Point Loma Nazarene University - Colleges of Distinction - Colleges of Distinction
Point Loma Nazarene University
PLNU—located on the beach of San Diego, but only ten minutes from the middle...

Point Loma Nazarene University

San Diego, California

PLNU’s location is a big part of what makes it distinctive—and not just because of the dormitories and classrooms’ ocean view. The campus’ proximity to the coast, downtown San Diego, and an international border helps PLNU students experience a holistic, balanced approach to their growth.


Being directly on the coast of San Diego means that students can be outdoors year-round at PLNU. NCAA athletics, intramural sports, club teams (including a nationally ranked Surf Team, of course), and dozens of interest-based clubs are a key part of the campus community. With more than 70% of students choosing to live on campus, PLNU is a vibrant community. It also happens to be the one of the safest college campuses in the US!


The heart of PLNU’s campus is only ten minutes from the heart of downtown San Diego. This is key in PLNU’s internship program (every student in the university’s 60+ areas of study have a chance to work within their academic field) as well as in students’ career development and placement. Additionally, students have plenty of faith-building opportunities to serve in student ministry groups throughout San Diego. And, of course, its location in a border town is not something that the PLNU campus community takes lightly. The university has dozens of well-established, safe partnerships across the border that allow students to serve in high-need areas. PLNU’s mission statement says it best—service is an expression of faith!

Student Profile

Fall 2017 Enrollment
3,139 undergraduate students
83% of undergrad students are full time
36% male — 64% female
16.9% of students are from out of state

Faculty Profile

2017-2018 Academic Year
143 full-time faculty
331 part-time faculty
14 to 1 student-to-faculty ratio

Residence Life

Fall 2017
95.3% of first-year students live on campus
56.4% of all students live on campus

School Location

PLNU is located on the coast of San Diego, only ten minutes from the heart of downtown San Diego. This means that two Amtrak stations and the San Diego International Airport are all less than fifteen minutes away. The campus, just two miles from Ocean Beach, is on Sunset Cliffs Nature Preserve. San Diego is home to Balboa Park (gardens, The San Diego Zoo, restaurants, and museums), Petco Park (home of the Padres), dozens of music venues, cultural sights, and the best Mexican food in the US.

High-Impact Practices

Read more about the importance of High-Impact Practices

First-Year Seminars and Experiences X
Common Intellectual Experiences X
Learning Communities  
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


89.2% of students began in Fall 2016 and returned in Fall 2017 (full-time, first-time freshmen)


74.4% of students graduated in 6 years


Nonresident aliens 1%
Hispanic/Latino 26%
Black or African American 2%
White 53%
American Indian or Alaska Native 0%
Asian 7%
Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander 1%
Two or more races 8%
Race and/or ethnicity unknown 2%


PLNU is in the NCAA, Division II Men’s baseball, basketball, soccer, and tennis, along with women’s basketball, soccer, cross country, track, golf, tennis, and volleyball, all offer competitive scholarships that can cover full tuition. More information, including recruitment forms, can be found here. Additionally, club rugby, club surf, and club canoe/paddle/kayak are competitive, traveling sports that recruit actively.   

Other Information

PLNU is a Christian university that seeks to provide students with opportunities to grow in their faith regardless of their spiritual background. Founded in 1902, PLNU still finds Christian faith to be part of campus life. Through weekly chapel services and strong emphasis on service, PLNU encourages continual personal growth. PLNU is regionally accredited by WASC and has many additional national and professional accreditations, including (but not limited to) the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, CA Board of Registered Nursing, Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education, National Association of Schools of Music, and more. More information can be found here.

