Montclair State University

College review by Debbie Pearlson

Lisa, Beth and I spent a recent chilly and overcast February day visiting the campus of Montclair State University. MSU is the second largest public university in New Jersey, with an undergraduate enrollment of approximately 15,000 students and a graduate enrollment of approximately 3,000 students. The applicant pool has been increasing each year, and the administration anticipates that the number of undergraduates could grow by another 2,000 or so students over the next few years.

The Campus:

The campus is located in suburban Montclair, NJ, and is nicely set off from the surrounding area. As I drove through the entrance to the University, I was struck by the lovely Spanish architecture of the buildings before me. MSU is to a large degree a commuter school, and the sizeable Red Hawks Parking Garage was practically filled to capacity

However, after successfully finding a spot and exiting the Parking Garage on the 4th floor level, I turned left and immediately approached the new and impressive, state-of-the-art Kasser Theater, which is the home to many theater, dance and arts productions on campus. The dramatic entrance plaza and the building itself pay homage to the Spanish mission style of many of the buildings on MSU’s campus. These attractive buildings, with their flat white facades and red tile roofs, stand in stark contrast to the boxy and, in a number of cases, shabby 1960’s or ‘70’s looking facades of other buildings on campus. If these older buildings are brought into line with the newer, Spanish style buildings, the campus aesthetic will be quite lovely.

There are a number of bench-lined green areas around campus, and our tour guide Melissa told us that in nice weather students take full advantage of these spaces. It was a little difficult to get a feel for the typical flow of the campus, because many areas are currently under construction and fenced off as a new and more “green” heating, cooling and power system is installed campus-wide. Apparently, the goal is for the construction on the main parts of campus to be completed by fall of 2013 and the total construction to be completed by some time in 2014.

The area around University Hall and the Student Center was bustling when we arrived around lunchtime, and we had the opportunity to watch as throngs of students streamed out of class. The students were dressed very casually, with jeans, sweats and hoodies on prominent display beneath down coats and fleece jackets.

Unlike many campuses, MSU is not smoke-free, and I was surprised to see quite a number of students smoking outside the buildings. There was a nice outdoor balcony area adjacent to the Student Center that looked like a nice eating area in warmer weather. Just behind the Student Center, we caught a peek of the retro looking diner on campus, which is open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

The Student Body:

Montclair – classes letting out

The student body is quite ethnically and racially diverse, and an assistant director of undergraduate admissions informed us that over 40% of the student body are first generation college students. According to the University’s printed statistics, 61% of the student body is female and 39% male.

The University would like to bridge that gender gap; however, Melissa told us that although she knew the stats, she never felt the impact of the gender disparity on campus. She noted that the division was most apparent in certain majors, such as fashion studies or education.

MSU is largely a NJ resident based University. Approximately 95% of the applicant pool draws from within NJ, and even among that group the majority of applicants tend to be from areas of NJ that are closer to campus. One-third or approximately 5,000 students live on campus. Melissa observed that although the majority of the students do not live on campus, she never feels like the school is emptying out when the commuters leave, since there are still a significant number of students remaining on campus.

She did mention, however, that even a significant number of the residential students do go home on some or many weekends. There are a number of housing options on or around campus, including special interest living communities and the brand new housing complex, The Heights, which houses 2,000 undergraduate students in single and double suites.

Academics and Extracurricular Activities:

The top five majors at MSU are Psychology, Business Administration, Biology, English and Family and Child Studies. The theater program is very strong, as are the early and mid-childhood education programs. MSU also offers an opportunity to enter into an 8-year BS/MD program with the New Jersey Medical School of UMDMJ, provided that applicants meet more stringent admissions requirements than the typical applicant.

Montclair – Melissa, our tour guide, in front of amphitheater

The average SAT (combined Math and Critical Reading) score for incoming freshmen is 988 with an average high school class rank of 69% and an average GPA of 3.24 (on a 4.0 scale).  High achieving students who apply Early Action will be considered for merit scholarships. The testing averages may vary depending on the strength and rigor of the programs chosen by individual applicants.

There are over 120 clubs and organizations on campus, including 8 fraternities and 4 sororities (although there are no frat houses on campus), an on-campus recreation center and over 17 NCAA DIII sports teams.

There are a number of student theater and dance productions throughout the year, and 2 train stations located right on campus for those students who want to take advantage of the proximity to New York City. Montclair itself is an eclectic town with amazing restaurants of every variety, movie theaters, clubs and shops. Melissa said she and her friends often drive to Clifton, where there are some big box stores, a movie complex and an Applebee’s.


It seems to me that MSU would be of most interest to a student from NJ who is interested in a public university that offers broad-based academic and extra-curricular opportunities, close proximity to NYC and easy access to home.

Although the residential experience is available, the vibe on campus would not provide the same type of immersive college experience of a more residential-based University. There is tremendous ethnic and cultural diversity in the student body, but little geographical diversity, making MSU an appealing regional rather than national choice.

Montclair State University

1 Normal Ave

Montclair, NJ 07043


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