First Impressions: Albright College (PA)
Located in Reading, Pennsylvania, Albright College is a small (1,850 undergraduates) liberal arts school with a very diverse student body as well as several academic programs that you are not likely to see at a small college. Albright College also tries harder than most other small private colleges to assist its students financially. The college attempts to meet a student’s full financial need, usually through a combination of merit and need-based scholarships. I spent a full day at Albright College and gathered information for First Impressions and also made a Pinterest page that includes pictures from the college as well as the City of Reading.
Albright College’s academic strengths include the Alpha Program, which helps undecided students to declare a major as well as a flexible General Education Curriculum that encourages students to become engaged on campus while helping them to choose not only a major, but possible complementary majors and minors. The Alpha Program combines academic advising and career advising to help students to declare a major as well as consider possible career directions. While approximately half of Albright’s majors overlap with most liberal arts colleges, the more unique programs include Child and Family Studies, Classical Languages (Greek and Latin), Digital Design and Media, Fashion (Design, Merchandising and Costume Design), Game and Simulation Development, Music Business, Psychobiology and Public Administration/Policy Analysis.
All Albright College undergraduates are required to live on campus, unless they reside with family nearby or are adult students in accelerated degree programs. First-year students, outside of the Honors Program reside in the same quad, supported by a large residence life team for a small school. It’s relatively easy and inexpensive (only a $25 permit charge) to have a car on campus. It’s also a good idea to have access to one; all of Reading’s attractions outside of the college are not immediately near campus. Reading has minor league baseball, shopping opportunities, an arts/boutique district (Penn Avenue) with stores run by Albright alumni and the Santander Arena for concerts and minor league hockey, among other events.
Albright has another downside: its freshman retention and graduation rates are not as high as those at some other Central Pennsylvania private colleges that are its most direct competition for students. Freshman retention, while improving and better than the state schools in Eastern Pennsylvania, is still slightly below 80 percent. The four-year graduation rate, while better than many state schools in Pennsylvania, was most recently reported at 50 percent. While Albright does an excellent job at helping undecided students, those who have intentions towards an academic program might want to compare similar degree programs offered at similarly small colleges closely as they make their decision.
There’s a lot to like about Albright, especially in student success, the academic programs and experiential learning opportunities. There are fancier, and better located campuses, but Albright does more than most small colleges to help its students to find an academic direction. Albright is test-optional, but also relatively selective. Less than half (49 percent) of the applicants for the current freshman class were offered admission, while the college does not maintain a wait list.
It’s not that Albright works aggressively to deny admission to interested students, quite the opposite. Any college will become more selective when it tries to offer appealing programs, build a diverse student body, house everyone who needs a room and makes a serious attempt to fulfill financial need. Albright should be admired for the efforts to become a better college for its students, alumni and community.
The Report Card for Albright College
- Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: C/C
- Freshman Retention: C+
- Costs: B
- Curriculum: A
- Community: B
- Comforts: B+
- Connections: B+ (Central Pennsylvania and Philadelphia area)
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