Pacific Lutheran University - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
Pacific Lutheran University
With distinctive international programs and close student-faculty research opportunities, PLU seeks to educate its...

Pacific Lutheran University

Tacoma, Washington

With distinctive international programs and close student-faculty research opportunities, PLU seeks to educate its 3,300 students for lives of thoughtful inquiry, service, leadership and care—for other people, for their communities and for the Earth.  The distinctive tradition of Lutheran higher education helps students from all faiths and backgrounds discern their life’s vocation through coursework, mentorship, and internships at world-class Puget Sound-area businesses and institutions. Located in the Parkland neighborhood of Tacoma, Washington, PLU is located in a region that also offers vast opportunities for outdoor recreation, culture and sports.


The first American university to have Study Away classes on all seven continents simultaneously, PLU is also the first private university on the West Coast to receive the prestigious Senator Paul Simon Award for Campus Internationalization. An honoree on President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, PLU hosts an Emmy Award-winning MediaLab; a MacArthur Award-winning detachment of Army ROTC; an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning public radio station, KPLU; and more than 100 clubs and activities. The university consistently ranks among the top 15 in U.S. News & World Report’s Best Universities in the West and recently was named fourth in the West for Best Colleges for Veterans. It also ranks in the top 4 percent of Master’s universities nationwide by Washington Monthly College Guide. The university has produced 100 Fulbright Scholars since 1975.



Student Profile

Fall 2015 Enrollment
2,809 undergraduate students
98% of undergrad students are full time
38% male — 62% female
28% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2015-2016 Academic Year
223 full-time faculty
116 part-time faculty
12 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2015
83% of first year students live on campus
45% of all students live on campus

School Location

PLU is located in Tacoma, Washington, on the culturally vibrant and economically important Pacific Rim. The campus is located approximately one hour south of Seattle, about 2.5 hours north of Portland, Oregon, and 30 minutes from the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport. The campus is close to some of the West Coast’s largest corporate headquarters and institutions including Microsoft, Boeing, Amazon, Alaska Airlines, Starbucks, and Weyerhaueser. Tacoma has been ranked by Best College Reviews as one of the 50 best college towns in America. In 2015, PLU earned the Tree Campus USA Recognition from the Arbor Day Foundation and the Princeton Review named PLU one of the most environmentally responsible universities in the nation.

High-Impact Practices

High-Impact Practices Read more about the importance of High-Impact Practices

First-Year Seminars and Experiences x
Common Intellectual Experiences x
Learning Communities x
Writing-Intensive Courses x
Collaborative Assignments and Projects x
Undergraduate Research x
Diversity/Global Learning x
Service Learning, Community-Based Learning x
Internships/Coops/Practicums x
Capstone Courses and Projects/Senior Experience x

Retention Fall 2015

83% of students began in Fall 2014 and returned in Fall 2015 (full time, first time freshmen)

6 Year Graduation Rate 2015

68% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 4%
Hispanic/Latino 8%
Black or African American 3%
White 67%
American Indian or Alaska Native 1%
Asian 8%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 1%
Two or more races 7%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 1%


PLU is a member of NCAA Division III, as well as the Northwest Conference. PLU has a rich tradition of athletic success: in the Northwest Conference, no other school has won the All-Sports Trophy as many times as PLU has. In 2014, PLU was honored as first recipient of Diversity Spotlight award for LGBTQ inclusion efforts by student-athletes.

PLU offers the following varsity sports: Baseball, Men’s and Women’s Basketball, Men’s and Women’s Cross Country, Football, Men’s and Women’s Golf, Women’s Rowing, Men’s and Women’s Soccer, Softball, Men’s and Women’s Swimming, Men’s and Women’s Tennis, Men’s and Women’s Track & Field, and Women’s Volleyball. Along with these varsity sports PLU also offers Men’s Rowing, both Men’s and Women’s Lacrosse and Ultimate Frisbee as club sports.’

Competing at both the NAIA Division II and NCAA Division III levels (since 1996), PLU teams have won 11 national championships and claimed regional or conference championships every decade, dating back to men’s basketball’s unofficial regional championship in 1905-06.

PLU’s mascot is the Lute and the university’s colors are black and gold.

