Update: Ursinus College (PA)
Ursinus College, located 25 miles from Philadelphia, is a very small (only 1,500 undergraduates) school.It is also one of the more popular private liberal arts colleges among students who live in Central New Jersey–and it is also, and quite deservedly so, one of the 45 Colleges That Change Lives.
I had last visited this school four years ago. Since then it slightly revised its curriculum, opened a new Innovation and Discovery Center this fall, renovated it’s dining facilities as well as the residence hall that I saw, and will open The Commons, a new student center, next year. I have written an update and added photos to an Ursinus Pinterest page. This update is a little longer than most. But as I wrote it, I felt compelled to look at this college versus other liberal arts schools that applicants were also likely to consider.
There’s a lot to like about Ursinus as you will read in my update. It offers as many of the academic and “real world” experiential opportunities as colleges such as Dickinson, Franklin and Marshall, Gettyburg and Muhlenberg while also being less selective and more generous with merit based aid along with having between 800 and 900 fewer students on an eclectic, but very nice campus. Ursinus also offers a very similar athletic program, and competes against these schools in the same sports conference.
Ursinus also shares a common problem with Dickinson, Franklin and Marshall, Gettyburg and Muhlenberg: the campus is not within an easy commute to a major city. Ursinus is about as close to Philadelphia as Drew University, a similar-size, test-optional liberal arts college in New Jersey, is to New York City. But you can take a free shuttle from Drew’s campus to an NJ TRANSIT train to New York within ten minutes, and spend less than an hour on the train. There’s no direct bus or rail serve to Philadelphia from Ursinus. It really helps to have access to a car if you want to get to the city, or to nearby shopping options such as King of Prussia Mall.
Ursinus’ student body is more dominated by Pennsylvania residents than Dickinson, Franklin and Marshall, Gettyburg and Muhlenberg. In fact, they make up the majority; at the other schools they are not. Even another sports rival, Washington College on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, draws over half of its students from out of state. It’s also fair to state that Washington, a test optional school that has about the same number of undergraduates as Ursinus, also competes for the same students. If you graduate hoping to work in Philadelphia Ursinus might be your school. The alumni base in the city is quite strong. Going south towards the Baltimore/Washington Corridor or north towards New York, the other schools have more alumni connections.
Students who know that they want a liberal arts education, and want to spend time in a more campus-based social setting, should consider adding Ursinus to their list, especially if they like the idea of living in the Philadelphia area after they graduate or want to go on the graduate or professional schools. It also helps for students to take advantage of the numerous research, service, study abroad and study away programs to get the full measure of an Ursinus education. These, and the first-year Common Intellectual Experience are among the good reasons why Ursinus is deservedly one of the Colleges That Change Lives.
Report Card: Ursinus College
- Four-Year/Six Year Graduation Rates: A/A
- Freshman Retention: B+
- Costs: B
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: A (Philadelphia area)/C (Elsewhere)
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