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An Overview of the University of San Francisco

Updated: Jun 14, 2023

University of San Francisco Lone Mountain
Lone Mountain building

The University of San Francisco is a midsized Jesuit Catholic college with approximately 6000 undergraduate and 4000 graduate students. It was founded in 1855, was one of the first racially integrated universities in the U.S., and prides itself on having one of the most #diverse student bodies in the country.


USF is only one block from the exact center of San Francisco and two miles from the civic center. But don’t make the same erroneous assumption that I had made: that the campus would be very urban. My visit on February 7 gave me a completely different impression. High-rise buildings do not surround the campus, and because it sits atop one of the many steep hills in San Francisco, it does not feel crowded like other colleges in the middle of large cities. USF is in a residential part of the city, in the Lone Mountain neighborhood, only half a mile from the 1,017-acre Golden Gate Park.

The 55-acre campus is divided into an upper and lower campus (where most classes are held). One can see the bay, ocean, and Golden Gate Bridge from the upper campus. The two sections of campus are only a block apart, but due to the area's geography, students do a lot of walking up hills and steps. San Francisco International airport is 14 miles away.

Saint Ignatius Church, University of San Francisco
St. Ignatius Church

Religious Affiliation

The university is a #Jesuit Catholic college, but students come from 22 different faith traditions. To graduate, students must take one theology and religious studies class and participate in a service-learning course tailored to their major. Chapel attendance is not required.

John Lo Schiavo, S.J. Center For Science And Innovation, University of San Francisco
John Lo Schiavo, S.J. Center For Science And Innovation


Undergraduate majors are available in three schools at the University of San Francisco:

  • the College of Arts and Sciences (more than 100 majors and minors),

  • the School of Management (eight majors and six minors), and

  • the School of Nursing and Health Professions (direct-entry BSN in #Nursing and a BS in Public Health).

Additionally, USF has a law school and a school of education that offers a teaching credential that students can receive in four years while they earn their bachelor’s degree.

The most popular majors are nursing, #business management, and psychology. Majors in Critical Diversity Studies; Performing Arts & Social Justice; Art History & Museum Studies; and minors in Architectural Engineering and Urban Agriculture are all unique to USF.

The #engineering program (with concentrations in Electrical & Computer Engineering, Environmental Engineering, and Sustainable Civil Engineering) is in its fourth year and seeking ABET accreditation. There is also a Physics and Engineering 3+2 dual degree program in which students spend the first three years at USF and the next two at USC (University of Southern California) and receive degrees from both colleges. Dual degree programs are available in other disciplines, as well.

There are no teaching assistants at USF; all classes are taught by a professor. The average class size is 23, 74% of them have fewer than 30 students, and none have over 100. Each first-year student receives academic coaching and support from an academic success coach.

USF has a #corecurriculum and requires students to be proficient in a second language. About 8% of students are in the #honors program. Benefits include smaller class sizes, priority registration, and distinction on their academic transcript. Finally, USF not only awards credit for several AP exams with scores of 3 or above but also for many #CLEP exams with scores of at least 50.

Lone Mountain East Residence Hall, University of San Francisco
Lone Mountain East Residence Hall

Student Life

Living on campus is not required, but housing is guaranteed for two years for first-year students and one year for transfer students. About 90-95% of freshmen and 70-75% of sophomores live on campus. Housing options include living-learning communities, gender-inclusive housing, and a residence for students in recovery from substance abuse. Students turning 21 by the end of the academic year can live in university-owned apartments that allow pets. #GreekLife is available, but there is no Greek housing.

The University of San Francisco fields 16 NCAA #DivisionI teams and more than 20 club sports and is one of only 12 colleges in the country to offer Division I women's #triathlon. There are also over 100 student clubs and organizations at USF. Students have a wealth of options for culture and entertainment off campus and can reach them easily on foot, by bike, or by public transportation. The beach is only three miles away, and the Golden Gate Bridge is 3.5 miles.

View of San Francisco from Lone Mountain East dorm at the University of San Francisco
View from a dorm room in Lone Mountain East.


Tuition and fees for the 2023-24 academic year are $58,222, and room and board cost $19,536. However, almost all students receive either #financialaid or merit aid. USF meets 70% of incoming freshmen’s financial need (64% for all students), with an average financial aid package of $36,000 a year. Only the FAFSA is required to apply for financial aid. 87% of first-year students who do not qualify for need-based aid receive a #meritscholarship averaging almost $20,000 a year. Students are automatically considered for merit aid based on their core academic subject GPA. Merit scholarships range from $16,000 for a 3.31-3.50 GPA to $29,000 a year for a GPA above 4.07. First-year nursing students receive a $24,000 scholarship. USF’s 4-year graduation rate of 68% is above average for a private college.

Undergraduate students eligible for the #YellowRibbonProgram receive enough money to cover the full cost of attendance when including the housing allowance. Specifically, $13,625 in Yellow Ribbon in addition to the #GIBill and a $43,173 housing allowance.

Students participating in Army #ROTC not only have the potential to receive a full-tuition scholarship but are also given a grant from the university that covers room and board. My tour guide was thrilled to be receiving a full-ride scholarship for participating in ROTC at USF. Air Force ROTC is offered as a crosstown program at UC Berkeley, but students interested in the program should consider that the commute is about one hour each way, depending on traffic.

University of San Francisco, college students
Students on upper campus on their way to and from lower campus.


The application deadline for Fall 2023 entry has passed. Students can begin applying for Fall 2024 entry on August 1 using the Common App. Applicants can select Regular Decision, Early Action, or Early Decision. USF is permanently #testoptional.

Nursing and Engineering are the only direct-entry programs. For all other majors, students are accepted into the university as a whole instead of into a particular major. The overall acceptance rate is 65%, but only 15% for nursing and 40% for engineering. The average GPA of admitted students is 3.65 overall, but for nursing students, it is 3.99.

 Lone Mountain at the University of San Francisco
Steps leading to Lone Mountain building on the upper campus.

Have you visited or attended the University of San Francisco? If so, leave a comment and share your experience.


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