University of San Diego - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
University of San Diego
The University of San Diego is a nationally preeminent Catholic university known for educating...
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University of San Diego

San Diego, California

USD is dedicated to the values originally articulated by its founders, Bishop Charles Francis Buddy of the Diocese of San Diego and Mother Rosalie Hill of the Society of the Sacred Heart. 


Those values are reflected in the University’s rich Catholic intellectual tradition. USD’s community of scholars are committed to educating the whole person—intellectually, physically, spiritually, emotionally, socially and culturally.  The university provides a character-building education that fosters independent thought, innovation, integrity, analytical thinking, and an open-minded and collaborative world view. 


USD welcomes and respects those whose lives are formed by different traditions, recognizing their important contributions to a pluralistic society and to an atmosphere of open discussion and discovery, which is essential to a liberal arts education.


Student Profile

Fall 2016 Enrollment
5,604 undergraduate students
97% of undergrad students are full time
46% male — 54% female
48% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2016-2017 Academic Year
440 full-time faculty
466 part-time faculty
14 to 1 student/faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2016
94% of first year students live on campus
44% of all students live on campus

School Location

The University of San Diego’s 180-acre space rests atop a mesa overlooking San Diego, Mission Bay and the Pacific Ocean. The distinctive Spanish Renaissance architecture and breathtaking views provide an idyllic environment that’s endlessly conducive to learning. With the sun shining an average of 300 days per year and an average temperature of 70.5 degrees, recreational options abound. Google virtually any San Diego destination, and it will likely be within 20 minutes of the University of San Diego.

Take up surfing, dive into the thriving local arts scene or just meander on the beach. When winter comes, drive a few hours to ski or play in the snow, or head for the desert.

San Diego is California’s second largest city and the United States’ ninth largest. The region boasts 70 miles of pristine beaches and an array of world-class family attractions, including the San Diego Zoo, the San Diego Zoo Safari Park, SeaWorld and Legoland.

The renowned zoo is just one small part of Balboa Park, an urban expanse that houses numerous museums, art galleries, beautiful gardens and the Tony Award-winning Old Globe Theatres. Petco Park is home to baseball’s San Diego Padres, and Qualcomm Stadium houses the NFL’s San Diego Chargers.

The Mission Bay Aquatic Center is the world’s largest recreational waterfront facility, offering instruction in an array of water sports, including sailing, surfing and kayaking. The center is designed primarily for the students, faculty, staff and alumni of San Diego’s colleges and universities.

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


87% of students began in Fall 2015 and returned in Fall 2016 (full time, first time freshmen)


78% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 8%
Hispanic/Latino 19%
Black or African American 3%
White 52%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 7%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 0%
Two or more races 6%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 3%


NCAA Division 17 NCAA Division I Teams, 21 sports clubs
West Coast Conference, Pioneer Football League
Mascot:  Torero
Colors: Blue & White


The University of San Diego is a 4-year liberal arts institution. Founded in 1949 by the Sisters of the Sacred Heart and the Diocese of San Diego, today USD is governed by an Independent Board of Trustees.

Academic Programs

Majors in the College of Arts and Sciences: Anthropology, Architecture, Art History, Behavioral Neuroscience, Biochemistry, Biology, Biophysics, Chemistry, Communication Studies, Computer Science, English, Environmental Studies, Ethnic Studies, French , History, Interdisciplinary Humanities, International Relations, Italian Studies, Liberal Studies, Marine Science, Mathematics, Music , Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology, Spanish, Theatre Arts, Theology and Religious Studies, Visual Arts. Majors in the School of Business: Accountancy, Business Administration, Business Economics, Economics, Finance, International Business, Marketing, Real Estate. Majors in Engineering: Electrical Engineering, Industrial and Systems Engineering, Mechanical Engineering

More Distinctions

  • USD has been ranked among the top three universities in the nation for the past five years for the percentage of undergraduate students participating in a study abroad program, according to the Institute of International Education’s Open Doors Report.

    #2 Among top 40 doctorate institutions for undergraduate participation in study abroad

  • The university is also recognized as one of the most sustainable campuses in the nation, earning a gold ranking from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education and ranking as the 14th “Coolest School” in the nation for sustainability by the Sierra Club

  • The University of San Diego was recently ranked the nation’s number one Most Beautiful Urban College Campus by Best Choice Schools.

