At the invitation of Ursinus College, three Magellan counselors spent an intensive two full days on campus, meeting with faculty, administrators and students. We learned about a wide array of services and offerings in addition to their approach to academics, ranging from student life to accommodations to health and wellness services. A small liberal arts college about 45 minutes west of Philadelphia, Ursinus is one of the Colleges That Change Lives.
Academics at Ursinus College
The defining feature of the Ursinus College curriculum is the Common Intellectual Experience (CIE), a 2-semester course that ALL first-year students take in small cohorts of about 16, with a professor who guides them through close reading and discussion of important literature from a broad spectrum of disciplines. Through this shared exercise, Ursinus instills in its students a passion for answering four questions that help shape their academic experience here:
- What SHOULD matter to me?
- How SHOULD we live together?
- How can we understand the world?
- What should I do?
Ursinus faculty believe that by focusing on these questions, Ursinus helps students figure out what’s important to them, and learn how to collaborate and navigate in a world with people who have different priorities and who approach problems differently.
Ursinus College has strong science programs, including the biological sciences, psychology and physics. About 20% – 25% of Ursinus students go to medical school, and Ursinus has an agreement with Villanova through which students here can get a BSN in 16 months there if they follow a specific sequence of courses. The Innovation & Discovery Center houses science, research and entrepreneurship programs. Ursinus also has a business and applied economics major, as well as a Shark Tank-style business pitch program, with the college funding the winning student-founded business idea! Media and communication studies is also a popular major here.
All entering students have a first year advisor who stays with them until they declare a major, which is generally second year, although Ursinus students can declare their major as early as the second semester of freshman year. A large percentage of Ursinus students either double major or double minor along with their major, illustrating their varied deep academic interests.
Ursinus College requires an experiential learning experience for graduation – this could be research with a professor, study abroad or an internship opportunity. There’s also an art requirement and a foreign language requirement to graduate.
One of Ursinus College’s unique programs is called PhillyX – the Philadelphia Experience. While Ursinus is just 25 minutes outside the city, it’s not super-easy to get there using transit, so Ursinus offers students the opportunity to live in Philadelphia for a full semester, taking courses and doing an internship if they desire. Most of these students come back to the Ursinus campus in Collegeville for the weekend.
Ursinus is a great place for students who learn differently – about 20% of the students here have disclosed some type of learning challenge (including ADHD, dyslexia or processing issues). Ursinus partners with students who request accommodations to ensure they have all of the resources they need to stay on top of their learning. There’s also peer mentoring to help students with the transition to college, as well as an active academic coaching program through the Institute for Student Success.
Student Life at Ursinus College
Wellness, student stress and anxiety are big topics of conversation among the faculty and administration here. Ursinus was the first liberal arts college to sign the Okanagan Charter, a fact of which they are very proud, which demonstrates their commitment to student mental health.
Ursinus has more than 100 student clubs and organizations, which is quite a lot for a campus of just 1,500 students! About 40% of the students here are varsity athletes, representing Ursinus in the Centennial League, Division III athletics. The performing arts are also very active here, with a vibrant theatre and music scene, and students supporting their friends’ games and performances regularly. While there’s no official Greek housing (pretty much everyone lives on campus here all four years), about 20% of the students join one of the 8 fraternities or 5 sororities on campus.
Admission to Ursinus College
Ursinus is a bit less selective than other liberal arts colleges, admitting about 80% of their applicants. But that number may not tell the whole story – the students here are smart, driven, multi-interested and engaged.
They are very generous with merit scholarships, and they share guidelines on their website that will help you see which scholarships you might be awarded.
Michelle, Chris and Evelyn visited Ursinus in fall, 2022 for an extended two-day trip. You can see our photos from the campus below!