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An Overview of Santa Clara University

Updated: Feb 28, 2023

Santa Clara University is a mid-sized private college located in the San Francisco Bay Area. It has almost 6000 undergraduate and 3000 graduate students. I had the opportunity to visit SCU two weeks ago and took the photos in this article. Pictured above is the Mission Santa Clara de Asis, which was established in 1777. The university, which opened its doors in 1851 and claims the title of the oldest college in California, was built around the chapel.

Religious Affiliation & Values

Santa Clara University is a Jesuit #Catholic college, but only about half of its undergraduate students are Catholic, and students of any (and no) faith are welcome. The university's core values are Academic Excellence; Search for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty; Engaged Learning; Commitment to Students; Service to Others; Community and Diversity; and Jesuit Distinctiveness. Chapel attendance is not required, and even though students are required to take three Religion, Theology & Culture courses, the options encompass a wide variety of religious beliefs. A Santa Clara student told me Catholicism is “there if you want it, but it is not forced on you.”


The 106-acre campus is located in the heart of Silicon Valley in the city of Santa Clara. The city has a population of around 128,000 but borders San José, the largest city in Northern California with over one million people. The university is only two miles from San José International Airport, three miles from downtown San José, 40 minutes from Oakland, and 45 mins from San Francisco.

The 270,000 square-foot Sobrato Discovery and Innovation Building, home to the School of Engineering and many of the science departments in the College of Arts and Sciences, opened in October 2021.


Santa Clara University offers 50 majors in three undergraduate colleges: the College of Arts and Sciences (35 majors and 48% of the undergraduate student body), the Leavey School of #Business (7 majors and 29% of students), and the School of #Engineering (8 majors and 23% of students). #ComputerScience is a major in both the College of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering. Interesting minors at SCU include Urban Education and Technical Innovation, Design Thinking, and the Entrepreneurial Mindset. Graduate programs are available in business, engineering, education, counseling psychology, law, theology, and pastoral ministries.

All undergraduate students at SCU must complete several Core Curriculum requirements. The three learning goals of the curriculum are Knowledge, Habits of Mind and Heart, and Engagement with the World. To graduate, all students must participate in an off-campus community-based learning experience.

Santa Clara is on the quarter system, with the summer quarter being optional. Classes are small, 77% of which have fewer than 30 students. Students in the University Honors Program have even smaller seminar-style classes with an average of 17 students each. Honors students also receive perks such as priority registration, special housing and lectures, a comprehensive yearlong senior thesis or project, and special fellowships and scholarships.

Graham Residence Hall, which houses freshmen and sophomores in suites.

Student Life

Undergraduate students at Santa Clara University are required to live on campus (in Residential Learning Communities) during their first two years. There is one dining hall on campus, and all the food is made to order. Students can also choose to eat at several cafes on campus and use their flex dollars at eateries off campus. There are no fraternities or sororities at Santa Clara. SCU offers 20 NCAA Division I and 17 club sports, and the most popular NCAA sports are women’s soccer and men’s basketball.

Students can get off campus easily and take advantage of a variety of activities in the area. Those who want to explore San Francisco can hop on a Cal Train across the street from the campus. Zip Cars are available to rent for a reasonable price. Students can get to the beach (Santa Cruz) in 40 minutes or Lake Tahoe in just over 4 hours.


Santa Clara meets approximately 80% of first-year students' financial need and uses both the FAFSA and CSS Profile to determine how much #financialaid to award. All first-year students are automatically considered for merit-based #scholarships, and the top 10 to 15 percent of applicants will receive one. These include full and half-tuition scholarships. Five students a year are selected (by a committee, not the admissions office) for the Johnson Scholars Program, which provides a full-tuition scholarship and meets full financial need.

Santa Clara University has one of the highest 4-year graduation rates in the nation, at 85% (compared to the national average of 47%), so students can be confident that they have a good chance of completing their education in a timely manner.

Undergraduate students eligible for the#YellowRibbonProgram receive enough funding from SCU and the VA to cover the remaining cost of tuition after #GIBill benefits have been used. In addition, the housing allowance will more than cover the cost of room and board. Army #ROTC is offered on campus, and prospective students can apply for full-tuition ROTC scholarships.


The application deadline for Fall 2023 entry has passed. Students can begin applying for Fall 2024 entry on August 1 using the Common App. There are currently four options for application deadlines: Regular Decision, Early Action, and two rounds of Early Decision. SCU is currently #testoptional for all applicants but has not yet decided whether this policy will continue past Fall 2024 admissions. For Fall 2022 admissions, 53% of admitted students submitted a test score.

Students are admitted to one of the three undergraduate schools and can either declare a major right away or apply undeclared (with the exception of Computer Science). Applicants are evaluated based on their academic area of interest. Those applying to the school of engineering or the school of business should have Calculus on their transcript if it is available to them. The average unweighted GPA of the class of 2026 was 3.46-3.88 (Arts & Sciences), 3.58-3.87 (School of Business), and 3.65-3.92 (School of Engineering). The overall acceptance rate was 52%. For the class of 2024 (most recent data available), the acceptance rates for each individual school were 47.5% for Arts & Sciences, 43.5% for Business, and 56.4% for Engineering.

Demonstrated interest is important in admissions. Students should especially make an effort to meet with admissions representatives that visit their school.

Mission Gardens (with Nobili Residence Hall - for upperclassmen - in the background)


Have you visited or attended Santa Clara University? If so, leave a comment and share your experience.


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