Established in 1787 as Pittsburgh Academy, the University of Pittsburgh is considered one of the oldest chartered institutions of higher education in the United States. After various name and location changes since its inception, the University of Pittsburgh’s main campus is currently located on 132 acres in the historic Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, providing easy access to the arts, music, culture, and sports. Regional campuses also exist in Johnstown, Bradford, Titusville, and Greenburg, Pennsylvania.
Interestingly, Pitt, as the school is commonly called, was a private institution until it became part of the Commonwealth System of Higher Education in 1966. The university is consistently ranked as a top research university in the United States by publications such as U.S. News and World Report. It is a four-year, co-ed, public university.
The University of Pittsburgh offers an impressive student-to-faculty ratio of 16:1, and more than 60% of classes are comprised of fewer than 30 students. Pitt operates on a semester calendar and offers certificates, bachelor’s degrees, post-bachelor’s certificates, master’s degrees, post-master’s certificates, as well as professional and doctoral degrees. Undergraduate degrees can be earned as Bachelor’s of Arts, Bachelor’s of Science, and Bachelor’s of Philosophy.
The University is comprised of a wide variety of schools and colleges, including the School of Arts and Sciences, the College of Business Administration, the Joseph M. Katz Graduate School of Business, the School of Dental Medicine, the School of Education, the Swanson School of Engineering, the College of General Studies, the School of Social Work, the School of Medicine, and many others.
According to the 2010 edition of U.S. News and World Report’s Ultimate College Guide, the most popular majors at the University of Pittsburgh include business, management, marketing, social sciences, English, engineering, and psychology.
Most Popular Fields of Study
The University of Pittsburgh is considered “more selective” by U.S. News and World Report, with an acceptance rate of roughly 55% of applicants. Pitt operates on a rolling admissions policy, which means that admissions is offered to qualified students on an on-going basis until the incoming class is full. Even so, it’s to a student’s best advantage to apply early because some small schools and programs fill up quickly.
Potential students can apply for admission to the University of Pittsburgh by filling out a printed application or an online application. A modest application fee is also required, along with supplemental documentation such as transcripts, standardized test scores, essays, and letters of recommendation. Supporting details are provided with each application to ensure that the proper documents are sent to Pitt.
Check Your Application Status
Students can apply for a username and password for the my.pitt.edu portal to check the status of their application at any time. Students can view whether or not their application and all required documents have been received or reviewed.
Campus Visits and Informational Sessions
Because visiting a college or university in person is often the best way to see if it’s a good fit, prospective students are encouraged to visit the University of Pittsburgh for tours and information sessions. Due to the fact that departmental schedules vary during holidays and breaks, it’s a wise idea to contact the Pitt Admissions Office or consult the Pitt website prior to a campus visit.
If you’re unable to travel to the University of Pittsburgh, check with the Admissions Office regarding the various college fairs and informational high school programs that Pitt reps attend. Although not quite the same as visiting the school or speaking with an admissions rep in person, a series of informational videos is also available on the Pitt website.
The University of Pittsburgh Financial Aid Office is pleased to assist students and their families with the often-confusing process of applying for financial aid.
University of Pittsburgh Financial Aid
Types of financial aid available to eligible University of Pittsburgh students include grants, scholarships, federal work study employment, student loans, and non work-study student employment. Pitt students are also encouraged to apply for outside scholarships.
Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) which is available online beginning on January 1. In addition to the FAFSA, the Financial Aid Application Supplement (FAAS) must be completed by all undergraduate and graduate University of Pittsburgh students who are selected for federal or institutional verification. Students will be notified by the Financial Aid Office if they are required to submit the FAAS.
Pitt’s Financial Aid Office begins processing financial aid applications for the fall term during the preceding spring term, and financial aid award packages for first-time, full-time freshmen are announced in mid to late March while award packages for continuing students begins in late May.