Academic Programs

Art • Art Education, B.A. • Art History Minor • Art Minor • Graphic Design, B.A. • Visual Arts, B.A. Department of Communication and Theatre Programs • Broadcast Journalism (Communication and Theatre), B.A. • Cinema Studies Minor – Communication and Theatre • Communication Minor • Communication, B.A. • Managerial and Organizational Communication, B.A. • Media Communication Minor • Media Communication, B.A. • Public Relations Minor • Theatre Minor Department of History and Political Science Programs • History Minor • History, B.A. • International Studies, B.A. • Political Science, B.A. • Social Science, B.A. • Women’s Studies Minor Department of Literature, Journalism, and Modern Languages Programs • Broadcast Journalism (Literature, Journalism, and Modern Languages), B.A. • Cinema Studies Minor – Literature, Journalism and Modern Language • French Minor • French, B.A. • Journalism, B.A. • Literature Minor • Literature, B.A. • Public Relations Minor • Spanish Minor • Spanish, B.A. • Women’s Studies Minor • Writing Minor • Writing, B.A. Department of Music Programs • Composition, Bachelor of Music • Instrumental Performance, Bachelor of Music • Music Education, B.A. • Music Minor • Music with a Concentration in Music and Ministry, B.A. • Music, B.A. • Piano Performance, Bachelor of Music • Vocal Performance, Bachelor of Music Department of Biology Programs • Biology, B.A. • Biology, B.S. • Biology-Chemistry, B.S. (Biology) • Biology: Cell and Molecular Biology Minor • Biology: Environmental Biology Minor • Biology: Organismal Biology Minor • Computational Science Minor – Biology/Environmental Science (Biology) • Computational Science Minor – Biology/Genetics (Biology) • Environmental Science (Biology), B.S. • Science-Business Minor (Science Majors – Biology Department) • Science-Marketing Minor (Science Majors – Biology Department) Department of Chemistry Programs • Biology-Chemistry, B.S. (Chemistry) • Chemistry, B.S. • Computational Science Minor – Chemistry (Chemistry) • Environmental Science (Chemistry), B.S. • Science-Business Minor (Science Majors – Chemistry Department) • Science-Marketing Minor (Science Majors – Chemistry Department) Department of Family and Consumer Sciences Programs • Child and Adolescent Development, B.A. • Child Development Minor • Dietetics, B.S. • Nutrition and Food – Concentration in Food Service Management, B.A. • Nutrition and Food – Concentration in Nutrition and Health, B.A. • Nutrition Minor Department of Kinesiology Programs • Applied Health Science, B.S. • Athletic Coaching Minor • Athletic Training, B.A. • Exercise and Sport Science, B.A. Department of Mathematical, Information, and Computer Sciences Programs • Computational Science Minor – Biology/Environmental Science (Mathematics and Computer Science) • Computational Science Minor – Biology/Genetics (Mathematics and Computer Science) • Computational Science Minor – Chemistry (Mathematics and Computer Science) • Computational Science Minor – Physics (Mathematics and Computer Science) • Computational Science Minor – Psychology (Mathematics and Computer Science) • Computer Science Minor • Computer Science: Software Engineering, B.A. • Computer Science: Software Engineering, B.S. • Computer Science: Technical Applications, B.S. • Computer Technology – Business Minor (Math and Computer Science Majors) • Computer Technology – Marketing Minor (Math and Computer Science Majors) • Information Systems (Mathematical, Information, and Computer Science), B.S. • Mathematics Minor • Mathematics, B.A. • Mathematics, B.S. • Software Engineering Minor Department of Physics and Engineering Programs • Computational Science Minor – Physics (Physics and Engineering) • Engineering Physics, B.S. • Physics Minor • Physics, B.A. • Physics, B.S. Department of Psychology Programs • Computational Science Minor – Psychology (Psychology) • Pre-Therapeutic Psychology Minor • Psychology, B.A. Department of Sociology and Social Work Programs • Criminal Justice Minor • Social Work, B.A. • Sociology Minor • Sociology, B.A.

It’s hard to fall through the cracks at PLNU. As a small school with capped enrollment, students can count on taking small classes from day one; an average class consists of only 19 students, and no classes are taught by TAs. Because of this, engagement is key—not only in the admissions process, as PLNU selects the best and brightest—but also on campus and in everyday life.

Although engagement may be a necessary aspect of a small classroom environment, there are several other programs at PLNU that makes engagement even more of a priority in students’ minds.

