First Impressions: Monmouth University, West Long Branch, NJ

Imagine the ideal location of your college campus. Close to the “big city”? Check. Close to the beach? Check. Close enough to make connections for a job after graduation? Check again. Monmouth University, located in Central New Jersey, is one of the few schools that checks off all of these boxes. I have some First Impressions to share as well as a link to a Pinterest page.

While Monmouth University is a relatively new school—it did not become a four-year college until 1956, and has been a university for only 22 years—the origins of its campus date back to 1905. Wilson Hall, the centerpiece of campus and the university’s main administration building, was set as the estate of ‘Oliver Warbucks’ in the 1982 movie Annie featuring Albert Finney, Carol Burnett and Bernadette Peters, among others. Today, Monmouth University is the repository for Bruce Springsteen’s archives; the university’s auditorium hosted a rehearsal preview for his recently launched Broadway show. It has also completed recent renovations to its student center, dining facility (including a Jersey-style diner) and several classroom buildings.

With 4,100 undergraduates Monmouth University would be considered a mid-sized school. But it is subdivided into smaller schools based on academic programs: the Leon Hess Business School, School of Education, Wayne D. McMurray School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Marjorie K. Unterberg School of Nursing and Health Studies, School of Science, School of Social Work and the Honors School open to undergraduates in most majors.

But unlike a larger school, Monmouth offers fewer restricted or “impacted” majors as well as much smaller classes. In fact, you’re not likely to see many classes at Monmouth that have more than 30 students. There’s also some interesting concentrations within majors such as Art/Photography, Biology/Molecular Cell Physiology, Chemistry/Chemical Physics, Fine Arts/Animation, Marine and Environmental Biology and Policy and Music/Music Industry. Monmouth also offers the only undergraduate business program in New Jersey with a concentration in Real Estate. The programs in Education and Social Work are also among the most comprehensive in the state.

And while Monmouth University has fewer undergraduates than all of New Jersey’s public colleges, it competes in sports at the highest level. Monmouth competes in 23 NCAA Division 1 (scholarship) sports, more than any college in the Garden State, excluding Princeton and Rutgers-New Brunswick. During this current football season, the Monmouth Hawks have defeated four Patriot League schools: Bucknell, Holy Cross, Lafayette and Lehigh and have lost only one game to date. The men’s basketball program has also attained success, defeating major conference opponents such as UCLA, USC, Georgetown and Notre Dame two seasons ago. The athletic facilities are among the more modern in the country for a school of this size.

Monmouth appears to be a school that is willing to acquire and develop resources not only to strengthen the academic programs, but also to help its students to make connections as early in their education as possible, and continue to engage them as alumni. Growing up in Central New Jersey in the late 1970s, I perceived Monmouth to be a “local college,” where most students commuted to classes. But the university has become more residential—it houses close to half of its students—and attracted a quarter of its current freshman class from outside New Jersey. The university’s investments in athletics and student services are another sign that its administration wants to do a better job of building a residential community.

Monmouth is one of many private schools in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut within commuting distance to New York City for entertainment and the job search—and it is one of the best buys among them.

Report Card: Monmouth University 

  • Four-Year/Six-Year Graduation Rates: B/B
  • Freshman Retention: B
  • Costs: B+
  • Curriculum: A
  • Community: B+
  • Comforts: B+
  • Connections: B+ (New York/New Jersey)/C (Elsewhere)

Check out my First Impressions of Monmouth University!

Check out my Monmouth University Pinterest page!

Need help in considering colleges for your list? Contact me at stuart@educatedquest.com or call me at 609-406-0062.