College of the Holy Cross


The only Jesuit Catholic college in the country to offer an exclusively undergraduate liberal arts education, College of the Holy Cross enjoys a well-deserved reputation as one of the preeminent schools in the United States. Small class sizes, devoted faculty members, and a challenging curriculum have made the college an increasingly popular choice for many top-notch high school students. Others are attracted to the beautiful campus, active student body, and friendly living/learning environment. Whatever their reasons for choosing Holy Cross, few students are disappointed when they arrive, as evidenced by the school’s ninety-five percent freshman retention rate and overwhelmingly positive student satisfaction statistics.

The college has grown in both size and stature since it was established in 1843 as an academic community where the Jesuit ideals of educational integrity and social justice could flourish among its male students and faculty. Founded by Benedict Joseph Fenwick, the second bishop of Boston, the school originally comprised only one wooden building and a half-finished brick structure on a hill overlooking the largely unsettled town of Worcester, Massachusetts. There was little evidence to suggest that such a prominent college would eventually arise from this undeveloped setting.

Coeducational since 1972, the college is today home to around 2,800 young men and women and the campus is widely recognized as one of the most impressive in the country. Driving through the black, wrought-iron gates that form the entrance to Linden Lane, the treelined passageway that leads through the campus, visitors are immediately struck by the school’s beautiful architecture and perfectly manicured grounds, which are spread over 174 acres. Ivy-covered residence halls and open green spaces are intermixed with technologically advanced academic buildings and state-of-the-art athletic facilities. There are three wellendowed libraries, two multi-sport recreational facilities, a recently renovated campus center, and a comprehensive art complex. Completed in 2001, Smith Hall, located in the center of the campus, is the home of the college’s Center for Religion, Ethics, and Culture, as well as the philosophy and religious studies departments, the Center for Interdisciplinary Special Studies, information technology services, and the registrar’s office. The Center’s primary public space is the two-story Rehm Library, which provides space for hospitality, lectures and events, quiet space for reading and reflection, and enhanced library resources on religion and spirituality.

With its outdoor sculptures and idyllic flower gardens, the award-winning campus is both peaceful and picturesque. Few who visit the school are disappointed by its physical surroundings. Perhaps more impressive than the campus, however, are the strong traditions and deep loyalties that have taken root here for many generations. Each year, young men and women from all over the country come here to participate in a vibrant academic and residential community where the Jesuits’ founding principles continue to flourish. These students experience an educational environment where intelligent dialogue is encouraged and scholarly exploration is rewarded. Along the way, they become part of a close-knit social atmosphere where lifelong friendships are fostered. Alumni carry these meaningful lessons and experiences with them by continuing to seek ways to integrate their faith, their lives, and their value-centered education.

Information Summary

Ranks 12th in Massachusetts and 95th overall. See the entire top 2,000 colleges and universities list
Overall Score (about) 95.1
Total Cost On-Campus Attendance $69,190
Admission Success rate N/A
Student Ratio Students-to-Faculty 10 : 1
Retention (full-time / part-time) 95% / N/A
Enrollment Total (all students) 2,939


The academic atmosphere is one of cooperation rather than cutthroat competition. Although some have complained that As are becoming increasingly scarce and, therefore, more highly coveted, most students are quick to assist their fellow classmates who are struggling with a concept. During exam periods, it is not uncommon to see large study groups congregating in Dinand Library’s social lounge (often referred to as the Blue Room) or classmates sharing ideas in the Hogan Campus Center. As one premed student pointed out:

The great thing about the sciences is that they are not as competitive as you might find at other colleges. Instead of competing with each other, we work as groups and encourage one another to do well. There is a real sense of teamwork among the students here. The professors also contribute to this environment by always being there for anyone who is seeking further elaboration on a lesson or an answer to a question.

