Holy Cross is a Jesuit, liberal arts college committed entirely to undergraduate education. With a population of fewer than 3000, students have a great opportunity to get to know their professors in small classes. Holy Cross is unique in that it offers all of the academic and social intimacy that define liberal arts colleges while also exuding a great sprit in support of athletics as well as an encompassing pride in the school itself. Students come to love the beautiful and hilly campus, which overlooks the jaded industry of Worcester, MA.
Most students at Holy Cross are Catholic. It doesn’t look like a very diverse campus; 66% of the students are white. Twenty-three percent are minorities or international, and 11% have not reported a race. However, the Jesuit tradition that is embraced at Holy Cross seeks to build and sustain a campus community that embraces diversity and social justice in teaching, learning, and working. Directly from the mission statement is this commitment to inclusiveness: “To participate in the life of Holy Cross is to accept an invitation to join in dialogue about basic human questions: What is the moral character of learning and teaching? How do we find meaning in life and history? What are our obligations to one another? What is our special responsibility to the world’s poor and powerless?” The attitudes at Holy Cross are very much reflected in their mission of social justice and inclusion—even when the majority of students look the same.
The atmosphere on campus is decidedly liberal, although with its religious tradition, Conservative viewpoints are welcomed and expressed. A mix of viewpoints can be found in the articles and editorials of the student weekly, the Crusader. It’s not unusual to read articles by faculty dismissing the teachings of the Catholic Church, For example, in response to an article by a student defending traditional marriage, a religious studies professor wrote a letter condoning same-sex unions and criticizing “our society” and “many churches” that “still try to silence gay people.” It seems that Holy Cross strongly identifies as a Catholic school but that it also welcomes dissent and conversation and an exploration of faith. While Catholic mass is encouraged by the chaplains, the focus is said by some to be more on social justice than strict Catholicism. The school offers Protestant and non-denominational services on the weekends and also has a Muslim prayer room. However, do not forget, the school is a Jesuit school with great pride in the history and teachings of that tradition. The students ARE forward thinking and active, but they are decidedly preppy and white.
Ninety-one percent of all students live on campus in 10 residence halls. All dorms are co-ed, but men and women are housed on separate floors. Whether or not enforced by the administration, co-ed sleepovers are not allowed. Quiet hours are enforced during the wee hours. Housing is guaranteed all four years, and 89% of all students remain on campus. Worcester, Ma is the 2nd largest city in New England. It’s less than an hour from Boston and from Providence, RI. It’s 3 hours from NYC. There are 15 colleges in Worcester. Holy Cross belongs to the Colleges of Worcester Consortium, an intercollegiate organization that allows students to take classes at member schools. With more than thirty-six thousand college students in the area, Worcester is appealing in this regard. Students report that they generally enjoy the area because it offers plenty of cultural activities not always found in cities of its size. But the crowning glory is that Worcester has more 24 hour diners and used car lots per capita than any other city in the US.
The students enjoy a great sense of camaraderie and report having lots of fun at Holy Cross. There are definitely parties to be found, but generally they aren’t huge. Instead, they consist of moderate sized groups of students hanging out together. There are no fraternities or sororities. Upperclassmen do go to bars in Worcester that are popular among the HC students. Usually they go to different bars than those that are frequented by students at Clark or WIT. These bars are not in walking distance, so cabs are popular.
“The majority of students are involved in some type of organized athletic activity; one-quarter compete as varsity athletes. The college’s athletic programs are housed in the expansive Hart Recreation Center, which boasts a fitness center in addition to a 3,600-seat basketball arena, an ice rink, and an Olympic-sized swimming pool. The Holy Cross Crusaders compete in the Patriot League in twenty-seven sports, thirteen men’s and fourteen women’s, and has one of the highest student-athlete graduation rates of any NCAA Division I school. Holy Cross also offers twenty-three club and six intramural sports teams that are wildly popular with students. The college now offers, among other athletic facilities, a new set of ten first-rate outdoor tennis courts as well as a minor-league baseball stadium on campus used by the college’s own team during the school year and by the Worcester Tornadoes the rest of the time.” (College Guide.”)
At Holy Cross the curriculum leads students through progressively more challenging academic experiences, beginning with first year Montserrat program and ending with a senior capstone project. In the Montserrat program each student is assigned to one of five thematic clusters: Natural World, Divine, Self, Global Society, or Core Human Values. First year students are assigned housing with their cluster. Throughout the year they go on filed trips and perform community service together. Each student’s curriculum is made up of courses that are distributional requirements, courses for the major, and electives. Students are limited to a total of three “programs.” (“Programs” are either majors, minors or concentrations.) Students are limited to a maximum of 2 majors. Distributional requirements consist of one class each in art, literature, religious studies, philosophy, history, and cross-cultural studies. Students also must take two courses each in language, social sciences, and natural/mathematical sciences. Holy Cross has gotten away from the traditional core requirements that used to define a Jesuit school.
Students at Holy Cross rave about the relationships they form with professors. Fifty percent of classes have fewer than 20 students. Forty-four percent of classes have 21-49 students, and 1% have more than 50 students. The average class size is 19.
“The Honors Program is a bright spot at Holy Cross. In this intellectually serious program, to which admission is limited to only thirty-six in each of the sophomore, junior, and senior classes, students explore themes in small classes. Sophomores begin by taking a team-taught course on “human nature.” In spring 2012, the topic for the sophomore seminars was “Metaphors and Magical Realism: Reading and Imaging Borges.” Professors from various departments explore the theme in natural sciences, social sciences, and the arts. As juniors, students select another honors-level seminar (past topics have included “Music and Literature,” “Reason and Faith,” and “The Berlin Wall.”) Every senior in the honors program writes a thesis, and the results of the research are published in-house and presented in a conference at the end of the year.” (College Guide.)
Holy Cross has several study abroad programs. Students enroll in local universities in foreign countries. Independent Cultural Immersion Programs (ICIPs) are a unique requirement wherein students have to become immersed socially and culturally in the host country. ICIP’s can be internships, community service, or the pursuit of a hobby in a venue that immerses the student deeply in the country’s culture.
98% of freshmen return for the following year. 89.2% of students graduate in 4 years.
Holy Cross is test optional in admissions. The level of an applicant’s interest is “important.”
36% of men who applied were admitted of the class of 2016. 31% of women were admitted.
Mid-ranges for enrolled students who submitted scores:
SAT r: 600-700
SAT m: 620-680
SAT w: 610-700
3.88 average high school GPA. My guess is that that is unweighted.
60% of students were in the top 10% of their high school graduating class.
95% of students were in the top 25% of their high school graduating class.
Holy Cross meets full demonstrated need.
1% of students with no need get an average of $27,000/year merit scholarship.