  • The Princeton Review Rankings:
    Included in Best Green Campuses
    #6 Most Popular Study Abroad Program
    #18 Best Campus Food
    #12 Most Beautiful Campus

  • Business Week Rankings:
    #41 Undergraduate Business Programs
    #17 Part-Time MBA Programs

  • Financial Times' Top 100 Global MBA programs
    #3 in the World for MBAs in Entrepreneurship
    #28 MBA Program in the United States
    #59 MBA Program in the world

  • Kiplinger Rankings:
    #71 Best Private Colleges

  • Military Times Rankings:
    #28 Best for Vets: Business Schools 2016

  • Rankings:
    #11 Top 20 Catholic Colleges and Universities in America

  • Profacinate Rankings:
    #8 Top 10 Most Beautiful College Campuses

Engaged Students

The University of San Diego uses its global network of alumni and industry contacts to connect students with a vast array of opportunities to apply their classroom learning to real-world environments.

USD is consistently ranked among the top universities in the nation for the percentage of undergraduate students participating in study abroad programs.

Internships at USD are focused on work assignments that are relevant to a student’s career of choice. USD’s networking tool, ToreroLink, connects students with alumni and industry leaders to explore a variety of employment opportunities and internships.

USD also offers students a full spectrum of career services, from ambassadors that assist students with career exploration and counseling, to interviewing tips and on-campus interviewing with prominent employers. Each semester, the University of San Diego’s Career Development Center hosts on-campus interviews as well as presentations by employers and graduate/professional school recruiters.

Research at USD is a year-round process. Each semester, each summer and even during Intersession, the act of research is a full-time, invested commitment for Torero undergraduate and graduate students and faculty. USD students are eager to explore, engage and add value to what is already a solid academic offering. Faculty who are active in research and publishing, also apply for grants that enable them to be research mentors for USD students who collaborate on projects. Students generate ideas for innovative ventures that respond to a social or environmental issue of their choice, and compete for seed funding to launch or expand their ventures. Social ventures may be for-profit, non-profit, or hybrid models with a domestic or international focus.


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  
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  
Symphony orchestra  
Television station X

Great Teaching

USD’s faculty are teachers first, but they are also scholars and mentors. Almost 95% of the full-time faculty have a Ph.D. or terminal degree in their field. They are accessible to students and actively teach, as there are no teaching assistants or graduate students teaching undergraduate coursework at USD. Students at USD build relationships with faculty as mentors, colleagues, and research advisors. 

The University of San Diego’s First Year Experience (FYE) strives to build a community of engaged student learners who value academic excellence, intellectual, personal and spiritual development, inclusion, ethical conduct, and compassionate service. It integrates two core components: the Preceptorial Program and the residential life living and learning environment. 

The Freshman Preceptorial program begins each USD student’s academic career with a combination of advising, orientation, and an introduction to college-level scholarship. The preceptor, a faculty member in the student’s intended area of study, has frequent contact with each advisee and continues advising throughout the student’s general education program. Once students declare a major by the end of their sophomore year, the responsibility of advising shifts to a department faculty member, who provides specialized guidance.

Under the direction of USD faculty mentors, incoming freshman from all disciplines are encouraged to participate in research/scholarly activities. In many cases, students will continue their research work throughout their undergraduate careers and take advantage of unique opportunities to present their work at national and international conferences.

Working with USD’s Changemaker Hub, innovative USD Changemaker students are encouraged to employ imagination, hard work and passion to generate transformative ideas for global social change.

Residential Life is second of the two core components of USD’s First Year Experience. All freshmen are required to live on campus during the first year. First Year Experience Resident Assistants (FYE RA’s) work with residents on their halls to establish a respectful and inclusive community. The residential living and learning experience at USD seeks to establish a strong academic community that supports student learning outside the classroom. All students in first year halls will meet individually with their FYE RA’s, who serve as mentors and resources for university services, activities, and programs.

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


Other: Religion

Class size breakdown

Size 2-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 100+ Total
Number of Classes 159 315 331 324 34 0 0 1163

Vibrant Communities

One of the best things about being a University of San Diego student is experiencing life on campus. The friendly and energetic atmosphere guarantees that there is always something to do, and someone to do it with. The active, thriving community offers plenty of opportunities to get involved with fellow students and residents from the neighborhood surrounding the beautiful 180-acre Alcalá Park campus.

Over 95% of freshmen live on campus, and on-campus housing is available for all four years. Almost half of all students live on campus for the duration of their time at USD, which provides for an active student life. Students participate in over 200 clubs and organizations, residence hall activities, community service and University Ministry programs, and gain valuable leadership skills as part of Associated Students. Additionally, USD offers a world–class theatre, nationally respected speakers, Greek life, honor societies, and much more.

With San Diego’s ideal climate, it’s easy to understand why club sports are such an integral component of the student experience. To stay active, more than 500 students participate each year in events ranging from surf contests along the California coastline to weekend-long rugby tournaments featuring college teams from across the country.

Recognized by Best Choice Schools as the #1 Most Beautiful Campus in the United States, USD is well known for its stunning architecture, pristine landscapes and beautiful vistas.