Humanities Honors Program

PLNU’s Humanities Honors Program is a select, competitive program to which incoming Humanities majors are invited to apply during their senior year of high school. Students who are selected will, for their first two years at PLNU, take advanced, GE-level, cohort-style classes with program-members. These courses are taught by a core team of Honors professors who’ve truly committed to an integrated approach to higher education. The program also includes several off-campus components, including a group study abroad trip. Find more info about the program here.

Honors Scholars Program

PLNU’s Honors Scholars program is an opportunity for college seniors to prepare themselves for the rigor of postgraduate research and scholarship. If accepted to the program, students choose a topic for original research, pair up with faculty mentors, conduct their research, go through peer-evaluation and, finally, transform their work into a scholarly presentation to be presented at the Honors Conference. Several Honors Scholars have gone on to have their research published, even before completing their studies at PLNU. More information is available here.

Science Honors Program and Summer Research

Select academic achievers in may apply for Science Honors scholarships, even before they choose to attend PLNU. Those who are selected are invited to campus in Spring of their senior year of high school to interview and compete for Science Honors Scholarships. After freshman year, all Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering students—both scholarship recipients and non-recipients—are invited to apply for a space in PLNU’s Summer Research program, which pairs a small group of students with a faculty member who is conducting original research. Past research has been as varied as a biological survey of mammals in the Costa Rican cloud forest; developing inhibitors of the zinc metalloenzymes involved in anthrax, malaria, and tuberculosis; and analyzing the structural response to earthquakes. Students are often able to get their work published by the time of graduation, and many present their research at National Conferences in their field.

Study Abroad opportunities

Students in any year and any major are able to study abroad while at PLNU. The university offers faculty-led programs, which take students around the world with their professors, but students also have the opportunity to study through carefully vetted partner programs all over the world. Study abroad courses are all pre-approved, ensuring that students who go abroad are still taking courses that fit right into their four-year graduation track. Better yet, the only additional costs to study abroad are usually limited to airfare—financial aid travels with students!

Center for Justice and Reconciliation

Because PLNU is located in a border-town, social justice is a definite priority. The Center for Justice and Reconciliation (CJR)  provides countless ways for students to support others within their community. The CJR studies fair trade and worker rights, immigration and racial justice, and human trafficking through research, education, and advocacy.

Activities Offered

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

About 90% of PLNU’s full-time faculty members have the terminal degree in their field, which means that students are learning from people who have already succeeded in the field in which they themselves hope to excel. The faculty teach at PLNU because they choose to involve themselves in an environment that focuses primarily on students and their success. This is evident in many ways.

Small Student to Faculty ratio

At PLNU, the student-to-faculty ratio is 14:1, meaning that all students, regardless of major or year, are in an environment that’s conducive to asking questions, interacting with experts, and learning at their own pace. Collaboration with faculty is encouraged from day one.

Psychology of Personal Development—PSY101

As a course required for all incoming freshmen and transfer students, the Psychology of Personal Development proves itself to be foundational to the PLNU curriculum. It serves as a basis for other courses, emphasizing the need for strong research and writing skills while maintaining a focus on the development of self—who students are, and who they can become.

Emphasis on writing

PLNU faculty understand every student’s need to be a strong writer, regardless of their career goal. Because that, every incoming freshman is required to take a useful, intensive writing course. An honors writing course is also available for students who have existing writing credits. Beyond this specific course, however, each of PLNU’s GE courses also have strong writing components, whether they be on biology or religion.

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: Religious Courses

Class Size Breakdown

Size 2-9 10-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-99 100+ Total
Number of Classes 78 136 164 98 54 12 0 542

70% of PLNU’s 2,700 undergraduate students live on campus, right in the middle of the countless opportunities available for involvement!