Student Financial Aid Details
The University of Pittsburgh is a residential campus with a student body comprised mainly of full-time, in-state students. More than 7,000 undergraduates live on campus, with over 90% of all freshmen living in residence halls.
Panther Central is located in the lobby of the Towers residence halls. It is considered the “go-to place” for students for essentials of daily living, from transportation and housing issues to questions about contracts or what to do when you get locked out of your own room.
Seven recreational facilities are spread throughout the main Pitt campus, giving students the opportunity to work out or get rid of stress whenever they so choose. An Olympic pool with diving platforms and a dive pool are also located on campus!
Pitt is home to nearly 400 different student organizations, offering opportunities as unique as fencing to women’s ice hockey to social clubs. If students are unable to find a club that supports their hobbies or suits their needs, they can establish their own specific student club at the Office of Student Activities as long as they have eight friends willing to join.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
The University of Pittsburgh is home to 19 varsity sports teams known as the Pittsburgh Panthers, or the Pitt Panthers for short. The Panthers proudly wear the school colors of blue and gold while participating at the NCAA Division I level, the highest level of competitive collegiate sports. The Pitt Panthers varsity teams are members of the Big East Conference, the Eastern Wrestling League, East Atlantic Gymnastics League, and the Eastern College Athletic Conference; the university’s highest profile athletic programs are football and men’s basketball.
In addition to Pitt’s 19 varsity sports teams, there are roughly 30 teams that compete at the non-varsity club level.
It’s no surprise that a school with a history as rich as the University of Pittsburgh’s is home to a wide variety of student traditions.
Among the most popular traditions are the Annual Bonfire and Pep Rally, held before or during Pitt football games on the lawn of the Cathedral of Learning; the Bigelow Bash, a spring festival that involves a range of activities and bands; Fall Fest, an annual fall festival much like the Bigelow Bash in the springtime; the Football Tunnel, in which student organizations form a tunnel for the football players to run through as the enter the field from the locker room; and Greek Week , an initiative for Greek organizations to fundraise for different charitable organizations through different events such as the Pitt Dance Marathon and Greek Sing. (Fundraising activities support organizations such as the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, the Ronald McDonald House, and the Make a Wish Foundation.)
A popular good luck tradition among Pitt students is “rubbing the panther nose.” Students rub the nose of the Millennium Panther statue located outside the William Pitt Union prior to taking their exams in hopes of earning a good grade.
Notable University of Pittsburgh alumni include:
- Gene Kelly; actor, dancer, and singer best known for his performance in Singin’ in the Rain
- Fred Rogers, host of Mr. Rogers Neighborhood
- Leonard Baker, Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer
- Mike Ditka, Pro Football Hall of Famer, coach, and sports broadcaster
- Nicole Johnson, 1999 Miss America
- Beth Ostrosky, model / actress and wife of Howard Stern
- Jenna Morasca, winner of Surviver: The Amazon
Additional School Information
In the early 20th century, polio epidemics began to hit the U.S. and other industrialized countries. Dr. Jonas Salk set up the University of Pittsburgh’s Virus Research Lab in the basement of what is now Salk Hall, where he and his team of researchers developed a polio vaccine that was determined to be effective. By 1962, the vaccine had reduced the occurrence of polio in the U.S. by 95 percent.
Two University of Pittsburgh buildings are listed on the National Register of Historic Places: Allegheny Observatory and the Cathedral of Learning. The state of Pennsylvania has also placed historical markers outside of several other Pitt buildings due to their rich history.
- College Board. College Search: University of Pittsburgh. Web. 20 June 2011.
- University of Pittsburgh. Admissions and Financial Aid. Web. 20 June 2011.
- U.S. News and World Report: Ultimate College Guide. Naperville, Illinois: Sourcebooks, Inc. 2010. Print.
Melissa Rhone earned her Bachelor of Music in Education from the University of Tampa. She resides in the Tampa Bay area and enjoys writing about college, pop culture, and epilepsy awareness.