Common Requirements

This mature and open-minded attitude toward learning is the cornerstone of a liberal arts education. Though there is no core curriculum or specific set of classes required by the school, students must fulfill flexible common requirements entailing the selection of ten courses from nine areas of study:

  • The Arts, Language and Literature (one course in each)
  • Religious and Philosophical Studies (one course in each)
  • Historical Studies (one course)
  • Cross-Cultural Studies (one course)
  • Social Science (two courses)
  • Natural and Mathematical Sciences (two courses, one of which must be a naturial science)
  • Language Studies (two courses in a language other than the one in which they possess native fluency)

Within this academic framework, students are encouraged to take classes that will both interest and challenge them. The curriculum trains students to think critically and independently, write succinctly and cogently, and communicate effectively.

One of the strengths of a liberal arts education is that it helps you to tie together fields as diverse as the classics and mathematics. It connects certain themes through all subjects of study and all themes of life. Many things seem to coincide. It’s nice to step back every once in a while and look at the big picture, which is what an education like this enables you to do. I can go to law school, medical school, or become an engineer. Holy Cross really has provided me with many options and has expanded my intellectual capabilities.

Students take four courses a semester, which does not seem too overwhelming until one considers the weighty reading list that usually accompanies each class syllabus. Athough students may spend fewer than fifteen hours a week in class, they are expected to do a great deal of reading and learning outside the classroom. While some majors (English, history, political science) are definitely more “reading/writing intensive” than others, it is not uncommon to hear of economics professors using seven or eight texts in a semester. As a result, most students either develop strong time-management skills early on or become very accustomed to pulling “all-nighters.”


With class sizes that average fewer than twenty students and many with fewer than fifteen, professors are able to offer their students highly personalized instruction and individual attention. In return, students are usually expected to not only show up for class, but to come prepared to discuss that day’s topic in some detail. Upper-level seminars are particularly interactive, with professors often only facilitating the exchange of well-developed student commentary. Students rarely complain about the faculty or curriculum, except to lament the lack of “gut” courses that might be taken to enhance one’s GPA. Research Projects and Internships

The faculty and administration grant a high level of academic autonomy to those students who are seeking opportunities to learn outside the classroom. By their junior year, many students are collaborating with professors on extensive research projects that are often presented at national symposia or in academic journals. Others gain valuable work experiences through school-sponsored internships that are offered either locally or in Washington, D.C. Additionally, each year more than 140 students study abroad and immerse themselves in the cultures and traditions of foreign lands.


In recent years, the administration has made a significant effort to enhance the school’s technological capabilities by implementing new state-of-the-art information systems in the classrooms, libraries, and residence halls. As a result, there are now more than 4,000 locations on campus offering fully networked computer hookups.

Most Popular Fields of Study


College of the Holy Cross :: College of the Holy Cross
College of the Holy Cross :: College of the Holy Cross


The admissions office receives, on average, applications from more than 7,000 students who are competing for only 700 places in the first-year class. Though the Admissions Committee considers many factors before making its decision, those students who demonstrate a pattern of superior academic performance in high school do a great deal to improve their chances of gaining acceptance to the college. This is confirmed by the fact that nearly all of the entering students graduated in the top twenty percent of their high school class and an overwhelming majority come with Advanced Placement or honors coursework on their transcripts. In recent years, the average SAT I score has exceeded 1280 (based on 1600), though few on campus consider this statistic a meaningful measure of success in either the admissions process or the school’s curriculum.

Besides a high level of academic achievement, other characteristics that have been identified as common among those students offered admission are an openness to different veiwpoints and ideas, a willingness to become engaged in the life of the college outside the classroom, a desire to grow not only intellectually, but socially and spiritually as well, and a commitment to helping others, both within the college community and beyond.

Unlike larger schools that rely on formulaic methods to make admissions decisions, the admissions staff tries to remain focused on each individual and his or her unique talents. Before going through “committee,” where the final decision is made, each application is read by at least two (and sometimes three) staff members who try to determine how well the applicant utilized the academic and extracurricular resources available in his or her high school. In this way, the team hopes to identify those students who will not only excel academically, but who will also make positive contributions to the vibrant intellectual, social, and spiritual life of the campus.