Student-Faculty Research

After beginning a career or graduate studies, PLU graduates often point to one person who had a profound influence on their intellectual development. Invariably, it’s a professor. And in many cases, it’s more than just one.  It’s a result of what PLU calls “learning together.”  At PLU, there are very few large lecture classes; and all classes are taught by professors, not teaching assistants. Most of a student’s time in class will be close-up, hands-on, working with professors and fellow classmates. This ability to work closely with faculty is something undergraduate students at most large universities do not experience.

Some recent research projects include archaeological digs with the Makah Nation; working on Emmy-award-winning documentaries with PLU’s MediaLab; and studying climate change in Antarctica.  All told, each year there are more than 50 grant-supported student-faculty research and creative projects. It is that type of experience that PLU is known for – professors and students side-by-side, conducting research in the lab or in the field.

Service Learning

PLU’s Center for Community Engagement & Service mobilizes PLU students and faculty to work collaboratively with community partners.  CCES allows students to develop hands-on knowledge of the community, fulfill service-learning requirements, and build a resume with extensive experience. Community-engaged learning courses state explicit learning objectives that are linked to student engagement in the community. Inviting students to critically examine the term, “service,” these opportunities provide ongoing critical reflection, continual integration of community experiences with course readings, and multiple forms of assessment that invite students, faculty and community partners to evaluate learning.

Study Abroad

PLU students earn credit and have access to financial aid and scholarships while studying away for a Semester, Year, or Short-Term program. The Wang Center for Global Education supports students during exploration, pre-departure, while they are away, and when they return.   Nearly half of PLU students study away at some time in their academic careers. By contrast, the comparable national average is 3 percent.

PLU Gateway Semester Programs

  • Chengdu, China: Open to all majors and language levels, students take courses at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China. No previous language required.
  • Oaxaca, Mexico: This program explores the intersection of development, culture, and social change through the lens of the dynamic and evolving context of contemporary Mexico. Courses taught in Spanish, 4-5 college semesters of Spanish required.
  • Trinidad & Tobago – Caribbean: This program provides students a unique opportunity to explore the islands and the varied heritage of this multicultural society. Open to all majors; courses taught in English.
  • Oslo, Norway: Explore Peace and Conflict Studies and Norway’s successful implementation globally with respect to aid for developing countries and conflict resolution. Courses are taught in English.
  • Telemark, Norway: The Telemark University College offers Scandinavian Studies, International Tourism & Sustainable Development, Business, and Alpine Ecology & Environmental Management. Language courses available at all levels; no previous language required.
  • Oxford, England: PLU International Honors Program in Social Justice. In addition to three courses toward the IHON curriculum, students delve into their academic area of interest with Oxford professors (known as tutors).
  • Windhoek, Namibia: This English-speaking country provides an ideal location for students in Education, Nursing and the Natural Sciences to study at the University of Namibia and gain necessary work experience through an internship and practicum. No language prerequisite.

Activities Offered

Campus Ministries x
Choral groups x
Concert band x
Dance x
Drama/theater x
International Student Organization x
Jazz band x
Literary magazine x
Marching band x
Model UN x
Music ensembles x
Musical theater x
Opera x
Pep band x
Radio station x
Student government x
Student newspaper x
Student-run film society x
Symphony orchestra x
Television station x

PLU professors are role models who know that it isn’t just what a student learns, but how he or she learns. They work with students in the classroom, in the laboratory, in the performance hall – and they help students one-on-one. They are mentors who help students discover professional opportunities in academic fields, and they are colleagues who work side-by-side with students on research and creative projects.

First Year Experience Program

PLU’s unique, one-of-a-kind program offers incoming students a chance to learn more about themselves and improve their academic skills as they enter the university system. Specially crafted courses and opportunities for off-campus expeditions provide an atmosphere of discovery and learning beyond typical coursework.

The first year experience is a sequence of courses designed to help students develop the skills necessary to be successful college students and thoughtful, engaged and caring members of society. First-Year classes assist with the transition to college academics and create small learning communities that support students academically and personally. First-Year Experience is structured to provide students with an engaging learning environment:

  • Small classes: One of the most powerful ways to learn is in small groups with maximum individual feedback from professors.
  • Classes With Only First-Year Students: Builds confidence by making the transition to college-level study with student peers.
  • Compelling Course Themes: Students learn the crucial skills of thinking, speaking and writing by applying them to a thought-provoking topic. All First-Year Writing and Inquiry seminars are focused on important and compelling themes like “Stem Cell Research,” “Reinventing the American High School,” “The Beauty Myth,” and “Eat my Words: Writing and Food.” Professors from every academic division teach in the program, giving students a strong introduction to the liberal arts.