Coed dorms X
Men’s dorms X
Women’s dorms X
Apartments for married students  
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  

Successful Outcomes

A USD education combines the vibrancy of the liberal arts with academic rigor in a supportive learning community. USD professors are distinguished scholars and devoted teachers. Students are challenged to question and expand their knowledge in the classroom and to extend their learning through research, community engagement, and global education in an environment of interdisciplinary collaboration. Faculty collaborate one-on-one with undergraduate and graduate students on research, scholarship and creative activity and students experience the challenge and excitement of original discovery and creation. Community Service Learning extends academic achievement from the classroom to the outside community so students can apply the lessons they have learned, serve neighbors in need, and carry out the principles of social justice and ethical conduct. Interdisciplinary collaboration gives faculty and students the skills they need to solve the multi-dimensional problems of the 21st century and generate “real world” learning platforms for broad-based innovation and dynamic creativity. For more than six decades, USD has built on academic strengths to emerge as a pioneer in developing future leaders who are ready to address the challenges of our changing world with ethics and compassion.

Creative Collaborations showcases the vibrant student-faculty interactions that are a hallmark of a USD education. This conference celebrates the intellectual life at USD and provides all undergraduate students an opportunity to present their preliminary and completed research and creative projects in an environment with other students and faculty. Working side-by-side and engaged in intellectual pursuits with their faculty mentors, USD students gain lifelong experiences that extend well beyond the classroom.

USD is committed to the intellectual, spiritual, and overall development of its students. Students acquire the knowledge and skills necessary to write well, think critically, ethically and quantitatively, ask the right questions, recognize problems, and work within teams to develop solutions. USD’s students leave well prepared to pursue their career or post-graduate goals.


Admissions Fall 2016

14,413 Total Applicants
7,406 Total Admissions
1,133 Total Freshmen Enrollment

51.38% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2017-18 Admission

Rolling Admission? No

Closing Date: Dec 15 

Admissions Factors

Very Important
Rigor of secondary school record
Academic GPA
Standardized test scores

Class rank
Application Essay
Extracurricular activities
Character/personal qualities
Alumni/ae relation
Religious affiliation/commitment
Volunteer work

First generation
Geographical residence
Racial/ethnic status
Work experience
Level of applicant’s interest

Freshmen Profile FALL 2016

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Critical Reading 540 650
SAT Math 560 660
SAT Writing    
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 26 30
ACT Math 25 29
ACT English 25 32
ACT Writing    


Net Price Calculator 


Tuition $44,000
Fees $586
Total $44,568
Room and Board (on campus) $12,042
Estimated Total On Campus $56,628


Average Financial Aid Packages 2015-2016 Final

$32,725 First year students
$25,655 All undergrads

Financial Aid Breakdown 2015-2016 Final

70% on average, the percentage of need that was met
13% of financial need students that had need fully met

$25,655 Average need-based scholarship or grant award
$7,061 Average need-based loan


The primary purpose of the financial aid program at the University of San Diego is to provide financial assistance to students who would be unable to attend the university. Financial assistance consists of scholarships, grants, loans and on-campus employment.

Financial aid from the university is a supplement to funds that can be provided by the student, the student’s family, and other sources. Students requesting financial assistance may be expected to meet a portion of their educational expenses by accepting employment, loan(s) or both. Because financial aid funds are limited, need is the primary factor in awarding most financial aid. For USD scholarships and grants, consideration is given to the applicant’s academic achievement, character and potential. Students requesting financial assistance from USD resources must also apply for scholarships and grants funded by their home states for which they may be eligible.

The University of San Diego evaluates each application for admission without considering whether the student will apply for need–based aid. Merit Scholarships are awarded to students in the top third of our applicant pool.

Types of Aid Available

  • Scholarships and grants do not have to be repaid. Eligibility is based on academic factors and the student’s potential to contribute to USD as determined by the Office of Undergraduate Admissions or individual graduate departments. Financial information provided on your FAFSA is also considered.
  • Student Loans must be repaid; however, provisions allow students to postpone payment until they have completed their education, drop below half-time enrollment or withdraw. Repayment is generally made according to an installment schedule.
  • The Parent PLUS loan allows parents to assist their dependent students in meeting their educational expenses. While repayment generally begins 60 days after receipt of the loan proceeds, parents have the option to defer repayment until their student graduates and the interest rate is comparatively low.
  • Part-time Student Employment offers students the opportunity to help meet educational expenses while gaining valuable work experience. Federal Work Study (FWS) and College Work Opportunity (CWO) may be offered to students with documented need.

Our Students are Changemakers

For the fifth consecutive year, the University of San Diego has earned The Ashoka U designation as a Changemaker Campus, one of only 30 universities to earn this distinction nationwide. The University of San Diego’s...


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