My in-depth visit to the University of Delaware allowed me to spend 2 full days on campus, so I had the opportunity to learn about many of their outstanding academic programs, and how strongly UD prioritizes student-faculty relationships.
Academics at the University of Delaware
University of Delaware offers a broad range of academic options; students have major and minor options in seven undergraduate colleges. The College of Arts & Sciences is the largest, with 7000 students, nearly half the undergraduate population choosing among CAS’ 82 majors.
There are about 2400 undergraduates in the University of Delaware College of Engineering’s 11 academic programs. The entire first floor of one of the Engineering buildings is what they call a “design studio;” it’s filled with lathes, mills, collaborative workspaces and a million-dollar 3D printer that prints solid ceramic. All students are safety-trained, and engineers here begin hands-on projects in their freshman year. “The hands-on projects I did here made me competitive for the job I got at NASA,” our engineering tour guide Erin, a graduating senior from South Dakota, told my counselor group.
Students who know they want to be engineers but aren’t quite sure which major is right for them can apply to the college undeclared. Through this option, students will take the standard first year engineering course, and will be able to learn about the different engineering options UD offers. All eleven programs are ABET-accredited, all of them have 4+1 master’s degree options, and about 30% of honors students are also engineers. We heard presentations from representatives of each of the engineering disciplines. UD’s Civil Engineering program is almost 170 years old, founded in 1850. I was struck by how dynamic each of the department representatives was; their excitement about the hands-on, project-based work they do with undergraduates, and their graduates’ success in the finding engineering jobs (you can check that here), was palpable.
There are about 3200 undergraduates in the Lerner College of Business, and 1000 graduate students. This College is over 100 years old, and students benefit from Delaware’s status as home to a large number of major Fortune 500 corporations. Finance is the largest major, and Delaware has recently added an entrepreneurship major. B of A, Deloitte, Yelp, PWC and Vanguard recruit Lerner students heavily; most graduates end up in NYC (2 hours by train) or Philly (about an hour away), with a smaller number heading to Washington, DC or Boston.
UD’s Hospitality program is within the College of Business. There is a Courtyard Marriott on campus, and hospitality majors get internships here. “When Marriott rolls out a new customer management system, our students learn it as it happens,” says Lerner Career Center director Jill Pante. Vita Nova, the on-campus, student-run restaurant, is located upstairs in one of UD’s two student unions, and reservations are tough to get! Students do all of the cooking in the five-star quality commercial kitchen, and are trained on front of the house activities at the five-star level. Hospitality students can participate in the program’s specialized study abroad program, in which students learn about international food and culture.
Students within the College of Health Sciences have the distinct advantage of having the state-of-the-art, 272-acre STAR campus, a former Chrysler plant, at their disposal. Here, undergraduates are an integral part of this learning experience at the University of Delaware’s speech pathology clinic, the physical and occupational therapy clinics open to the local community, and a biomechanics/kinesiology lab. UD’s graduate PT program is #1 in the nation.
One of the more interesting specialty colleges at University of Delaware is the College of Earth, Ocean and the Environment. The division offers both BA and BS programs, but the BS degrees have a heavier emphasis on science and math. All first year students are paired up with an ‘EnvironMentor,’ upperclass students who advise them informally and help with tutoring when needed. This is in addition to faculty advisors for all department majors. Internships and field experience are required for all majors. UD has a second campus in Lewis, DE, on the beach, at which grad students and faculty do research. But undergrads can do a full semester there – it’s called ‘Semester in Residence.’ About 15-20 undergrads per semester do this, mostly marine science majors, taking their full slate of courses.
The College of Education and Human Development is the smallest of the undergraduate colleges, with four majors offered. All education students are trained in special education, and can specialize in either early childhood development or elementary school teaching. Students in this college may also choose a social work or human development track.
The College of Agriculture is over 150 years old and prepares students for a variety of jobs, including landscape architecture, food and agribusiness management, natural resource management, wildlife ecology and preservation, and entomology. Many agriculture majors make as much as engineers! With just over 1000 students in this college and a student-to-faculty ratio of 10:1, ag students are a close-knit community. UD’s pre-vet students, who make up about a third of the College of Ag, have very successful admit rates to vet school – and they are often the best-prepared. Plus, they have the UDairy’s famous ice cream to bond over!
Delaware’s Honors program is not a separate college, and students can be any major. Honors courses are smaller, and all honors freshmen live together. A thesis is not required, but students who do complete a thesis receive honors with distinction when they graduate. Honors students receive supplemental advising to help them coordinate AP credits from high school, extended, faculty-led study abroad programs, multiple majors and minors and scholarship applications for programs such as the Fullbright. Additionally, honors students receive funding for special research activities, and many participate in community service together.
I sat with Katie during one meal, a fourth-year student, finishing both a BA with two minors and an MA in public policy in four years. Her final college choice was between UD and Berkeley. “A lot of students like me were funneled into the UC system,” she said. But she found her experience here to be very “high-touch,” as she put it. “There are lots of people who care about what you are doing.” Katie received strong faculty support in her applications for a Truman Scholarship, as well as for her PhD program. She went to India for a research and service trip, completely funded by the honors program. “Some of these opportunities don’t exist when you go the UC route,” Katie said to me.
Admission to the University of Delaware
Delaware admissions receives 27,000 applications as they build a class of 4,400 first-year students. The admission office creates an index out of applicants’ GPA and test scores (they use a weighted GPA, and they use whatever GPA is on your transcript without recalculating). After building that index number, they bring in whatever additional information students submit, including essays, teacher recommendations and counselor recommendations, plus information about students’ leadership and involvement, to review each application holistically.
The first person who will read your application will be familiar with the academic context of your school – what AP courses are offered, average GPA and test scores for students at your school, and where students are admitted. The second reader will review in the context of the academic department to which you are applying – so they will review your application both in the context of your school and the on-campus department’s needs.
Average admitted student GPA is between 3.6 and 3.99 (weighted), with SAT scores between 1200-1350, and ACT scores between 25-30.
Merit scholarships and the Honors program are much more competitive, and there are significant benefits to being selected for the Honors program. Average GPAs for Honors students are between 3.92 and 4.17, with SAT scores 1380-1475 and ACT scores 30-33.
Overall Impressions of the University of Delaware
After meeting with students, professors and administrators, and touring multiple departments over two days, I have an overwhelmingly positive impression of the University of Delaware! There’s tremendous school spirit, sporty culture with an active Greek community. Students can easily walk from campus to Main Street, a hub of restaurants, bars and bookstores in this small college town. Each student we met was engaged academically and in some extra-curricular activity, and each one had at least one specific story about how they interacted with a particular professor. With around 18,000 undergraduates, UD is large enough to feel like a big school, while also providing many opportunities for students to find their smaller group. I was especially struck by the Honors student I met, who recognized, as she graduated with both a Master’s and a Bachelor’s degree in four years, that the choice she made to come here instead of to UC Berkeley will impact the rest of her life.
I visited UD in spring, 2019, and I took a boatload of pictures! You can scroll through them below.