Common Core

Arts/fine arts x
Computer literacy  
English (including composition) x
Foreign languages x
History x
Humanities x
Mathematics x
Philosophy x
Sciences (biological or physical) x
Social science x

Class Size Breakdown

Size 2-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 100+ Total
Number of Classes 77 215 139 84 17 17 0 549

Living on campus is an integral component of the PLU experience, adding to the learning that happens both in the classroom and beyond the classroom.

First-Year Wings are designed specifically for first-year students and staffed by returning student leaders (Resident Assistants) to support First Year student transition into PLU and the college experience. First-Year Wings are located in Harstad, Hinderlie, Ordal, Pflueger, Stuen, and Tingelstad Halls.

New Transfer and Returner Wings: A New Transfer & Returner Community is a wing of new transfer and continuing 2nd year and older students. Programming in these wings centers around academic and career needs, such as picking a major, finding internships, and selecting a study away program. New Transfer & Returner Wings are located in Harstad, Hinderlie, Ordal, Pflueger, Stuen, and Tingelstad Halls.

Transitioning to the Future/Career Preparation: Kriedler & South Halls are reserved for students who are 20 years of age or older, or who have Junior or higher class standing. These Halls promote an independent living experience, but also support students as they transition into post-collegiate life.

  • Kreidler Community: The Kreidler Community is a community for junior and senior residential, commuter, transfer, and veteran students. Centrally located in Kreidler Hall, the lounge serves as a gathering place and resource center staffed and programmed in collaboration with Student Involvement & Leadership.
  • Hinderlie Community for Creative Expression: Hinderlie Hall staff and PLU faculty partner to engage residents in creative programs and the appreciation both for the world of visual and performing arts, as well as innovation across all disciplines and fields of study.
  • First in the Family Community: There are two wings located in Ordal Hall that are geared towards students who are the first in their families to attend college (students who live in the First in the Family Community identify as someone whose parents did not graduate from a four-year, degree granting institution in the U.S.). The First in the Family Community provides assistance from staff and connects students to resources on campus to help them be successful in and out of the classroom.
  • Gender-Neutral Housing: PLU has two gender neutral wings, one located in Hinderlie Hall and one located in Tingelstad Hall. These wings are both mixed gender (meaning they allow rooms designated for men and women on the same wing).  Single rooms and gender neutral rooms are an option on these wings for students for whom biological sex does not match gender identity.  Gender-neutral housing also offers gender neutral bathrooms (that are open to all users, regardless of biological sex or gender identity) that offer private stalls, with partitions going nearly to the floor, and ceiling enclosed toilets, urinals and showers with individual changing areas.
  • Global Experience & Study: Hong International Hall is home to a unique community consisting of six language and culture houses: Chinese, French, German, Norwegian, Spanish and International Honors (IHON) House. Residents focus on global awareness, language immersion, and cultural engagement. Each language house allows residents to practice their language with other residents and form relationships with their faculty members.
  • Social Action and Leadership: The Social Action and Leadership (SAL) Community is located in Stuen Hall. Residents learn how to create positive change in their communities by developing an increased understanding of their own cultural identity through critical reflection of their beliefs, values, attitudes, and emotions.
  • Women’s Empowerment and Gender Equity: As a single gender community, Harstad Hall promotes gender equality through intentional programming, community building, and faculty interaction by focusing on activism, education, leadership opportunities, and reflection.


Coed dorms x
Men’s dorms  
Women’s dorms x
Apartments for married students x
Apartments for single students x
Special housing for disabled students x
Special housing for international students  
Fraternity/sorority housing  
Cooperative housing  
Theme housing x
Wellness housing  
Other housing options x

PLU is deeply committed to helping students discern their vocation, and to helping students turn that calling into a career that leads to financial independence, professional achievement, and personal fulfillment.  A PLU education prepares students to succeed by building intellectual skills and connections with outstanding opportunities for hands-on research, internships, volunteering and careers with some of the world’s leading companies and nonprofit organizations. While there are many ways to measure the return on investment of a college degree, PLU believes in preparing students for lasting success.