Coastal campus

Because campus is literally on the Pacific Ocean, PLNU students are able to reap the benefits of a climate that makes a slew of activities available year-round. There’s never a bad time to be outdoors! Formally, PLNU has dozens of clubs, athletic teams, rec teams, and outdoor adventure activities that take full advantage of the San Diego sunshine. Students can wake up early for a Surfing 101 class (students get PE credit to learn to surf!), go rock climbing with Great Escapes Adventures, catch a game with the university’s nationally ranked Rugby Club, and so much more.

City access

The PLNU campus is just ten minutes from the heart of downtown San Diego, which means that, not only are amazing internship opportunities at available at students’ fingertips (The County of San Diego, The San Diego Padres, Nordstrom flagship, Boeing, and dozens of other employers hire PLNU interns each semester), but also that all of the culture that San Diego has to offer is also less than ten minutes away. Students enjoy San Diego’s museums, music scene, shopping, and first-rate food all year long!  The Associated Student Body also loves to take advantage of San Diego’s vibrant culture, hosting events like the Harbor Cruise Dance, SD Pier Fashion Show, Padres nights, and more!

Border Town

Located just 20 minutes north of the US/Mexico border, PLNU provides students with direct access to relevant social justice work. There are countless international mission opportunities right in PLNU’s backyard.   

Campus Housing Options for Undergraduates

Coed dorms  
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  
Wellness housing  
Other housing options  

At PLNU, the concept of student success includes their success after graduation. There are countless outlets through which students are aptly prepared for their next steps.

Offices of Strength and Vocation

The Offices of Strengths and Vocation (OSV), PLNU’s career services center, is available to help students take their next steps. For undeclared students, OSV offers assessments and counseling appointments to help them better understand their strengths and passions. And, when it comes time for students to put their calling into practice, OSV is key in connecting students to potential internships. OSV also maintains an alumni mentor database, as well as active ties to the San Diego community, fostering countless internship opportunities each semester.

In preparation for graduation, OSV also hosts networking events for students in each major, connecting them with professionals and showing them how their degree can work in the real world. Additionally, they have countless practical services to help build students’ confidence: résumé-writing workshops, a business attire fashion show, mock interviews, and more.

Success Stats

Each academic department has their own success stories and statistics, but just a few notable numbers include:

  • 90% of PLNU pre-med students are admitted to medical school, 80% of which get into their first choice
  • More than 90% of PLNU BSN grads pass their nursing boards on their first try
  • Accounting majors pass all four parts of the CPA exam on their first try at a rate that places PLNU third in the state of California for all Accounting programs.



 3,007 total applicants
2,294 total admissions
618 total freshman enrollment

76.29% of applicants admitted

Admissions Deadlines for 2018-19 Admission

Rolling admission? No

Closing date: Feb 15

Admissions Factors

Very Important
Rigor of secondary school record
Academic GPA
Standardized test scores
Character/personal qualities
Religious affiliation/commitment

Application Essay

Class rank
Extracurricular activities
First generation
Alumni/ae relation
Geographical residence
State residency
Level of applicant’s interest

Freshman Profile Fall 2017

  25th Percentile 75th Percentile
SAT Evidence-Based Reading and Writing 560 650
SAT Math 540 640
SAT Essay    
ACT Composite 23 28
ACT Math 22 27
ACT English 23 29
ACT Writing    



Tuition $35,100
Fees $600
Total $35,700
Room and Board (on campus) $10,450
Estimated Total On Campus $46,150


Average Financial Aid Packages 2016-2017

$23,148 first-year students
$17,171 all undergrads

Financial Aid Breakdown 2016-2017

61.5% on average, the percentage of need that was met
14% of financial need students that had need fully met

$17,171 average need-based scholarship or grant award
$4,874 average need-based loan

Aid Information

PLNU’s application process is holistic. An interview and a creative, optional piece are recommended to help students set themselves apart.

Merit-scholarships, varying based on grades and test scores, constitute one of several branches of aid offered by PLNU. More information about merit scholarships is available here.  

In addition to merit awards, PLNU offers athletic scholarships, major scholarships, need grants, and involvement grants. Visit www.pointloma.edu/sfs for more details. 90% of PLNU students receive scholarships/grants!