Since 2005, submission of standardized text scores (SAT or ACT) is optional. In addition, prospective students are asked to write an essay on a question chosen by the Admissions Committee. Interviews, while not required, are highly recommended and should be considered an excellent opportunity to share additional insights about one’s personality.

Early Decision

For those who have made Holy Cross their first choice, the school recommends applying Early Decision, which allows the Admissions Committee to spend more time reading the application and getting to know the student. An additional advantage of this option is the convenience of hearing a decision within three or four weeks of the school’s receipt of all required application materials. One should be aware, however, that Early Decision applications are binding and therefore require accepted students to immediately withdraw all pending applications at other colleges.

Children of Alumni

Recognizing that there is no greater compliment paid to a college than an alumnus/a who wishes to send a son or daughter to his or her alma mater, The Admissions Committee does give special consideration to those children of alumni who are seeking admission to the school. The fact that more than ten percent of the student body qualify as such legacies offers testimony to the loyalty of graduates.

Minority Students

While the college has been home to a distinguished and proud list of minority alumni including U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and James Healy, the Church’s first African-American Bishop—recruitment of ALANA (African-American, Latin American, Asian-American, and Native American) continues to be a challenge. The faculty, administration, and students support the notion that increasing diversity is a college-wide issue, and the responsibility of all members of the community. This collaborative effort has had a positive effect on the college’s ability to enroll greater diversity. Seventeen percent of the Class of 2010 are ALANA students, compared to thirteen percent five years ago.

Financial Aid

Tuition, room, and board fees total around $45,000; the cost of attending the college, however, should not deter anyone from applying. The college has a comprehensive financial aid program, with more than fifty-seven percent of the student body receiving some form of assistance. Holy Cross makes every attempt to meet the demonstrated financial need of every admitted applicant through a mix of scholarships, work-study, and loans.

To apply for assistance, an incoming student must indicate on the admissions application that he or she would like to be considered for financial aid. Also, a student must file both a Free Application for Federal Student Assistance (FAFSA) and register with the College Scholarship Service by filing a PROFILE document to be considered for both Federal Student Assistance and internal scholarships. The Financial Aid Form must be submitted as soon after January 1 as possible, and no later than February 1.

Student Financial Aid Details

Ranks 3844th for the average student loan amount.
Secrets to getting the best scholarships and financial aid in Massachusetts.


Although a heavy workload keeps most students fairly occupied, evenings and weekends serve as a welcome opportunity to relax, catch up with friends, and explore Worcester. Crossroads Grill offers great food and free on-campus musical entertainment until 2:00 A.M. For those who are of age, the Pub provides a convenient and comfortable place to catch the latest sporting event or enjoy a beer with friends. Students display their purple pride at the Hart Center, where they cheer on the Crusaders in Division 1 Basketball and Hockey. Following the game, students migrate to Caro Street for a celebration at any of the several off-campus apartments. Fortunately, a mature and laid-back attitude toward drinking prevails at the school and few students report pressure to imbibe from their peers. When not on campus, students can be found dining in the fine eateries of Worcester’s Italian section or exploring the night life downtown.

Dances and Shows

Throughout the year, each dorm class sponsors a semiformal dance. Also well attended are the student-produced theater productions, popular concert performances, and standup comedy acts that are regularly sponsored by the Campus Activities Board. Those looking for something a little quieter (or cheaper) often decide to take in a show at the on-campus Kimball Theater where first-run movies can still be seen for free.

Whether tailgating at home football games or just going out for pizza and a movie, students tend to socialize in large groups. With everyone taking a diverse courseload and most participating in multiple extracurricular activities, acquaintances are made easily and friendships forged quickly.

Off Campus

If one is in need of a change of scenery, the school’s central New England location offers plenty of convenient day trips and adventurous outdoor excursions. Boston, with its excellent shopping and diverse cultural opportunities, is less than an hour away. Free bus service is provided from the college on weekend evenings. The beautiful beaches and quaint villages of Cape Cod offer another popular weekend escape for those who are feeling land-locked in Worcester. For those hoping to become one with nature, there is exciting skiing, challenging rock climbing, and excellent camping, all within short driving distance from campus.

