The University of South Florida (USF) was founded on the site of a defunct World War II airstrip in 1956. It grew enormously in just a few decades and today, with a student population exceeding 47,000, it is the third largest university in the state of Florida and the ninth largest university in the United States. The school has an excellent reputation for academics, reflected in the nickname “Harvard of the South”.
The main campus is situated in North Tampa, although there is also a campus in St. Petersburg and branch educational centers in downtown Tampa, Lakeland (USF Polytechnic) and Sarasota (USF Sarasota-Manatee). There are two university hospitals at USF, the H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and the USF Psychiatry Center. There are six libraries at USF: the main library is the Tampa library on the main campus, where the Shimberg Health Sciences Library and the Florida Mental Health Institute Research Library are also located. The other three libraries are located on the St. Petersburg, Sarasota, and Lakeland campuses.
USF has been denoted as a “very high research” institution by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching. It is internationally recognized as a research hub for treatment of Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s, and Parkinson’s diseases. The university continues to push into new areas of research, with recent initiatives to create new biofuels, form an international conference on ecological immunity, and organize a nanotechnology science symposium.
The academic options at USF are as numerous and far-reaching as conceivably possible. The university offers 89 undergraduate degree programs, 97 master degree programs, 2 education specialist degrees, 36 doctoral degrees, and 4 first professional degrees. The faculty/student ratio is 20 to 1, allowing for intimate classes and sub-communities within the larger university. There are thirteen colleges for undergraduates within the USF system: Arts & Sciences, Behavioral & Community Sciences, Business, Education, Engineering, Honors College, Marine Science, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health, The Arts, and University College.
To give you an example of how each college is broken down into departments, consider this: The Arts College includes the School of Architecture and Community Design, the School of Art and Art History, the School of Music, and the School of Theatre and Dance. The Arts College puts on nearly as many events in a year as there are days, creating a rich immersion in the arts for students and community members alike. Regular student art exhibitions are hosted by the William and Nancy Oliver Gallery and the Centre Gallery in the Marshall Center. When you pull back to reflect on the fact that this is just one of thirteen colleges—and that the other twelve are just as large and vibrant—you gain an understanding of just how culturally rich this school is.
Academic opportunities inside and outside of the classroom continue to grow. Like many other universities, this one is rapidly adding distance learning options to their course catalog. At present, it is possible to fully earn a Bachelor of Science in Applied Sciences online. Degrees that can be earned partially online include the Bachelor of Arts in Criminology and the Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Two certificate programs are also available online: the Autism Spectrum Disorder Certificate and the Children’s Mental Health Certificate.
Most Popular Fields of Study
This university hosts all three existing ROTC programs: Army, Navy, and Air Force, with a combined enrollment of nearly 400 students. USF’s Joint Military Leadership Center (JMLC) develops military skills for students in all three programs.
USF is a highly competitive institution. At present, roughly 58% of applicants are admitted.
In addition to the usual assortment of grants and loans available to college students in America, there are over 400 scholarships specific to this school. Information about the many options is available through the school’s scholarship search tool. Many pay up to the complete cost of attendance.
Student Financial Aid Details
Diversity on Campus
The student body at this school is fairly diverse. The student population is roughly 63% European American, 12% African American, 16% Latino American, 7% Asian American, and .5% Native American. There are nearly 1,500 international students from over 120 countries.
Approximately fifteen percent of the students live in dormitories; most students live in private residences, instead. The university is working to increase the number of students living in university-owned housing, however, by instituting a new rule stating that students under the age of 21 who are unmarried, do not have any dependents, and do not live with a parent or guardian must live in student housing and participate in a meal plan for at least their first year of college.
There are three basic options for students living in the residence halls at USF: traditional, suite, and apartment-style. All residences are air conditioned with cable television, ethernet connections, and wireless internet service. Rates vary depending on the residence and room, suite, or apartment chosen. Living in the “Greek Village” also counts as an on-campus residence. Greek life is a major component of the culture here, with 29 active fraternities and 21 active sororities.
