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University of San Francisco–an urban, Jesuit college in the Bay Area


I seem to have been visiting quite a few Jesuit colleges lately.  I tend to like them for a lot of reasons. I need to write a post on Jesuit colleges generally.  But first, I offer this bit about the University of San Francisco, which I was fortunate to be able to visit yesterday as part of a tour for college counselors.University of San Francisco

Here are a few of the things that I learned while on campus.

  1. USF is different from the other Jesuit college in terms of its location and the composition of the student body.  USF is a school of minorities:  only 39% are white.  There are plenty of students from other ethnic groups, including Asian (21%) and Latino (14%) and Black (5%).  But get this:  30% of the students in the Gospel Choir are white.  USF is a place where students can get outside of their cultural constricts of their childhood and high school experience.  Students can “mix it up,” literally.  Thirty percent of students are the first in their family to go to college.  Socio-economically speaking, this place is also pretty diverse:  forty percent come from families who make $60k or less per year–and who are attending an institution that costs $50k per year.
  2. Who are the “majorities” at USF:  Catholics 51%, and women 60% (note that the strong School of Nursing pulls this average off, because 95% of school of nursing are women). Also, 75-80% come from the Western states, though there are representatives of most states, and a whole bunch of foreign countries.
  3. Like most Jesuit institutions, USF is a mission-driven college. They focus upon “education the whole person” and learning is considered a “humanizing social activity rather than a competitive exercise.”
  4. USF has 5,000 undergraduates, with another 3,800 graduate students.  Seventy-five percent of classes have 25 students or fewer.
  5. USF has a core curriculum, like most Jesuit institutions. But there are still differences.  Total of 11 core classes, plus a class that includes a service learning component (not just a “bunch of hours”)—service learning is integrated into the classroom, making it an integration of service and learning.
  6. USF admissions officers encourage phone calls from both students and counselors.  They do not have  “wall” between web users and the admissions staff.  The admissions office representatives said repeatedly, “Pick up the phone; we’re old fashioned.”  USF also lists all the phone numbers of faculty right on the website.  So if you’re interested in how good the biology department is, or what the major’s priorities are, you can just get on the horn with the chair of the department and ask.
  7. Twenty-five percent  of faculty are “of color;”  45% of faculty are women.  One of USF’s core values is diversity.
  8. If you are interested in the nursing program, you must apply separately, adn the nursing program is very competitive.  There are about 600 students in the nursing program.  This year there were about 550 applications for admission to nursing, and about half were admitted, with an eye to building a class of 100 freshmen.
  9. USF offers great scholarship for those it deems to be “high value” students:  those with a 3.8 GPA grades 9-11, a score of 1320 SAT (math plus critical reading only–not the writing component) or a  minimum of 30 ACT composite.  If you break these barriers, here’s what you win:  a $19,500 merit scholarhip, renewable for up to four years.
  10. Some students may opt for the Saint Ignatius Institute, an interesting Great Books program within both the Jesuit and the liberal arts tradition.  Students read the classics of Western Civilization (Plato, Homer, Augustine, Dante, Göethe, Kafka, Borges, etc.).  This program is open to all students, but spaces are limited.  For students who want the “Great Books” sort of program offered at St. John’s (but who don’t want the strict focus of St. John’s), this might be a great fit.

All in all I really enjoyed my time at USF, though I wish the weather had been warmer. It was blowing a gale, despite the fact that the sun was out.  I hear that Mark Twain had this to say about this fair city (and I’m not quoting directly):  “I spent the coldest winter of my life in San Francisco one summer.”

Mark Montgomery
College Counselor


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