than Rutgers or Penn State. They mean that Villanova shows up higher in a ranking that uses criteria and weights chosen by US. News.
Is Villanova a first-choice school?
I have to say increasing yes, because of the interest in Early Decision, shown over four Common Data Sets:
- 2019-20: 56% Acceptance Rate ED/ED admits were 33% of the freshman class
- 2020-21: 58% Acceptance Rate ED/ED admits were 36% of the freshman class
- 2021-22: 60% Acceptance Rate ED/ED admits were 43% of the freshman class
- 2022-23: 55% Acceptance Rate ED/ED admits were 46% of the freshman class
During the 2022-23 admissions cycle Villanova had a 23% overall acceptance rate. The yield was 32%, high considering the costs of the school and limited merit aid. I hope that you check out Common Data Sets for Villanova. You’ll find that the wait lists are quite large, and a majority will accept a spot on the list. However, few get in. There will be approximately 1,700 students in a freshman class.
What, besides the campus, would make Villanova a first-choice school?
- Location. There are two train stops on campus to take the SEPTA commuter rail line into Philadelphia. You can get into the city in about a half hour.
- Happy people. Freshman retention has averaged 96 percent for recent classes. No less than 87 percent of every freshman class from 2012 to 2016 has graduated on time. Students move through here as well as they would at an Ivy or Ivy-like school.
- Undergrad focus. Villanova has many programs that you’ll also find at Home State U and Highly Selective Out of State U. However, 80 percent of your classes will have fewer than 30 students; only five total had over 100 in 2022-23. This is one mid-sized school where undergraduates can truly get to know faculty and do research with them.
- The business school. Poets & Quants for Undergraduates ranks it 17th, ahead of Tulane, Wake Forest, the University of Miami and the Kelley School at Indiana University. However, if business is the academic direction, then direct admission is by far the best path to a business education at Villanova. It’s virtually impossible to transfer from another school within the university, though you have two options, academic year and summer boot camp, to complete a business minor. Villanova is the first school that I have visited that enables students to complete an entire business minor over a summer.
- Men’s Basketball. The men’s basketball program has won three NCAA National Championships and played in nine Final Fours. Villanova has the second-smallest undergraduate population among the top 25 programs of all time, after Duke. It might take a little time for the program to get back to lofty heights after a .500 season in 2022-23, the first under a new coach, Kyle Neptune, a former assistant to the last coach, Jay Wright, who retired in 2022.
- Interest in community service. The Augustinian order of the Catholic Church takes this quite seriously, and it goes beyond day of service programs. ‘Nova Dance’, as one example, a 12-hour dance marathon, raised over $500,000 for pediatric cancer last year. I dropped a photo of the Nova Dance t-shirts and sweatshirts below. I also dropped a photo of sorority women who were selling lemonade to raise money for their philanthropy on the hot day when I visited .
What might scare prospective Villanovans, aka Wildcats, away?
- Costs. The total cost of attendance (tuition & fees, room & board, incidentals) is over $85,000. Less than four percent of the Class of 2026 received merit-based awards. The school, on average, met 80 percent of need. Members of the Class of 2021 who borrowed owed, on average, nearly $40,000.
- You can’t enter totally undecided on a major unless you change majors within your own school. It’s tough to do an internal transfer into the business school, and not possible to transfer into nursing. But going from Arts & Sciences into engineering is not as tough, as long as you have the prerequisite courses. Any Villanovan can transfer into Arts & Sciences.
- Religious diversity. Villanova is a Catholic university and over 60 percent of the student body is either Catholic or Christian. However, all faiths are welcome and there are no required courses in Catholicism.
- It might be tougher to double major here or carry multiple minors. Villanova requires courses in religion and philosophy in addition to other liberal arts courses. That means fewer electives, especially if you are studying business, engineering or nursing.
- “Villa-No Fun”, “Vanilla-Nova” and “Villanova Nice.” I suggest reading reviews and listening to YouTubes for student perspectives on these labels. The campus is in a well-to-do community. But it’s not really a college town as you might find at a school like Penn State or Notre Dame. There’s more college-oriented shopping around Bryn Mawr, a much smaller school that’s a bus ride away.
- Greek life. Villanova has no Greek houses on campus, but a quarter of the men and nearly half of the women participate. However, the more formal parties happen in Philadelphia. If you want a Greek system with houses, look elsewhere. Same if you are looking for a school where Greek life is not important.
- It’s not really a football school. The main rival is UDel in the “Battle of the Blue.” However, last season, the rivalry drew less than 6,500 fans. The Wildcats play in a lower profile conference, CAA Football, which includes schools like Hampton (VA), Monmouth (NJ) and North Carolina A&T. UDel is the only true regional rival although the Wildcats also play Lehigh.
Villanova has a strong brand name that extends beyond basketball successes into undergraduate academics and community service. An excellent student who is outgoing and has held active leadership roles in their faith or high school, especially elected roles, would love Villanova. The university offers no shortage of activities to lead. And, while the campus is quite close to a major city, the social life is quite campus based around sports and student organizations. There’s also no doubt that a diligent Villanova grad will compete well in the job market versus peers at the more selective Catholic schools such as Boston College, Georgetown or Notre Dame as well as Ivies and Ivy-like schools. However, the costs really need to work out. Villanova does not appear to be the best school for students who have serious financial need.
Report Card: Villanova University
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: A/A
- Freshman Retention: A
- Costs: D
- Curriculum: A
- Community: A
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A
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