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Is Christopher Newport University the Right College for You?

Neo-Georgian architecture university building with dome
Christopher Newport Hall and the Great Lawn

One of the smallest #public colleges in #Virginia (with around 4400 undergraduates and 100 graduate students), CNU looks and feels like a private school. Founded in 1960 as Christopher Newport College, it was originally a two-year college and a branch of the College of William & Mary until 1977. In the early 1990s, it started offering graduate programs and became Christopher Newport University. 


The 260-acre campus is located in coastal Virginia, in the city of Newport News, with a population of around 186,000. The college buildings, mainly in the Neo-Georgian style, are beautiful and look brand new, while the lawn is well-manicured. There are restaurants and grocery stores within a quarter mile of the campus. Those who want to get away can drive to Richmond in one hour or Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, North Carolina, in three (depending on traffic). Christopher Newport University is four miles from an Amtrak station, six from Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport, and 25 miles from Norfolk International Airport.

foyer of a neo-Georgian university building
Trible Library foyer


The university offers 43 majors in the College of Arts and Humanities, the College of Natural and Behavioral Sciences, the College of Social Sciences, and the Luter School of Business. Interesting programs include a major in Leadership Studies, minors in Digital Humanities, Philosophy of Law, and U.S. National Security Studies, and a certificate in Data Analytics in the Social Sciences. CNU offers two majors in #engineering - Computer Engineering and Electrical Engineering - and will be adding #nursing in the near future (there is a hospital across the street from the campus). The most popular majors are business, psychology, and biology. Graduate programs in teaching, financial analysis, environmental science, applied physics, and computer science are available.

CNU is a #liberalarts and science college and requires students to take courses in literature, composition, economics, math, foreign language, science, and American history/government as part of its #corecurriculum. Students only declare their major at the end of their sophomore year, and, for the most part, all majors are open to every student. The exception is #business, which requires prospective majors to take a series of prerequisite classes and have an overall GPA of at least 3.0 to be accepted into one of the four business majors (accounting, finance, management, and marketing).

When I attended the Counselor Visit Day on February 5, 2024, I left with the strong impression that students at CNU don’t fall through the cracks. Not only are class sizes small - the student-to-faculty ratio is 13:1, and 86% of classes have fewer than 30 students - but students have faculty advisors who genuinely seem to care about their students’ well-being, both in and out of the classroom. There is also an emphasis on participating in career planning early and often.

Christopher Newport's signature educational offerings include the Honors Program and the President’s Leadership Program (PLP). Students in the #honorsprogram take interdisciplinary seminar classes that replace the general core requirement. They also must participate in at least two of the following educational experiences: #studyabroad, independent #research, civic engagement, or #internships. The PLP program prepares students to become leaders and engaged citizens. They receive a minor in leadership studies and participate in #experientiallearning activities such as community service and internships. Students selected for the honors program have a high school GPA of at least 3.75 and scores of 1310 or 28 on the SAT and ACT, respectively. Those chosen for the Presidential Leadership Program typically have a high school GPA of at least 3.5 and scores of 1250 (SAT) or 26 (ACT). Students can apply to either program without test scores, with greater emphasis placed on other factors, such as the academic rigor of their high school courses. Applicants to either of these programs should complete the required essays and interviews by December 15 for priority consideration.

foyer of a college dorm with fireplace and natural light
York River Hall West - a freshmen dorm

Student Life

All students are allowed to have cars on campus and are required to live in university housing through their junior year. First-year students live in four-person suites made up of two bedrooms - each equipped with a microwave and minifridge - with a shared bathroom. There are no hall bathrooms at Christopher Newport University.

CNU students have plenty to keep them busy outside of their classes. There are 200 clubs and organizations to choose from, including #GreekLife (35% of students are members of one of the 21 fraternities and sororities) and club sports such as equestrian, cross fitness, scuba, and sand volleyball. Twenty-two #NCAADivisionIII sports teams are available to men and women, and there is an active and lively marching band, one of Division III's largest. CNU has three recent NCAA Division III national champions: men's basketball (2023), softball (2022), and women’s soccer (2021). The Ferguson Center for the Arts offers programming in its concert hall, music and theater hall, studio theater, and two art galleries.

The James River is only one mile from campus, and the Atlantic Ocean (off Virginia Beach) is 40 miles away, though many beaches on the Chesapeake Bay are within 15 miles of CNU. Colonial Williamsburg and Busch Gardens are less than a 30-minute drive.

entryway to a college's fitness center
Freeman Center (hosts the fitness pavilion, field house, health & counseling center, and Gains Theatre)


Undergraduate tuition and fees for the 2023-24 academic year are $16,351 (for Virginia residents) and $30,988 (out-of-state), while room and board is $12,720. CNU meets 68% of students' financial need (using the FAFSA-only to determine this). With a four-year graduation rate of 69% (14% above average for public four-year colleges), students have a good chance of completing their degree in eight semesters.

All first-year students are automatically considered for merit-based #scholarships, and around 1/4 receive one. Those in the honors program receive renewable annual scholarships of $5,000 to $10,000, while those in the Presidential Leadership Program receive yearly scholarships of $1,000 to $10,000. Students who participate in both programs receive only one scholarship. Still, either one can be used towards the cost of room and board, allowing students to stack outside scholarships designated for tuition only. Other merit scholarships include Bonner Service Scholars ($3,000 annually) and Canon Virginia, Inc. Leadership Scholarships ($5,000). Christopher Newport is trying to attract more out-of-state students and has recently started offering this population renewable scholarships of $3,000 to $5,000 a year.

Army #ROTC is offered (in conjunction with the College of William & Mary, which is 30 minutes away) on campus, and prospective students can apply to receive full-tuition ROTC scholarships. As an NCAA Division 3 college, athletic scholarships are not available.

The Post-9/11 #GIBill (at the 100% level) covers tuition and fees, while the accompanying housing allowance, currently $18,063 a year, is more than the charge for room and board.

a courtyard with a fountain in a university building
William L. Brauer Courtyard in Christopher Newport Hall


Students apply to CNU using the #CommonApp. The February 1 regular decision deadline has been extended to March 1 this year (2024). During this application cycle, CNU admitted some students directly for the first time, either through the Common App (for Virginia students) or via Niche Direct Admissions (for out-of-state students). CNU also offers Early Action, Early Decision, and spring admissions options, but those deadlines have already passed.

Christopher Newport University has been #testoptional for over a decade and uses a holistic review process. Students who submit test scores can share SAT, ACT, or #ClassicLearningTest (CLT) results. Accepted applicants' average high school GPA is 3.76, and prospective students are strongly encouraged to interview. CNU admits to the university as a whole (rather than directly to one of their colleges/schools or majors). There is one admissions counselor dedicated to reviewing applications from #homeschool students.

In the last few years, the acceptance rate has increased to 86% for in-state applicants and 84% for out-of-state applicants as CNU's yield rate (the percentage of students accepting an admission offer) has decreased. According to an admissions officer I spoke with, this has resulted from another Virginia public university’s decision to increase its enrollment (taking potential CNU students with them). CNU has a new president as of last summer, and it will be interesting to see whether he can reverse this trend.

Neo-Georgian architecture university building in front of a large grassy lawn
McMurran Hall at the end of the Great Lawn (David Student Union is on the left of the image)

The photos on this page were taking by me in August 2021 and February 2024.


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


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