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. PLU is also an honoree on President Obama’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll and 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.



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. It has a rich tradition of athletic success; no other school in the Northwest Conference has won the All-Sports Trophy as many times as PLU. 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

PLU graduates often point to a specific person—invariably, a professor—who had a profound influence on their intellectual development. Their satisfaction is 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 spent in close-up, hands-on work 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. Each year, there are more than 50 grant-supported student-faculty research and creative projects. It is this 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 résumé 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 have access to financial aid and scholarships while studying away and earning class credit 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 only 3 percent.

PLU Gateway Semester Programs

  • Chengdu, China: Open to all majors and language levels, students take courses at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China.
  • 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.
  • Trinidad & Tobago – Caribbean: This program provides students a unique opportunity to explore the islands and the varied heritage of this multicultural society.
  • Oslo, Norway: Explore Peace and Conflict Studies and Norway’s successful implementation globally with respect to aid for developing countries and conflict resolution.
  • Telemark, Norway: The Telemark University College offers Scandinavian Studies, International Tourism & Sustainable Development, Business, and Alpine Ecology & Environmental Management.
  • 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.

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 an education isn’t just about what a student learns, but how they learn. They work with students in the classroom, in the laboratory, and in the performance hall, helping students on an individual basis. They are mentors who help students discover professional opportunities in academic fields as well as 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 both academically and personally. The First-Year Experience is uniquely structured to provide students with an engaging learning environment:

  • Small classes: One of the most powerful ways to learn is in small groups, enabling students to get to know one another and making it easy for professors to give maximum individual feedback to all their students.
  • Classes Exclusive to First-Year Students: Students can grow confident in their transition to the university when they are surrounded by peers who are all new to college-level work.
  • 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.

General Housing

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. New Transfer & Returner Communities are wings that house new transfer and continuing second-year and older students. Programming in these wings centers around academic and career needs, such as picking a major, finding internships, and selecting study away programs.

Housing for Academic Success

PLU’s Kriedler & South Halls are reserved for students who are 20 years of age or older, or who have junior or senior standing. These Halls promote an independent living experience and helps students prepare for their postgraduate lives.

The Kreidler Community is 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.

The Hinderlie Community for Creative Expression engages 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.

The First in the Family Community designates two wings to be geared toward students who are the first in their families to attend college. The First in the Family Community provides assistance from staff, connecting students to resources that help them be successful both in and out of the classroom.

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 in these hourses 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.

Inclusive Community 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 people of all genders in the same wing). Gender-neutral housing also offers bathrooms that are open to all, regardless of gender identity, with private stalls, showers, and individual changing areas.

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 a 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 follow their calling to 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 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 the gap between 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); only 3% were unemployed (compared to a national average of nearly 22%); and 13% were volunteering (compared to a national average of 5%). More data on PLU graduate outcomes can be found here.
  • Among PLU alumni, 65% reported that their career was related to their major.
  • 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.

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