Giving to the Community

Students also find time to give something back to their neighbors in the Worcester community. Having heard the Jesuit mantra “Men and Women for Others” numerous times while at Mass or on retreat, students recognize the moral obligations inherent in a values-based education. More than thirty percent of the student body routinely volunteers time to those who are less fortunate. Most choose to do such work through Student Programs for Urban Development, an umbrella organization composed of twenty-five student- run outreach activities. As the largest extracurricular club on campus, with more than 350 participants, SPUD offers students the opportunity to serve food to the homeless, tutor in the public schools, visit the elderly, or counsel domestic violence victims. Moved by these experiences and the lives that they have touched, many participants choose to spend their spring breaks working on Appalachian service projects building homes for the poor.


Students actively contribute to the faith life of the college community. Though attendance at mass is no longer required as it was years ago, about half of the students choose to regularly attend the on-campus liturgies. The Jesuit priests and lay chaplains recognize the integral role that spirituality plays in education and they typically deliver inspiring and thought-provoking homilies on topics or issues that resonate with young adults. As a result, it is not uncommon to see nearly the entire library empty out on Sunday evening as students attend the two crowded Sunday evening services. Also popular are the five-day silent retreats known as the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius, which are led twice a semester by the chaplain’s office. Many consider this week of solitude, prayer, and reflection to be among the most meaningful and rewarding experiences offered at the college.

Student Enrollment Demographics

Student Graduation Demographics


Most of the college’s twenty-seven varsity teams maintain strong winning traditions and loyal student followings in spite of being one of the smallest schools to compete at the Division I level. With nearly twenty-five percent of students participating in NCAA intercollegiate athletics, and many more participating in intramural competition, there are usually plenty of sports fans in the stands cheering their friends to victory.


Holy Cross students are frequently asked, “So what exactly do you do with a liberal arts degree?” An appropriate response to this question might be, “What can’t you do with such an education?” A glance at the school’s list of alumni reveals success in a diverse range of occupations.

Law, medicine, and business are the most common professions pursued after graduation. The college’s science program maintains an excellent reputation among medical schools, which accept H.C. graduates at a rate of eighty-two percent, or nearly twice the national average.

Having enjoyed their time spent in service to others, many students choose to continue their social service work in a full-time capacity after graduation. Of the nation’s twenty-eight Jesuit colleges and universities, HC consistently sends the highest number of students to serve in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, a year-long postgraduate national service program. Many graduates also go on to volunteer through other organizations such as the Peace Corps, VISTA, and Teach for America.

By any measure, alumni are among the most loyal of any college in the country. They are also very generous with alumni participation in the school’s annual fundraising campaign, routinely placing it among the nation’s top twenty undergraduate institutions. Another way in which they express their love for their alma mater is with the professional assistance they provide through the extensive alumni network. The school’s Career Placement Office routinely puts both young and old job seekers in touch with fellow alumni who can offer guidance on a possible field or even identify specific employment opportunities.

Prominent Grads

  • Robert J. Cousy ’50 Retired Boston Celtics basketball player and professional basketball coach
  • Anthony S. Fauci, M.D. ’62 Director, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, National Institutes of Health
  • Billy Collins ’63 U.S. poet laureate, 2001–2003
  • Robert C. Wright ’65 President and CEO, NBC
  • Hon. Clarence Thomas ’71 Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court
  • Edward P. Jones, ’72 2004 Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Known Word
  • John J. “Jack” HIggins ’76 Editorial cartoonist for the Chicago Sun Times, winner of a Pultizer Prize in 1989
  • Mary Agnes Wilderotter ’77 President and CEO, Citizens Communications
  • Mary G. Berner ’81 President and CEO, Reader’s Digest Association


The faculty receives high marks from the student body. Recent surveys reveal that students find their professors to be both very intelligent and highly accessible, traits not often shared in today’s academic world where scholars face increasing pressure to conduct research and publish regularly. While scheduled office hours for student visits are required by the college, most professors maintain an open-door policy and encourage their students to drop in frequently throughout the semester.

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