The traditional residences are Beta Hall, a coed first-year student-only residence with all double rooms, and Castor Hall, a first-year student building with both single and double rooms. Both dormitories feature cable television, ethernet connections for every resident, laundry facilities, kitchens, and proximity to Fresh Food Company, the main cafeteria for first-year students.
The majority of residence halls at USF offer suite-style living. Delta, Epsilon, Eta, Iota, Kappa, Lambda, Mu, Theta, and Zeta are all part of a complex known as the Andros Complex. All of these residences feature suites with four bedrooms (some double and some single) connected by a shared bathroom. Halls outside of the Andros Complex include Cypress, Maple, Juniper, and Poplar. In these halls, suites consist of two double bedrooms and one bathroom.
Apartment-style residence halls are Cypress, Kosove, Holly, and Magnolia. Cypress, Holly, and Magnolia all contain apartments with 4 single bedrooms, two bathrooms, a kitchen, and a living room. Kosove contains a mix of single and double bedrooms in apartments that house 2-5 people each. Students in all four years are eligible to live in these residence halls. Magnolia contains family apartments for those students with children who wish to live on campus.
Dining options include a number of healthy cafeteria options including gluten-free, vegetarian, and vegan food, as well as many convenient and popular chain options such as Starbucks, Ben & Jerry’s, Einstein Bros. Bagels, and Jamba Juice. There are several different meal plan options for both on-campus and off-campus students.
Student Enrollment Demographics
Student Graduation Demographics
Athletics are a large part of student life here. The athletic teams are known as the Bulls (a far better name, history has agreed, than the early suggested choices of “Desert Rats” or “Florida Chicken”), and bull statues can be found all around campus. The mascot for the team is Rocky the Bull, a grey, longhorned bull who has been redesigned to get progressively cuddlier-looking throughout time since his birth in 1965. A dizzying array of Bulls paraphernalia in the bookstore, alumni store, and other shops on and off campus—you can even purchase the team’s fight song for your ringtone. The marching band for the football team is known as the Herd of Thunder.
Competitive teams include men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, baseball, golf, football, softball, tennis, volleyball, cross-country, track, lacrosse, and sailing. The South Florida Bulls compete in Division 1 of the NCAA and belong to the Big East Conference.
For those students who prefer playing non-varsity sports, USF organizes aikido, Australian football, badminton, bowling, capoeira, climbing, cricket, cycling, horseback riding, fencing, field hockey, fishing, flag football, hockey, ice skating, lacrosse, rugby, paintball, racquetball, rowing, scuba diving, skateboarding, swimboarding, skydiving, surfing, swimming, waterpolo, tennis, wrestling, and ultimate frisbee.
There is a long roster of notable USF alumni—no surprise, given the size and academic reputation of the school. Some of the best known alumni include prizewinning novelist James Carlos Blake, Florida Secretary of State Kurt S. Browning, California State Controller John Chiang, well-known comedian Gallagher, Detroit Lions cornerback Anthony Henry, Atlanta falcons linebacker Stephen Nicholas, Florida State Senators Victor Crist and Charlie Justice, actress Lauren Hutton, artist Robert Stackhouse, composer Jeff Richmond, and screenwriter/film director Kurt Wimmer. One of the contestants from MTV’s Real World: New Orleans also graduated from USF, but the jury’s out as to whether that constitutes actual celebrity.
Additional School Information
There are over 400 student activity groups on campus, far too many to list. Suffice to say if you have an interest in a topic or activity, there’s a student group to fit. The mainstream student newspaper, The Oracle, is published four times a week. In 2009, a competitor paper named The Monocle began publication. USF has their own student radio station, Bulls Radio, as well as a National Public Radio affiliate station, WUSF. The university also runs a Public Broadcasting Service television affiliate station, WUSF-TV. Communication students intern at the stations for credit.
One of the most notable features on the USF campus is the University of South Florida Botanical Gardens, a full 15 acres of green space open to the public. 7 acres of the gardens are developed and cultivated, while the remaining 8 acres consist of natural greenbelt. In all, the Gardens include over 3,000 plant varietals, 60 species of birds, and many animal and insect species. Popular collections include orchids, bromeliads, gingers, fruit trees, palms, carnivorous plants, and butterfly, herb, and scent gardens.