Providence College (PC) is a Catholic university of the Dominican tradition located two miles from downtown. The campus buildings are lovingly maintained, as are the plentiful green spaces. With an active, 100-year presence of robed friars on campus, it’s not surprising an ongoing discussion about human existence – including life’s meaning and purpose – is of central importance during the undergraduate years. There are approximately 4,000 undergraduate students with the majority from out of state, particularly New England. The campus exudes a small college vibe combined with big university athletics and opportunities, particularly in professor-led research.
Providence is the capital of Rhode Island and the perfect college town located about 40 minutes from Boston. The PC campus is a short, fifteen-minute car ride from the beach and only 40 minutes to historic Newport. Diverse and historic, bicycle-friendly, and easy to explore by foot, Providence is an active center of art, culture, education, and politics. Waterplace Park is the backdrop for the WaterFire art installation, which lights up the surrounding tidal basin most nights in the summer and for special events. The influence of the nearby Johnson and Wales College of Culinary Arts is evident, with Providence boasting numerous outstanding restaurants and the highest number of degreed chefs per capita than any other U.S. city. Providence is easy to navigate and full of friendly, helpful people.
PC is known for small classes taught only by professors. The nine mission-related goals of the Core Curriculum are a reflection of a Catholic and Dominican intellectual tradition which emphasizes the study of philosophy, theology, and development of Western civilization. Admitted students have 49 majors from which to choose. Unique programs include a combined 3+4 optometry degree in conjunction with the New England College of Optometry and a combined 3+2 engineering degree in conjunction with Columbia University or Washington University in St. Louis. Other particularly strong programs are biology, special education, business, and health policy and management. A major or minor in public and community service studies is rooted in a pedagogical approach to learning, with each course requiring two to four hours a week of hands-on service; the service component acts as the “text” and a jumping point for classroom discussion and reflection.
For more than 50 years, PC has invited a select group of students, currently 130 or so per graduating class, to participate in the rigorous Liberal Arts Honors Program. Most chosen candidates score between a 34 and 36 on the ACT exam and carry a 4.0 GPA. Honors students are fully integrated into residence life. However, they come together one to two times per week to take specialty seminars. Honors students receive merit-based scholarships ranging from 40 percent of full tuition to full tuition.
PC is not a commuter college. Sixty-five percent of students are Catholic, 20 percent are minorities, and 12 percent are the first generation to attend college. While freshmen live in all-male or all-female dorms, coed options exist for upper class students. Most PC students are preppy in a typical Northeastern style (Sperrys, Uggs, and The North Face) and accepting of others but not into alternative lifestyles. The students work and play hard, although an overwhelming sense of competition does not exist. Community service is the cornerstone of the four-year PC undergraduate experience. The varsity sports teams, which are Division I, are known as the Providence Friars. Cheering on the varsity hockey team is a favorite pastime.
The admission process at PC is highly selective. For the Class of 2020, just under 11,000 students applied for approximately 1,000 spaces. Merit scholarships go to 25 percent of admitted students, and overall, 70 percent receive some type of aid, whether merit or financial. In terms of applicant overlap, students who apply to Providence College are also likely to apply to Villanova University, Fairfield University, and Boston College. To encourage student diversity, for the past 10 years, PC has offered “test optional” admittance. Interested students apply via the Common Application; there are no supplemental essays beyond the required 650-word personal essay.
Who Would Be Happy Here?
The Twin Cities boasts a PC alumni network that’s 600-people strong. Sixty percent of PC students are from the Northeast, and overall, 91 percent are from out of state. Catholics and all faiths are welcome at Providence. The internship and job placement programs are outstanding. Hasbro, Textron, and CVS – all based in Rhode Island – actively recruit PC interns. Students have the option to take one extra class at no charge to be used for an internship.