October 16, 2016

Tour Along with College Essay Whiz: The College of the Holy Cross

The College of the Holy Cross is a private, undergraduate Roman Catholic liberal arts college founded in 1843 in Worcester, Massachusetts.  The 174-acre suburban campus is lovely with its brick buildings and stately tree-lined streets. With an enrollment of approximately 2,900 undergraduates, Holy Cross provides a warm and comfortable small-school feel within a city that has a population of 185,000. Holy Cross students can also take advantage of a consortium of a dozen schools including Clark University and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, which share their academic offerings and facilities and providing broad opportunities for enrichment.  Holy Cross is also only 45 miles west of Boston and accessible to Providence, Rhode Island as well.

The College of the Holy Cross ranks No. 16 on Money Magazine’s list of “The 50 Best Liberal Arts Colleges,” and No. 65 overall on the publication’s list of “Best Colleges,” which ranked 705 colleges and universities nationwide. Admissions Officer Sarah Gale describes the benefits of the school as having to do with “place, purpose, pride and process.”

The lifestyle at Holy Cross centers on the Jesuit mission, which is described on the website as the “service of faith in which the promotion of justice is a constitutive element, and is expressed in dialogue with other religions and in dialogue with other cultures.” There are on-campus Catholic masses, Protestant services and interfaith offerings.

The educational purpose of Holy Cross is to provide a well-rounded liberal arts education.  To that end, all students begin as “undeclared,” as they engage in academic exploration, explained Ms.Holy Cross Gale.  During freshman year, groups of 10 students work and stay together as they engage in an academic and social transition.  Holy Cross is very proud of its “Discover Montserrat” program, a first-year program that provides students with a strong introductory focus on the liberal arts. According to the Holy Cross website, “By linking a first-year seminar to an interdisciplinary cluster and residence hall, Montserrat invites students into a lively intellectual and social community that encourages engagement with a broad range of themes and issues, and that fuels an enduring quest for intellectual, personal and spiritual growth.”

Students can choose a major and a minor. Popular majors include biology, political science, economics, government, English, psychology, foreign languages, and the physical sciences. Interdisciplinary and self-designed minors are encouraged as well. All students must take one theology class and a group of core classes. There are also many opportunities for research and internships at this exclusively undergraduate institution. The College also offers an Honors program called the Fenwick Scholar Program.

Holy Cross offers a number of summer study abroad sites for students called “Maymester.” The 4- to 6- week programs, which include one course taken for Holy Cross credit, offer enriching cultural excursions and field trips all over the world.

Most class sizes at Holy Cross are between 10 and 19 students, and labs have an average of 10 students as well.  The student: professor ratio is 10:1. There is a great deal of attention paid to advising, extra help and resources as well as pre-career advisory committees. The school offers coed dorms, apartments, suites, special housing for disabled students, and substance-free housing.

Athletics abound at Holy Cross. The school community has a great deal of “purple” pride, and recently their basketball team was represented in the NCAA. Men and women may choose from over a dozen intercollegiate teams and even more club sports.  Holy Cross is a member of the Atlantic Hockey Association (Division I, men), the Eastern College Athletic Conference (Division III, women’s ice hockey) as well as the Patriot League (Eastern Association of Rowing Colleges).

Holy Cross also takes pride in its 100+ outside activities including an active student government, a radio station, and publications including the weekly Crusader, the monthly Fenwick Review and a literary magazine.  International and service groups abound, and there are opportunities to engage in campus ministries.

With more than 40 public service programs, Student Programs for Urban Development is the largest student organization on campus. According to Ms. Gale, the SPUD program is very special.  At least 600 students volunteer to be “men and women for and with others” in the Worcester community by serving meals, working at food pantries, tutoring children and visiting nursing facilities.

Holy Cross has a strong alumni network. Famous alumni include political commentator, talk show host, and author Chris Matthews; former United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare Joseph Anthony Califano, Jr; novelist and short story writer Edward Paul Jones; U.S. Poet Laureate William James “Billy” Collins; Associate Justice of the Supreme Court Clarence Thomas, and film, television, and theatre actress Ann Dowd.  Two rather colorful alumni were psychologist Timothy Francis Leary and peace activist and former Roman Catholic priest Philip Berrigan.

Holy Cross offers Early Decision (December 15) and Regular Decision (January 15).  It is one of the few schools that include a personal interview.  It is also test-optional.  The college promises to meet 100 percent of demonstrated need and gives about 50 percent of its students’ institutional need-based scholarships or grants.

College of the Holy Cross
1 College Street, Worcester, MA 01610-2395
(508) 793-3030

Next stop: Chapman University!

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