PLU’s Career Connections Center connects students and employers with quality internship experiences that open doors to professional opportunities. Bridging classroom learning and the professional workplace, academic internships are a meaningful way to discover vocation, explore career goals, and gain a competitive edge in the job market.  Career Connections maintains an opportunity board with hundreds of internships, on- and off-campus paid positions, state work study positions and volunteer opportunities.

PLU 2014 Post Graduation Outcomes

  • Within six months following the completion of a PLU degree, 62% of graduates were employed full time compared to a national average of 43%; 24% were accepted into graduate school compared to 21% nationally; 3% were unemployed compared to a national average of nearly 22%; 13% were volunteering compared to a national average of 5%; and 2% were in military service compared to a 3.3% national average. More data on PLU graduate outcomes can be found here.
  • Among PLU alumni, 65% reported that their major was very related to their career.
  • More than 70% of PLU graduates applying to medical school are accepted compared to a national average of 45%.
  • 71% of students volunteer in the community during their time at PLU. In 2014, 58% of students volunteered 64,710 hours valued at $1,432,268.


Admissions Fall 2015

3,623 Total Applicants
2,737 Total Admissions
643 Total Freshmen Enrollment

75.55% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2016-17 Admission

Rolling admission? No

Closing date: Aug 15
Priority date: Feb 1

Admissions Factors

Very Important
Rigor of secondary
school record
Application Essay

Class rank
Academic GPA
Standardized test scores
Extracurricular activities
Character/personal qualities
Volunteer work

First generation
Alumni/ae relation
Geographical residence
State residency
Religious affiliation/commitment
Racial/ethnic status
Work experience

Freshmen Profile Fall 2015

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 480 620
SAT Math 500 610
SAT Writing    
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 22 28
ACT Math    
ACT English    
ACT Writing    

Application Information

PLU welcomes applications from students of all backgrounds who are well-prepared for the rigors of university education. Pacific Lutheran looks for students who demonstrate success in a challenging college-preparatory curriculum, exhibit leadership and service in their school and community, and will thrive in a challenging academic community that integrates liberal arts, professional studies and civic engagement. Admission to PLU is competitive.

 The online PLU application is free and we also accept the Common Application. Please visit for admission requirements and an application checklist.

PLU accepts certain Washington Running Start and other college credits and awards up to 30 semester hours for AP and IB exam results. Honors, IB and AP class grades will be weighted for an Admission GPA, to be used for admission and scholarship purposes.


Net Price Calculator 


Tuition $36,180
Fees $350
Total $36,530
Room and Board (on campus) $10,230
Estimated Total On Campus $46,760


Average Financial Aid Packages 2014-15 estimated

$35,650 First year students
$21,449 All undergrads

Financial Aid Breakdown 2014-15 estimated

82.4% on average, the percentage of need that was met
21% of financial need students that had need fully met

$21,449 Average need-based scholarship or grant award
$4,963 Average need-based loan

Scholarship Information

Students who apply to PLU are automatically considered for an academic merit scholarship ($10,000-$23,000 per year), based on GPA and test scores. Some additional scholarship opportunities include the competitive Presidential Scholarships ($24,000-Full Tuition per year) for outstanding academic, school and community leadership; Fine Arts Scholarships ($1,000-$6,000 per year) in the areas of Music, Theatre, Art, Dance, Speech and Debate; and Yellow Ribbon Scholarships (Full Tuition) for qualified veterans or their dependents.

Please visit to see more scholarship opportunities.

PLU Senior to Present Economics Capstone at National Conference

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PLU Welcomes New Honor Society Sigma Tau Delta

Every year, 9,000 students worldwide join Sigma Tau Delta, an English Honor Society founded in 1924. This international group of readers and writers engages in formal and informal discussions about literature, fosters literacy education through...

PLU Jazz Day in Seattle

SEATTLE, Wash. (April 23, 2015)—Jazz music is a dish best served live and in person. A fusion of African-American, European-American and international musical traditions, jazz is known for its energy, creativity and ingenuity. Its iconic...

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