Lisa Bleich and Beth Cassie
Beth and I had the opportunity to tour Muhlenberg College with fellow IECA consultants from New Jersey. Muhlenberg is a small liberal arts college in Allentown, PA, right near Dorney Amusement Park. The campus is very pretty with beige brick buildings and red doors to serve as a welcome sign to students and the community. The facilities are updated including a beautiful new dining hall, athletic facility, state-of-the art theaters, and newly renovated and expanded Hillel Student Center.
Students run the gamut –athletes, theater types, down-to-earth, and clean cut kids were seen all over campus. On Tuesdays and Thursdays there are no classes scheduled during lunch and we arrived at the student center just as the throngs of students were descending on the student center. The student center was overflowing with activity – students mingling, grabbing a bite, and hanging out. Some kids complained because they felt it was too crowded now, but others welcomed the opportunity to catch up with all of their friends. The main dining hall is centrally located, filled with light and with seating both inside and out.
Muhlenberg was originally founded by the Lutheran church (hence the red doors everywhere), however it is now religiously diverse; Jewish students represent 35% of the population, Catholics represent 33%, and Protestants are 25% and the rest are unaffiliated.
Muhlenberg is a very caring, challenging, but collaborative community. The Dean of Admissions describes the curriculum as applied pre-professional programs with a liberal arts surround. Students get the benefit of developing career skills as well as the critical thinking and writing skills that come with a liberal arts degree. Professors are very involved with students in terms of research opportunities, advising, and engaging in and outside of the classroom.
Our tour guide was double majoring in Biology and English. She decided to add English as a major after she took her Freshman Seminar because she found her English teacher so engaging. It is not uncommon to be invited to dinner at a professor’s house and get to know them beyond the classroom.
Muhlenberg is extremely strong in performing and visual arts, pre-med/science, and business and communications.
There is no audition required to major in theater, however Muhlenberg offers $4,000 talent grants, so it is highly recommended that students audition for those. If the audition goes well, the theater department will advocate for the student in admission much like a coach will for an athlete. They offer degrees in four areas: Performance Studies, Performance, Directing, and Technical Theater
Muhlenberg puts on 11 main stage shows each school year, 6 theater (2 are Broadway quality) and 5 dance. They have a second tier theater series that puts on 25 black box productions per year along with a third tier student initiated series where students cast, produce, direct and star in shows all over campus. These shows are open to all students to audition. Students who have a strong interest in performing arts will have ample opportunity to participate.
Theater students’ applications overlap with Julliard, The Cincinnati Institute and Carnegie Mellon. Muhlenberg is a much more nurturing environment. They also have one of the top dance programs for a liberal arts college.
Biology is largest department for pre-med, however neuroscience is the fastest growing program.
Neuroscience has become a powerful alternative route to pre-med.
While students have a strong enough record to be admitted to medical school, Muhlenberg is seeing several students opt for physical therapy, physician assistant or nursing programs instead.
Pre-med advising is unusually strong at Muhlenberg. Each student has two advisors, their faculty advisor in their major and the pre-med/health science advisor. This full time administrator is solely responsible for all the pre-health programs and helping students understand the path. Her goal is to get students prepared to apply to Med/Dental/Vet School the summer between junior and senior year. Every pre-med student follows the American Medical Association recommended science sequence regardless of major. They also make sure that all students take Genetics before they sit for MCAT junior year. During the spring of junior year, the pre-health advisor makes sure every part of file is in place, e.g., recommendations, testing, and course work.
Lehigh Valley Hospital is very close which helps students obtain clinical experience. Muhlenberg also offers special acceptance programs with Drexel Medical School and Temple Medical School.
Overall there is an 85-95% accept rate without prohibition to Med/Vet/Dental school. Typically 100 students say that pre-med as freshman: by senior year about 30 remain and 25-27 students get into medical school.
Social life is campus-based and about 22% of students participate in Greek life. Dorm parties and other campus wide activities are also a big part of the social scene. Students attend sporting events but are really excited for the numerous theater, dance and music productions on campus. Our tour guide explained that there is a lottery system to get tickets for the popular Candlelight Carols performance given by the choir.
We visited a freshmen dorm and it was pretty basic – cinder block walls, double rooms, coed by floor. Upper classmen housing options are more varied including traditional dorms, suite style dorms, apartments and campus-owned houses. In addition to the main central dining hall there are smaller grab and go options for food around campus.
Admissions & Financial Aid
Muhlenberg has a very late deadline for their binding Early Decision program (February 15) and they fill half of their class with Early Decision applicants. It is extremely important to demonstrate interest in Muhlenberg with a campus visit and ideally an interview. They are test optional and about 15% of the applicant pool does not supply standardized test scores. If you do not send scores you must submit a graded paper and have an interview.
Muhlenberg offers both needs-based financial aid and generous merit aid. The top academic merit grant is $16,000 and talent and/or honors aid can add up to an additional $4000 each.
Muhlenberg is a place where lots of different types of students could be very happy and successful. Those interested in a small, nurturing environment with a passion for performing arts or pre-med should definitely plan a visit.